Women in Law and Film


Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: January 2006

Author: Orit Kamir

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Law, Media Studies > Film

Some women attack and harm men who abuse them. Social norms, law, and films all participate in framing these occurrences, guiding us in understanding and judging them. How do social, legal, and cinematic conventions and mechanisms combine to lead us to condemn these women or exonerate them? What is it, exactly, that they teach us to find such women guilty or innocent of, and how do they do so?

Through innovative readings of a dozen movies made between 1928 and 2001 in Europe, Japan, and the United States, Orit Kamir shows that in representing “gender crimes,” feature films have constructed a cinematic jurisprudence, training audiences worldwide in patterns of judgment of women (and men) in such situations. Offering a novel formulation of the emerging field of law and film, Kamir combines basic legal concepts—murder, rape, provocation, insanity, and self-defense—with narratology, social science methodologies, and film studies.

Framed not only offers a unique study of law and film but also points toward new directions in feminist thought. Shedding light on central feminist themes such as victimization and agency, multiculturalism, and postmodernism, Kamir outlines a feminist cinematic legal critique, a perspective from which to evaluate the “cinematic legalism” that indoctrinates and disciplines audiences around the world. Bringing an original perspective to feminist analysis, she demonstrates that the distinction between honor and dignity has crucial implications for how societies construct women, their social status, and their legal rights. In Framed, she outlines a dignity-oriented, honor-sensitive feminist approach to law and film.


“Kamir’s analysis of woman in law and film demonstrates how fruitful an interdisciplinary approach to film criticism can be, and the consideration of women in law films . . . is timely and welcome. . . . Kamir has provided a convincing rationale for the furtherance of this area of study, as well as an overdue focus on the hidden victims of courtroom dramas.” — Lucy Bolton, Scope

“Kamir’s book Framed is a gem, albeit one that resists easy description. . . . It is a book that seeks to enable its readers to see with greater depth into the jurisprudential assumptions captured in law and film, and into the structure of those relations of force and enchantment in which we inevitably must participate. There is no other word for it. Magic.” — Rebecca Johnson, Michigan Law Review

Framed is groundbreaking. It pushes law-and-film scholarship forward in significant ways. The question at its core is not how various groups are represented but rather the more difficult one of how we as legal or cinematic audiences are led to judge these groups. Orit Kamir doesn’t simply ‘do’ an analysis of a group of films. Rather, she uses a set of films as a vehicle to explore the mechanisms of judgment.” — Rebecca Johnson, author of Taxing Choices: The Intersection of Class, Gender, Parenthood, and the Law

“In this fascinating book, Orit Kamir displays an original method for reading law and film that illuminates both a remarkable set of films from around the world and many of our deepest assumptions about law. All this is done from a powerful feministic perspective. I know nothing like it.” — James Boyd White, author of The Edge of Meaning


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Orit Kamir is Professor of Law and Gender at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She is co-director of the Israeli Center for Human Dignity and the author of Every Breath You Take: Stalking Narratives and the Law; Israeli Honor and Dignity: Social Norms, Gender Politics, and the Law (in Hebrew); and Feminism, Rights, and the Law (also in Hebrew).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

Introduction: Conceptual Framework 1

Part I. Feminist Critique of Law Films that Honor-Judge Women

1. Rashomon (Japan, 1950): Construction of Woman as Guilty Object 43

2. Pandora’s Box (Germany, 1928): Exorcising Pandora-Lilith in the Weimar Republic 73

3. Blackmail (England, 1929): Hitchcock’s Sound and the New Woman’s Guilty Silence 90

4. Anatomy of a Murder (U.S.A., 1959): Hollywood’s Hero-Lawyer Revives the Unwritten Law 112

Part II. Cinematic Women Demanding Judgment
From Liberal Attitudes to Radical Feminist Jurisprudence and the Ethics of Care

5. Adam’s Rib (U.S.A., 1949): Hollywood’s Female Lawyer and Family Values (Read with Disclosure and Legally Blonde) 135

6. Nuts (U.S.A., 1987): The Mad Woman’s Day in Court 160

7. Death and the Maiden (U.S.A., 1994): Challenging Trauma with Feminine Judgment and Justice (Read with The Piano) 185

Part III. Women Resisting and Subverting Judgment
Beyond Conventional Feminist Jurisprudence

8. A Question of Silence (Netherlands, 1982): Feminist Community as Revolution (Read against “A Jury of Her Peers”) 217

9. Set it Off (U.S.A., 1996): Minority Women at the Point of No Return 243

10. High Heels (Spain, 1991): Almodovar’s Postmodern Transgression 264

Notes 285

Bibliography 299

Index 313
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3624-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3636-5
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