The Essay

Written by BeefTheTroll and submitted on November 5, 2004

I watched another one of my all-time favorite movies again a few days ago: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I still have a mostly warm feeling about this film, despite the fact that it's come under fire recently for a number of reasons (Possible re-make in the works, changing key details from the original text, the now-grown kids' commentary from the recent special edition DVD, etc.).

I say "mostly warm", though, for one key reason:

Grandpa Joe.

The rest of the film is wonderful. The bad kids getting their comeuppance, the every-kid's-fantasy "edible nerve center", the Oompa-Loompas and their goofy songs, the stark contrast between the Buckets' abject poverty and the over-the-top psychadelic splendor of the Wonka factory, and of course, the incomparable Gene Wilder, who lights up every frame as if by magic. It's a great film.

But Grandpa Joe? FUCK HIM.

Sure, the movie goes to pretty reasonable lengths to paint him as a decent character, but the subtle, sinister underpinnings of his through-line subtext are apparent to anyone who gives it some thought.

Think about it: Charlie has a paper route, and Mom takes in washing, and this is their only income. They live well below the poverty line. They're so underpriveleged that poor, sainted Charlie can only stand on the outside sadly looking in while the other kids completely tear through Bill's candy shop during the opening musical number (I always thought their parents must have them on expense accounts, as I never see that rat bastard Bill take any money from any of them, like he does from Charlie later. Asshole. But, excuse me...I digress inexcusably).

Charlie, his mother, and Charlie's four elderly invalid grandparents live in a two-room tarpaper shack on the edge of town, and cabbage water is their usual dinner. When Charlie brings home a loaf of pumpernickel bread, Mom says they're going to have a "real banquet". These poor folks are destitute.

I can't help but think that a large portion of the reason why they're so broke is because of the Grandparents; George, Georgina, Josephine, and Joe. All four of them are laid up in a single four-poster bed, and have been for awhile. Now, I don't begrudge anyone for wanting to take care of their elders. That's only fair. They took care of you. But it's nonetheless a strain on an already-fragile household economy to have to care for four people who can't care for themselves, or contribute financially.

Or, can they?

Grandpa Joe, for his part, makes a lot of noise about getting out of bed. "The boy (Charlie) works too hard. As soon as I get my strength back, I'm gonna get out of bed and go help him," he says to Mom. Mom just pats him on the head, and tells him he's been blustering about getting out of bed for twenty years, but there he stays. And she's right. He lays on his dead butt and sponges off a washing-woman and a little boy.


The day comes that Charlie is just getting ready to start his paper route. He's bummed, because the fifth and final Golden Wonka Ticket supposedly turned up in South America the previous evening. As he's slumping off to work, then home to yet another night of slurping cabbage water and filing the bunions off of Grandma Georgina's feet, he sees something shiny in the storm drain. A fifty-pence coin! Now, while all of his hopes and dreams might be diminished due to there being no more Golden Tickets, this is still a small ray of joy. So, the poor, dear boy gets down on his hands and knees, kneeling in the dirty gutter to reach into the filthy storm drain for the money, like he's some sort of fiending junkie. Once he retreives it, he uses the coin to buy a Wonka "Scrum-diddly-umptious" bar from Bill at the candy shop (Who clears his throat, holds out his hand and makes SURE Charlie hands over the coin, the prick), and begins gobbling it down. You can't help but sympathize with the poor kid. He hasn't done a selfish thing the whole movie. He even buys Grandpa Joe's tobacco out of his meager earnings. But now he just found a little money, and, dammit...If a Wonka bar can help alleviate the pain of his sad, hardscrabble life even for a moment, I don't blame him an iota. I just don't. On the way out, he uses the rest to buy another Wonka Bar to save for later.

Then he sees the commotion. His boss at the paper stand has just gotten in that day's edition. And the headline says that the last Golden Ticket was a fake. Charlie looks at the Wonka Bar in his hand, and hope swells afresh within him.

Of course, it holds the final ticket. Charlie is teh lucky winnar. w00t!

So, Charlie runs home (having a brief run-in with "Slugworth" on the way), and announces his windfall to the family. After the general disbelief is dispelled once Charlie informs them of the great Brazilian ticket forgery that's been exposed in the newspaper, there is general congratulations.

That's when it gets ugly. At least to me.

Charlie expresses his frustration that Grandpa Joe is an invalid, and therefore unable to accompany him on his magical chocolate factory adventure. And, rather than point to Mom, whose laundry-washing hands are cracked and bleeding, whose back is stooped from bending over washbasins, and whose eyes are tired from overtime worked in order to support his lazy bum; Mom, who could use the vacation...what does Grandpa Joe do?


This leeching, shiftless layabout who can't be bothered to put on some pants and go find a job to help support his family finally "finds the strength" to get out of bed when the little boy who he's been mooching off of finds a ticket into the candy plant.

You, Grandpa Joe, are a horrible, horrible excuse for a human being. You ought to be DEEPLY ashamed of yourself. I loathe you with the white-hot passion of a thousand supernovas.

Then, as if getting out of bed for a vacation he should have been working for wasn't insulting enough, he has the cojones to sing and dance about it!!! The nerve! Spend twenty years in bed while others support you, but as soon as you've got a chance to take a spiffy trip and suck up some free chocolate, you're suddenly Gene Kelly? FUCK, that frosts my cookies!

And what song is he singing? "I've Got a Golden Ticket." Wait, WHO'S got a Golden Ticket, you worthless bag of bones? CHARLIE, that's who. CHARLIE. Charlie, who had to get down on his hands and knees and grab the coin out of a nasty, filthy storm drain. Charlie, who was on his way to work to earn enough money to pay for your tobacco. Charlie, who had to sit with sad eyes while his classmates spoke of eating several hundred delicious Wonka bars apiece, while he had to humiliate himself by admitting he'd only been able to afford two. CHARLIE has that Golden Ticket. NOT YOU, you unbelievable, reeking turd. OH, how I hate you.

Of course, they then go to the Wonka Factory. And throughout the extensive walking tour, Grandpa Joe is as spry as ever, marching dutifully and energetically through the whole factory, never even stopping to lean against a wall and catch his breath. He makes it all the way to the bitter denouement, wherein he actually has the unmittigated gall to shout down Mr. Wiilly Wonka for being, as he put it, "an inhuman monster."

Takes one to know one, Grandpa Joe. Takes one to know one. Jerk. MAN, I wanted him to choke on his dentures.

I've got a little puzzle for you.
If you are wise, you'll listen to me.

What do you do when you're old as the hills?
Pee in a bucket and gobble down pills!
That is, unless, you are faking disease.
Then, you can go to hell, IF! YOU! PLEASE!

Grandpa Joe's a fucking jerk!

If you're not mooching, you are okay.
Pulling your weight's the right thing to do.
Like the Oompa-Loompa-Doompaty-Doo!

Bite me, old man.

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