Wednesday, 12 October 2011

legal drama

i'm a sucker for a good legal drama. it started with LA law back in the 80s, along with the paper chase. then there was ally mcbeal & the practice. never could quite get into boston legal - captain kirk got on my nerves too much.

more recently, i watched most of the second series of the good wife, though the out-of-court drama tended to be more interesting than the actual legal cases. but i loved that there were strong female characters, and loved the character of the indian girl.

so, when i saw a programme called "harry's law" screening on tv1, of course i had to have a look. not having seen any promos, i had no idea what it was about or who "harry" would be. so yes, nice trick for it to be short for harriet, played by kathy bates. on the plus side, it's great to see a drama series with a woman in the lead, and and older woman at that. and good to see the show is dealing with issues around poverty and race.

on the down side, too much preaching and not very realistic. too obviously trying to push the emotional buttons. but what i hated most was the old narrative of white people coming into the neighbourhood to save the black people. i just couldn't get past the colonial set-up of the whole thing. i guess it was good to have the black people as sympathetic characters and "good people", and we even got a black judge.

but seriously, it would have felt a lot better if the male lawyer was black, or even the female lead was black. and they were "saving" some white people for a change. that would be... different. but instead we get the same old same old. and yes, i know the reality is that black people feature much more highly in both poverty and crime stats. but the reasons for that are more structural and historic than anything else.

anyway, i'll try it for a couple more weeks. maybe things will improve. in any case, having strong female characters is a thing that needs to be supported.


Anonymous said...

David E Kelly who created this and all the other shows that you mentioned has a habit of leading the viewers one way and taking them the other.

I have hope that he wont make this into a cheesy drama. Anything with Kathy Bates and the great Paul Crane is bound to go different places.

Aliya said...

An aspect you need to consider is less that 4% of all lawyers in America are African American (in comparison to the population where approximately 15% are African Americans)and their numbers are dwindling in the last decade See this link: In fact in the U.S. only 11.3% of all attorneys are from minority background (whereas nearly 40% are present in the US population) Also Minorities are being recruited into large and medium firms for diversity purposes (national studies show higher numbers of minoritites than leaving law school) check this site out and when they do go public defense or small defense there is a tendency not to stay basically, in the U.S. the likelihood is your lawyer is going to be white and there is higher chance of it being so in lower socio-economic areas (a bit ironic but true) So Harry's Law not so off the mark on the overdramatic...yes.

stargazer said...

which means that the percentage of judges is even lower, yet one of the 2 judges was black and the other a woman (also probably statistically not many of those). but really, the rankle with me is that this is part of a much wider thing, it's part of the cumulative societal narrative, which is probably why i had such a gut-reaction to it.

anon, yes i'm huge fan of kathy bates, and will probably keep watching for that reason alone, while hoping that things improve.

Aliya said...

Actually, another irony, a person is more likely in the U.S. Federal system to have a judge from a minority background 19% (11% African American Judges, 7% Hispanic and 1% Asian) than s/he is to have an attorney with a minority background less than 12. Although in state courts it's about equal....

I understood the wider picture (re media regularly protraying people of colour in a particular way and whites as saviour), but reality of Harry's Law is that it is not so far from the percentages of the legal practice in U.S.

There is a federal requirement to have minority representation that must be met/or goals set and minorities are recruited out of lower socio-economic environments/neighbourhoods to both the judiciary and larger firms (requirement is for business with 10 or more employees) So few go into poorer neighbourhoods to practice.

Also, there is an internal push within the minority groups themselves.... telling minority attorneys(i.e. you've gotten your degree, get yourself and your kids out of our neighbourhoods etc or "you've worked so hard, and you want to be a public defender that doesn't pay've got to be kidding"

The U.S. is a strange place, but again Kelly's Harry Law is actually not far from the reality that exists.

It would be nice if it can change in the next generation