Journal of American Studies

Research Article

Spectacular Expectations: Women, Law and Film

HEIDI SLETTEDAHL MACPHERSON

Abstract

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.

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