HUNTSVILLE — (Editor’s Note: With the legal system in the news of late, Mike Yawn interviewed local attorneys to find out their favorite legal films. As in a court of law, the attorneys offered various perspectives and shed much light on the role of lawyer in film. This is the second in a two-part series.)
Aaron LeMay is the controller for Sam Houston State University, where he has worked since 2011. He graduated from the South Texas College of Law in 2010.
Mike Yawn: Your education, it seems, would give you a foundation for a lot of things and perhaps a unique perspective on film. You have bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University in biblical languages and accounting; a master’s degree in education, specializing in student affairs and administration at Baylor; and a law degree from South Texas College of Law. That may be the broadest set of degrees I’ve ever seen.
Aaron LeMay: Most people say it’s because I am indecisive, but I haven’t decided whether I agree with that…[laughs]
MY: What’s your favorite legal film?
AL: “V for Vendetta.”
MY: That’s the most modern of the films that has been chosen thus far. What is it about that film that makes it your favorite law-related movie?
AL: Well, I could have gone with more of a courtroom drama, but I like that this film addresses the role of government in individuals’ lives and the role of the individual in establishing and perpetuating the government and its laws.
MY: One of the interesting aspects of this film is that it involves an individual who uses terroristic tactics, which are generally regarded as illegitimate means of social change. But he is using them against a totalitarian state.
AL: That’s one of the serious issues of the film. We have a negative perception of vigilantes, but there is the question of a society that is so bad that a vigilante is almost a necessary catalyst for change and, by extension, improvement. A lot of popular films, particularly of the action-hero variety, depict that right now. Batman is a perfect example; he’s a complete vigilante. From a more historical vantage point, you also have the leaders of the American Revolution. They were working against the British government, serving as catalysts for change. In either case, a person is being subversive to an existing order, serving as the engine for positive change in society.
MY: You mention the founding fathers and, of course, if the Revolution hadn’t been successful, they would have been hanged as traitors and gone down in history as such.
AL: Yes, to quote from a different movie, in the “Count of Monte Cristo,” Col. Villefort says, “Treason is all a matter of dates.” If the founding fathers would have lost the war, we would have had the same society we had before, which we viewed as an oppressive monarchy controlling what we believe is our freedom.
MY: One of the actors in “V for Vendetta” is John Hurt, who plays the dictator. It is interesting that he was also in “1984,” another film warning of the dangers of totalitarianism.
AL: Yes, he was Adam Sutler in “V for Vendetta.” You know, in the film Sutler begins blacklisting people who are associated with V, and that’s the sort of thing you would see in “1984.” The government, in that case, is more involved with personal lives than the general protection of society.
MY: James McTeigue, the director, was the First Assistant Director on “The Matrix.” There are some thematic similarities between these two films, and I would think that the people who like one would like the other.
AL: Well, that’s true for me. I own and watch on a periodic basis “The Matrix.” The sequels are less critically acclaimed, but they do continue the story of how the people emerge from a machine-driven oppressive society. Neo, of course, is the catalyst for that change. In a lot of ways he is portrayed as a Christ-like character who is the salvation of the people and the machines.
MY: And this may seem obvious now, but how do you think your broad educational background, particularly in the Humanities, has affected you?
AL: Well, for people with a background in Western philosophy or Biblical Studies or the Humanities, a lot of imagery and ideas stand out. In the end of the “Matrix,” Neo is carried out by a machine, and he’s in a prostrate position. It’s a position similar to that which Christ is believed to have been in when he died on the cross. That’s pretty apparent if you’ve studied that sort of thing. But I think everyone brings their own experiences and backgrounds to film, and that’s one of the great things about the movies.