11 April 2017

On Permanent Hiatus

This blog was active from 2009 to 2011. The most-viewed posts are preserved here while others have been retired.

08 March 2011

New wiki collecting legal research/pop culture examples for use in class

I’ve Got a Hit! is a new wiki which collects examples of legal research concepts found in movies, TV shows, songs and print. Entries give detailed information about where to find the example, which research concept it demonstrates, how it can be used in class and more.

Please join us! We’re looking for new contributors and listings. If we’ve missed that classic example you use in class – or if you run across a new one the next time you’re watching TV – feel free to add it. Editing access is available for law librarians, professors and others interested in expanding this area.

More information is available at the wiki itself, or you can email me directly with any questions.

14 December 2010


(This has been bothering me for weeks now. And has nothing to do with law. Sorry.)

It started with rain boots. The intersection in front of the law school tends to flood during heavy rains, so I wanted a pair. I saw an advertisement for some officially-licensed Marvel rain boots in a comic book. My first reaction was delight. Then I actually looked at the boots.

I hate them. The comic images are of a woman in some sort of troubled romance. There is a lot of pink. And tears. I don't know if they come from an actual Marvel comic or not. I suspect not. But regardless of the source, I scoffed at ever owning a pair. If I bought a pair of Marvel-related rain boots, they'd have Storm on them chasing the bad weather away (AMIRITE?) or something, not some weepy woman proclaiming her relationship problems to the world. Trying to buy a comic book t-shirt is no better. The official Marvel shop barely has any "women's cut" shirts. And most attempts to get licensed shirts into brick-and-mortar shops focus on the "X Male Superhero is My Boyfriend" type design.

The boots and shirts are only representative of a larger problem. Comic book companies do not know how to sell to women. No, strike that. They only know how to sell to a certain type of woman: the stereotypical one that spends all her time thinking about her nails and her boyfriend. I am sure there are customers out there who love these products. Yay for them (really). I don't have anything against pink or girly rain boots in general. Heaven knows the pair I decided on instead is pretty darn feminine too.

My problem, I think, is that there is no viable alternative. You want a comic book t-shirt cut for women? I hope you think Iron Man and the Hulk spend all their time fighting over you. But me? I want the hilarious Hammer Time shirt and the Deadpool logo one. They're fun and clever and, you know, about comics I actually read.[1] Why do I have to buy the unisex version that will not really fit me and therefore make me look like I'm wearing a tube sock? Why can't they just produce their "guy" products in women's sizes too? Or consider more licenses to companies like Tokidoki, that tread the line between gender and design with more thought?[2]

Comic book companies are trying to reach out to their female audience. Good on them. But they still don't seem to understand that lumping us together under the target audience header "women" is lazy and reductive. It's like when your parents suggest you should be friends with somebody because "you're the same age". Age is an immutable characteristic that generally does not give off much of a spark in the quest for kindred spirits. So why assume the audience you're marketing yourself to can be won over by appealing to a characteristic like that?

This is a snapshot of me: I love reading comics. I'm a huge fan of "literary" series like Fables and The Unwritten, and I dabble in ones like Ed Brubaker's pulp stories and Brian K. Vaughan's stuff[3], but mostly? I read Marvel superhero comics[4]. I like the adventure and the optimism and the fact that writers can actually make me care about the characters under those garish costumes. And yeah, I also dig the occasional romances that are thrown into these stories[5]. Chocolate and peanut butter. But when you take the adventure stuff out and just try to make it all about the romance, you lose me. And this is what the products I'm sulking about do: give you one or the other.

I'm not saying every woman who reads comics is like me. Exactly the opposite, really: not every reader/buyer is the same. And if there are pulp comics and superhero comics and literary ones and tie-in-for-TV-shows-that-died-before-their-time ones and zombie comics and Jane-Austen-and-zombie comics, then clearly the comic book industry is smart enough to have recognized that diversification of products is a really clever business strategy. And here's when I belabor my point a bit just because I want to throw in a quote I like. I realize that trying to define an audience is a lot like the Doctor trying to describe time:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly ... timey-wimey ... stuff.
It's complicated. Very complicated. So keep selling the shirts you've got. Keep licensing the boots that started this whole thing. Somebody is obviously buying them. But take a page from Threadless and TeeFury and offer your other current designs for men and women both. Get somebody to design those Storm boots. Think about your female audience like you do your male one: not just as a gender group, but as a discerning aggregate made up of a lot of smaller, often quite diverse factions. Comic book fans are well-known for being willing to drop significant amounts of money on products they like. So give 'em what they want. What they all want.[6]

[1] Weeeell, I don't currently read Thor. I've been planning to. But that t-shirt makes me want to start right now.
[2] I will take one of each, please.
[3] Just bought the last couple Y: The Last Man TPBs. So excited.
[4] Hence the beating in this post. Sorry, Marvel!
[5] Seriously. Bigby/Snow? Bucky!Cap/Black Widow? MOAR PLZ.
[6] I realize that I am being extremely optimistic in my vision. The reason there are products like this at all is because comic book companies are trying to make more money. And when a product line is not making enough, they stop selling it. Trust me, I've watched a lot of series I like go under the ax. But this is my rant, okay? And even within that framework, I still think there's a lot of room for improvement.

02 July 2010

So I've been reading from the popular collection ...

I went on a library kick a few weeks ago, and in the process read a number of the newest additions to our popular collection. They were all pretty fluffy (hey, it's summertime), but still a fun dip into what the collection has to offer.

She-Hulk, vol. 1: Single Green Female; She-Hulk, vol. 2: Superhuman Law by Dan Slott
Legal Elements: Mild-mannered attorney Jennifer Walters prefers her life as brassy She-Hulk, but when her increasingly raucous behavior gets her kicked out of the Avengers mansion and tossed from her high-powered firm job, her only option is to accept a new position: serving superhuman clients as Jennifer, not She-Hulk.

This is the first She-Hulk story I've read, but it was pretty obvious the legal aspects were incidental to most prior She-Hulk stories. Here, they're front and center. I most enjoyed the first volume, when the stories take place on Earth, in a normal courtroom. Spider-Man suing J. Jonah Jameson for libel? Yes, please. The second volume goes to outer space (and inter-galactic law), a fun idea that fizzled in execution.

Murder on Nob Hill by Shirley Tallman
Legal Elements: Sarah Woolson is one of the first female attorneys in the country, trying to be taken seriously in 1880 San Francisco. After some clever maneuvering gets her a place in a local firm, she sets out to defend a young widow accused of killing her rich, older husband.

A decent enough start to a new series, though the story is often lurid for what seems to be no other reason than to be lurid. And the constant "I am woman, hear me roar" litany got old.

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts
Legal Elements: The hero is a lawyer. And he's nice to an older client in a brief scene, I think? I really couldn't be bothered to remember.

I'm not saying I was expecting this book to be all about the law, but I was at least hoping to, you know, root for the couple? Roberts put way more energy into the gal pal moments and the wedding planner bits than the rest, which made for a bland, forgettable read.

Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine
Legal Elements: Steve Solomon, a solo practice defense attorney, teams up with blue-blooded recent grad Victoria Lord to defend a young widow accused of killing her rich, older husband (waaaait....). Steve is also trying to gain custody of his young nephew.

I completely enjoyed this one. Light and breezy with good dialogue and local color. Levine, himself a former attorney, throws in all kinds of genuine Florida law (Fla. Stat. citations!) for an authentic feel. And the ending isn't your typical legal thriller ending, for which I give it extra points.

The Bront√ęs Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
Legal Elements: Three sisters and their mother create stories in which they know many famous (and real) people, including a High Court judge and his wife. When the eldest daughter actually meets the Toddingtons, no one is sure of how to reconcile the imagined with the actual.

I loved this book in places. I also wanted to throw it across the room in others. Then it would suddenly be charming again. It was often very difficult to know if what you were reading had actually happened or was part of an imagined history. And the family is disturbingly unsympathetic to those who do not buy into their fantasies. Hrm.

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer
Legal Elements: Frank Amberley, a barrister, comes upon a murder on an English country road and takes it upon himself to solve the crime (to say nothing of snarking on the attempts of the local police to do the same).

Wow, I finally found a Heyer book I really enjoyed. I keep trying to read her books (both the regencies and the mysteries) because everyone from my mother to Michael Dirda recommends them, but I'd yet to hit on one that really interested me. Mr. Amberley didn't really do any barrister-y things here, but he was excellent company along the way. Success!

So. You can see some definite themes to my recent selections: mysteries and feminism, oh my. Yet despite their similarities of theme, the books were each distinctly their own. Whoever started this popular collection is brilliant! Oh wait. Never mind.