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The Social Issue Courtroom Drama as an Expression of American Popular Culture

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Drawing on recent works of commercial Hollywood cinema and topical made-for-television movies, this paper explores the cultural implications of two distinct varieties of the American courtroom picture: the problem film in the guise of a legal drama and the trial movie which may take the form of a social issue film. Both types merge into a category that overtly abounds with liberal stances and humanitarian attitudes, films that portray actual or – only rarely – fictional excesses of rigid conservative orthodoxy, movies that have also succeeded in capturing the interest of the public on both sides of the Atlantic. Further, the aesthetics of the documentary tradition related to this generic strain is examined in such a way as to cast light on the quality of critical reflection and certain ideological inferences thereof.
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: 01 March 2001

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