I was thinking about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, with Gene Wilder). It’s scary, right? There’s lots of stuff in there that used to give me nightmares. Like for instance:
A bunch of kids and their parents are invited into a creepy factory, led through a maze from which they presumably couldn’t find their way out if they wanted to, and then the kids are picked off one by one. This is like the epitome of the weird, not-really-for-children movies that our generation grew up on.
I was particularly struck by Augustus Gloop. I think I might have a touch of claustrophobia sometimes. Sometimes I (still) have nightmares about being stuck in a small hole or trying to crawl out of a tight space. And I blame that chocolate tube.
But the other day it struck me for the first time. That would be the worst experience to go through as a parent. And these parents are relatively casual about their kids’ disappearances. Why wouldn’t Mrs. Gloop have jumped into the chocolate river to save her son? I guess Mr. Salt jumped down the bad egg chute after Veruca, and Mrs. Tee Vee fainted when her son had become a tiny television version of himself. But these are really horrible things happening to these kids, and it seems like that would be almost more of a punishment for the parents than for their offspring.
I guess that could be the point. The kids are growing into unlikable and flawed human beings, but they’re still just children. It’s really their parents’ fault for letting these things happen.
I’m not saying every person’s problem is invariably their parents’ fault. But in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we are shown four different cases of bad parenting that ultimately result in the family being punished. It’s an allegory to warn parents (and those who may become parents) to keep on their toes and raise good, well-behaved, considerate children.
(Conversely, Charlie Bucket is frequently called a “good kid,” and he’s parented hard-core by a mother and four grandparents. He makes the “right” choice, and is rewarded handsomely for it. Parents, take heed.)
This movie came out 43 years ago. I wonder whether it’s working. It’s definitely given me something to think about.