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Parent Article: Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory
Hidden with code "Duplicate post"
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