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Popular Culture


Examining the representation of crime and criminal justice in popular culture reveals that these representations are both ubiquitous and highly consequential. Whether they reinforce prevailing ideas of criminal responsibility or critique the adequacy of formal legal institutions or their capacity to do justice, whether conveying accurate information or helping to create a stock of folk knowledge about crime and punishment, these representations mean that crime is neither an esoteric subject nor one far removed from the consciousness of ordinary Americans.

Research on the images of crime and criminal justice available in popular culture suggests that those images empower citizens, giving them a conception of the crime problem and the state's response to it that has a source independent of those whose legal authority derives from formal training or official position. It means that law can, and does, live in society, in ways that cannot readily be confined or controlled by state law. It also means that citizens can and will judge the seriousness of the crime problem and the state's responses to it in terms of a widespread cultural common sense. Presented with what they regard as cultural nonsense, they make recourse to their own store of folk knowledge, their own repertoire of legal understandings. The result, as Yngvesson notes, is that popular consciousness of crime and criminal justice may become "a force contributing to the production of legal order rather than . . . simply an anomaly or a pocket of consciousness outside of law, irrelevant to its maintenance and transformation" (p. 1693).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawPopular Culture - Criminal Justice As "spectacle", Critique Of Criminal Justice, "accuracy" Of Popular Representations, Impact Of Popular Culture