July 24, 2005
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory & Tort Law
Posted by Christine Hurt

Milwaukee, like the rest of the country, is having a heat wave.  This time last year, we had sweatshirts on to watch the Whitefish Bay Classic bike race, but today it was in the 90s.  Good time to go see a movie.  (However, in the middle of the movie, the electricity went out.  Too many window units running, I guess.)

I thought that I had closed the deal on going to see March of the Penguins, but my kids convinced me in the ticket line to see Charlie.  Although the movie is set in modern times, many parts of the movie are stubbornly anachronistic, and I'm sure that each updating or nonupdating was a conscious choice.  Factories seem pre-industrial; Veruca Salt's dad has a factory full of women who shell peanuts, for instance.  The chocolate factory has no health codes or safety standards.  Most interestingly, the movie seems to take place in a world without a Torts system, which fascinated me. 

In The Incredibles, the writers embraced the question of whether in out current Torts regime a superhero could go around saving people's lives and injuring them in the process.  In this movie, a gazillionaire invites five children into his factory, watches as they each contemplate a dangerous activity, gives them half-hearted warnings, and then stands idly by, giggling, as the children face painful and not quite reversible consequences.  I found it a little hard to believe that none of the parents didn't turn around to Mr. Wonka and threaten to sue him.  Hmmm.  Maybe I have a new exam question.

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