This morning, on my way to work, I listened to the soundtrack to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka is one of my favourite films, it has without doubt, the greatest closing line of all time:
Wonka: Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.
Charlie: What happened?
Wonka: He lived happily ever after.
Oh, I should warn you, there are a few spoilers in this blog post, so if you haven’t been able to watch the film at some point during the forty years since it was released, you might want to look away.
Despite the fact that I love Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, I hate Grandpa Joe. I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anyone1. At Boring 2010, during the prize giveaway, I explained why I hate Grandpa Joe. I was reminded about this earlier, when I saw this on Twitter:
— Richard Parker (@richpinabruzzo) June 7, 2011
I replied that I’d actually been listening to the Willy Wonka soundtrack this morning and that I was thinking of writing a blog post about it:
@richardparker10 Weirdly, I was listening to the Willy Wonka soundtrack this morning. Might write a blog post about it.
— James Ward (@iamjamesward) June 7, 2011
Richard replied saying that I should write a blog post about it as I completely changed his perception of Grandpa Joe and more people need to know the truth:
@iamjamesward please do – you completely changed my perception of Grandpa Joe and more people need to know the truth
— Richard Parker (@richpinabruzzo) June 7, 2011
So I said OK, I would:
So here we are.
You might say it’s a bit harsh to hate a fictional old man, but you are wrong to say that. It’s entirely justified. Just look at how he reacts when Charlie finds the last golden ticket2:
This man has been bedridden for twenty years, and suddenly leaps out of bed when he hears the news. His first thought is not how wonderful this is for Charlie, but how he will personally benefit:
I never thought my life could be
Anything but catastrophe
But suddenly I begin to see
A bit of good luck for me
Because I’ve got a golden ticket
No, Grandpa Joe, you don’t have a golden ticket. Charlie has a golden ticket. It’s his, not yours (the closest he comes to acknowledging Charlie is when he says “It’s ours, Charlie”. “Ours”. What a selfish old man).
Later on, when they visit the factory, it is Grandpa Joe who persuades Charlie to steal some of the Fizzy Lifting Drink which almost kills the pair of them. And when Wonka quite rightly says that as a result of this, they are in breach of contract and therefore disqualified from receiving a lifetime’s supply of chocolate, he has the gall to claim Wonka is a crook and a cheat and a swindler (he even goes so far as to call Wonka an “inhuman monster”). He then swears revenge (“I’ll get even with him if it’s the last thing I do” he says). He tells to Charlie to give the Everlasting Gobstopper to Wonka’s rival, Slugworth – an act of industrial sabotage to satisfy his petty desire for revenge.
Fortunately, Charlie is not like his grandfather. Charlie has a conscience. He gives the gobstopper back to Wonka, and so shines a good deed in a weary world.
I’m currently reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. In it, Ronson discusses the PCL-R, a checklist devised by Robert Hare, which is used to identify psychopathy. The twenty points on the checklist are as follows:
Now, unlike Jon, I have not attended one of Hare’s training sessions and am not qualified to apply the test, therefore, I may be wrong in my view, but I think Grandpa Joe is definitely a psychopath.
The clues are all there. Look how he suddenly breaks into song (superficial charm). “Suddenly half the world is mine” he sings (grandiose sense of self-worth). He’s spent twenty years claiming to be bedridden, when he’s perfectly fit and healthy (pathological lying; conning and manipulative; parasitic lifestyle). He’s one of ten people in the entire world who are lucky enough to get a tour of Wonka’s factory, yet it’s still not exciting enough for him, he has to steal Fizzy Lifting Drink too (need for stimulation; impulsivity). After he steals the drink and breaches the contract he signed (irresponsibility) and Wonka refuses to give Charlie the prize, he lashes out at him (poor behavioural controls) and calls Wonka a crook and a cheat despite the fact it was his fault they got disqualified (failure to accept responsibility for his own actions). After stealing from Wonka, he encourages Charlie to engage in industrial sabotage by passing the gobstopper to Slugworth (criminal versatility). He sleeps in a bed with three other people (promiscuous sexual behaviour).
Grandpa Joe is a psychopath, he needs to be stopped.
EDIT:A few people have said that this blog post deals only with the character of Grandpa Joe as featured in the 1971 film rather than in the original text. This is because the film is much better than the book. The book is OK, but the film is one of the greatest things humanity has ever produced. Yes, Dahl had problems with the film, but that just means Dahl is wrong. Why should we value Dahl’s judgement above our own? Maybe Dahl didn’t like the film because it was better than his book? Also, I am not going to consider the Tim Burton version because it is of no artistic merit whatsoever.
1 Actually, this is not true. I hate Brendan O’Neill more than I hate Grandpa Joe.
2 Embedding has been disabled by request for this clip. If you view it on Youtube, you’ll see that, in the comments, MrJonesyWales has made basically the same point as I’m making in this blog post:
does anyone else think grandpa joe is a complete douche?he sits around “sick” and makes a child and his mother work and than when a golden ticket suddenly appears hes up singing and dancing.than he gets charlie in trouble by influencing him to drink the fizzy lifting drink and than at the end when wonka discovers them grandpa says if slugworth wants a gobstopper hes got it.i love the character but he is a complete douche and its always bothered me people never really noticed it.
Although MrJonesyWales uses the word “douche” to describe Grandpa Joe. I don’t like the word “douche”, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever even used the word “douche”, except here, where I’ve used it three times. If you like people who repeatedly use the word “douche” without quotation marks, why not take a look at MrJonesyWales’ Youtube profile? You can subscribe to his channel as well if you love him that much.