Abstract

The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments claimed for women not only equality of rights under the law, but a cultural status that was not the product of compliance. It sought to enfranchise women across the entire panoply of social activity, and to afford them representation in a number of areas. Whether women have achieved the stature aspired to by the Declaration of Sentiments can be approached in a variety of ways. We have chosen to do so by exploring cinematic images of women lawyers.

Popular film serves as a cultural text. When we look at a group of films on any given subject, we are also viewing a record of the culture that produced those films. Generally, films produced for mass or popular consumption reflect the dominant culture's ideology. By watching films whose main characters are female attorneys we can observe the stories about women lawyers commonly offered to the viewing public.

These stories exist in a context larger than the impact produced by any single cinematic portrait. The repeated representations of women lawyers in film have qualities associated with other allegorical kinds of stories, most notably myth, fable, and folklore. Like those traditional forms of storytelling, these films not only explain the composition of their "internal reality"; they offer suggestions about what external reality ought to be.

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1996

Notes/Citation Information

Kentucky Law Journal, Vol. 84, No. 4 (1995-96), pp. 1027-1073

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