Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Boston Illegal

I regularly watch the show Boston Legal. I enjoy the quirky characters and the intellectual moral questions. At the same time, I am often really annoyed at the way that they slip in liberal messages. Often they frame questions in such a way that the audiance will not realize the broader implications. Other times they will drag in politics for no other reason than to deliver a message.

A few examples:

In the most recent episode a woman was suing for custody of her twin nieces. The girls were happy and healthy but they were being raised as racists. This should have been straightforward. The implications of removing a child from her parents over political beliefs are enormous and this would never be a question in real life.

Along the way the writers had the twins disapprove of Mexicans coming to America illegally and refusing to assimilate. Since this was presented as part of the girls' twisted attitudes the implication that anyone who agrees with this part is a racist, possibly a skin-head.

There was also a national security angle. This never fit very well but it gave James Spader's character a chance to tell us how bad the Patriot Act is, even though it had nothing to do with the case as presented and the national security angle was very weak.

A few weeks ago a recurring character was being sued after he fired someone for his religion. To get audience sympathy, the person fired was a Scientologist.  Now, if they had presented the victim as an Evangelical Christian, the case would have been exactly the same but the audience sympathy would have shifted. It's all in how you frame the question.

After that, the same character was being tried for perjury. In capitol cases, potential jurors are asked to swear that they believe in the death penalty and will apply it when called for. The reason for this should be obvious. If members of the jury do not believe in the death penalty then it is automatically off the table, no matter how vile the crime. Similarly, I would expect that someone who is in favor of drug legalization to be bared from a jury in a drug case.

Not in Boston Legal. In their strange universe, the reason for getting people who believe in the death penalty is to get a jury pre-disposed to convict.

What is more scary in they show is how the lawyers often get around the law. In one case, Spader's character hired someone to break into someone's home and tie him up. Spader then entered and promised that this would happen again and again unless the man dropped his case. While this was done in a good cause, it could as easily be used anywhere.

More often they use the same idea but hide it better. An anorexic girl agreed to go into rehab after it turned out that she had a web site with questionable advice. This was not the clincher. The girl's lawyer was not moved until it was pointed out that the girl had left herself open to multiple lawsuits. Rather than continue to defend the girl pro bono, the lawyer quit.

I know that the country's legal system is often unjust but I shudder at the thought that the sort of tricks this law firm plays are used in real life.

No comments: