Visual Law: The Changing Signifiers of Law in Popular Visual Culture

  • Jason Bainbridge


This chapter uses Saussurean semiotics to explore how law is culturally defined through popular visual media and how these media representations contribute to wider understandings of both law’s functioning and its limitations. It profiles four signifiers of law in popular visual media: the father, the lawyer, the policeman and the vigilante and explores the relationship between them, analysing the impact each of these signifiers has on the corresponding signified of law and their connections to justice and the rule of law. The primary texts I will be looking at are the US television series Law & Order (NBC) and Dexter (Showtime) and the UK series Life on Mars (BBC). Following Bennett and Woollacott’s study (1987, Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero. London: Methuen) these examples are supported by a deliberately wide-ranging series of secondary media texts, with some slippage between filmic and televisual texts, as any other approach runs the risk of being too limiting, abstracting texts from the wider culture which both elucidates their meaning and demonstrates how widespread these ideas of law truly are.


Crime Control Defence Lawyer Serial Killer Television Series Police Procedural 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Swinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia

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