Journal of American Studies

Research Article

Spectacular Expectations: Women, Law and Film



This article explores the contradiction between the ingrained belief that justice should be “blind” and the filmic tradition of positioning woman as spectacle. Recognizing that a law film does not offer a direct translation of material reality, it explores how these representations of the law work with and against popular understandings of femininity – and feminism. The article offers a reading of selected screen adaptations of real legal entanglements to show how a focus on appearance marks a woman's trial (and subsequent filming of it), before focusing on the case of Barbara Graham, immortalized in the award-winning film I Want to Live!

Professor Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson is Dean of Humanities at De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, UK.