Revisiting Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory
Shit Just Got Weird
Tonight I’m watching WWATCF (1971) with my kids and every scene brings about a new perspective as an adult and contextual things I didn’t pick up when all I could focus on was colorful candy and golden tickets. Now I know I’m not the first one to write about this subject and point out the weirdness, but I figured I’d shed my own light.
- There’s a Stanley Kubrick “A Clockwork Orange” quality that I didn’t notice before. After watching WWATCF I felt the need to watch ACO and whoa…there was even more relation than I saw before. Both were released in 1971…same year so that explains the similar film quality. In one scene in ACO Alex listens to a song called “Willie Wonka” a sped up too happy song with an erratic beat. WTF, didn’t notice that before. Kubrick doesn’t put anything in his films without significance. And then in the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (as pictured above) you can see Tim Burton did a literal and figurative nod to ACO.
- The guy who tells Charlie outside of the gate “No one ever goes in and nobody ever comes out” is pushing a cart of butcher knives. Did they have travelling butcher’s back in the day? What reasonable person couldn’t wait until the stores open or travel to get their knife(ves)? And I guess those guys are full of advice for kids in dark alleys in front of near abandoned warehouses…huh. No wonder why we weren’t afraid of strangers in the 70’s. It seems like all the chimney sweeps, constables and knife cart guys were just chipper do gooder’s all just waiting to give a kid a hand.
- The fact that Grandpa Joe stays in bed all day while the mom slaves away and his grandson is shelling out clams so he can shove loaves of bread down his gullet doesn’t seem fishy at all. As a kid I was thinking how wonderful it was that Grandpa Joe found it within himself to accompany Charlie. Now I’m thinking that suddenly he can sing and dance cause a golden ticket is involved…it makes him look like the biggest POS opportunist. Where were you when the family switched to cabbage water?!
- What kind of shampoo were these guys using back in the day?! Charlie’s hair looks straight up like cobwebs from the dollar store. Wonka’s hair is so thirsty it looks like an under water sea sponge that has been extracted from the ocean floor and died a slow death. I know they had gel cause Violet’s dad used ALL OF IT. Even Veruca Salt who is supposed to be the spoiled has-everything girl looks like her ends have more than split…they’ve divorced and moved to different states.
- Wonka is not a bit concerned for the lives of the kids, in fact he seems to get the most sadistic satisfaction when things go wrong and suck them into tubes or drop them through trap doors. When I was a kid I felt some strange justice like the kids totally deserved to be dropped in a boiler cause I mean Wonka thinks it’s cool and he’s the hero right?
- There’s exactly enough seats on the boat that goes through the tunnel of insanity to fit every single person. Does this mean that Wonka planned on dropping a few or the director just didn’t think that through? Just an interesting observation.
- There’s an absolute capitalistic undertone, but I’m not gonna write about that too much. Arthur Miller wrote death of a salesman before Roald Dahl published CATCF, it seems to me an obvious rip of the name Willie with the imagery of success on the outside and once you go in there’s a dark secret, etc, etc.
- Watching the Oompas made me a little curious about their story so I deep dived Google. After a little research I discovered that the OG oompa loompas in the real story were African Pygmies. Also, slave owner’s back in the day were often called “Mr. Charlies” so in order to not appear totally racist they changed the name to Willie Wonka…and made the Oompas in bazaar colors that could in no way be associated with any race.
I find it kind of strange that my kids love this movie. There are very few movies I can get both my four year old and my eleven year old to sit through together and somehow this movie is so captivating to children I have to wonder if it’s cause of the subliminal’s. Part of me thinks the tunnel scene is meta commentary about subliminal messages while the movie itself keeps audiences glued with the shiny packaging and brand attachment to Wonka. I mean it’s either that or this movie is a timeless classic….
Got to be the subliminal’s