Publication Details

Sharp, C. (2014). Justice with a vengeance: retributive desire in popular imagination. In M. Asimow and K. Brown (Eds.), Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives (pp. 153-176). United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781443858106


The punishment of criminal behaviour has always been a hot topic in popular culture. Whether in fictional crime dramas or in mainstream news coverage, issues of law, justice, and punishment are constantly being refracted and reframed in a myriad of ways. We seem to like watching criminals not only being caught but also receiving the punishment they deserve. We love it when Sherlock Holmes or Patrick Jayne solves the crime on fictional television, and too often we hear stories in the media of a victim’s family that is indignant and angry that the perpetrator is seemingly “getting away” with a light sentence. We seem to have such a desire for justice to be done that we cry out for it when it seems lacking. This cry for justice, I argue, comes from a desire to hold individuals responsible for their actions, and it is the major reason for a contemporary suggestion in Australia that the criminal justice system is experiencing a “crisis of confidence.”