What a Girl Wants
“What a girl wants, What a girl needs, Whatever makes me happy Sets you free.” - Christina Aguilera
“I threw a wish in the well, Don't ask me, I'll never tell. I looked to you as it fell, And now you're in my way, I trade my soul for a wish.” - Carly Rae Jepsen
On the final day of the trial, Judge Sandra Dee arrived in a hip-hugging black robe with a plunging neckline accented with white lace. Her mousy brown hair had been vaulted into a high updo. Her face was beaten with foundation, concealer and rouge, creating the illusion of jutting cheekbones that crescendoed to a pencil thin nose.
3,652,438,273 human eyes absorbed the final statements. Hunched over toilets, seated at kitchen stools, lounging on couches, these humans turned off the cries of their babies, the frustrations of their spouses and even the rumbles in their tummies to watch this trial's final moments, unaware that their very humanity hung in the balance.
For weeks, they cheered and yelped as their idols withstood attacks from opposing counsel. Even those who mocked the trial, scoffing at those entitled millionaires begging for more money, savored it for its heaping helpings of schadenfreude.
Chapley is ready for closing arguments. She approaches the jury box with a smile for each. After jury selection, she had ordered character profiles of the jurors. She fed this information into the JurWise software. The program accessed more than a million trials and matches the characteristics of her jury with other juries. The uniqueness of each human melts into the fondue of big data. The program surfaced the patterns for each juror type and then highlighted phrases and themes. From this, she made a Venn diagram that hit the most persuasive notes for these jurors.
As Chapley addresses the jury, she strikes the chord that will resonate deepest for all jurors. Whether religious or hippie, native or foreign born, they all cherish the innocence of children above all else. She walks before each, making eye contact.
“Children are our most precious resource. They deserve to be protected from pain and suffering. We've heard from the neurologists describing how children's brains aren't fully formed until they are in their early twenties. We've heard from the psychologists that teens and preteens are more self-conscious and hypercritical of themselves. Any suffering at this age will cause intense mental anguish that can last the rest of their lives. You heard Dr. Navarro present her research that concretely proves that children who are forced into stardom at a young age are at a drastically higher risk of developing personality disorders and substance abuse later in life.
“Even the witnesses from Disney proved that the company knew the connections between stardom at a young age and psychological problems during adulthood. The studio admits this with its mandatory Talent 101 class. You heard about this crash course for child actors and their parents. The stated goal of this course is to prepare them for the emotional burden of stardom.”
She shakes her head as she utters three well-rehearsed tsks.
“This is like putting a bandaid on someone before stabbing them in the heart. Did they really think a one-day class could prepare children for a lifetime of anguish?
“Let's not forget, Disney makes billions of dollars each year from the toil of children. Billions! Unlike children put to work in sweatshops, who remain anonymous, Disney actors are poor, unfortunate souls who lose control of their identities. Their faces, their voices and their very personalities become commoditized. For the rest of their lives! I ask you, can a child that young be mature enough to know that they are sacrificing anonymity and the freedom to create their own identity? Can a five-year-old comprehend that they will forever be associated with one role?”
She pauses for three beats, clicking her heels on the courtroom floor. She faces each of the jurors with somber eyes. Her brows scrunch and her eyelashes flicker.
She grabs the wooden bar before them, drops her head and shakes.
“I don't think anyone can. Especially not an innocent child. An innocent child just trying to make her parents and other adults happy with her.” She looks up at the jury with a single tear forming in her eye. She wipes this away.
“Excuse me.” She sniffles and then continues.
“My clients have provided gut-wrenching stories about the pain they've suffered while working at Disney and how these scars fester throughout their lives, severely diminishing their happiness and ability to work.
“As we heard, Disney's first live-action child star, Bobby Driscoll, became a drug addict in his late teens and died at a young age. We've heard Disney executives testify that they knew about his tragedy. They knew about the suffering of Britney Spears, of Lindsay Lohan. After so many decades of traumatized children, how could Disney possibly claim no responsibility whatsoever for the suffering that my clients have endured?”
She points at Katinka with a taloned nail.
“Now, my opposing counsel will claim that the parents are to blame. Sure, some of these showbiz parents are vultures, snatching their own babies from the crib and throwing them in front of cameras. But are the parents the only ones at fault? We all did see the train wreck of Dina Lohan that Disney's lawyers paraded in front of us in a failed attempt to show us loud and clear that she was responsible for her daughter's problems. But we're all too smart to fall for that decoy, am I right?”
She ribs the jury with a smile.
“But, Disney has't explained why they would continue to work with unstable parents. Unstable parents who would pimp their own children for money. That's right, I said it. These parents are putting their children in harms way so they can make an extra buck. Is the money really worth the trauma their children will suffer?
“Because of laws, parents have to be on set with their child star. Directors, executives, producers can all see the abusive behaviors of these parents. Every teacher, camp counselor, doctor, any professional who has contact with children must, I repeat, MUST report any possible abuse to the police. Why are Disney executives willfully turning a blind eye to this abuse? Easy, they make a deal with these devils to get the outcome they want, a compliant child actor.
“Now I ask you. I ask you to look deep in your hearts. If Disney makes billions of dollars off of the blood, sweat and tears of children, shouldn't Disney be held partially responsible for the dysfunction that these former child stars suffer? That's what we're asking today. We're asking you to decide that my clients have suffered because of Disney's carelessness, and should deserve just some of the billions of dollars that they made for Disney in compensation for the suffering they've endured.
“My clients are not asking you if Disney has done anything legally wrong beyond a reasonable doubt. This isn't a criminal trial. Here, in a civil trial, the standard of proof is much lower. Is there a preponderance of evidence? Preponderance is just a fancy word meaning 'is it more likely than not.' Is it more likely than not that Disney has caused emotional damage to my clients? Is it more likely than not that Disney knew that by employing child stars, that the children could be psychologically harmed? What we are asking you is, does Disney have a moral obligation to protect innocent children from harm?
“Please, take a look at my clients. Now close your eyes. Remember them as the sweet, bubbly, innocent children we showed you in their audition tapes. Now open your eyes. Look at the leathery, frozen faces before you. Remember the pain and suffering that each has gone through. I beg you to send a message to Disney and to any company who profits from the labor of children that enough is enough.”
Her voice cracks as she looks to her side. She pauses to catch her breath and then fans herself as a tear trickles down her face. She looks to the ceiling as if in prayer. Her face melts as she stares at each of the jurors one last time. “Our children's future is in your hands. Thank you.”
She turns and walks to her seat. She sticks her tongue out at Katinka, who scowls from behind her desk. All the jury can see is Katinka scowling in their general direction.
“Ms. Ingabogovinanana, the court is yours.” The judge says as she gestures with her well-manicured hands.
Audiences turned off Katinka's defense as she began citing Disney's careful adherence to child labor laws. The thrill was gone. The news outlets cut Katinka's remarks while the talking heads bobbled and frothed, ready to burn down the Mouse House.