Formerly the ANU Legal Workshop

I’ve watched Legally Blonde a million times

Watching television

I'm a big fan of L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, and The Practice, and I always ensured my study commitments were put on hold when I nestled into my lounge to enjoy their TV presence. 

I've watched Legally Blonde once (loved it) and just one episode of Suits (rest assured it's one of my desert island DVD box sets). I mention them because in the focus groups I moderated, they were enthusiastically and excitedly cited by the law students and early career commercial lawyers as their favourites and even as role models. To Kill a Mockingbird was also mentioned in glowing terms, and more about that shortly.

It shows my age but I'm a big fan of L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, and The Practice, and I always ensured my study commitments were put on hold when I nestled into my lounge to enjoy their TV presence. Of course not of all it was real (to be expected) as I know they aren't documentaries. It made me think, why are we attached to our favourite TV law series, or any shows in fact?

I wrote about this in a legal blog not so long ago, and it was a comment by acclaimed US actor Patrick Duffy (of Dallas fame) which provided the clue. When asked in a TV interview why people are so attached to TV characters, he explained, "It's because we watch them between our feet". I thought he was joking, but he has a point. My Lounge Room Theory is that we watch our TV characters in the safety, comfort and intimacy of our lounge. Our lounge is our personalised space in our house, flat, apartment, university dormitory. It's a safe space where we can do what we like, where we can invite whoever we like, and we enthusiastically welcome the Boston Legal lawyers to spend the evening. If we fork out who knows how much for a cinema ticket, a mega-tub of popcorn and choc-top ice creams, we unfortunately have to put up with inconsiderate patrons sneezing, coughing, scratching, texting and talking. However, in the privilege of our own lounge we can sneeze, cough, scratch, text and talk all we want for free, at our own leisure whilst dining on our favourite pizza and digesting the latest Suits storyline.

But Barry, what about Legally Blonde? Barry, don’t you know it's a cinematic release, not a TV series? Well, true, Legally Blonde was a motion picture but I think that many of the current generation of law students first watched Legally Blonde in the comfort of the lounge thanks to DVDs. It's easy to forget that Legally Blonde was released in the cinemas 16 years ago, so really it's a movie we now watch in our lounge usually.

Ah Barry, what about the cinematic classic To Kill a Mockingbird? Barry, don’t you know that many people were inspired by Atticus Finch because their high school legal studies teacher screened it during class? So Barry, how do you explain your lounge room theory when so many people were captivated by To Kill a Mockingbird in high school? I had to think about this a lot. It's hard to believe but we spent nearly as much of our waking hours in school than we did at home. Remarkably we sometimes probably had nearly as much (if not more) interaction with our teachers than our parents (of course that's not to criticise parental care!). Unconsciously I think our classroom became an extension of our lounge room given the amount of hours spent there. Maybe I'm getting too Freudian here but it probably explains why students occasionally embarrassed themselves by accidentally calling their teacher "Mum" or "Dad". For many it was in the classroom, our second "lounge room", where we became inspired by the legendary and inspirational Mr Finch.

ANU Law recently launched an Unrequired Reading (& viewing) List, which is a curated list of books, films, texts and artworks intended to complement students’ study of the law. Legally Blonde made it onto the list, as did several other tv series and movies. You can view the full list here.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  Director, GDLP/Page Contact:  Program Coordinator, GDLP