One of my all-time favorite films is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. NO. Not the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp one. That one is called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, thank you very much.
I’m talking about Gene Wilder in all his screaming glory Willy Wonka.
Now, just because I love a film, does not mean that I am blind to any flaws that it may have. Or, in this case, any characters who are the WORST PEOPLE parading around as if they are the best. And, no, I’m not talking about Veruca Salt or Violet Beauregarde. I’m talking about Grandpa Joe and the man himself, Mr. Willy Wonka.
I know I’m not the first to write about this. I know that. This is something that the internet has been aware of for quite some time now, but I just have a lot of thoughts about it that just need to get out of my head. So, here we are.
Anyway, let’s start with the villain himself, Grandpa Joe. Grandpa Joe is an old man who has been bedridden for, oh, twenty years. Initially, we give him, as well as the other grandparents, the benefit of the doubt. We assume that they are all bedridden because they are sick in some way. And, that may very well be true for some of them, except for one, that conniving Grandpa Joe. When we first meet him, Charlie has just come home with money from delivering papers. He has purchased bread for their dinner, so they didn’t just have to eat cabbage water again. He takes the rest of his money to give it to his loving Grandpa for his tobacco. Grandpa Joe proceeds to say “When a loaf of bread looks like a feast, I have no business buying tobacco”. So, we get the sense that he’s a decent person. That is, until we find out that there really isn’t anything wrong with him at all. And, after twenty years, when a Golden Ticket is presented and he has the opportunity of a life time, he finds the motivation to get out of bed. Oh, and not just get out of bed, oh no. But, he dances, he jumps, he twirls.
So, Grandpa Joe, you know your family is poor. You know that your daughter (possibly daughter-in-law) struggles to put food on the table and that your grandson is out working every night after school in order to help out. And yet, not once do you find the motivation to get out of bed and help them? What the hell is that about? Also, that Golden Ticket isn’t even yours, so stop singing “I’ve got a Golden Ticket”. The ticket is clearly Charlie’s. He’s the one who got out of bed to go to work and school. He’s the one who used his PERFECTLY WORKING LEGS to walk into the candy store and purchase a chocolate bar.
Okay, moving on. Cut to the factory and the fizzy lifting room. Grandpa Joe straight up steals Fizzy Lifting Drink. He steals it. He then convinces his grandson to also steal fizzy lifting drink. Not once does Grandpa Joe ever think about the consequences. Not once. And that is infuriating. This man is supposed to be the role model for Charlie Bucket and here he is being lazy as hell for twenty years and then stealing products from a, clearly not all there, candy man. And then, at the end, he’s surprised when Charlie isn’t automatically announced the winner? Rude. Thank goodness Charlie has more sense than his grandpa, otherwise, nobody would own that chocolate factory.
Okay. I’m going to end my rant about Grandpa Joe there. I’m sure that I could pick out more examples that showcase how awful of a person he is, but I feel that those two show it best. Anyway, I would like to move on to Mr. God Complex himself, Mr. Willy Wonka.
“God complex? How does he have a God complex?” Well, I’m glad that you asked, person who is reading this. As defined by the always reliable source, Wikipedia, a God complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility. That, my friends, is Willy Wonka. Let’s start from the very beginning.
Willy Wonka hides 5 golden tickets that will allow the winners inside the mysterious Chocolate Factory in 5 Wonka Bars and then ships them out globally, therein making him a shit ton of money.
So, he creates the demand for his Wonka Bars. Now, that’s not a God Complex, that’s just being a smart business man. The God complex comes into play because of his intentions behind the Golden Tickets. He is going to determine who will take over his factory based on the 5 children who have said tickets.
Side note here: I just thought of something. How did he make sure that it was only children who found those tickets? That entire montage in the movie, that part that bored the crap out of me as a child, they show adults going after the tickets. I mean, they build a machine to tell them where the tickets are, a woman’s husband is kidnapped and the kidnappers want her case of Wonka Bars as ransom, and then the Queen purchases the UKs last case of Wonka Bars at an auction. None of those scenarios involve children. So, how did he control that? Because at the end of the film he says “So who can I trust to run the factory when I leave and take care of the Oompa Loompas for me? Not a grown up. A grown up would want to do everything his own way, not mine. So that’s why I decided a long time ago that I had to find a child. A very honest, loving child, to whom I could tell all my most precious candy making secrets.” That line alone implies that he had some sort of control over who got the tickets. He always intended to give the factory to a child, not an adult. I suppose that may be where Slugworth, or Mr. Wilkinson if you’re nasty, comes into play. I mean, he is already at every location when it is announced who won the Golden Ticket. (Also, how does he travel so quickly? Also also, how did he know about Veruca and Charlie? He was there before it was even announced to the public.) See, that’s where Wonka’s complex starts to come into play. He is already controlling who finds the Golden Tickets.
Okay, Kristen, get back on track. Where was I? Oh yeah, his intentions behind the tickets already imply a God complex. Okay. So, jump forward to after “Pure Imagination”, but just before Augustus Gloop is sucked up the pipe. We discover that Wonka’s factory is being run by Oompa Loompa’s. Now, he states that he saved them from the Wangdoodles, and Horswogglers, and Snozzwangers, and rotten, Vermicious Knids. Cool. However, he didn’t really “save them”. Like, he saved them from those…things, but then he brought them all to his factory and has forced them into slave labor in order to run said factory. What the hell, man? So, the control over others – God complex.
Now, jump to Augustus Gloop getting sucked up the pipe. Is Wonka upset about the fact that one of his visitors is in possible danger? No. Is he worried that his chocolate has now been touched by human hands? Yes. You know, priorities. This whole situation feels fishy and that whole feeling starts with Wonka’s uncaring tone about Augustus and his mother. I mean, his facial expression says it all:
I would also like to point out here how nonchalant Grandpa Joe is about this whole thing, as well, using this time to teach Charlie about how bullets are shot out of a gun instead of concern for a child’s life.
Okay. So, cool. Augustus has been sucked up a pipe to the fudge room, and his mother has been taken away. The rest of the visitors will now board a boat called the Wonkatania. Except, wait a minute. The Wonkatania doesn’t even have a seat of Augustus and his mother. In fact, there are no extra seats on that boat whatsoever. So, put two and two together. No matter what, somebody was going to be left behind. Willy Wonka has begun to play god with these children’s lives. (And, like, I get it. These are awful children. But still, man, these children are the reason you make the money that you do.)
The tunnel scene, also known as the scene that has baffled everybody since 1971 as to why it’s even in this film. I have thought about this scene way more than any one person should, really. And I can only come up with one conclusion. Wonka is using it as a scare tactic. Let’s think about it. We already know that this man isn’t in the sanest state of mind. I mean, look at his entrance. When we, the audience, and the characters first meet Wonka, he is walking with a cane. As he reaches the end of the carpet, his cane gets stuck. He begins to fall forward. Everybody thinks he’s a goner. Then he tucks and rolls, does a perfect somersault, and gets up, perfectly fine. We discover that he can actually walk just fine (much like Grandpa Joe, I might add). Now, why does he do this? Because, from that moment on, we will not know if he is lying or telling the truth. What kind of sane person would do that!? So, we’ve established that he’s not all there. And that is why I think the tunnel is simply a scare tactic. It’s weeding people out. And, please, if you have a better explanation, I would LOVE to hear it.
The void of actual emotion in Wonka’s voice and face continue throughout the film. He consistently shows these children things that he knows they won’t be able to resist. Take Violet for example. One of the first things we know about her is that she is a gum chewer. I mean, she says it on television. Everybody knows. So, Wonka brings her to a room where he is creating a three course meal in the form of gum. Wonka knows that it isn’t perfect yet. He knows that “It always goes wrong when we get to deserts”. And, yet, he brought her here, knowing very well she would not be able to resist it. Same goes for Veruca. He took a spoiled rich girl and showed her geese that lay golden eggs. I mean, COME ON. He brought Mike TeeVee (which is still the dumbest name I’ve ever heard) to a room where he was experimenting with sending chocolate through television. And, was there a room that would ultimately trap Charlie? No. I’m just now realizing that the whole competition may have been rigged. Goddamnit Wonka.
Anyway, I think I may have written enough. I’m sure I could write more. I could write so much more. I could write about the candy man in the beginning. I mean, how do you expect to make any money when you’re giving away all that candy for free? But, I won’t. I don’t have that kind of time. (I mean, I do, but I don’t want everybody knowing that I don’t have much of a life outside of work and taking care of my dog).
Regardless of its flaws, and the possible rigging of a competition, this is still one of my favorite films of all time. And I will continue to watch it twice a week as I am falling asleep until the day that I die.