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The representation of the professions in the cinema: the case of construction engineers and lawyers

Langford, David A. and Robson, Peter (2003) The representation of the professions in the cinema: the case of construction engineers and lawyers. Construction Management and Economics, 21 (8). pp. 799-807. ISSN 0144-6193

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This paper considers how popular culture, especially the cinema, depicts two professions; namely, engineering and the law. It argues that despite the large number of engineers working in the developed economies their lives and their work are seldom portrayed in cinema. In contrast, the legal profession is ubiquitous in its presence in film. The paper seeks to use different forms of analysis, such as culturalism, Marxism, structuralism, feminism and post-modernism when applied to film theory in settings where engineers and lawyers are depicted. The paper makes a distinction between the presentation of the work of engineers and lawyers in 'real life' and cinematic form. The process of engineering in real life is visible yet in cinematic terms it is ignored. In contrast, the legal process is invisible in real life but has high dramatic content in the cinema. When considering the products of the two professions, engineering produces tangible products whilst law produces intangible yet highly cerebral discourses. Yet, in the cinema, the engineering product is a backcloth for other messages where in law the legal product provides a backcloth for a central and dominant message about the legal process. The conclusion is that engineers have to re-engineer themselves to be more visible in society if they are to be regarded as cinematic heroes.