The Horrible Truth About Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Updated on July 3, 2016

I used to love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 movie starring Gene Wilder.

Before VCR's, DVD players, on-demand, and streaming video, sometimes you just had to wait for a movie to be broadcast on television.

So there was a certain amount of anticipation. You couldn't just call up any movie you wanted on demand. And since, to my memory, Willy Wonka didn't air all that often, I would be overjoyed when it came on. Literally, I would rearrange my schedule or stop whatever I was doing to watch it. If I was channel surfing and I came across Willy Wonka, no matter how much of the movie I'd missed, time would stop. It's really hard now to articulate to people just how awesome it felt to realize something was on television that I hadn't seen in awhile. It felt like Christmas.

The Original Book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The original book by Roald Dahl
The original book by Roald Dahl

As an adult, I've really looked forward to sitting down with my kids and reading about Willy Wonka in Roald Dahl's original book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and watching the two movies.

That was until I realized after listening to the audiobook over and over again and analyzing the movies that Willy Wonka, the hero of my youth, is a colossal dick.

Why We Love Willy Wonka

Our favorite candy tycoon.
Our favorite candy tycoon. | Source

Fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory most vividly remember the fantastical character of Willy Wonka, a reclusive candy business owner who re-opens his factory to five lucky children, who get to see and taste his wonderful creations.

To children who often long for the sweet taste of candy, the idea of visiting a factory like Willy Wonka's is the stuff of dreams. After all, every child fantasizes about a shopping spree in a candy store and eating candy until they puke. Candy is wonderful.

On the surface, it would seem that the moral of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is that good children are rewarded and bad children are punished. Roald Dahl's original story is a condemnation of many things including bad parenting, gum-chewing, television, spoiling children, over-eating, and self-indulgence.

Most of us love that the innocent, likable, impoverished Charlie wins the factory in the end. It's a classic rags-to-riches tale against a creative, sugar-filled backdrop.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory [Blu-ray]
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory [Blu-ray]

Still a movie full of fun and wonder, worth watching over and over again. But if you watch carefully, you'll notice there's a darker theme hiding behind the songs and candy...


What Willy Wonka is Really About

The hardworking Oompa Loompas.
The hardworking Oompa Loompas. | Source

Candy and justice - is that what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is really about?

Actually, no.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about slave labor and injustice. And that message is not at all hidden. It's right there slapping us in the face over and over again. It's just that most of us have chosen to ignore it. We've buried our heads in the chocolate river.

In fact, the book and the movies ask children to celebrate the exploitation of people for wealth and the supremacy of white people, who should be the masters of their destiny and everyone else's destiny too. It's an indoctrination in classic wealth-building and Imperialist brutality, served up from the master's perspective.

To fully understand Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you have to look at the story from the point-of-view of the Oompa Loompas, the little people who do the actual work in Willy Wonka's factory.

Wonka as Evil CEO


Years before Charlie had his visit to the factory, Willy Wonka ran his candy business with regular workers, not "little funny colored people." But because Willy Wonka was the greatest candy maker in the land, his enemies sent spies into his factory, stole his ideas, and recreated his greatest candy creations.

This produced overwhelming paranoia in Mr. Wonka. His solution? Fire all his workers and shut down his factory. In fact, it's revealed in the first movie that Grandpa Joe used to work in Wonka's factory and was one of the unlucky workers let go (an addition from the story in the original book). So, rather than develop a security solution or management solution to deal with these spies, like a sane person would, Willy Wonka fired his entire workforce. In the case of Charlie's parents, the Buckets, and probably numerous other families who relied on those jobs for their livelihood, it pushed them into poverty.

The degree of misery caused by Wonka's decision never made it into the story. Although we hear nothing about the town where the factory resides, it's probable that the city, or at the very least the neighborhood, was decimated by that decision. Yet, instead of being thought of as a villain, Willy Wonka is considered a hero. He's the creative genius who just wasn't allowed to be free to be himself and do his thing.

So what was Willy Wonka's solution to the spying conducted by his enemies? Slave labor. Particularly in the first movie, the factory is run by "little colored people" from a far away, exotic land (very interesting they could be described as "colored" even in the '70s). In the second movie, the Oompa Loompas are of Indian descent, which essentially signifies that Wonka outsourced his entire operation. In the book, they are simply described as very small, no taller than your knee.

There are two versions of any story, but we never get to hear the Oompa Loompas' side. It's undoubtedly different from Willy Wonka's side. Slave masters who purchased Africans and brought them to America had many things to say about their practice intended to make it appear righteous. The Africans they brought were simple people who needed saving because they couldn't take care of themselves. They used the hymns that the enslaved Africans sang as proof that they were happy. "Look, they're singing," the slave masters would say, "they're happy."

Of course, the slaves' versions of events was very different. They were abused, mistreated, and miserable. Most of them desired freedom more than anything.

The only version of the Oompa Loompas we hear is Willy Wonka's version. Even if we decided to give Wonka credit for a mostly accurate portrayal of the Oompa Loompas' plight, it remains a fact that they have toiled in his factory for many years to make it a success. They, more than anyone, know what it takes to run that business and make the best candy in the world, and they are utterly loyal to Willy Wonka (in part because they are apparently not allowed to leave the factory).

So what in the world is Willy Wonka doing when he decides to give his factory away to some utterly random ten-year-old white child instead of giving the factory to the Oompa Loompas who are almost entirely responsible for his continued success? If Willy Wonka cared about the Oompa Loompas, he would have given them the factory. He would have said: "You are beautiful, hard-working people and you deserve the spoils of your labor. Here's my factory - a gift to you for so many years of hard work." Instead, little Charlie gets it.

If the Oompa Loompas were good enough to work in the factory and do virtually everything to make it successful, they should have been good enough to run the factory in Wonka's absence. He could have taught them whatever management and marketing tips he knew, though that didn't seem to matter much. All that mattered was that his candy was the best. Still, apparently a small boy was a more attractive owner than the Oompa Loompas. Once again, the people who work in the factory get screwed over by the guy who owns the factory because he doesn't trust them.

Willy Wonka is truly lucky that the Oompa Loompas didn't kill him in his sleep.

What's Your Favorite Version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

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© 2013 Sychophantastic


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Susan Gallen 3 months ago

    Pure marxist nonsense

  • profile image

    Youreagiantidiot 5 months ago

    Just like most race baiters, you have left key parts out of your argument. Wonka saved the loompas from the beasts that lived in their homeland. He invited them, INVITED THEM, to live and work in peace in his factory and they accepted. They knew what they were signing up for and were paid in cacao beans. The beans were what they valued the most. You are a terrible person for your passive aggressive lie that you are portraying. Before you make up such lies in the future, be sure to know all the facts and don't withhold key points that discredit your arguement. Sounds like you had a poor childhood and want to spread your misery to others, but if you are such a miserable person, maybe you should go drown yourself in the chocolate river.

  • profile image

    JSTDV8 7 months ago

    You clearly have put a lot of time and effort into inserting a race issue into something that never intended it.

    The Oompa Loompas as I recall were payed with cocoa beans as their currency of choice. They were happy because they get free room and board in the baddest candy factory in the world and all they have to do is clean up after an occasional 5 guests every 15 years. Sounds like something I would like to do.

    What's next Despicable ME is also racist because a big white guy has enslaved a bunch of little yellow guys in his basement who can't speak good English and are bumbling bafoons? And all they get for their troubles are banannas?

    It's for entertainment, STOP TRYING TO ADD RACISM INTO EVERYTHING IN LIFE! Now you're trying to ruin my childhood by telling us it was all a lie. get real!

  • profile image

    Sabrinaln 7 months ago

    I can see how you can think this, but in my point of view I feel and think this theory is wrong. For starters, fans always think way ahead of the actual Makers, so they probably didnt even think about this.

  • Sychophantastic profile image

    Sychophantastic 18 months ago

    Thanks for your comments.

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    i only saw the chocolate factory with johnny depp, thanks for the real story

  • Sychophantastic profile image

    Sychophantastic 3 years ago

    Thanks for reading! I appreciate the comments. I so wish I were wrong about Willy Wonka.

  • AtlasSue profile image

    AtlasSue 3 years ago

    Childhood= Ruined! Awesome Read!

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 3 years ago

    Another way of looking at it is as a way of introducing children to the realities of corporate life. If there is someone who can be made to do the job cheaper, they're in, you're out. When a higher up opening pops up don't expect they will promote from within. If something goes really wrong it's the worker's fault.

  • vineliner57 profile image

    Hal Gall 3 years ago from Bloomington, IN

    It seems to me the movie is a reflection of some of the ills of society that are still going on to this day.

  • indiabbie profile image

    Abbie 3 years ago from Texas

    I really enjoyed this. :)

  • Sychophantastic profile image

    Sychophantastic 3 years ago

    I don't recall them being paid in cocoa beans. Nevertheless, that's hardly sufficient given that they saved Wonka's factory! They still deserved the factory in the end, not Charlie.

  • profile image

    PamJam 3 years ago

    I see how you think that, but I think the Oompa Loompas were rescued from being killed and actually paid in cocoa beans for their labor. I think there are racist overtones, but not as directly as you argue. Dahl was probably more anglocentric than an outright racist.

  • bethperry profile image

    Beth Perry 4 years ago from Tennesee

    I see your point, but I tend to see Wonka's motives as running a little deeper. I think the Wonka understood the Oompa Loompas (the ones he recruited, anyway) all shared a certain fetish for bondage. If he had handed the chocolate factory over to them, he would basically have been dissing their alternative lifestyle choice. With the factory being handed over to a human boy instead, the Oompa Loompas were given the opportunity to mold him into the callous master of their fantasies. Thus, Wonka was actually displaying great respect for their cultural choices by damning them to continued servitude.

    Except for maybe that female Oompa Loompa Wonka is rumored to have married after retirement; Hilda the Whip Brandisher. I hear they made for a very "striking" couple in their chocolate-dipped leather boots.


  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 4 years ago from USA

    I will never watch that movie again in the same way! This is terrible!

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

    This is an interesting analysis. I have to admit that when I first read the book for the first time as a child, many years ago, I did have an uneasy feeling about how mean he was to the kids and to his workers. I hadn't thought that he should have given the factory to his workers. That does make the most sense.

  • LisaMarie724 profile image

    Lisa Stover 4 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

    Interesting, never really thought about it that way.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Thanks for a great interpretation of Willie Wonka. What deep social meanings.! Very, very interesting read.

  • Sychophantastic profile image

    Sychophantastic 4 years ago

    I just couldn't figure out what his excuse would be for not giving them the factory.

  • cfin profile image

    cfin 4 years ago from The World we live in

    Something you may find interesting....I noticed while watching "fringe", that most, if not all of the villains are "foreign". I am foreign and still love the show, but its just another taste of Hollywood strangeness.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile image

    Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Wow, I never thought of it this way before. Now I feel bad for the Oompa Loompas. I always thought they were filled with so much joy and chocolate until now. Bummer.

  • cfin profile image

    cfin 4 years ago from The World we live in