Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Everlasting Gobstoppers and Everlasting Fears

  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a childhood classic. The story has had many iterations but from its book debut in 1964, its film debut in 1971 to the most recent remake in 2005, the story has stayed relatively the same. It is the iconic rags to riches story of Charlie Bucket. Charlie and four other lucky children receive golden tickets in their candy bars, which grant them a behind the scenes tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. Unlike the other children who each have a ‘flaw’ be it gluttony, brattiness, vanity or laziness, Charlie is a near perfect representation of a good boy. His perfection is rewarded later in the movie when each of the other children is removed from the tour due to a side effect of their flaw while, Charlie inherits the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate from Mr. Wonka. This reinforces the message that children should be good and they will be rewarded. However, the film also contains negative messages. Each child is punished for his or her misdiscretions in ways that would cause lawsuits were it to happen in reality. This prompts the negative message that people deserve their suffering. When one closely looks at the punishments it is clear that this movie is not suited for children and instills fear rather than good behavior.

  The film would not have survived for the past fifty-three years if people did not believe it had some positive qualities. Parents enjoy showing the film in the hope that their children will take in the message that if they are good, they will be rewarded. This message is expressed overtly in the film. Augustus Gloop is the first child to lose his spot on the tour. He loses his spot while he is eating ravenously from the chocolate river and falls in. His gluttony is shown as a bad trait and his removal from the tour shows that children who behave in such ways will not be rewarded. The oompa loompa’s sing, “What are you at getting terribly fat? What do you think will come of that?” reinforcing the idea that his actions are wrong. 

  Violet Beauregarde is a greedy gum obsessed girl who finds her demise when she chews a piece of gum that is still experimental and she turns into a human blueberry. She turned blue and swelled to the point that she had to be rolled out of the room to be juiced by the oompa loompas. This is her punishment for taking the gum she was told not to touch. The message that good children will be rewarded and bad children will suffer is shown again in the removal of Veruca Salt. Veruca is the epitome of a spoiled child. Upon learning that Mr. Wonka’s factory contains geese that lay golden eggs, she demands that her father buys her one. When Wonka refuses, she begins to throw a tantrum until she falls into the appropriately named ‘bad egg’ chute. Immediately after the oompa loompa’s sing,”If you're not spoiled then you will go far, You will live in happiness too." This is meant to express to children what the correct way to act is.

  The final child to be removed from the tour is Mike Teavee. His sole characterisitic is his love of television. His passion for tv inspires him to take part in Wonka’s latest contraption, a chocolate transporter. He desires to be part of tv so intensely that he goes into the transporter himself. Through this process he shrinks himself and is carried out in the palm of an oompa loompa’s hand to the lyrics,”If you are wise you'll listen to me. What do you get from a glut of TV? A pain in the neck and an IQ of three. Why don't you try simply reading a book?” making it abundantly clear the proper way a good child should behave.

  Through the elimination of these children, Charlie is the only one remaining. He has not shown any deep running character flaws, and has been a picturesque good child. For this he is rewarded with the Wonka empire, while the other children are in rooms across the factory being juiced and broken out of pipes. The message to children is clear: do you want to be good and end up like Charlie, or be bad and end up like the other kids?

  While, none will argue that these children acted appropriately, many parents would find issue in how they are punished. These are children after all, in a movie aimed at children with its PG rating. Yet they are being punished in such brutal ways, and it is meant to seem like they deserve to suffer? In 1964 when the book was written, a spanking may have been acceptable punishment. In 2017 anything more than a time out could be considered by some a cause for concern. However, none of the punishments displayed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have ever been the cultural norm. Augustus Gloop after falling into the chocolate river is sucked into a clear tube where he is stuck and can barely breathe. His mother is in distress begging Wonka for help because her son cannot swim and Wonka replies with “No better time to learn.” When prodded with further calls for action the most he can muster is a quiet “Help. Police. Murder.” It is not entirely clear what occurs to Gloop, after this when he is seen leaving the factory he is noticeably thinner. 

  Another character who leaves the factory in a far different form is Violet. She took a piece of gum when she was told not to and in response is permanently changed. Wonka states that the oompa loompa’s can de-juice her, but that her skin will be forever violet. Charlie’s grandfather can be heard in the background laughing, as if to say that this is fair retribution for a child who took a piece of gum. 

     In response to throwing a tantrum, Veruca Salt falls down an egg chute which Wonka states leads to the furnace. Wonka is entirely unfazed and merely says that,”She was a bad egg,” while her father jumps desperately down the chute in hopes of saving her. The oompa loompa’s sing,“Blaming the kids is a lion of shame. You know exactly who's to blame: The mother and the father!” One can’t help but ask the question if that’s true, why is it the children who are being sucked into pipes, juicied, and dropped down chutes into furnaces?

  The final child, Mike, is so enthralled by the idea of being able to take part in his favorite activity, tv, that in doing so he disregards Wonka’s wishes and jumps into the transporter. This has the unfortunate side effect of shrinking him to merely a few inches tall. Wonka ‘consoles’ Mike’s mother by suggesting that they place him in the taffy stretching machine, but can be overheard telling an oompa loompa that he won't hold him responsible if anything goes wrong. Mike goes from being a few inches tall to nearly ten feet tall due to the oompa loompa’s stretching.

  The film means to suggest that the children deserve these fates. However, Wonka seems to be at fault for them. He only half-heartedly tells Mike to not jump into the tv when he says, “Stop. dont. come back.” He also fails to stop the other children from their fates despite knowing what will happen. This suggests the theme that people deserve their suffering. These are all children who made small, inherently childlike mistakes. The movie goes on to be hypocritical as well further weakening the positive theme it claims to carry.  Charlie, a nicer boy than the others, makes mistakes throughout the film. He and his grandfather drink bubbles in direct disregard of what Wonka says and yet are not immediately punished. Why does Charlie not deserve a punishment but the others do? Is it because he confesses to Wonka? One must certainly hope not because the other children were never granted such an opportunity. This leads an audience to believe that children are rewarded more out of luck than as a byproduct of being good. 

  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a sugary story with needlessly dark implied themes. People do not deserve their suffering, but that is the most prominent theme in the movie. How could one take away the theme that good children will be rewarded and bad children will suffer when someone who makes an equally bad mistake is rewarded? This film will only confuse children and should be targeted towards an older demographic, who will not be hurt by the film’s theme. Overall, I give the film 3 out of 5 everlasting gobstoppers. It is very entertaining and a classic, but it’s target should be an older, less impressionable crowd.

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