'He Took It Out.' How Comedic Television Shows Shape Jurors' Perceptions of Workplace Sexual Harassment

29 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2022

See all articles by Molly Pratt

Molly Pratt

University of Missouri at Kansas City, School of Law

Date Written: September 21, 2022


This Comment analyzes the ways in which depictions of sexual harassment in media, specifically situational comedic ("sit-com") television series, affect potential jurors' understanding and evaluation of workplace sexual harassment claims. Part I begins by explaining the "cultivation theory," which hypothesizes that television shapes viewers' beliefs about the world around them. This section also considers social science evidence that exemplifies how people are influenced by different forms of media, especially media depictions that sexually objectify women. Next, Part II describes the elements of the two different types of harassment claims to provide a backdrop of what real humans, not characters on television, endure every day at work. Part III compares two major sensationalized claims of sexual harassment that have occurred over the past thirty years. Part IV summarizes various episodes of Seinfeld, Veep, and Curb Your Enthusiasm that include scenes of sexual harassment in order to analyze how prospective jurors might consider the illegal harassment shown on television almost every night. Finally, Part V proposes actions that can be taken by the legal and entertainment industries to ameliorate the harmful effects that comedic depictions of sexual harassment can have on juries.

Comedic television episodes which downplay workplace sexual harassment situations that would otherwise make for valid claims under Title VII may cause jurors to become desensitized to the severity of real-world harassment experienced by real-world victims. While this Comment aims to illustrate how media consumption affects the breadth of the legal industry, its underlying goal is to shed light on how inaccurate depictions of legal issues can be harmful to a viewer who is untrained in the law.

Keywords: sexual harassment, comedy, television, comedic depictions, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep, media, television depictions, harassment in media, MeToo, #MeToo Movement, Larry David, Malcolm Gladwell, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Cuomo, Title VII, EEOC, cultivation theory, entertainment industry

Suggested Citation

Pratt, Molly, 'He Took It Out.' How Comedic Television Shows Shape Jurors' Perceptions of Workplace Sexual Harassment (September 21, 2022). University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4094295

Molly Pratt (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City, School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO
United States

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