Articles & Op-eds

Moral Choices, Faustian Bargains, & Slugworth

photo credit: JeepersMedia Wonka Gobstopper USA Candy February 2014 via photopin (license)

The beloved children’s film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is based on a 1964 children’s novel by British author, Roald Dahl. The book inspired two feature-length films, one in 1971 starring Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson and the other in 2005 directed by Tim Burton.

The Gene Wilder version is brimming with moral teachings about the consequences of our personal choices and owning up to our mistakes. A remake in 2005 starred Johnny Depp as a creepy, child-like, Willie Wonka whom Depp admitted he patterned after Michael Jackson. In that version most of the timeless messages about boundaries and the consequences for our actions were noticeably removed.

The main test of character for the five children who win a tour of Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory is an enticement to betray Willie Wonka by giving his secret recipe for “Everlasting Gobstoppers” to a guy named Slugworth. Unbeknownst to the kids, Slugworth works for Wonka.

In the end, Charlie takes responsibility for his mistakes and chooses not to take Slugworth’s bribe. He returns the Gobstopper to Willie Wonka even after he has good reason to be angry for being stripped of the prizes he was promised. Charlie passes the integrity test and becomes heir to the entire chocolate factory and the Oompa Loompas to boot.

The rewards for strength of character are profound but they aren’t usually so clear and immediate in real life. In fact, holding onto our integrity often comes at a price, especially today.

With less than 35 years between them, the two film versions of Willie Wonka are a vivid illustration of how Hollywood succeeded in portraying freedom without responsibility as a more appealing option than Liberty which demands it.

Free will, individual responsibility and being judged on one’s actions rather than one’s ethnic or collective cultural group are and will always be the enemy of socialism and communism. Is it any wonder that adherents to these authoritarian systems always work to demonize most religions and closet people of faith? To be successful in creating their socialist/communist nightmare, they must be God in their own universe and in yours too.

Citizens who hand over personal responsibility, don’t understand until it’s too late, that they are handing over their Liberty as well. That’s what clears the way for the government to take control of both.

These timeless moral lessons don’t apply just to children. Have you been wondering how so many well-known “conservatives” could have sold out their principles and denied even the slightest curiosity about the fairness of our elections? Maybe “Ole Slugworth” has been paying them a visit too.

From Nikki Haley to Mitch McConnell, and from John Roberts to Liz Cheney, the age of Trump has acted as a magic elixir that has revealed who they always were.

What sort of enticements and punishments did they accept to sell out the very people who awarded them that golden ticket in the first place? So far, there have been no consequences for their reversals, betrayals and deceit.

Like most Hollywood movies, this story leaves us with some cliffhanger questions:

How do you sell boundaries and consequences to the public when freedom without responsibility has already been sold to them for decades as much more appealing?

Will the worst-behaved children in Washington ever be sent down the garbage chute for being the bad eggs they are?

Will the America that was founded to be a factory for self-government, individual Liberty and Justice for All be around to leave to the next generation?

Only Willie Wonka knows for sure.


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