Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Crimes of Mr. Wonka

FromJesus Miguel Hernandez

I’ve always been really freaked out
and fascinated by Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy Wonka. The 1971 movie gave us a confectioner who was utterly indifferent to the parade of children being systematically murdered in his factory. Gene Wilder playedWilly Wonka as a sociopath.

If Willy Wonka was a sociopath, you may be wondering, why would he have rescued the Oompa-Loompas from the horrors of Loomaland? I put it to you that Wonka “rescued” the Oompa-Loompas in the very same way that tobacco farmers used to “rescue” laborers from Africa--in fact, the Oompa-Loompas of the earliest editions of the novel are African pygmies. It is stated in the book, and seen briefly from the glass elevator in the 1971 film, that the now purple-skinned Oompa-Loompas live in a primitive village within the grounds of the Willy Wonka compound. They are well compensated for their labor in their favorite food, the unsweetened cocoa bean. Well, if Boss Wonka freed these heathen savages from the jungle, gives them food, shelter, and the Christian religion, they must be far better off than they were in their homeland. John C. Calhoun would be proud!

The thing is, however, that the Oompa-Loompas themselves are clearly not innocent. The obvious joy that they take in the suffering of the naughty little children is perverse to say the least. Perhaps they have become so numb in their perpetual servitude that basking in the pain of small children is the closest they can come to feeling anything themselves. One cannot help but wonder if these moralizing little heathens are singing to poor Violet as she suffers the pain and humiliation of the juice press.

Speaking of Violet, is there any anatomical or physiological logic that allows a human child to survive a juicing? How much pressure had to build up behind poor Augustus Gloop before he was fired through the factory plumbing like grapeshot? Mike Teevee will never have a normal life. Most gruesome of all, did Veruca Salt’s trip through the Wonka factory incinerator occur on a burning day?

Of corse the the the 1971 film, which did not produce a sequel, left open an equally macabre possibility that the famous glass elevator carried its passengers to their doom. Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Wonka are hundreds of feet above the factory in a glass box with no visible means of flight control. The elevator--or projectile as we may now call it--is never seen to touch down safely on earth, and we can presume never will. This elevator was not designed with survivability in mind, and given the lack of safety restraints and impact dampening structures--I mean the damned thing’s made of glass--what we see in the very last scene of this movie is the oddly cheerful last moments of the three peoples’ lives.

And it was a kids movie!


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