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Friday, November 07, 2014

Bad Judge

No, not Judge Sutton (although, timing).

NBC canceled the show Bad Judge last week, because, by all reports no one was watching and the show was, well, worse than the judge. I never watched it because I could tell from previews that it was going to depict thoroughly illegal, improper, and unethical behavior as "heroic" and it would just drive me nuts.

But the Florida Association for Women Lawyers found the show even more objectionable; the group had sent a letter to NBC last month calling on it to cancel the show. It argued that the show "depicts a female judge as unethical, lazy, crude, hyper-sexualized, and unfit to hold such an esteemed position of power" and thus is "damaging to women in the legal profession." Fair enough, I suppose, although there have been shows and movies showing judges behaving similarly badly (if not necessarily sexually).

Unfortunately, the letter completely loses it near the end, arguing that the show is

dangerous to the extent those who hold preconceived notions about women judges will find their sexist beliefs reaffirmed. A misogynist who believes that women in power cannot control their sexuality, their bodies and their professional or personal conduct would have their views endorsed by this show.

It compared the show to All in the Family* for similarly having a leading character exhibit and express hateful views that confirm the beliefs of viewers holding similar hateful attitudes. Of course, this show is hyperbole (poorly done, but nonetheless) and Archie Bunker was the butt of the joke, not the heroic model to be emulated. So the letter is relying on the old "people are too stupid to get it" argument, a uniquely bad basis for restricting speech.

* Which, needless to say, will be the first, last, and only time anyone ever will compare these two programs.

But don't worry. Better Call Saul is coming soon.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 7, 2014 at 09:01 AM in Culture, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


Defense lawyer associations must have written a lot of letters about portrayals on "Law & Order" -- there are two equally important groups protecting us out there, and then a third one -- defense lawyers who spend much time chuckling deviously about how they found a way to exclude evidence and such.

I watched the show once (and another one about a woman who became a public defender -- I sort of prefer "Night Court" on that front) and it wasn't good. But, the portrayal as sexist is a bit much. It's supposed to be a comedy. Various shows provide caricatures of various professions and types on that front. To me, it seemed like "Bad Teacher" (another bad show) in court.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 7, 2014 11:36:59 AM

Nobody ever objects that the Good Wife is a bad lawyer (and so is every other lawyer portrayed on that show)...

Posted by: C.E. Petit | Nov 7, 2014 11:21:54 AM

I wonder if the Florida Association for Women Lawyers or you have any thoughts on How To Get Away With Murder, a show that seems subject to some of the same complaints vis-a-vis its depiction of a (black, female) practicing criminal defense lawyer/law prof and her band of scrappy, ethically flexible law students -- which lots of people are watching (because Shonda Rhimes).

Posted by: Michelle Meyer | Nov 7, 2014 10:38:27 AM

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