Reel-Life Law

November 27, 2011

Is The Simpson’s Lionel Hutz such a bad role model for lawyers?

Image: Fox












When Bart Simpson tells the Simpsons’ family lawyer Lionel Hutz that when he grows up he wants to be a lawyer, “just like you”, Hutz replies:

“If there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers. Can you imagine a world without lawyers?”

A bubble blows out above his head. Within is a ring of people happily singing and dancing through green hills and flowers.

Hutz lets out a shiver of horror.

The prosecution

Hutz may be an excuse for some by now pretty familiar lawyer-bashing, but you’ve got to give it to the writers: this lawyer has style.

As a lawyer, he’s totally incompetent of course. He loses most of his cases, is a struggling recovering alcoholic to the point that he has to rush out of the courtroom when he comes face to face with “a brownest of the brownest liquors” bottle of bourbon.

And when the judge has to ask Hutz whether he’s aware he’s missing his pants:

Lionel Hutz: What? AAH! I move for a “bad court thingy”.

Judge: You mean a mistrial?

Lionel Hutz: Yeah… that’s why you’re the judge, and I’m the law… talkin’… guy.

Judge: The lawyer?

Lionel Hutz: Right.

The defence

But Hutz isn’t just a story of legal failure. He has flashes of brilliance. When Homer is thrown out of an all-you-can-eat restaurant for eating too much, Hutz takes up and wins Homer’s case by seeing straight to the crux of the matter: “This is the most blatant case of false advertising since ‘The Never Ending Story’.”

You’ve got to credit his innovative marketing skills too. Lionel Hutz not only gives new clients a free smoking monkey (“Look… He’s taking another puff!”), but he also ditches the tired old ‘no win no fee’ line for the far more catchy slogan: “Cases won in 30 minutes or your pizza’s free!”

Okay, when put the test he actually turns up with an empty pizza box, but we’re not judging him here on his pizza-delivery skills.

Nor is Hutz merely a lawyer. Beneath that steely-gazed adversarial demeanour lies an inveterate multi-tasker. Not only does he run his own practice ‘I can’t believe it’s a law firm!’ from Springfield shopping mall, but he somehow finds time on the side for shoe repairs, babysitting, substitute teaching, selling real estate, and more. Who says lawyers are overworked?

With a business card that turns into a sponge, and a pen that looks like a cigar, this lawyer is more 007 than Springfield down-and-out. Well, that is until he sees the whisky… at 9.30am.

One of the greats

Lionel Hutz was retired from the cast of Springfield when Phil Hartman, the voice behind the great lawyer, died in 1998. But in the time he appeared, Hutz surely secured his place in TV history as one of top fictional lawyers of all time.

We may be waiting a while, however, before we discover whether he really convinced Bart to join the legal profession. CP


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