Monday, July 11, 2005



Things like to run in cycles and repeats are common. Thinking up new stuff is difficult so the common tendency is to regurgitate things. During the height of the Vietnam war when it was becoming very unpopular and Nixon promised to bring the troops home by bombing peasants from the air, we had this goofy movie come out, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

Made in England, it was a very silly movie that poked fun at all sorts of Dickens movies as well as Germans and Americans and other such. The stereotypical children were actually well pegged in this sarcastic movie. The boy/hero was inane and blonde as per usual, also a stereotype. Tiny Tim without a crutch.

From the BBC:
Tim Burton is the second film director to tackle Roald Dahl's classic tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
But Dahl's hatred of the original 1971 movie almost ended the new project before it began.

Dahl wrote the story of Charlie Bucket's trip to the fantastic factory of sweet inventor Willy Wonka in 1964, inspired by Dahl's brief schoolboy experience as a chocolate taster.
Of course, Dahl was a classic British boy who was sent away to a boarding school where he wrote, "I was cruelly whipped." It was a classic Tom Brown's School Days school in the stern Victorian manner borne. For some odd reason, Cadbury, the confectionaries of England, persuaded the stern school master to let them have the boys scientifically taste the chocolate for them. These were blind taste tests and questionnaires were duly filled and examined. There was no other opportunity for candy. So the boys happily joined in this little quiz time.

Of course, the story mocks overindulged children. They are an easy target. The problem today is, as the virtues of Victorian child raising, the "spare not the rod and spoil the child" is dead and gone. Even more, the Victorians deliberately didn't feed their children very much for fear of making them weak and irresponsible. Food was strictly rationed. When my mother baked us cookies at my grandfather's house, he was very disturbed by this indulgence and would say so in public. Candy was, for him, a biannual gift, not a regular affair.


From the BBC:
A raft of tough measures must be introduced if the child obesity crisis is not to get worse, top doctors say.
The British Medical Association report called for a junk food ad ban and rules for the nutritional balance of school meals and pre-prepared food.

The BMA warned that without strong action, children would increasingly develop adult diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and bone problems.

The government said it was addressing the issues through voluntary codes.
The Victorian middle class had the possibility of huge meals thanks to the hired servants who produced this stuff. Unlike the hard scrabble farmers who needed to eat whatever they could, the bounty of the food revolutions fell to the middle class, extending their diets greatly.

From Victorian Reports:
Parents often used (food) as a tool in disciplining their children. Parents expected children to be thankful for whatever food was put on their plate and to eat it eagerly. If a child did not care for a particular food, such as spinach, a parent might offer it at every meal, forcing the child to eat it or go hungry. In another example, Augustus HareÂ’s aunt forced him to take a huge dose of rhubarb and soda for sucking on a lollipop (Robertson 417). Parents probably wanted their children to realize that in life we must sometimes take the good with the bad.
My parents were very big on the "eat it or else" school. An indulgence was to go out to eat and being allowed to choose food. My grandfather frowned upon this, too. He frowned at many newfangled things. He ate steel cut oatmeal for breakfast every day, for example.
Sometimes children would be deprived of food as punishment for some other offense. They might be forced to miss their desert of fruit or they might be sent to bed without supper for an offense like making an error in their lessons. Once again Augustus HareÂ’s aunt tortured him:

The most delicious puddings were talked of, -dilated on- until I became, not greedy, but exceedingly curious about them. At length le grand moment arrived. They were put on the table before me, and then just as I was going to eat some of them, they were snatched away, and I was told to get up and carry them off to some poor person in the village. (Pollack, FC 182)
I remember this! We did this! We had to give to the poor and in my own childhood there were quite a few literally starving children not to far off, either. The lesson is to not be self centered and to appreciate the good things more since you have to hand them over, voluntarily, with a smile.

Today, this sort of paternalism is frowned upon but the downside is, many youth are self centered and this shows.

In the popular Harry Potter books, the spoiled cousin gets all the toys and candy and petting and he is shown to be the classic children's literature "brat" who is put down by the hero who is denied the dainties but has an all conquering spirit. Only the stories don't do that at all. Right off the bat, when Harry heads to the magic boarding school, he is offered great candies and goodies and eats and...stuffs his face. He magically never gets fat or flustered or red in the face. He remains looking like the standard "unspoilt hero" of yore. The books are popular, I suppose, due to the idea, you can eat your candy and have it tooism that permeates our culture now.

Harry also uses his magic to torment his irritating relatives. He would have been the "good boy spoilt and now evil" in the elder literature but in today's world, he remains a moral virgin despite his many depredations. In the movie about Willy Wonka, the boy hero's reward is to become Willy Wonka who is actually a demon figure. He has all the Faustian characteristics especially tempting weak willed children and then basically destroying them. Why would the good boy want to become that?

Unless he is also evil.

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