It is a truth universally acknowledged that we need villains to make sense of our world, and Grandpa Joe from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is, somewhat inexplicably, the internet's villain of choice.
In the story, Charlie's family is impoverished — his mother works while Charlie's four grandparents are bedridden (in the same bed). When Charlie wins the golden ticket, it is Joe who accompanies him to the factory.
On Facebook, for instance, a page called The I Hate Grandpa Joe From Willy Wonka And Chocolate Factory Page currently has over 10,000 fans. Recently, the page polled its fans to ask, "what is it that Grandpa Joe does that annoys YOU?" and the responses ranged from "bein a little bitch," to "I hate his hair and his nightgown." Some, however, were more devastating:
The fact that he even has "tobacco money" is a goddamn travesty. The family can barely afford a bowl of cabbage soup for a malnourished growing boy and yet this fuck squirrels away cash to smoke his worries away in the immediate presence of not only said boy but three other invalids who surely shouldn't be exposed to secondhand smoke. No, go ahead and enjoy your cheeb, Grandpa Joe, while literally every other member of your family is on death's doorstep, except you, you lithe, slick dancing con man
The Facebook page was created in 2010, but the seeds of Grandpa Joe hate were planted on the internet much earlier. In 2004, two anonymous Grandpa Joe truthers who go by "Oompa" and "Loomp" created the site Say No to Grandpa Joe. Looking past its impressive 2004 design, the site offers an exhaustive analysis of the 1974 film and draws more than a few shocking conclusions.
While most of the anger on the Facebook page toward Joe stems from the fact that he stayed in bed for years, leaving Charlie's mother to provide for the family until the opportunity for a fun adventure came around, the Say No site finds more nuanced reasons to loathe the man.
Evidence of Grandpa Joe's misogny is laid out:
Grandpa Joe and Charlie encounter and/or observe a great many people, but Grandpa Joe only insults the women.
He doesn't say anything derogatory about the fast-talking Sam Beauregard, the seemingly mad Wonka, or even the vile Slugworth9. He heaps all his invective on women throughout the story. It seems clear he has little use for women even though he has, apparently, depended on one to feed and clothe him for more than twenty years.
Bad enough that he holds these attitudes, but he even advocates his violent tendencies to Charlie, suggesting that Veruca could benefit from a well-placed boot.
Then there's the equally damning allegation that Joe is an industrial spy. The theory is that Joe has an unusual amount of knowledge about Wonka's business and the industry for a man who has been bedridden for years (the 2005 movie, which came out a year after the site was founded, provides Joe a backstory working for Wonka that would explain this). Most damning though, is the fact that he is willing to go along with Slugworth's request to betray Wonka by providing a sample of the Everlasting Gobstopper.
Perhaps most interesting, though it does not appear that the 2004 website and Facebook page are linked (neither responded to message from BuzzFeed News), it's clear that their sheer popularity has tapped into a deep well of anger within fans of the beloved children's book and movies.
Any way you slice it, the years of evidence suggest that this resentment goes well-beyond an internet prank or light grudge. The bile and venom toward Joe is thick with feelings of betrayal and resentment for his sins of sloth and greed. It is the shock and disgust a young adult feels when realizing for the first time that parental figures are fallible creatures, capable of horrible things. The internet, it seems, hates Grandpa Joe not because his misdeeds are so bad, but because we were told to love him in the first place.
One last piece of evidence on the trial of Joe's character surfaced in 2013, when an eagle-eyed redditor noticed that Grandpa Joe has "coke nails." Perhaps here is the key to his perceived moral failings: He was hopelessly in the throes of a serious drug addiction.
Katie Notopoulos is a senior editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture and is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.
Contact Katie Notopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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