Too Many Verucas, Not Enough Charlies

Just watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, inspired by Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… but ironically, they changed the title simply to sell chocolate upon the movie’s opening.It’s ironic because the message of the movie is about having nothing, being grateful (and far better behaved) for it and later reaping the rewards of being rich in character. It’s about gluttony – for treats, for sweets, for having one’s own way, for technology, for being first, for being the best.

Veruca, the incredibly well-played brat (seriously, don’t you just want to wring the kid’s neck??), wants everything and she wants in NOW! Sounds a lot like folks ivarucasaltnown our society and their intense need to have the latest and greatest, smartest and bestest phone or gadget in hand. They’ll trade their time, energy, blood, and consideration for others just to have it first. (Have you seen the mobs lined up for the debut of the whatever-ma-gadget at Best Buy?) Twenty minutes later, the thing is obsolete and the hunger continues, leaving behind a pile of not-so-biodegradable bi-products of greed.

I look around the stores or listen to the children in school and I see and hear the bi-products of the Veruca-like parents. Whining yields results and then the adults make excuses to other adults to justify themselves. “Well, I just had to get him the whole set, all the other boys in his class have them…” “The seventh grade just has to go on a non-educational, yippie-yahoo fun field trip because the eighth grade went on one and we feel bad for them…”

Oh dear. They are certainly carefully taught.

On the other hand, so is Charlie. Not truly jumping for joy about eating cabbage water every night for supper, but he’s willing to do something about it. This boy has a paper route and uses his first paycheck to buy bread for the family (mom and all four bed-ridden grandparents). He gives the leftover change to his mother, save one coin he gives to Grandpa Joe for tobacco. Even knowing that there are golden tickets to be found in Wonka chocolate bars, he doesn’t splurge on himself while his family is in need.

Of course, through some kindness and some chance, he does get a bit of chocolate and then he does end up with a golden ticket. Still, he’s ever-concerned over the well being and fate of the naughty kids around him. He has a sound conscience and only disobeys one rule after Grandpa Joe gives him the go-ahead to swipe a sip of soda.

In the end, when Grandpa is ready to flip Willy the bird since he won’t deliver on Charlie’s lifetime supply of chocolate, it’s little Charlie who steps up, returns his Gobstopper to assure Mr. Wonka that he won’t divulge any trade secrets and to apologize for breaking a rule.

Wonka gives Charlie his chocolate, the factory and the whole shabang. It’s an amazing fantasy, I know. But wow, we could sure use a few more Charlies in this world, couldn’t we?

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