Skepticism Bordering on Distrust: Family Law in the Hollywood Cinema

23 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2011

See all articles by David Ray Papke

David Ray Papke

Marquette University - Law School

Date Written: August 29, 2011


This article critiques Hollywood films from the last 20-30 years that relate to family law. More specifically, the films considered concern marriage, divorce, child custody, and adoption – four central concerns in family law as both a subject matter and an area of practice. The films are chosen not for their depth or precision but rather for their “box-office appeal” and general popularity. While the films are not tightly connected to one another and surely do not present a unified theme, they do share a surprising skepticism bordering on distrust regarding law, legal processes, and legal institutions. Hollywood appears to have picked up a general sentiment that family should be a private sanctuary, a place dominated by warmth and love. The last thing family needs, many Americans believe, is law as an intrusion of the state. The films incorporate this sentiment and also reinforce it by teaching viewers to be leery of law in family matters.

Keywords: Hollywood, family law, movies, films

Suggested Citation

Papke, David Ray, Skepticism Bordering on Distrust: Family Law in the Hollywood Cinema (August 29, 2011). Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 11-20. Available at SSRN:

David Ray Papke (Contact Author)

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States

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