Injustice Narratives in a Post-Truth Society

Larke-Walsh, George S. (2019) Injustice Narratives in a Post-Truth Society. In: Visible Evidence Annual Conference, July 24-28 2019, Los Angeles, USA.

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The American justice system has come under intense scrutiny in the media in recent decades with a persistent rise in documentaries that focus on flaws in the legal system. Within this arena, the injustice narrative documentary exists as a significant subcategory of the true crime genre and while it is certainly not new, it has recently produced some high-profile films and series. The question is, are all injustice narratives exploitative and too firmly rooted in the genre’s long established structural and emotional clichés, or can they be successfully separated from the traditions of the true crime genre and be accepted as having a positive social value and purpose? This paper will explore both the phenomenon and the backlash towards injustice narratives in order to assess whether wholesale disparagement is justified or not. It takes Dirk Eitzen’s (2018) “The Duties of Documentary in a Post-Truth Society” as a starting point to discuss how social documentaries have “a moral obligation [..] to make socially positive appeals in a socially positive way” (ibid). Contemporary documentaries appeal to emotions through their story structure and it is the intensity of such emotions that provides the attraction, but also the distrust of true crime narratives. Sensationalism is an easy label to apply because of the strong responses from audiences and critics alike. Some may find the appeal to emotions distasteful, simplistic, and incompatible with the principles of documentary, but arguably they reflect a more generalized erosion of trust in institutional discourses evidenced in many aspects of American society in recent decades. This paper will show that many injustice narratives are a call for the recognition of intense emotion as a valid influence on discourses of truth and justice and, as such, they are also a call for the validity of intense emotions in documentary discourse.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Media > Cinema and Film
Media > Film
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications
Depositing User: George Larke-Walsh
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2021 16:18
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2021 16:18

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