Visual law: The changing signifiers of law in popular visual culture

Jason Bainbridge

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

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter uses Saussurean semiotics to explore how law is culturally defined through popular visual media and how these media representations contribute to wider understandings of both law's functioning and its limitations. It profiles four signifiers of law in popular visual media: the father, the lawyer, the policeman and the vigilante and explores the relationship between them, analysing the impact each of these signifiers has on the corresponding signified of law and their connections to justice and the rule of law. The primary texts I will be looking at are the US television series Law & Order (NBC) and Dexter (Showtime) and the UK series Life on Mars (BBC). Following Bennett and Woollacott's study (1987, Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero. London: Methuen) these examples are supported by a deliberately wide-ranging series of secondary media texts, with some slippage between filmic and televisual texts, as any other approach runs the risk of being too limiting, abstracting texts from the wider culture which both elucidates their meaning and demonstrates how widespread these ideas of law truly are.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProspects of Legal Semiotics
EditorsAnne Wagner, Jan Broekman
Place of PublicationNetherlands
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789048193431
ISBN (Print)9789048193424
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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