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Review :: Media : Race
Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
The most recent film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is shaping up to be one of the highest grossing summer blockbusters of 2005. This is the third re-incarnation of Roald Dahl's controversial story over the past four decades. As such, it is instructive, to examine it's transformation in relation to issues of racism and colonialism.
wonka.jpg
In 1964, Roald Dahl published his original book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In it he describes the Oompa-Loompas as dark-skinned “pygmies” from the heart of Africa. These indigenous people are brought back to the Western world from the jungles by the European chocolatier, Willy Wonka, with the intention of making them slaves in his factory, being paid only in cacao beans.

Dahl’s portrait of the Oompa-Loompas, includes the centuries old Western notion of indigenous populations as being exotic, simple and miserable. They are portrayed as unable to survive without the white Western world’s helping hand. Willy Wonka lulls his audience into quietly accepting this familiar and violent idea. In the process, Wonka becomes exalted as a white messiah to be revered and worshiped by the (literally) lesser brown people for having lead them out of darkness and into enlightenment and happiness. Throughout history, this false sense of altruism has closely accompanied racism.

In 1971 Paramount Pictures released a feature film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, staring Gene Wilder. The film’s creators felt it socially and culturally inappropriate to portray the Oompa-Loompas as originally described in Dahl's book. Instead, the characters appearance was changed, making them little people, with bright orange skin and green hair from the fictional "Loopmaland". Their native land was never displayed on screen and is only mentioned in passing.

Two years later, in 1973, the book was re-issued with major revisions. Responding to criticisms of racism from the NAACP, children's literature critic Eleanor Cameron and others, Dahl agreed to re-write portions of the book that mentioned the Oompa-Loompas. In the revised version, Dahl depicts them as small “hippy” people with long golden-brown hair and rosy-white skin. Their origin was also changed from Africa to the fictional Loompaland. These adjustments, while illustrating how culture has the ability to literally change art, are still problematic. It is not possible to negate the ideas of colonialism if the victims simply have light skin, come from a fictional place or are of a vague non-specific ethnicity.

Now, in 2005, Warner Brothers has released another version of the feature film, this time directed by Tim Burton and starring famed actor Johnny Depp. The new adaptation brings back the racism and colonialism that the 1971 film and the 1973 revised book attempted to downplay. In this most recent incarnation we follow Willy Wonka, sporting the classic attire of the colonial explorer complete with safari hat, as he travels on screen to a distant tropical jungle called "Loompaland". He is, we are told, in search of "exotic" flavors for a new line of sweets. While depicted as silly and adventurous, the right of the Western entrepreneur to take whatever “flavor” plant or animal he desires from developing countries is never questioned. It is just the kind of theft western pharmaceuticals and agro-corporations have been engaged in throughout the developing world over the centuries.

Interestingly, the film does not mention whether Wonka claims intellectual property rights over the ”flavors” he finds there, as is the case with his modern contemporaries. However, one assumes that the entire race of Oompa-Loompas falls under the umbrella of a fully owned copyright.

During this colonial montage, Wonka encounters a jungle village built in the trees that the Oompa-Loompas inhabit. This time, however, they are portrayed as a primitive miniature brown-colored indigenous people of non-specific ethnic origin. They sport feather headdresses, tribal style jewelry and grass skirts while dining on visibly "disgusting" green caterpillars and worshiping the rare coca bean. They are depicted as simple, whimsical, and of course, miserable in their native home. Wonka "generously" rescues the Oompa-Loompas by offering them the opportunity to work and live in his Western factory. Later they are shown "happily" imprisoned inside Wonka's factory, which they conveniently cannot leave or they will be subject to chilly weather and die. The Oompa-Loompas also "willingly" allow themselves to be experimented on, much like laboratory animals, by Wonka as he tests his new, and sometimes dangerous, candy concoctions. Clearly, Wonka has not taken the time to explain the ins-and-outs of unionizing or worker health compensation to his imprisoned work force.

The Oompa-Loompas have no spoken language of their own and must resort to mime and jester to communicate. However, they have learned to sing in English while they dance for the entertainment of Wonka and his all white and full-sized guests. This also happened in the 1971 film version, although in the 2005 version, the songs are accompanied by the laughable sexual gyrations of Oompa-Loompas, encouraging the audience to laugh along at the supposed sexuality of the mini-male of color. This unfortunately follows along and sad historical tradition of emasculating men of color for the enjoyment of white audiences.

Moreover, the Oompa-Loompas all look exactly alike, as they are played by one actor using composite visual effects. This is a new invention by the current film's creators. The visual effect is ironic as it displays the problems at the very core of global labor issues: white populations perceive individuals of non-white populations as identical and all looking alike, lacking individual dignity. In this view, factory and sweatshop workers are ascribed no individual worth outside of the product they produce for consumers at low pay and in poor working conditions, unable to organize, form unions and improve conditions.

Many will no doubt respond to this critique disparagingly. They will say that the movie is just that, a movie. They will state that it has no social connection or cultural implications to the present western mindset. However, it is important to consider that Roald Dahl himself eventually made revisions of his story to meet the racial concerns that accompanied the changing social ethics in 1973. The fact that, in 2005, Tim Burton chose to revert back to the original description of the Oompa-Loompas as primitive “pygmies” is troubling at best. Burton has said in interviews that one of the things that attracts him to Dalh’s work is the "politically incorrect" subject matter. Audiences all over the country seem to feel the same attraction.

In the context of the present political landscape one cannot help but draw disturbing parallels between the fabled chocolate factory and US foreign policy in the Middle East. The notion that Wonka rescues the indigenous Oompa-Loompas from their “difficult lives” with his gift of industrialization seems to mirror the patronizing notion that the United States is presently rescuing the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq from their preserved savagery. It is disturbing that, this time around, no mainstream movie reviewers, civil rights organizations or social critics have pointed out these parallels or made these comparisons. Could it be that overt racism and colonialism have again become the norm in our society, passing almost without comment? Do we no longer even take the time to hide it under the surface?

For now, it seems, children will delight in recreating white master chocolatier and indigenous slave worker scenes as they play with colorful plastic Oompa-Loompa action figures from Wendy’s kids’ meals.


--Jonathan McIntosh is photographer, filmmaker and community activist living in Boston, Massachusetts. His work can be seen at the capedmaskedandarmed.com collective. Please send all questions, comments and complaints to Press (at) capedmaskedandarmed.com
See also:
http://www.capedmaskedandarmed.com

This work licensed under a
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Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
Special thanks to those who helped me research and edit this article!
Defied My Expectation
29 Aug 2005
To be honest when i read the first line or so of this piece i thought it would be something akin to the MIM (maoist international movement) movie reviews describing Shrek 2 as "A radical attack on class, nation and gender oppression." This article however was quite good. And i learned some stuff i didn't know about the story. ( i haven't seen the 2005 film version).

Thanks for writing this Jonathan. Great analysis and thanks for pointing this stuff out.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
wow. i haven't seem any of the movies or read either version of the book. i did notice in all that advertisements of the movie that the main characters, save one token "ethnic" , were all "white". that's the main reason why i didn't go to see it in the first place - it looked like a ritzy hollywood disney-esque movie. the kind that typically teaches the youth of america that they're (inaccurately) better than the rest of the world.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
Great piece Jonathan - very interesting research. I watched the movie and was similarly offended by the obvious racist, imperialist bullshit.
Right on Johnathan
29 Aug 2005
Right on critique Johnathan! Thanks for putting in the time to point this shit out. It's a well-researched and well-argued piece. This is the kind of stuff that needs to be put out there more. Good work!
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
Wow. At first, only seeing the the 70's flick as a kid and your headline I was like what the? But when I read your article it really blew my mind. Another childhood memory soiled, dammit, but I'd rather know than be ignorant of it.

Thnaks for a seriously good article.
In any event
29 Aug 2005
I had enjoyed reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" as a child.
If I remember correctly, there was a monster that was after the Oompa-Loompas
and Mr.Wonka had saved from being destroyed.
I do however think it's a conspiracy when corn syrup is located in everyday
NON-candy foods. Stop raising Corn, people!
huh.
29 Aug 2005
Funny. Nobody criticized this article.
Not one single person.
If he did, he must be filed in some other section.

Or else ....bounced! hahahaha
Lite-n up people
29 Aug 2005
I cannot agree per-say that the fictional character Willy Wonka is a racist. I have not seen the new movie, I still think they can't beat the original, but the point of the matter is there must be some candy makers out there that respect human rights and overtime laws.
And who would of thought a British writer would be influenced by his country's colonial history?
Anyway, why doesn't anyone care about the lack of REAL sugar in our diets? It's being replaced by Corn syrup.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
I haven't seen the new version of the film as yet, but I wonder if Tim Burton is entirely unaware of the parallels he is drawing. It seems unlikely and thus begs the question: perhaps he knows what he has created and has done so to mirror and maybe draw attention to our colonial mindset... However as I haven't seen the film I really can't make a clear judgement. It would need to be quite clear in the film so as to actually make a statement, not simply get passed off as rasicm.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
29 Aug 2005
hmm. i didn't see the new movie, and haven't seen the old one since i was four. but i read the books(both of 'em) alot of times as a child- the old ones, before they were changed.

there is something that makes me basically, viscerally uncomfortable- repused, even- about presurring people to change their work because it is offensive.

the evils of corporate colonialism are here, alive, and with us. certainly they will be portrayed in literatire if they exist, wont' they? racism is a reality. colonialism is a reality. should people not portray charecters in their books who exhibit these behaviors simply because we find them repulsive? reading those books as a child, i got the picture of wonka as being quite a sinister charecter-- sort of dangerous, and scary, and not at all to be trusted. certainly a charletan, something of a con-man. definitely not a cut-and-dried "hero". i saw a working class, impoverished boy getting a really random, sort of insane brand of help from a whacko business-man. . . ..

do we have to beat people over the head with GOOD! EVIL! every time we write a book? don't we give someone *reading* a book a little more credit than that? and isn't it dangerous to get groups to pressure suthors to change teh content of their work? dont' we WANT to know about it, if we think someone is racist, so that its out in the open, and we can discuss it? rather than shoving it under the rug?

i went to a school where two plaques had bene places on the wall. one said "The Young Man's Dream" and pictured a boy, sleeping, dreaming of a great old ship, himself at the helm. The other said "The Young Girl's Dream", and pictured her on a farm, pregnant. its horrible and offensive and grotesque. and you knwo what? i absolutely think it ought to stay there. I think EVERYONE ought to see those plaques, put there only a few short decades ago, so we can *all* really experience what women in the era those plaques were made experienced. But another plaque should be placed at its side-- perhaps detailing the history of the advancement of women since that time. . .. . . . simalarly, I wish Roald Dahl had NOT sucumbed to pressures about his book- so we coudl read it, his first and HONEST writing, and discuss it, maybe talk it over with him, with each other. . . . instead of painting it over. . . . . . . . . . . . . and lettign it fester as a secret.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
30 Aug 2005
If anyone in interested here is a link to the debates between Eleanor Cameron and Roald Dahl from 1972 over the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book.

http://www.hbook.com/exhibit/cameronvdahl.html
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
30 Aug 2005
I agree w/ katt's opinion it would have been better if Dahl had not succumbed to pressures because his end result was a pointless, disingenuous "politically correct" version of what he wrote before. Had the revision actually derived from a genuine change in philosophy things would have been different, not just appearingly different. Another similar situation was when Disney remade Tarzan like 5 or 6 years ago. It was forced to address the fact that the original story and movie was incredibily racist and depicted indigenous africans as savage and primitive. The result: they got rid of the natives and replaced them with apes. Good work Jonathan for shining light on this example of childrens entertainment that helps reinforce the racist/colonialist acceptance that pervades our culture. (and is currently on the upswing) When children saturate their brains with stuff like this, Tarzan, Pocahontas, and Aladdin and then go to school to learn about brave, heroic figures like Colombus, the Pilgrims, and George Washington why are we surprised at the extreme levels of indifference, apathy, and nationalist supremicism felt by so many Americans regarding what our government does and has done all over the world.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
30 Aug 2005
What a load of old nonsense. To take a work of fiction, designed for kids of the mid sixties, and then transpose early 21st century pollitically correct beliefs to it, is a total waste of time and resorces!
So the new film (which unlike so many posters, I have watched and enjoyed) is close to the original book. - Isn't that a good thing? If it wasn't, you would claim that today's kids were being short changed and so being dumbed down by hollywood.
The fact that the little workers were from a strange land, and only worked for chocolate, might well have been an advantage for Wonka - however, it was an advantage for the Oompa-Loompa as they had so little chocolate in their home land - it could be seen as economic migration - what built the USA!
Secondly, the reason the offer was made to the Oompa Loompa was due to the local workforce being dishonest and stealing everything that had a price. What is this teaching the kids?
THis article has obviously been written by a person who sees racism in a mono printer and worker injustice where the rest of us see opertunity.
mischief
30 Aug 2005
it's really quite hilarious to see comments (esp. on UK indymedia) to the effect of "oh it's just a movie, lay off! loser crybabies!" as if any aspect of our culture is produced totally devoid of its socio-political context. all I can say to Oli, is "yo, critical thinking is about using your mind, not losing it."
that being said, the most interesting item raised in the comments IMHO is the idea that Burton did this rehash of the original version with the intent of deliberate mischief. And in that context, it makes Johnny Depp's taking of the role (not to mention his perfomance as near-psycho alienated rich kid a-la Michael Jackson) more deliciously apt.
Get Real Katt
30 Aug 2005
You're off your fucking rocker Katt. Yeah and Hitler's racist films were just a more subtle attempt to point out how fucked up racism is so no one should have critiqued them... get real. It's one thing to acknowledge and investigate the past or present; it's another thing not say something when a film with all sorts of racist undertones is even futher engraining the our white supremicist culture with more racism.

And Oli, you're just a racist fuck. Immigrant labor built up the U.S.A.... it's true. In the same way that slavery did and the genocide of the indigenous while taking their land, and the exploitation of workers overseas, etc., etc. You call this opportunity not injustice? Yeah maybe opportunity for fucking oppressors. "They didn't have chocolate in their homeland"? Bullshit. The reason people are forced to migrate here is because we monopoloized control of all the power and resources through conquest, exploitation and greed. So yeah, people do migrate here for economic reasons... reasons caused by economic domination and oppression that we built our country on and benefit from today.

Thank you Johnathan for writing this sharp anti-racist critique. And all you people attacking it, quick denying white privlege and the way it's perpetuated even if it's easy for you to do because you're white.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
30 Aug 2005
huh. how do you know who is white here and who is not? do you have majic computer x-ray vision?

i certainly think critisism is essential-- important-- thats *why* i think things that are to be critisized need to be seen. you mentioned nazis- well- i was, for instance, very glad when the movie about the really multi-talented, intellegent, and REALLY, really, really evil and scary film maker lennie reifenstahl came to the harvard film arhive. i think people need to see that shit. people need to understand how and why a talented, intellegent woman can be corrupted into complete and utter evil awful racist hideous shit- should we all go picket the harvard film archive now because the film-maker was more subtle than to post a little "THIS IS EVIL" subtitle at the bottom of every frame?

NOT that i'm defending hollywood- i didn't go see teh charlie and teh chocolate factory movie cause i hate hollywood, and all the garbage it spews into the air. . . . . .but one must remember that they onyl exist because people BUY their SHIT.

"getting real" means agknowledging REALITY- and the reality is that most people are racist, and most people in the united states are enjoying material wealth at the expense and on the backs of people elsewhere, especially people who happen to be white. thats the truth right now. the fact that it sucks and needs to change doesn't make it any less true. so to say "well, you can't express that truth because it makes me mad" really doesn't solve anything. its important to know that as early ago as the sixties we were still getting unabashed childrens' books about racist corporate ceo's "rescuing" the "primitive" people in africa and making them work in his factory. i still think he was drawing a sinister character, but maybe thats because i didn't become consoius until teh eighties, when people were starting to think about these things. . . . . it certainly made me ask questions as a little kid-- should i have been handed some sanatized pablum that begged me to ask NO QUESTIONS AT ALL?
please watch your tone
30 Aug 2005
Hello -- This is just a reminder to everyone that we have a policy against personal attacks. Feel free to critique each others' ideas, but please do not insult each other in the process of doing so. We're trying to encourage mutually respectful dialogue here. We've found that once people start engaging in personal attacks, the exchanges just degenerate further. Thank you.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
30 Aug 2005
I found this article very insightful and useful. I think Jonathan's critique is on the money and there is certainly nothing wrong with looking at a film from a social or political perspective. The idea that anything -- particularly the hallowed ground of children's literature -- is beyond politics is simply ridiculous.

Along with Katt, I am somewhat disquieted by pressure groups changing a work of literature or art. However, the possibility exists that Dahl changed the book because the critiques caused him to see things differently and to feel embarrassed or ashamed with hindsight. For example, this article makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable with not having had the same insights into the film's racism that Jonathan did.

I don't agree with Katt's take on Willy Wonka, at least as he is presented in Tim Burton's film. Though he is a little on the odd, prickly side, he is presented as fundamentally benign and certainly superior to all of the children but the one who, in the end, becomes his business partner. Therefore, the film more or less endorses his exploitation of the Oompa Loompas.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
30 Aug 2005
The author of this review is a racist, capitalist agent provocateur. He (as it must clearly be a white male who wrote the review) assumes that the Loompas hail from a "developing country" and are at the whim of the "Western entrepreneur".

In reality, Loompaland is a highly advanced, industrialized nation with an equitable socialized welfare system and extensive nature preserves. Western capitalists are given research grants to research natural compounds native to the protected wilds of Loompaland.

HOW DARE YOU assume that Loompas are anything but the proud, strong, and independent people that they are. You sir are a disgrace and should be shunned by the Indymedia community. Good day.
"emasculating men of color"
31 Aug 2005
is i'm afraid, an oversimplification in the tradition of eldridge cleaver (who boasted of raping white women as an "insurrectionary act"). bell hooks wrote a really good book, "we real cool" about the intersection of race and gender in the oppression of black males, which anyone interested in the topic shoudl check out. the black male is most often portrayed in white supremacist culture as supermasculine, a beast of some sort; strengthening notions of patriarchal masculinity as maleness is not going to help anyones struggle for liberation.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
31 Aug 2005
Has anyone noticed that b.imc has degenerated to the point where no one disagrees with each other anymore on a theoretical level. Instead people just label their opponent 'white-male' and consider the case closed.

bell hooks reminds me of a conversation I overheard at lunch a ways back, where a black man and a white women were arguing about who was more oppressed (and could thus dictate the direction of whatever political group they were in), this of course over a fairly expensive vegetarian faux meal.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
31 Aug 2005
yes, "white male" is indeed an oft-bandied about insult, which is funny, that people woudl label by race and gender, since NONE of us can SEE EACH OTHER! hee hee hee. . . .. . . . i'm afraid i lack the equipment for white-male-hood myself. . . .but how could anyone tell what a terrible white male i'd make? . . . .. . haw haw. . . .

yeow, now that i've read all about this movie i'll hafta see it-- when i find it in the bin at teh salvation army, that is. . . . . .
Postscript:
31 Aug 2005
In response to comments I have received here and elsewhere, I feel it important to clarify a few points on my intentions in writing this article.

First, I am not calling for a boycott of this film. I think people should see it with a critical eye while keeping in mind some of the points I have made about racism and colonialism. They can than make up their own minds.

Second if people do see some of these elements in the movie, hopefully it can be a spring board to begin conversations with their friends, colleges, families and children on the topic of racism in out society.

Lastly, I think it is possible to be entertained by something while, at the same, time being critical of it. This is my main point, try to see the world around you with a critical eye. Not just around issues of racism but also sexism, imperialism etc.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
01 Sep 2005
I'm intrigued by the 'liberal-progressive' position that targets racism/sexism by trying to educate people.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
02 Sep 2005
This piece is well-written and obviously sincere. Nonetheless, in the interest of intellectual integrity I would make several suggestions. When criticizing literature it is helpful for your audience if you quote from the text. In this way we can see for ourselves your supporting evidence and come to our own informed and guided conclusion about the nature and intention of the writing. Also, the definitions of words that are very important to your larger point could be contested, so it is useful to provide readers with the connotations and implications of the words in question. For example, you write, “He is, we are told, in search of ‘exotic’ flavors for a new line of sweets.” The use of quotation marks around the word exotic seems to indicate that the word “exotic” is being misused or used in a morally and politically unacceptable fashion. But “exotic” simply means foreign, different, from another part of the world, or excitingly strange. There are many things in this world that we as individuals have not encountered, and these things are different and excitingly strange. Surely we should go in search of these things ourselves, provided that we do it with equal measure humility and pride.
Lastly, I would like to say that I think a different reading of Wonka’s experience in Loompah Land is possible. The first Europeans reached the areas now called Ghana and Nigera in the mid fifteenth century. During this initial period, before colonialism, the Portuguese and then the Dutch traded with the Akwamu and then the Ashanti. The Portuguese were impressed by the Africans’ wealth and sophistication. On explore remarked on the “wide streets” and “abundance of gold.” (Achebe). Shortly after, the Ashanti allied themselves with the Dutch in order to gain control of the area between Kumasi and Elmina. Those in power in the Ashanti tribe made this trade agreement with informed understanding and considerable intelligence. They traded fairly with the Dutch, taking advantage of European products that they did not have and providing, in return, things that the Dutch needed. We all know the history that developed from this and the terrible devastation of colonialism and the western form of slavery. I tell this story only to remind us that it is entirely possible to take something from someone different without exploiting that person, but rather in a fair and informed agreement of reciprocation. Without exploration we would have no understanding, without exotic new flavors we would remain bland, ignorant and isolated. It is the way in which we interact with those who posses those things we do not have, and what we offer in return for what we desire that shapes the morality of that exploration. You are right, the movie says nothing about “intellectual property rights” and therefore nothing can be inferred about the relationship between Wonka and the Ompah-Loompahs. We cannot make up the details that are not in the movie. We are not privy to the trade agreements they have made, and it does indigenous people a disservice to assume that they have been exploited: the underlying implication of that assumption, made in your article, is that people from other regions and cultures cannot help but be exploited because they have neither the intellect to appreciate what is being taken from them nor the skills to defend themselves from exploitation. I am sure this is not what you intended for readers to take away from your piece. In the interest of intellectual integrity you could examine alternate readings of the history your refer to and other opinions regarding the influence of culture on art, and history on fantasy.

Amy L Clark is a writer and anarchist living in Somerville
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
03 Sep 2005
Amy:

Thanks for your comments. A few quick points, the Oompa-Loompas cannot make any deals or "trade agreements" with anyone fair or unfair, they are fictional characters. They can have no will of their own, only the will of the author or later the filmmakers impart on them. They are written in a racist and colonialist way, only as the white men would like to think they would react to his offers etc.

Your point about the first Europeans that reached the areas now called Ghana and Nigera is interesting. I do not know much about it, but if true it would sadly be the exception to a long tradition of exploitation as I’m sure you are aware.

You are right about the sources but since this was an editorial I didn’t feel compelled include them. I have placed them below for you to check out,

1. Debates between Eleanor Cameron and Roald Dahl, 1972/1973.
http://www.hbook.com/exhibit/cameronvdahl.html

2. Paper trying to deny racism in the book by Cassandra Pierce, 2002.
http://www.roalddahlfans.com/articles/char.php

3. Roald Dahl: A Biography, by Jeremy Treglown. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1994.

4, McLuhan, Youth, and Literature: Part 1, 2 & 3. By Eleanor Cameron, Horn Book Magazine, 1972.
http://www.hbook.com/exhibit/article_cameron1.html
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
03 Sep 2005
Katt is a wonderfull human being - she'd make
anyone a fine husband OR wife!=) hee hee
love to ya Matt - I liked this article very much, and at home someplace I have my own ooooollllld edition with the black pygmy oompas. I always thought it was fu**ed, yet still loved the wack world of wonka frontied justice with the rich and bratty all getting juiced in the end
peace + smiles
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
04 Sep 2005
Good article. BUT I'll be "difficult" here and point out the one main criticism I have of this article and its line of thought (the latter of which I encountered many times at a very progressive liberal arts college).
As many people posting replies have pointed out, this article is not the strident, patently ridiculous MIM-Notes style rant the title suggests-- it is, in fact, researched and coherent. Jonathan McIntosh (like many progressives, liberals, and radicals) seems to hint that covering up the racism in the original WIlly Wonka (as was done in the 70s) is a good thing-- in other words, "our" media has a responsibility to edit older texts when bringing them back in public, getting rid of the nasty racism of days' gone by with a little slight of hand either because we've, as a society, moved past it (ha ha) or because today's masses are simply too stupid to recognize implicit racism and might be easily brainwashed into accepting it. The latter view has a lot to back it up-- a good case can be made for the stupidity of America and even all humanity-- but still there's a kernel of, well, elitism in it. It assumes that people cannot be trusted to toss away the garbage in a given cultural phenomenon. They can't decipher racism like WE (the progressive, college-educated anti-racists and professional activists) can. They are sheep, we are free-thinkers. We must lead them to utopia by the nose, 'cause they'd never get there on their own. We must censor, for the common good.
This is called "political correctness" by the Right, and, actually, they have a point. But let's not embrace the Right's complacency, authoritarianism, and devotion to established institutions-- I'm certainly not arguing for that. I DO think that there is something to be said for presenting an artistic work in its original form-- especially when it is patently racist and sexist and bad in every way-- because it gives us a more accurate idea of where we came from, culturally. And it absolutely requires people to have critical thinking skills-- it does not assume that we have (or ever will) be rid of racism and all the bad things in culture, but that individuals can, hopefully, figure out strategies to deal with these things on their own. In other words, it might be a good thing that those Oompaloompas have been re-raced. If as the article argues,m this points out a certain vicious racism in our country (along with imperialism and colonialism), perhaps that's for the best. Because those things, I think, are very much a part of America now. Perhaps the new WIlly Wonk is a more accurate representation of today's cultural landscape. Perhaps we can deal more effectively with racism when it's uncovered (as the author of this article has done, and I thank him for it)-- and it is easier to uncover when stated plainly, no political correctness involved.
Culture is a reflection of the society that produces it (or, at least, the owners of that society). Worry about altering the society, not so much the cultural product.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
04 Sep 2005
Good article. BUT I'll be "difficult" here and point out the one main criticism I have of this article and its line of thought (the latter of which I encountered many times at a very progressive liberal arts college).
As many people posting replies have pointed out, this article is not the strident, patently ridiculous MIM-Notes style rant the title suggests-- it is, in fact, researched and coherent. Jonathan McIntosh (like many progressives, liberals, and radicals) seems to hint that covering up the racism in the original WIlly Wonka (as was done in the 70s) is a good thing-- in other words, "our" media has a responsibility to edit older texts when bringing them back in public, getting rid of the nasty racism of days' gone by with a little slight of hand either because we've, as a society, moved past it (ha ha) or because today's masses are simply too stupid to recognize implicit racism and might be easily brainwashed into accepting it. The latter view has a lot to back it up-- a good case can be made for the stupidity of America and even all humanity-- but still there's a kernel of, well, elitism in it. It assumes that people cannot be trusted to toss away the garbage in a given cultural phenomenon. They can't decipher racism like WE (the progressive, college-educated anti-racists and professional activists) can. They are sheep, we are free-thinkers. We must lead them to utopia by the nose, 'cause they'd never get there on their own. We must censor, for the common good.
This is called "political correctness" by the Right, and, actually, they have a point. But let's not embrace the Right's complacency, authoritarianism, and devotion to established institutions-- I'm certainly not arguing for that. I DO think that there is something to be said for presenting an artistic work in its original form-- especially when it is patently racist and sexist and bad in every way-- because it gives us a more accurate idea of where we came from, culturally. And it absolutely requires people to have critical thinking skills-- it does not assume that we have (or ever will) be rid of racism and all the bad things in culture, but that individuals can, hopefully, figure out strategies to deal with these things on their own. In other words, it might be a good thing that those Oompaloompas have been re-raced. If as the article argues,m this points out a certain vicious racism in our country (along with imperialism and colonialism), perhaps that's for the best. Because those things, I think, are very much a part of America now. Perhaps the new WIlly Wonk is a more accurate representation of today's cultural landscape. Perhaps we can deal more effectively with racism when it's uncovered (as the author of this article has done, and I thank him for it)-- and it is easier to uncover when stated plainly, no political correctness involved.
Culture is a reflection of the society that produces it (or, at least, the owners of that society). Worry about altering the society, not so much the cultural product.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
20 Sep 2005
Interesting. I thought that the Chocolate Factory was a revelation of the Fabian Societie's Blue Print for the New World Order. I accept your view point - very valid. I'm trying desperately to find a link between Dahl and the Fabians.
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
21 Sep 2005
In many of mu literature classes we learn that through the collective subconcious of writers, current states of the world are conveyed. This fore-mentioned racism may have been introduced to the reader to bring up such topics.
Now many may ballyhoo that this was a childrens novel but all childrens books come along with lessons. Wether it be about being locked in towers, kept by dwarfs, or pricked with sewing needles...
Lets create more discussion about colinialism and how it is an impetus for genocide...even if the catalys is a movie about Oompaloompas
Re: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
24 Sep 2005
copied from LA IMC:
The movie did bring back the themes of imperialism and colonialism, 100%. (John was on the mark there.)

I think that the filmmaker did so because this is a different film. Willy Wonka is portrayed as a developmentally stunted man-child with a lot of "issues", who cannot relate to people. His exploitation of the Oompa Loompas is consonant with the character, who isn't portrayed sympathetically.

The problem is that it's mild criticisms of industrialism and colonialism are going to be lost on most people. At best, the movies has the smell of the elite western attitude that a sarcastic attitude about colonialism suffices as a coherent rejection of it. We are in the midst of a new colonial war; jokes about enslaving pygmies are not funny.