The Horrible Truth About Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Updated on July 3, 2016
Source

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

Source

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

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  • profile image

    Stefanie P 

    5 days ago

    I had always noticed the slavery thing with the Oompa Loompas but i am not sure they should have been given ownership of it. Possibly had the opportunity to purchase stock or move up in management, though. It is quite obviously not Christian, though. If anything, Wonka comes across as pagan and a bit sociopathic as well. The only thing close to a Christian reference is the use of the word " paradise" in the song Pure Imagination - and a lot of religions have a belief in paradise. One of my favorite things about the movie is, in fact, how a lot of adults behaved regarding finding the tickets. "I am now telling the computer exactly what it can do with a lifetime supply of chocolate". "Shut up Hofstadter and tell me where the ticket is!!". "It's your husband's life or your case of Wonka bars. How long will they give me to think it over"? That last one is particularly hilarious. Getting back to the Christian thing, there have been Christian sects that seemed to teach that God operated on strict reward and punishment with very little grace or forgiveness as happens in the factory. Those sects were basically Puritan type sects and the current fundamentalist and evangelical sects in this country. However, mainstream Christianity - such as Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist etc - tend to allow more room for human frailty and mistakes and more room for grace and forgiveness. In as much as i care about Christianity at all, i go more with the mainstream on that topic and believe God's love is given freely rather than earned.

  • Sychophantastic profile imageAUTHOR

    Sychophantastic 

    2 weeks ago

    So only by the grace of God can you win the lottery?

  • profile image

    Lovebandit 

    2 weeks ago

    Futhermore, the main character is a young boy living in extreme poverty with no father and bedridden grandparents. It is obviously by the grace of God that Charlie, poor enough to only afford 2 chocolate bars wins just as plainly as Veruca Salt whos daddy bought millions of bars to win. Perhaps it is by your own issues of prejudice against European men that convinced you its okay to run a smear campaign against classic art to suit your unfounded projections.

  • profile image

    Lovebandit 

    2 weeks ago

    No. Willy Wonka saved the Oompa Loompas where they were being murdered by Snozwangers and Vermicious Knids. Wonka chooses his heir not based on work record but on ability to show good character. Lastly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the hero of a story being a British boy or a British man. To repeat Jeremy Shane Cole “This whole article is nonsense,its a movie about God for kids to understand Christian values”

  • profile image

    Surrey Cynic 

    2 months ago

    Don't forget the shopkeeper who clearly has wealth discrimination issues. At the beginning we see him giving away his stock to a shop full of kids - letting them help themselves behind the counter and literally showering them with the contents of his jars without keeping track or asking for payment. These are kids who we find out in class can afford to buy chocolate bars numbering in the 100s. Yet when this poor pauper Charlie comes in for a single bar, the shopkeeper holds out his hand and coughs "ehem". Were the other kids part of some untold profit sharing scheme or something?

  • profile image

    Texsen 

    2 months ago

    All of a sudden everyone thinks he should give them the factory, really? So if your cleaning lady works hard for you for 50 years you should give her your house and not your children?! Unfortunately we live in a society with certain ideas about valuing property. Those who say it should be given to the workers would value living as Native American nomadic tribes with a different concept of property. But once you have a concept of factory and worker, there’s no moral in giving it away based on years of service rather based on who can run it better... look Wonka didn’t give it to his own family. I wouldn’t hand it over to the Oompa Loompas either: anyone who values coca beans as currency can’t run a factory. Wonka still needed someone in the real world to run a factory for the world...

  • profile image

    Dandy of a Dandy 

    3 months ago

    In the original film (Wilder) the distribution of the Golden Tickets was an obvious set up. Every one of the children that found them was immediately met by Slugworth, who appears to have planted them to assure that those specific “bad” children, with particular traits, would be selected. All of the factory rooms were set up in advance in anticipation of this. Notice how in each mode of transportation they took in the factory (The boat, the bubble car), there are only enough seats for the REMAINING children, implying that he knew that what would happen to them in advance. Wonka must have seen Charlie when he was talking to the knife sharpener guy outside the factory gates and set the whole thing up so that he would win.

    This is my favorite movie of all time. I regret that the Depp version was a reboot. It should have been a sequel, with the original cast in their original roles and their children.

    I always wondered how Slugworth felt when he was in the office as Wonka told Charlie that he won (without elaborating yet). Slugworth was a loyal employee, and presumably a friend, and adult, who was passed over.

    The Oompa Loompas should have had an insurrection and gone on strike. I definitely got an indentured servitude vibe from them.

  • profile image

    Jeremy Shane Cole 

    5 months ago

    This is what i got from the movie. Willy wonka was God and the chocolate factory was heaven and the five kids that found the golden tickets was humans and the everlasting gobstopper was our souls and slugsworth was the devil and he was trying to get ahold of one to gets its ingredients and he offered the kids wealth. Every kid broke the rules in the chocolate factory but in the end charlie didnt give his everlasting gobstopper to slugsworth,he gave it back to willy wonka and after he did he inherited the chocolate factory. This whole article is nonsense,its a movie about God for kids to understand Christian values.

  • profile image

    Susan Gallen 

    9 months ago

    Pure marxist nonsense

  • profile image

    Youreagiantidiot 

    11 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 

    13 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 

    13 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 imageAUTHOR

    Sychophantastic 

    24 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 imageAUTHOR

    Sychophantastic 

    4 years ago

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

  • AtlasSue profile image

    AtlasSue 

    4 years ago

    Childhood= Ruined! Awesome Read!

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    4 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 

    4 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 

    4 years ago from Texas

    I really enjoyed this. :)

  • Sychophantastic profile imageAUTHOR

    Sychophantastic 

    4 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 

    4 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 

    5 years ago from USA

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

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    5 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 

    5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

    Interesting, never really thought about it that way.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

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

  • Sychophantastic profile imageAUTHOR

    Sychophantastic 

    5 years ago

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

  • cfin profile image

    cfin 

    5 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 

    5 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 

    5 years ago from The World we live in

    Interesting.

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