Life on Mars?
“Its on America's Tortured Brow, That Mickey Mouse has grown up the cow.” - David “Bowie” Jones
“Out of the fire and into the fire again, You make me want to start all over, Here I come straight out of my mind or worse.” - Destiny Hope “Miley” Cyrus
Judgement rained down long before the trial finished. Judge Dee was the first to be convicted. The fashion police mocked her frizzy hair, shapeless black robe and doughy face.
Christina Aguilera won praise for her array of fascinators that mixed couture with somber. One commentator quipped that they looked like “Ascot at a funeral.”
Britney Spears earned the award for best cross-promotion by mentioning both her perfume line and pajama tracksuits while on the witness stand. The following week, she one-upped herself with a multi-million dollar Frito-Lay endorsement. Each time the cameras panned the star-spangled audience, Britney held up a bag of Cheetos and licked her orange fingertips.
The first Wednesday that Lindsay Lohan wore pink, the internet erupted with a thousand Mean Girls memes. On the third Wednesday she wore pink, the sad realization sank in. Lindsay still clung to a twenty-year-old movie for relevance.
And most importantly, the trial was winning the court of public opinion. From days in the courtroom to evenings on talk shows, many of these stars hadn't worked this hard since their 'tween years. The stories of maltreatment by Disney told each day covered a billion screens each night. Disney's stock dropped by 75%, providing the most concrete evidence of the public's shift.
The sound bites from the trial focused on the stars' testimonies. The clear and reasoned responses from Disney's witnesses rarely punctured the news bubble. The California labor lawyers who confirmed that Disney had faithfully executed the law were deemed too dull. The facts were reported but buried three scrolls down, long after the majority of readers had clicked away to much more compelling cat videos.
Milez Cyrus was the first on the witness stand.
“Disney had me propped up in a blonde wig and fake teeth when I was 13. I wasn't a kid, I was a lunchbox, I was a makeup line, I was a record contact, I was a movie deal, I was a clothing line, I was a video game, I was a series of young adult novels. I was a billion-dollar brand by the age of 15! How the fuck is a kid supposed to know how to deal with that kinda pressure?
“I wish...I wish I could just start all over. But I know, I'll never be the same.”
“Nothing can prepare you for stardom.” Demi Lovato looked down and clawed at her wrists. “We were like lambs sacrificed before the altar of Disney's shareholders.
“I was a teen and cutting myself. I was surrounded by adults all day long but no one noticed. No one cared cuz it wouldn't show up on camera. But when I gained weight, that's when they had an intervention. Don't forget, I was 18 when I first went to rehab. 18! I still remember the guilt I got from Disney cuz I wasn't 'fulfilling my duties for my TV show and my summer concert.' Fuck that! I was dying and they only cared how much I'd hurt their profit margins.
“Everything about me was focus grouped and prototyped. My soul was broken down until my body could be a vessel for Disney. I was trapped in the mold they made for me. This never happened when I worked at Barney. At Barney, they cared about us kids.”
Demi referred to her first television experience. Barney was a Tyrannosaurus rex, a member of a long-extinct species that humans reanimated, defeathered, turned purple and used to teach children educational messages through songs and dance routines.
“But I was a fucking kid, my body was growing and changing, how the fuck was I supposed to fit into their rigid mold? I was always a good little girl and I tried my hardest to fit into the La-La Land Machine. But I couldn't... I don't think anyone could.”
Justin Timberlake shared that when his Mickey Mouse Club contract ended, he and J.C. Chasez were handed over to the pudgy, lecherous hands of Lou Pearlman. He and the rest of N*SYNC nicknamed him 'Dirty Pop' for the incestuous father figure role he thrust on these boys.
“He was a Dirty Pop. Dirty Pop... that you Just. Can't. Stop.” Justin broke into sobs. “He used to take his belt off and say 'I know you like this Dirty Pop.'”
The hyper-muscular Zac Efron hulked to the stand. “There were years where I suffered from crippling anxiety. I just couldn't--- couldn't get my head in the game. So I drank. I did drugs. I was soaring, flying, there's not a star in heaven that I didn't think I could reach. I even blew up at a homeless man. After that, I knew it was now or never, and I finally became sober. The voices in my head still tell me they know best, but I wouldn't bet on it. I turned my life around, but my heart is still breaking.”
Christina Aguilera recounted the trauma of her double life. After weeks performing with Disney, she would return to her home in western Pennsylvania, the decaying buckle of America's rust belt. Jobs were scarce and the other children and parents resented that Christina might make it out.
“They made me feel dirty. Filthy. Nasty. Too dirty to clean my act up. For two years, they would tease me and slash my tires.
“Look at me! You'll never know me. If I wear a mask, I can fool the world. But I cannot fool my heart. When will my reflection show who I am inside?”
Christina hurled a four octave scream as she described her struggles with dissociative disorder. She had been trapped by a squeaky clean image that Disney and her record label forced on her. It took a decade of therapy until she became a fighter, stripped her Disney identity and told her record label that they can't hold her down. But still, she agonizes.
“Everyday is so wonderful. Then suddenly, it's hard to breathe. Now and then I get insecure, from all the pain. I'm so ashamed. Don't look at me!”
Raven-Symoné Pearman, the youngest Cosby Show child turned Disney Star, shook uncontrollably as she described her teen years with Disney.
“You gaze into the future. You might think life would be a breeze. But then. Its not that easy. I try to save the situation, but I'd end up misbehaving. The only thing I can say is that Disney should have known what little girls are made of...”
During cross examination, Katinka slithers her way to the witness stand and asks each star.
“Were you ever beaten by Disney?
“Were you ever abused by Disney?”
“Did Disney ever falsify employment records or time sheets?”
“Was Disney compliant with all laws related to youth employment?”
“That I know of.”
But it was the black holes where stars should have been that carried the strongest pull.
A seat was left open in the courtroom where Shia LeBouf should have sat. Holocube coverage of the trial began with a touching in memoriam tribute to LeBouf, who had been torn apart by wolves months before. His parents tearfully testified that he spent his adult life distancing himself from the puny wimp he had once played for Disney. In his final attempt, he lived on a wolf sanctuary in Colorado. He grew feral and stopped shaving and showering. During his third week, he attempted to overthrow the social order to become the pack's alpha. Scraps of his scraggly beard were found by rescue workers first. Pieces of his mauled body surfaced as the snow thawed.
But the absence that tugged heart strings the most was that of Bobby Driscoll. By the end of the trial, Driscoll, Disney's first child star, had become a household name. He starred in Disney's first foray into live action films, “Song of the South.” This film has been judged as “one of Hollywood's most resiliently offensive racist texts.” From here, he starred in “Treasure Island” and “Peter Pan.” During his teen years, he developed severe acne and Disney dropped his contract, claiming that it would be impossible to cover his zits with makeup. By the age of 17, he was addicted to heroin. He struggled and was in and out of jail over the following years. He died penniless at the age of 31. The cause was heart failure from drug abuse. His body was found by two children playing in an abandoned building. With no identification on his body, Bobby was buried in a pauper's cemetery as an unknown. Almost two years later, his mother contacted the police to help her find her son. The police were able to match the body's identity to Bobby. This was the child who helped launch Disney's live action films, and whose films grossed hundreds of millions of dollars for Disney.
As a historian recounted this tale, a tearful Chapley turned to the jury and then to the cameras and pleaded.
“How could anyone dare do this to innocent children?”