Deputy Head of the Griffith Law School Associate Professor William MacNeil said although people don’t realise, popular culture has something to say about legal philosophy.
“Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer may not seem like serious legal texts, but each explores an element of law,” Associate Professor MacNeil.
Associate Professor MacNeil has explored this idea in his new book, Lex Populi.
“In popular culture more than anywhere else, you can find the leading issues of legal philosophy, which is otherwise known as jurisprudence,” Associate Professor MacNeil said.
“For example there are notions of a higher law in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and theories of rights covered in Harry Potter with the treatment of the house elves.
“There is also the idea of ownership in the Castle, feminist critiques of legal education and the law in Legally Blonde, and the question of legitimacy of the new world order in Tolkien’s works.”
Associate Professor MacNeil said the central argument of the book — that pop culture has something to say about jurisprudence — was inspired by and developed in classes he held at Griffith University.
“I based the chapters of the book on lecture topics. In the lectures I used film clips, TV shows, newspaper extracts and pulp fictions to dramatise, but also critique,” Associate Professor MacNeil said.
“Few pop cultural texts announce themselves as expressly legal. So the issues are heavily coded, but Lex Populi reads them with an eye to their hidden and legal philosophical meanings.”
The book provides examples of peoples or pop law (lex populi) and attempts not only to provide a legal reading of popular culture, but a popular rereading of legal philosophy in order to restore it to the public at large, Associate Professor MacNeil said.
The book is part of the Cultures of Law series edited by Professor Austin Sarat of Amherst College in America, published by Stanford University Press.
Lex Populi is also supported by Griffith Law School’s Socio-Legal Research Centre.