The depiction of law in films has changed over the years. Jessica Silbey, Law professor at Northeastern University discusses the history of law in American films. She says that the nature of depiction has changed from the mid-1930s to the late 1930s where law in films was a religious space that then transferred itself into the other side of corruption in the World War II period. In the mid-1950s, the cinema showed the rights and duties that law promised for the functioning of democracy. However, from the late 1980s, we saw an improved and positive change in terms of civil rights, where there were female litigators and African-American judges.
Many crime and legal dramas are sometimes criticised for their depiction of improper aspects of the law. Therefore, Silbey was asked about the dangers of watching too many crime shows. She said that police serials and violent films are a part of the film culture and they essentially shape the expectations of the civilians. The images of police officers, judges, and leaders are all fabricated versions following the cultural background and the audience too are aware of it. She says, “The key as an audience and for society at large is to engage the depictions in terms of our own ethical and moral commitments”.
She was also asked to talk about her preference in shows which depict and distort the law procedures. She said that she liked the film Rashomon which portrays a fair process for managing conflicts. Most of the films do not pay attention to the process of investigation or discoveries and directly jump on filming the courtroom trials. This accuracy is needed as the film would become boring otherwise. And the popular depictions of law in various films are loved as it does portray the system of equal justice.