Ramakrishna Surampudi 19 May 2011 Candied Hegemony The theme of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ manifests interesting features of capitalism, exploitation, racialism, materialism and neo-imperialism. Firstly, there is a sharp contrast between the lives of Willy Wonka, the head of the chocolate empire, and of the family of Charlie which is extremely poor…
According to the original story, Charlie’s father had lost his job as a result of automation and mechanization. Wonka’s motivation in getting the Oompa-Loompas work for his factory could be cost reduction. The way the Oompa-Loompas are portrayed makes them no different from slaves. They are like commodities, without any intellect, individuality or demands. They are content with cacao beans and do not mind being experimented on. In fact, there is little distinction between man and machine inside this wonderful chocolate factory (Lucas 208). Dark-skinned pygmies change to knee-high dwarves and their homeland shifts from Africa to Loompaland due to a public outcry. The capitalist wants someone like ‘him’ to inherit the empire. So he asks Charlie to leave the family behind. The Wonka-Charlie equation is much like the owner-worker equation. From this angle, one of the major differences between Mel Stuart’s ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (1971) and Tim Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (2005) is Charlie’s reaction to Wonka’s offer at the end. In the former, Charlie very gladly and readily accepts the ‘special gift’ but in the latter, interestingly, Charlie declines the offer saying that his family is his top priority. Wonka comes round to Charlie’s viewpoint. ...
One wonders as to what qualities of Charlie go into making him the hero of the story. Probably to fill this gap, Mel Stuart’s film adds the episode of Slugworth trying to lure Charlie, when he finds the golden ticket. Otherwise, Charlie is a hero by default. The most positive thing about him is that he has few or no negatives. Being poor, meek and polite seems to be sufficient for one to taste great success in life (Frey 4). That amounts to selling dreams to the common man. Wonka’s idea of the golden ticket contest is a universal business strategy to this day. Ethically such campaigns cannot be endorsed because they play on people’s greed for quick money. But that is how Charlie’s journey to riches begins and that too with a coin found in the gutter. Certainly, Wonka would not have got rich that way. Instead of encouraging the value of knowledge, planning and diligence, the story appears to overemphasize the role of luck. In this aspect again, we see a variation between the two films. In the 1971 adaptation, Charlie is tempted to steal a swig of a Fizzy Lifting Drink and has to expiate later. The indication is that a member of the workers class can never be so honest as to meet the expectations of Wonka’s sophisticated class. He is bound to slip. The 2005 version, however, makes no mention of this episode. Till the end of the story, Charlie makes no mistakes and does not have to be ‘excused’. On the contrary, it is Wonka who realizes the defect in his own viewpoint which made him believe that family and business are incompatible. This difference is suggestive of a U-turn in attitude within the three-decade-plus time gap between the two films. The way the four naughty children get their punishments ...
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