Jul 16, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor, Perry Mason, and Fight Club

Sonia Sotomayor, Perry Mason and Fight Club. As they might ask on Sesame Street, which of these is not like the others? It turns out that they're all related. As a young girl in the 1950s, Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor was inspired by the Perry Mason TV show to become a lawyer and seek justice.  She's not alone.  Many students who came of age during the 1960s were inspired to go to law school by the heroic images of the law and lawyers provided by films such as To Kill a Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, and Inherit the Wind, and the classic TV show The Defenders.  Similarly, law school applications soared during the late 1980's, partly in response to the glamorous portrayals of lawyers' lives in the TV show LA Law.

For at least one New York teenager, the film Fight Club is also inspirational. The film's main character (played by Brad Pitt) plans to sabotage corporate America by destroying property during a crime spree dubbed "Project Mayhem".  The film apparently inspired Kyle Shaw to bomb a Starbucks coffee shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side on May 25, 2009. 

Popular culture is the common thread that links all these examples.  We consume it daily and may not even be aware of its influence on our attitudes and actions.  Films and TV may be especially influential, since the production values are often high and the characters are often so memorable.  As for what might inspire future Supreme Court nominees, perhaps we should look at the entertainment pages and round up the usual suspects.  I heard that once upon a time in a movie.