Charlie Bucket takes his Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory tour in October, so this is the time of year I always think about how much of a selfish shit Grandpa Joe truly is. There's even a Facebook group called "The I Hate Grandpa Joe From Willy Wonka And Chocolate Factory Page" and yes I joined it.
Grandpa Joe has to be one of the worst characters in any children's movie. Sure, it's just fiction, and sure there are "villains" in other stories who do worse things, but they are openly treated as villains. In the 1971 Willy Wonka movie, Grandpa Joe is treated like he's one of the good guys. Several children get their just deserts as "villains," but Grandpa Joe does much worse throughout the film and is rewarded. What kind of a message does that send?
So here's my October rant against Grandpa Joe, pointing out 12 times in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory when he proved he's the real "bad egg."
Grandpa Joe Has The Nerve To Complain The Floor Is Too Cold For Him To Get His Ass Up
Grandpa Joe's first words in the movie are complaints, of course. He immediately sets a miserable tone, whining to his daughter and never even considering helping her, even though it's made clear to viewers that all four grandparents have been in bed for 20 freaking years. (Charlie's mom is never given a name, which really says it all. She's a martyred saint who is clearly so used to abuse that she's internalized it.) Here's Joe shouting at his hard-working daughter about Charlie working too hard; he also replies to her heavy hint to Get The Fuck Up And Help, Dad with a nasty shot about the floor temperature:
Slap his ass for that! Show him what's really cold. Four people bedridden for 20 years, and the mother has to do it all -- including, presumably, pour out those bedpans we see under the bed. Joe isn't even concerned about helping his daughter, though, he's too busy pretending he's going to get up and help Charlie. Sure, Joe. Do you think Charlie's father is really dead or did he just run for the hills, since these four clowns must've been bedridden for about a decade before Charlie was even born? Imagine that.
Grandpa Joe Doesn't Care How Charlie Got Bread
Charlie ends up late for his paper route job because he's too busy standing outside the candy shop like an idiot watching smarter children go inside for free candy. When he finally does get to work, he immediately demands his money and then quickly goes through his job by haphazardly flinging papers willy-nilly. When he gets home to the shack, it's clear he just got his very first paycheck. So I'm not sure where the idea that Charlie works too hard for a little boy came from, other than maybe Grandpa Joe thinks no one but Charlie's mom should ever have to work.
When Charlie gets home, Grandpa Joe is eating the cabbage water they all have for dinner. Charlie says he's fed up with that and whips out a loaf of bread. Charlie's mom -- who has a moral compass that she got from somewhere -- asks Charlie where he got the bread. She wants to make sure it's legit. Grandpa Joe? Couldn't care less. He snaps back to his daughter:
Yeah, to Grandpa Joe, the point is just to get it. It's all about being on the take. This dynamic repeats throughout the movie, but thankfully culminates in Charlie showing he takes after his mom more than his grandpa. Not that anyone punishes Joe for that.
Grandpa Joe Has Been Smoking A Pipe A Day In That Bed
This seriously blows my mind every time. Charlie takes his change from work, gives part of it to his mom, and gives the other part to Grandpa Joe -- saying from now on, Charlie will pay for Joe's tobacco. Joe finally has a glimmer of self-awareness on how selfish he has been, and says when a loaf of bread looks like a banquet, he has no right buying tobacco. That's when Charlie's enabling mother jumps in with this humdinger:
Jumping crocodiles! He has been smoking a pipe a day in that bed for 20 years?! Can you even imagine the smell? The pipe, the dirty unwashed foursome, those bedpans. And yet it takes the shame of Charlie paying for Joe's tobacco to get Joe to even consider quitting.
Of course, Joe does take Charlie's money anyway. Not that Joe would know what to do with it -- he's not getting out of bed to buy tobacco! Are you crazy? He has people for that! He's just going to have to give that money back to Charlie's mom to buy it for him, and the Stockholm Syndrome will force her to go ahead and do it. Madness. This useless family is going to run the Wonka factory into the ground. You know they'll probably end up selling the Oompa Loompas.
Grandpa Joe Gets Out Of Bed The Second A Good Deal Emerges
This clown's nerve knows no bounds. When Charlie gets the golden ticket, it seems obvious he should finally treat his long-suffering mother to a chocolate factory tour. Or at least thank his grandmothers for knitting him a new scarf. Instead, Charlie tells his Grandpa Joe, "I wish you could go." And then Grandpa Joe immediately gets up! Twenty years of bedpans and making his daughter do everything and he never once says "No, take your mom" or "No, if I'm not going to get up for work I shouldn't get up just for a free candy trip." No, instead he gets up and does a damn dance around the room.
Grandpa Joe Sings For Himself And Dances For His Golden Ticket
The full Nancy Kerrigan. That's what I'd give this fool. I'd stop Joe halfway through his obnoxious dance, grab that cane out of his hand and whack him behind the knees. I don't care. He'd deserve it. Grandpa Joe is such a piece of work, he doesn't just accept the trip to the chocolate factory, he lords it over the three other bedridden fools and brags about his luck in front of his long-suffering daughter.
He literally dances around the bed, singing for himself, bragging "I" and "me" in every word as if this is all about him, which of course it is.
I half expected him to push Charlie out of the way to claim the whole thing for himself. It would've been perfectly on brand. The selfishness is breathtaking. It's almost impressive. Future supervillains should take notes.
Grandpa Joe Allows His Daughter To Handle Everything
I'm not letting Charlie's mom off the hook for her enabling. She should've tipped that bed over 20 years go. This Martyr Mom enabled everything from the pipe smoking to allowing Charlie and Joe to walk over her. She's the one who notices the golden ticket says the the tour is the next day. Grandpa Joe tells Charlie they have a lot to do -- comb your hair, wash your face, polish your shoes. Mom says she'll take care of everything. Come on! That's when Grandpa Joe should say, "No, now that my ass is finally up, let me finally do a single goddamn thing to help." But of course not. Wouldn't even occur to him.
Grandpa Joe Has The Nerve To Suggest Someone Else Deserves A Kick In The Pants
When they get on the boat at the chocolate factory, Veruca Salt says, "Hey daddy I want a boat like this..." Grandpa Joe whispers to Charlie, "What she wants is a good kick in the pants." Oh oh, she does? We're meant to chuckle and agree with Joe, because -- yes -- Veruca Salt is a pain-in-the-ass brat. That is made clear. She's also a kid who was raised badly. Grandpa Joe is an adult responsible for his own behavior, and as we've seen he's been nothing but a selfish ass for the past 20 years. So he really has some nerve to say anyone else wants a kick in the pants. But, once again, he's treated like one of the good guys. He didn't even wear pants for 20 years!
Grandpa Joe Has The Nerve To Suggest Someone Else Is A Nitwit
Grandpa Joe always has something nasty to say about someone else, including children. After saying Veruca wants a kick in the pants, he insults Violet Beauregarde. When Violet takes the gum from Wonka and pops it in her mouth, Charlie is the first to ask what it tastes like. When Wonka lazily tells Violet please no stop, that's when Charlie turns to his Grandpa Joe:
Oh oh, she is? You mean like the nitwit who follows this by not listening to Mr. Wonka and instead nearly gets his grandson killed by stealing fizzy lifting drink? No, you're right, Joe, it's much worse to chew too much gum.
Grandpa Joe Has The Bright Idea To Steal Fizzy Lifting Drinks
Classic Joe. Grandpa Joe is a terrible influence on Charlie, and he almost loses Charlie everything -- including his life -- with this stupid, selfish, childish decision. After Willy Wonka brings the group into the fizzy lifting drink room, he says he dares not sell it yet because it's too powerful. Everyone else listens and follows him out, except for Joe and Charlie.
WRONG. So they have a fun time floating along until they realize they're getting too close to the ceiling. When Joe burps, he realizes that's the way to get down, but Charlie almost gets ripped up by the fans. Not that Joe ever apologizes or takes responsibility for that bad call. Of course not! They should've been thrown out right then and there, considering they did bump into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized. If Augustus contaminated the chocolate river, Joe and Charlie did just as much damage.
Grandpa Joe Has The Nerve To Call Wonka A Crook
Grandpa Joe ends the movie with a series of his trademark bad judgment calls. After the factory tour ends, Wonka tries to get back to work. Charlie even asks Joe, "What happened? Did we do something wrong?" as if he really has no idea. So Joe busts into Wonka's office to find out how they get that lifetime supply of chocolate. When Wonka points out they broke the rules, a confused Joe says, "What rules? We didn't see any rules" as if he didn't tell Charlie to sign away on the contract, because they had "nothing to lose." Wonka points out they stole fizzy lifting drinks and bumped into the ceiling, which has to be washed and sterilized -- so they get nothing. Grandpa Joe has the nerve to react with shock and anger:
Wow, if he made that speech to the mirror I'd say he was halfway there. But instead, Joe really does think they're owed a reward, even though everyone else was punished for breaking the rules. Lucky for Joe, he gets his reward anyway.
Grandpa Joe Suggests They Give Slugworth The Everlasting Gobstopper
In his infinite wisdom, the outraged and self-righteous Grandpa Joe decides to follow calling Wonka a crook by telling Charlie they should sell out Wonka to Slugworth. Joe wants Charlie to go back on his word about the Everlasting Gobstopper, because lying and cheating is fine if it benefits Joe.
Charlie -- who thankfully still has a lot of his mother's influence in him -- finally stops listening to Grandpa Joe and goes back to Wonka's desk to give back the gobstopper. Wonka rewards the honesty. "So shines a good deed in a weary world."
Grandpa Joe Immediately Asks What's In It For ME?
Never mind that Grandpa Joe just slammed Wonka as a crook and an inhuman monster. Never mind that he just suggested Charlie go back on his word and give Slugworth the gobstopper. Never mind that Charlie only "won" because he blew off Joe's own terrible advice. The second Wonka reveals the truth about Slugworth and Charlie passing the test, Joe puts his hand out for another reward.
Wonka takes Charlie and Grandpa Joe on the Wonkavator and tells Charlie he's giving him the whole factory. Joe proves has learned NOTHING along the way by immediately asking what's in it for himself. He doesn't even ask about his own daughter, wife, or in-laws.
If only Wonka had replied to Joe with "No, not you," and then dropped him out of the Wonkavator. Charlie is the one to ask about the rest of his family.
There's a Willy Wonka prequel movie in the works, but if there was ever a sequel I wonder how things would turn out at the factory. I can see Charlie's mom working hard and Grandpa Joe sitting back and letting himself be waited on hand and foot.
None of this is a shot at the late great Jack Albertson, who played Grandpa Joe in the 1971 movie, which you can stream on Amazon (opens in new tab) to rent or buy. And I still love the movie to bits. I'm just one of the many fans still waiting for Grandpa Joe to be flushed down some chute so the Oompa Loompas can give him a morality song and dance about being lazy and selfish. #JusticeForCharliesNamelessMother
Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.
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