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(2014) Law, culture and visual studies, Dordrecht, Springer.

The representation of law on film

Mr. Deeds and Adam's rib go to court

Wim Staat

pp. 775-790

Stanley Cavell's comedies of remarriage sometimes end up in court. When they do, the law featured in these films is not be mocked. In all seriousness, Cavell claims that these courtroom comedies pertain to the morality of law. To be sure, these films are not about front-page moral dilemmas. They are about what usually remains unnoticed about morality: its being engrained in everyday life. The special courtroom setting lets the everydayness of morality come into view. Adam's Rib makes clear that the private lives of its lawyer protagonists sometimes are on public display in the courtroom. This turns out not to be a mistake but a precondition for their marital success. Mr. Deeds Goes to Court uses the courtroom stage for the display of the privacy of public moralities. In terms of Charles Sanders Peirce, morality in courtroom cinema works as the habit that comes into view because a change in that habit retrospectively makes us realize that we had a habit in the first place. These courtroom comedies are not asinine pastimes; rather, in so far as they bring into view what before remained unacknowledged, that is, the morality of everyday life, they are, as Peirce would have it, intelligent entertainment.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-9322-6_34

Full citation:

Staat, W. (2014)., The representation of law on film: Mr. Deeds and Adam's rib go to court, in A. Wagner & R. K. Sherwin (eds.), Law, culture and visual studies, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 775-790.

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