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Stand-Up Justice /


This dissertation examines the performances of reality television courtroom judges through the frames of television studies, linguistics, and critical legal studies to comment on what justice is, how justice functions within this genre, and the greater societal impact of these programs in America. In my research I draw a connection between the linguistic practices of the stand -up comedian and reality television courtroom judges, such as Judge Judy, in that both verbally chastise their audience, whether it is a heckler or a litigant who has committed the deplorable act of not returning a video rental on time. Although judicial programs, such as Judge Judy, appear to be little more than a cheaply mass- produced form of mindless entertainment, the genre of reality courtroom television has seeped into the real world and become a phenomenon that actively situates the practice of justice in America. The language of moral condemnation and humor, extensively performed by television judges, is evident within ̀real' courtroom hearings when judges prefaced how the justice system works, and does not work, using reality courtroom programs as a common reference point for the layperson. This question of how the comedic spectacle has entered into sacred places, such as the courtroom, and impacted the American judicial practice has led me to think about how the sensationalism of celebrities can offer potential sites for social formations to occur as well

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