Why Grandpa Joe is a Jerk – A Willy Wonka Retrospective.

I recently revisited a childhood film favourite – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I adored the film as a kid, I wore out the tape once, and spent a long year waiting for it to air again so I could make another copy.  I loved the songs [apart from ‘Cheer Up Charlie’, which I found entirely dull as a pre-teen(still find it entirely dull now actually, Candy Man is pretty cool though)], and I loved the story.

Now, of course, I’m old.  Or at least, I’m older, old enough to notice the fact that Grandpa Joe, despite being presented as an image of all that is good in the world, is a jerk.  For example:

1. Charlie (who is perfect and innocent and wonderful) has four grandparents who are all bedridden (fed in bed, bedpans, etc.).  He appears to have no father (I know he has one in the novel, but I’m referring to the film here), and while his mother slaves all day, he goes to school, and spends his afternoons working a paper route to help his family out.  When Charlie gets paid for his route, he buys his family a loaf of bread, and gives his change to his Grandpa Joe TO BUY TOBACCO.  That’s right – the family is starving, and the youngest member is working so his Grandfather can smoke.

2. Grandpa Joe, instead of spending the money on tobacco, somehow manages to purchase for Charlie, a chocolate bar.  Now, this may seem like a nice gesture, but how in hell did he manage to buy chocolate when he CAN’T GET OUT OF BED?  And what’s he doing buying junk food when all the family can afford to eat is broth and bread?  Buy some potatoes or something, Grandpa.  You’re supposed to use your powers for good!

3. Eventually, Charlie manages to score himself a golden ticket.  Lucky lad.  He brings it home, and decides immediately that instead of taking his loving and devoted mother who works her fingers to the bone every day, he’ll drag along bedridden Grandpa Joe, who has said woman empty his bedpan.  Seriously.  And Grandpa Joe, instead of saying “oh, no, take your lovely mother” proceeds to GET OUT OF BED.  The bed that he hasn’t left for 20 years.  He has not only the strength to stand, but the strength to dance and sing and remind his daughter that HE has a golden ticket, not her.  She’s been serving on him hand and foot for twenty years, and he climbs out of bed for a bit of chocolate.  Good to see this jerk’s got his priorities in order.

4. Grandpa Joe shows distaste at all the other children who have been invited to the factory, but unlike the other parents, when the children are asked to sign a wordy and overly complicated contract, possibly signing away their rights, Grandpa Joe is the only person who fails to question its merits.  “We’ve got nothing to lose!” he tells Charlie.  Way to look out for your grandson, Grandpa Joe.

5. Grandpa Joe shows great distaste towards the other children who have been invited to the factory.  Clearly, he has no empathy, as seen when Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river and is sucked into the pipe.  All parties (other than Wonka, who is insane, and Grandpa Joe, who is a jerk) show deep concern for the boy, but Grandpa Joe would rather give Charlie analogies about how a bullet is fired from a gun.  Not really the time for a science lesson, Grandpa.  A boy nearly died.

6. Grandpa fails to show any concern as the other children succumb to what could possibly be gruesome ends as the factory tour continues.  Admittedly, they’re all suffering from conclusions brought upon them by their own greed, but still, each parent shows concern as another’s child leaves the tour.  Not Grandpa though, he’s focused on having a good time now that he’s climbed out of bed.  In fact, while all other children are making bad decisions, and having their parents rush after them, it’s Grandpa Joe who decides to be ‘naughty’, stealing a swig of the anti-gravity fizzy drink, and bullying Charlie into joining him.

7. The two are nearly sliced to pieces (great idea, Grandpa!), but they make it back down and catch up with the tour, Grandpa Joe criticising the greed of the children who didn’t make it, when they themselves had committed theft.  Hypocrite.

8. Eventually, the tour ends.  Charlie is the only ‘surviving’ member of the tour, and we think that he’s going to get his lifetime supply of chocolate.  But wait! Mr Wonka points out that actually, Grandpa Joe is a jerk. He stole fizzy lifting drink, and he messed up the fan.  He voided the contract that he refused to read, and now he gets nothing.  Grandpa Joe, instead of realising that he’s a jerk, reacts violently, and screams abuse at the lovely chocolate maker.

9. And to make matters worse, he tells Charlie that he should break his vow to Mr Wonka, and give the everlasting gobstopper to Wonka’s sworn enemy, Mr Sluggworth.

10. Charlie’s not a jerk, which is surprising considering his bloodline, and he returns the gobstopper, and it turns out that it was all a test, and now Charlie owns the factory and can move in if he wants to.  Grandpa Joe isn’t satisfied with his grandson’s eternal happiness, and immediately asks “What about me?!”. Luckily, Mr Wonka isn’t a jerk, and he tells Grandpa Joe that he’s welcome to stay in the factory too.  And everyone lives happily ever after (except of course, the kids and their parents who had something awful happen to them within the factory because they happened to break one rule…which is what Grandpa Joe and Charlie did, really, so I don’t really know how they managed to get away with it).

Grandpa Joe? You lose.  Good day, sir!

5 responses

  1. I just watched the movie yesterday, and yes as an adult you realize, wtf? Sooo funny and right! I was thinking the same thing, Bravo:)

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