Analysis of the representation of cinematic and television lawyers has often focused on the portrayal of the individual lawyer’s qualities and professional ethics. Two consistently asked questions have been if the
portrayals are “realistic” and whether they reflect lawyers in a positive or negative light (Asimow 2000; Greenfield 2001) Lawyer behavior in court and toward clients as well as competence may be examined to determine if a lawyer is shown as being a “good” or a “bad” lawyer. Much of this work has been driven by a paradigm that correlates a trend toward “bad” portrayals with an increasing public unpopularity of lawyers measured through surveys. However, little academic work has though been undertaken to demonstrate a causal link between the screen characteristics and subsequent perception. It is a problematic relationship; one study that sought to address the issue specifically among law students was not able to draw firm conclusions (Asimow et al. 2005). This approach is, perhaps, something of a dead end and arose from a different period when screen
lawyers appeared to have moved from heroic to flawed (Asimow 1996). It is of course possible to argue that both positions are open to challenge see for example the revisionist work on Atticus Finch (Freedman 1994). Finch
(Gregory Peck) is often cited as the ultimate heroic screen lawyer, a single parent and an upholder of the rule of law a lawyer in a racist community prepared to represent a black defendant. Freedman (1994, 482) takes the view that this is a simplistic rose-spectacled view and that we ought to have a more critical reading of the character:
In short, Atticus Finch is both more and less than the mythical figure that has been made of him. He is human-sometimes right and sometimes wrong. This in line with the view that characters are often more complex than a good/bad perspective permits. Shifting from both the realist and causal perspectives does though allow film and law to progress from a simple “law as legal practice” based approach; “ . . . to embrace subjects such as psychology, literature, sociology or even film studies.”
Different ideas and concepts can be applied to the portrayal of law and lawyers to build a more dynamic and expansive approach beyond a simple classification.
This chapter contributes a small step on this move to interdisciplinary work by adopting ideas from social psychology encompassing self and social identity in a period of uncertainty. Oz and indeed Tobias Beecher
(Lee Tergesen) could be analyzed from a number of different perspectives rooted in concepts drawn from sociology or criminology inter alia white collar criminals, prison gangs, prison violence, inmate relations, and such. The rationale for using an uncertainty-identity theory is to consider the significance of law itself to the characteristics of the portrayal.