What do you know about your Miranda rights? We have heard the first few lines read to us on countless TV episodes and in some movies. The gist of it is that we have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney. In my class regarding language and the law, we are discussing the ambiguities involved in invoking these rights. We could discuss different cases regarding Miranda rights for months; however, the general idea is that TV and film seek to get the most basic form of “reality” out to the audience.
Some people feel they have a good enough grip on their rights based on what they see in weekly crime dramas. If invoking our rights were that simple, though, we wouldn’t have cases or classes regarding such ambiguity. What TV and film don’t always show is that different states have varying versions of how they notify an arrestee of their Miranda rights. Not many TV shows or movies show that silence can be an admission of guilt. Saying “I think you’d better talk to my lawyer,” or “I think I might need a lawyer now” can be too ambiguous to invoke your rights.
The last ambiguity can be particularly interesting for the creativity aspect of TV and film. With such a restricted script to invoke one’s Miranda rights, the dialogue in a screenplay, to be as in touch with “reality” as possible, also becomes restricted. Characterization becomes difficult if the suspect cannot spew a witty line to invoke their rights. Perhaps these situations are too real. The script strips away certain parts of reality to highlight others. Of course the writers are more than likely aware of these legal nuances, but their goal is to get across to the audience a certain message per week, or else “reality” sterilizes the creativity in visual media.
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