Publication Details

Sharp, C. (2004). Changing the channel: What to do with the critical abilities of law students as viewers?. Griffith Law Review, 13 (2), 185-199.


It is now generally acknowledged within the cultural studies tradition that media can actually be consumed in a mediated sense - that is, oppositionally and not hegemonically. The viewer is no longer seen as powerless and 'vulnerable to the agencies of commerce and ideology', but rather as both selective and active. Law students, as viewers, are constantly interpreting, transforming and producing meaning in relation to the images of law presented to them. They are utilising this process to not only make sense of the law, but also to analyse and reflect on their personal ideas and values in light of their understandings. Of course, as students of the law, they are expected to have (or to develop during their studies) some capacity for evaluating legal issues from a critical perspective. But what other uses could be made of such critical abilities in relation to their legal identity construction and how they view the role of lawyering in general? This article suggests that legal education should recognise the usefulness of pop cultural representations as a catalyst to stimulate our law students' critical abilities, and makes suggestions of how best to harness them.