‘Make enough money, everything else will follow’: Litigation and the signification of happiness in popular culture

Jason Bainbridge

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


In this chapter, by taking litigation as a signi fi er, I want to explore the multiple levels of meaning litigation can have for both the lawyer and the litigant they represent by analysing popular visual media representations of litigation.I argue that mapping how fi lm and television have treated and tested the limits of litigation suggests a common argument arising from these texts: that while legal actions give us a sense of the social-involving litigants and practitioners in a contextual society of laws, codes and precedents-the law does not bring people together. Rather, according to these popular visual media representations, it keeps them alone and individuated, unable to express themselves without reference to a system that can only offer money as consolation. While litigation seeks to signify happiness, by most often equating it to monetary compensation, these texts suggest that those seeking ‘happiness’ must almost invariably look outside the legal system to fi nd it. Indeed, in their location of happiness outside ‘the system’, be that the law, society, bureaucracy or modernity more broadly, these texts are presenting an inherently Romantic notion of happiness-a transcendent idea of ‘happiness’ that also serves as an antidote to the ubiquity of modern litigiousness that I have termed a postmaterial happiness. The chapter therefore concludes with the suggestion that these popular visual media texts may in fact be offering a new level of signi fi cation; in bringing Romanticism back to the lawyer rather than the legal system, they present the lawyer as signifying a kind of Romantic pioneering spirit, successful in spite of the system of which they are a part.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw, Culture and Visual Studies
EditorsAnne Wagner, Richard Sherwin
Place of PublicationNetherlands
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789048193226
ISBN (Print)9789048193219
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of '‘Make enough money, everything else will follow’: Litigation and the signification of happiness in popular culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this