June 12, 2015

Images of Law in Israeli and U.S. Television Shows

Itay Ravid, Stanford Law School, has published Watch & Learn: Illegal Behavior and Obedience to Legal Norms Through the Eyes of Israeli and American Popular Culture, in volume 4 of the Berkeley Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law (2015). Here is the abstract.
What do popular media tell us about the way we perceive the rule of law in our society? What conceptions of legal norms and obedience to these norms control popular mass media? How do these conceptions shape and reflect the legal culture of a given society? This paper aims to explore empirically these questions, through the analysis of American TV shows and Israeli TV shows that became popular in Israel. To achieve this goal a dual empirical strategy was adopted — content analysis of popular TV shows, and an Internet survey among Israeli respondents. This approach addresses a methodological and substantive gap in existing literature on law and popular culture since it integrates the two elements of law and popular culture that are usually treated separately — the messages conveyed in the popular artifact and the way the audience actually perceives those messages.

The content analysis seemed to reveal a disregard towards legal rules when doing so served an important interest for the characters, as well as undermining the competence of law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the research revealed differences between Israeli and American shows, suggesting that the legal cultures of these societies may well differ. This portrayal was supported by the survey results. Moreover, the survey suggested a correlation between viewing habits and the acceptance of illegality, contributing to the evolving literature on the cultivating effects of mass media. The comparative approach of this study suggests important insights about Israeli legal culture and legal cultures in general, and raises disturbing questions about the popular notion of normative order in modern western societies in the era of globalization.

What can the apparent public contempt for legal rules tell us about the rule of law in modern democracies? Do these data provide new ways for thinking about law enforcement in an age of extreme individualism? This study sheds light on these contemporary issues. Furthermore, the study provides preliminary empirical support for the social role of popular media and its relevance in the study of cultures.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

No comments: