Candy: The Universal Diversion
by Elliot Millner
Candy is an extraordinary thing. It cures nearly any sadness with its sweet flavor, injecting positivity into nearly any day with its colorful taste. Although it is the not the most healthful, candy is just as pivotal to American society as any fruit or vegetable. Everyone has his or her favorite candy that they just can’t live without. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) presents a world where this is very much the case. People go wild for Willy Wonka’s chocolate, even before the golden ticket race begins. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory illustrates the necessity of candy throughout the film, ultimately proving that candy is a persistent love no matter the culture.
Charlie’s family can’t afford much. Money is hard to come by and when it does come, it must be spent on the essentials; however, when Willy Wonka announces his golden ticket race, Charlie’s family makes an effort to give him a chance at the golden prize because they know how much it means to him. They know how much it means to everyone. So much mystery surrounds the Wonka factory, mystery and a hint of magic. Willy Wonka’s secret formula is a precious one and thus he’s locked his factory away from potential thieves. That is what makes his golden ticket announcement so stunning. It grips the attention of the entire world and doesn’t let go until all five tickets have been found. “Truly it is incredible the way that Wonka-mania has descended upon the globe!” one news anchor says on the craziness, “…and to the five people who find them will come the most fabulous prize one could wish for, a lifetime supply of chocolate!” (12:40)
People of all shapes and sizes line up to have their chance at finding a golden ticket. Old, young, fat, and skinny; all infatuated with the idea of being able to witness Wonka’s magic first hand. It is evident that chocolate is everything to these people.
One image that appears about 13 minutes into the film, just after Willy Wonka has announced his contest, illustrates just how sought after Wonka bars become. The image sees shoppers in a department store with shopping carts filled completely with Wonka bars. The shoppers are all women of a similar age, implying that these are mothers buying the treats for their families, or perhaps just for themselves. There is hardly any negative space in the shot, showing just how crowded this store has become. Each shopping cart, as well as its respective shopper, barely has any room to breathe. The background is also cluttered with grocery products and other business, further illustrating the cramped tone of the scene.
The film uses news broadcasts to illustrate how significant an event Wonka’s contest truly is. A scene that takes place just 18 minutes into the movie shows another newscaster comment on what the “Wonka-craze” has done to the rest of the world in only 43 days. “We are beginning to see signs of anxiety,” he says, “every hour on the hour new shipments are being sent to different points across the globe but they just aren’t moving fast enough and as time passes, the men who seek them become more and more desperate.” The key word here is “desperate,” a word that could fittingly describe the actions of several men and women throughout the rest of the film. Mothers push through crowds with a shopping cart full of Wonka bars to bring home to their children. Boxes of Wonka bars are auctioned off to high bidders. All across the world this madness persists. A man dares to forge a fake golden ticket. A woman even hesitates to decide whether to choose her own husband’s life or her case of Wonka bars when kidnappers offer their ransom. Their love for chocolate makes them think irrationally and value a chance at a Wonka golden ticket and lifetime supply of chocolate more than their own family or livelihood.
The scene flips from shot to shot of SOLD OUT Wonka bar signs all across the world and in a range of different languages. The scene really drives home the fact that this is that is happening everywhere. It then shows men in uniform carrying boxes off a plane, a repetitive sequence to show the large number of these boxes.
The world’s mood shifts as the race draws to its conclusion. People begin to give up and return to their former lives. Another news anchor, one Stanley Kail, struggles to maintain his composure when trying to reassure his viewers that the contest isn’t everything.
“We must remember that there are many more important things, many more important things…offhand I can’t think of what they are but I’m sure there must be something,” he laments.
The scene and ultimately the entire film exhibit that everyone has a sweet tooth. As many differences as these cultures have, they have one thing in common: a love for candy. Willy Wonka is just taking advantage of that commonality among people across the world and making candy better than anyone has before. Candy is special to everyone.
Stuart, Mel, director. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Paramount Pictures, 1971.