| Many people do not realize that the classic children’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a vicious attack on Capitalism, loaded with Communist references and Anti-American sentiment. The movie creates a tale of the perils of a total capitalist society, starting with its origins in the "harmless" activities of children, to its culmination in the lives of grown adults. Many cases of unethical business practices are shown in this movie, and certain characters in the movie symbolize each. The production is a prime example of the anti-capitalist feeling of the late nineteen sixties and early seventies. It was held by disillusioned Americans who had experienced the failure of the "American dream." Communists will tag Capitalism as “a consistently warlike habit of life.” In the movie, the search for the golden ticket is satirized in terms that imply the degree to which some Americans will go in exercising their right to the commercial pursuit of happiness. In one scene, a detective tells a woman that her husband’s kidnappers are willing to return their captive in exchange for her only box of Wonka bars. A troubled expression comes over her face, and she asks how long she is allowed to think about it. Later, when Charlie finds the golden ticket, the crowd rushes on him so violently that a bystander shouts, “Easy! Don’t kill the boy!”
The Oompa Loompas can be seen as a positive argument for Socialism. They live happily in the factory, and in return for their labor, Wonka provides them with a place to live, peace, protection, and prosperity. The filmmakers were attempting to make a parallel to the socialist state. The government, represented by Wonka, provides for its citizens, here the Oompa Loompas, in return for a fair amount of labor. With this economic/political system, all citizens live in happiness. The songs sung by the Oompa Loompas represent the socialist belief that no one person should waste resources, because that would deprive others. They warn about the dangers of the four evils represented by the winners, and proclaim "if you're not greedy, you will go far. You will live in happiness too, like the Oompa Loompas...do." These small workers who were saved by Wonka imparted to him the knowledge that money is not everything in life, and that making people happy and making yourself happy are two important precepts which can be achieved through trust, love and honesty. The aim was to prove that Socialism is the only way to eliminate class structure and make all Americans happy.
Willy Wonka was once a staunch Capitalist, but suddenly closed his factory and stopped operations, supposedly to change his ways and to deeply examine the alternatives to a completely capitalist business. A number of years later, Wonka reopens the factory, and the story begins on the premise that Wonka is attempting to find the heir to his confectionery legacy. Wonka has been to the pinnacle of wealth and enterprise, and has realized that striving for money alone will ruin your life and break all ties one has with the outside world. The closing of his factory also symbolizes Wonka's desire to abstain from his capitalist ways. While he is spending time alone in his factory thinking about his past actions and pondering his new business methods, Wonka makes sure that “nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out" of his factory. By doing this, Wonka has assured himself time to contemplate his methods with clarity and peace of mind. The characters in the film are clearly deterrents to capitalist tendencies, shown as greedy and money hungry.
The story opens with an overview of society, where the audience is shown a group of young children running from school to a candy store. The children, and later on the general public, are a symbol of the "rat race" in which competitors vie for wealth, candy being a symbol of money. The children in the candy shop are extremely greedy and are very pushy about obtaining what they want most. This is an example of a corrupt capitalist society at an early age, a warning sign of immoral business people in the future.
In contrast, Charlie Buckett is a specimen of the honesty and perseverance which business once exemplified. He is a paperboy who works hard and does his best to please his boss and his customers. He has the Communist principle of respect for authority and discipline firmly driven into him. As the movie opens, we see Charlie on his first pay day. Charlie takes his wages and purchases a loaf of bread to take home to his poor family. Charlie produces the loaf of bread and the entire family is stunned. Charlie's grandparents, who represent the retired workers and the old way of business, become worried that Charlie has stolen this bread. Charlie reassures them that this is not the case and in fact he has paid for it with his first salary. Charlie shares his bread with his family, and that sharing is yet another Socialist principle that work must be done to benefit everyone.
As the movie continues, the audience learns that famed confectionery giant, Willy Wonka, has decided to allow five lucky visitors inside his factory. Wonka is seen by many as the pinnacle of success and Capitalism. He has made a fortune selling candy, although making many enemies along the way. Through his dealings with dishonest competitors who plot to steal his secrets, Wonka has realized that the more money you have, the tougher it is to be happy. He reaches the point where he shuts his factory down totally and never lets anyone in again. Wonka realizes that "there is no life...which compares to your imagination. Living there, you'll be free, if you truly wish to be." This shows that if you live your life simply, you can achieve true happiness, an idea that renounces capitalism. In reality, the Communists merely are trying to hide the fact that their system is inferior. Soviet Russia was a poor, broken down place where life was hard, so of course the people would have to rely on their imaginations to find happiness.
The race by the world to obtain one of five golden tickets is meant to be similar to the world's obsession with earning more and achieving success. The golden tickets represent golden tickets to riches and the life of luxury. We see examples of the obsession with finding the tickets, serving to demonstrate the corruption of capitalism and the economy. Scenes include a Wonka van parked in front of the White House, symbolizing the government infiltrating the economy, and Queen Elizabeth bidding on Wonka bars, symbolizing the monarch's role in the economy. No one, including the world's leaders, is safe from the addiction to riches and prestige.
On Charlie's way home after discovering the ticket, he encounters Arthur Slugworth, Wonka's archrival. Grandpa Joe had warned Charlie that Slugworth tried to ruin Wonka by stealing his secrets and using them to make his own candy. Slugworth approaches Charlie and asks him to get him the Everlasting Gobstopper. If Charlie does this, he will be rewarded with "riches beyond his wildest dreams" and never have to work again. Slugworth himself represents the corruption of capitalism by greed and financial promise. He is the easy way out for Charlie.
Inside the factory, we meet the other winners. Each winner shows an unethical aspect of capitalism. The German Augustus Gloop is a glutton suddenly thrown into the spotlight, primarily concerned with eating as much as humanly possible. This is representative of an average worker suddenly getting a major promotion. He cannot properly deal with the fame and he meets his demise early by overeating, similar to an overnight success who spends everything and does not plan for the future. Violet Beauregarde is a gum chewer who is intent on setting the world record for the longest time a piece of gum has been chewed. Her father is constantly trying to sell his cars. They also represent alleged flaws of Capitalism. Violet is guilty of greed and is driven solely by the imminent fame she will receive. She acts impulsively, without thinking of the consequences. Violet spends her time on foolish activities (gum chewing records), and has no real drive in life. Her father represents corrupt business practices and corrupt government. When his daughter wins the ticket, he seizes the opportunity to sell his used cars on national television. Both have a major flaw in common, though. They feel that they are above the system and cannot get caught. Violet gets caught when she does not heed Wonka's warning about his experimental gum (which turns her into a blueberry), and her father blindly encourages her to continue chewing when Mr. Wonka tells her to spit it out. The brattiest of them all is Veruca Salt. She and her father are concerned with the major downfall of capitalism, greed. Veruca wants all her wishes met “now” and will do anything to get it. Mr. Salt will stop at nothing, including overworking and underpaying his workers, to please his daughter. They represent the workers who have trampled their colleagues on the way up without caring who they hurt. Veruca is responsible for her own downfall, as she behaves uncontrollably and falls into the furnace. Symbolically, she is sent to Hell. The last character to meet his end is Mike Teevee. His life is centered on television. He eats, sleeps and breathes television. Mike represents the workaholic. He is set on one thing, television. In the world of capitalism, this is seen as living solely to work. Mike has never experienced anything outside of television, and he cannot deal with a variation from his daily routine. They very thing that brings him the most joy, television, is what brings about his end. Of course this is also a satire on American culture, and our preoccupation with entertainment. Mike TeeVee can be seen both as a workaholic, or the embodiment of our laziness.
Due to Charlie's actions, Wonka realizes that Charlie has not been affected by capitalism and the lure of riches and can turn the factory over to him in good faith. The tour of the factory is actually a journey through life for many of the characters. The final scene is sickeningly Communist when Wonka tells Charlie that he needed a child to take over the factory, because “a grownup would want to do everything his own way, not mine.” That reinforces the idea of conformity, and the unquestioning obedience of authority.
Perhaps one of the more blatant attacks on American history is also shown through the Oompa Loompas, whose true form was cut from the movie. The Oompa Loompas in Roald Dahl's book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", are described as being "pygmies" who were "imported directly from Africa. They belong to a small tribe of miniature pygmies known as the Oompa Loompas." Dahl is poking fun at slavery, but it is unclear if he meant to make an anti-racist statement or the opposite. The following illustration shows the original Oompa Loompas. As the Oompa Loompas were changed for political correct reasons, so was the title altered from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." The term "Charlie" was African-American slang for a white man. I personally think the last bit is a little out there, but even in the 70s people strove to be politically correct.
The nationality of the characters and even the setting remains unclear throughout the film, except in instances involving the Beauregardes and Mike TeeVee, who are clearly described as American. In the film, America is represented by a used car salesman and a child addicted to TV. Early in the movie, Charlie is watching a news report about Violet Beauregarde’s having found the next golden ticket. The news reporter boasts that dreams can happen “right here in America,” and the scene focuses in on the used car lot of Sam Beauregarde, the average American whose daughter’s dreams have just come true in the shape of a golden ticket. While the announcer tries to describe Mr. Beauregarde as a “community politician and a civic leader,” our representative of the American dream takes over the microphone to advertise his latest sale on cars. In a sense, this is saying that mobility in American relies not as we would wish to believe on ideals, but on money.
Now here is where I get nitpicky. I re-watched the movie, and wrote down some examples of what is evidently Communist brainwashing. The opening credits perfectly set up my entire theory. There are endless rows of chocolate that are exactly identical, and the chocolate itself represents conformity. Each chocolate is exactly the same, and as in a Communist society, there are no individuals. This conformity was certainly taken to an extreme by the Russians after the Revolution of 1917. Joseph Stalin initiated a purge of Russia, during which the Soviet secret police were arresting and executing party members by the thousands. Highly publicized trials of leading party figures were staged in Moscow and resulted in their swift execution on trumped-up charges. Soon the terror spread to all of Soviet society, including the military high command. Estimates of those arrested and executed in the Great Purge range between 1.5 million and 7 million. Countless others were imprisoned in forced labor camps. For any American, it is clear to see that Communism should be resisted.
In one scene Grandpa Joe expresses his feeling that Charlie should have more time to play, but his mother says there are “not enough hours in the day.” Essentially, their lifestyle is all work and no play, reminiscent of Communist Russia. Of course, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and no free time could be allowed for fear of breeding new ideas. I suppose if you’re perpetually busy, there is no time to complain.
Furthermore, there is an abundance of red throughout the movie, and I am not the only person who has noticed this. In fact, the wrapper of the Wonka bars themselves are red. Charlie’s own sweater is red, and he is the protagonist of the film. The red ranges from clothes, candy, posters, wrapping paper, and even Aunt Josephine’s knitting. Countless other examples include Violet’s dress in the car lot and Veruca’s dress in the factory, but if you watch the movie yourself you will see those are but a few. Red is the color of the Communist Flag, and is the color of their party. And don’t you find it slightly coincidental that the tickets are gold, as is the color of the star on the Communist flag? I have also been told that if you watch the movie with the eye of hawk, during the scene in which Charlie’s mother is singing and looking up at the sky, you can see the Communist flag. However, the stars are enough, because they are in themselves a representation of Communism.
|We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that; reverse it.
Invention, my friend, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.
Time is a precious thing; never waste it.
If the good Lord had intended us to walk he wouldn't have invented roller skates.
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted. He lived happily ever after.