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Screening the L.A.P.D.: cinematic representations of policing and discourses of law enforcement in Los Angeles, 1948-2003

Bevan, R.; (2011) Screening the L.A.P.D.: cinematic representations of policing and discourses of law enforcement in Los Angeles, 1948-2003. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines cinematic representations of the L.A.P.D. within the context of discourses of law enforcement in Los Angeles and contends that these feature films constitute a significant strand within such discourse. This contention, which is based upon the various identifiable ways in which the films engage with contemporary issues, acknowledges that the nature of such engagement is constrained by the need to produce a commercially viable fictional entertainment. In four main chronological segments, I argue that it is also influenced by the increasing ethnic and gendered diversity of film-makers, by their growing freedom to screen even the most sensitive issues and by the changing racial and spatial politics of Los Angeles. In the 1940s and 1950s, the major studios were prepared to illustrate some disputed matters, such as wire-tapping, but represented L.A.P.D. officers as white paragons of virtue and ignored their fractious relationships with minority communities. In the aftermath of the Watts riot of 1965, racial tensions were more difficult to ignore and, under a more liberal censorship regime, film-makers―led by two independent African American directors―began to depict instances of police racism and brutality. Between the major L.A.P.D. anti-gang initiative of 1988 and the Rodney King beating of 1991, two films were released which tackled the inter-related issues of gang violence and the controversial nature of the police response. In the febrile atmosphere of the time, each found itself at the centre of local discourses of law enforcement. Then, in the wake of the King beating, Los Angeles and its police force endured the 1992 riots, the trial of O.J. Simpson and the Rampart scandal. These highly publicised events, which gave the L.A.P.D. a world-wide reputation for racism, brutality and corruption, also informed several movies in which the misdeeds of filmic policemen outstripped even the worst excesses of their real-life counterparts.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Screening the L.A.P.D.: cinematic representations of policing and discourses of law enforcement in Los Angeles, 1948-2003
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History

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