Stereotypes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Discussion: What We Think

Stereotypes, generally, have been an ongoing silent issue in the past couple decades. When viewing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I was amazed at the fact that there were distinct stereotypes portrayed in the movie (which i am also aware is based on the novel by Roald Dahl). In the clip posted above, you can see that there are 5 different stereotypes portrayed to the viewers:

Sadaf, 20: “I think that the portrayal of the Indian Prince/Princess is ridiculously stereotypical. It is really sad to see that the princess is just sitting there and serving the prince and not saying anything. The West seems to be viewing the East as still a group of people who are patriarchal. Also, when the clip shows the different cities where the chocolate is being sold, it’s really interesting to see the difference amongst the places (the Moroccans are shown in a slight lower class area, whereas New York city is upscale). I think that kids are prone to believe what they see, especially if they are younger and a parent or guardian don’t explain to them that certain stereotypes are not what the people are like (All Germans are not fat and own meat shops or all people from England have rich mansions and are spoiled). I believe that if there is no guidance by someone else explaining to kids that these aren’t true then we have a problem. I also believe that the stereotypes aren’t really that relevant to the plot and I think the story could have done without it.”

Joanna, 23, believes, ” While children can distinguish between reality and fantasy, when the fiction resembles reality, that distinction is much harder to make. In the case of the chocolate palace, I would not be surprised if younger children believed that an Indian prince built a chocolate palace. I know that I once believed the world rotated around really quickly and that humans lived with dinosaurs. However regardless of whether children actually do in fact think there is a chocolate palace in India, what is more problematic is the image of Indian people. The prince is seen as fickle and dumb by making a chocolate palace and believing it will not melt. Furthermore, the way in which the Indian woman is subordinate to the Indian man (unlike the white women) sends a very colonist message: brown men don’t treat brown women properly. And I find it shocking that messages like these are still being imbedded into movies, both children and adult alike”

Some other interesting responses:

anonymous female, 12: ” I really don’t see why stereotypes are a problem…they are clearly portrayed somewhat correctly since it must be true [because] why would someone make that up”

anonymous male, 16: “I understand why this can be a problem today, kids tend to believe everything they see [especially this day in age]. Though I don’t think the movie is to blame since it is based on a book, I still think some of the stereotypes were unnecessary.  I also don’t think the plot could have been that much better without it, since that is what kept me watching the movie!”

Vanny, 13: “I think that if u read the book  it makes more sense, because it’s  a lot  like the book , unlike  the original movie and that it’s not really trying to send a message, but to sort of show a fantasy or something and portraying it more or less the way kids would see it”

do you agree or disagree with any of these comments? Do you think that stereotypes are an ongoing problem today? Would you let kids watch this and believe it? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!


15 Responses to “Stereotypes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

  1. 1 Nancy February 27, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    The exaggerated representation of the various cultures is the movie’s way of entertaining the audience. I’m sure most children and parents from those countries don’t behave that way. I’ve been to Japan a couple times and their convenient stores look exactly like ours. The film hyped up the “techie-ness”. If you pay attention to the mise en scene, you’ll see that some aspects of each child’s household is exaggerated. The excess creates humour at the expense of stereotypes. It’s sad, but that’s how a lot of movies gets their laughs. Sometimes, it’s so seamless to us and natural to laugh because it’s engraved in our way of viewing film in pop culture. We’re conditioned to respond to stereotypes without a critical eye, but we always need to remember what exactly we are watching. We may laugh at one stereotype, but not another when we are targeted. Laughs shouldn’t come from the expense of someone else.

    • 2 Atifat February 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm

      i think stereotypes are misleading and can be damaging to kids
      as they look at those stereotyped in a certain manner, as their judgements are being made for them. They dont try and learn the truth as they believe what they are told. We as adults should avoid doing this.

  2. 3 Jenna February 28, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    While it is true that stereotypes are generally unnecessary and untrue, I think that in a venue such as this they are relatively harmless. Keeping in mind the fact that, generally speaking, Dahl’s books (and thus presumably, the movie) were satirical, the stereotypes are *supposed* to be obvious and laughable. They’re part of why each kid’s personality is “bad” and why they all change at the end. It’s a joke. Not meant to convey reality.

  3. 4 Wilhelmina March 1, 2010 at 12:16 am

    It is true that these were meant as satire, but in the fat-phobic world we live in one must consider how insensitive it seems today. Overweight people are mocked and stereotyped far too often.

    • 5 daffiepie March 1, 2010 at 12:23 am

      I definitely agree with you on that part. I feel as though the German boy was seen always as hungry and eating whatever he could find, including the golden ticket! also about the cultural stereotypes, I understand that it was all in pun but still is it alright to show the people from England are rich and snobby and the Germans aren’t? I mean if it didn’t matter then they could have reversed the economic class standings amongst them!

  4. 6 Anonymous March 1, 2010 at 12:24 am

    In these various scenes there are a lot of different stereotypes. Some of them are not really serious and just giving perspective on how different places are viewed by most of the world(japan having the high tech stores, and morocco using chickens to buy the chocolate). Most of these geological stereotypes are just poking fun at news stories or the worlds ignorance and therefore I consider them not as serious as some of the stereotypes. The serious ones are when they are introducing all the kids. It becomes evident that these kids have these personality traits not from the geological location they are from but from the type of household they are raised. For example the rich parents have the snobby child, the overachiever that wants to win everything has the trophy daughter, the parents that aren’t very smart and don’t know what are happening with their child, have a smart kid that can do whatever he wants. These are not only stereotypes but are actually found in abundance around the world. Therefore i consider them the more important ones because if as a parent you do not worry about the effects you have on your child and fall into one these main stereotypes shown then it could have major damage on the child.

  5. 7 Joanna March 1, 2010 at 12:43 am

    While the stereotypes may have been intended at poking fun at various cultural stereotypes, the end result may not be what was intended. With the amount of negativity that some cultures get, poking fun at them may just be inflaming the stereotypes ever more rather then creating satire. The image of the brown women who serves the Indian prince really speaks a lot to our culture, especially in our time. I think the assumption is so wide spread (even in the news) that I do not think poking fun is making the problem better if anything it’s making it worse.

  6. 8 Anonymous March 1, 2010 at 2:14 am

    I don’t see how the prince thinking his palace wont melt or the woman could be seen as a stereotype on Indian culture. The palace that was built is perfect in every way and when anyone gets something that they see as perfect they automatically think it is indestructible. For example the Titanic, or a person driving fast in a really expensive car. Secondly it makes no reference on the woman serving the prince. They are just having fun relaxing, eating chocolates, in their new awesome palace.

  7. 9 daffiepie March 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Joanna, I agree with you, making fun or poking fun at these issues don’t help the situation at hand and that’s why I think this is a silent issue that’s growing.

    to respond to the comment above mine, I see your point, but I definitely disagree on the part of the woman serving the prince. Women, in that scene particularly, are objectified. She had no say on the palace or anything (or so i assume) and she’s just there FEEDING the prince. If they wanted to just “relax” and have “fun” they wouldn’t show the indian woman feeding her husband, while he’s sitting on a throne and what not. It shows that the West is still veiwing the East as a patriarchal era. Though I understand that this might be showing what it was like decades ago, it’s still not okay for kids to view and think that this is what all rich Indian people are like. In fact, I’ve talked to a couple kids who think that this is how it was 10 years ago (when we all know this was how it was maybe 50-70 years ago). It’s actually pretty disappointing.

  8. 10 Anonymous March 1, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    First of all the saying that because the prince is on a throne is bashing the East is plain wrong, it is a view on ALL royalty. He is a prince therefore has a throne, if he was a prince in Australia he would have a throne too. Secondly, the woman feeding the prince is being way to over analyzed. There is no way you can make an assumption that because she is feeding him she is his slave. The feeding each other is shown in many romance movies, novels, even many couples in our day to day life. If you saw a couple where the woman put food in the guys mouth, and then went and told them that the woman is objectifying herself and what she is doing is sexist, everyone would laugh at you. I would like to be there too so i could laugh as well. You are bashing a common interaction that people use worldwide in day to day life. If the man was seen feeding the woman i bet you would have never even thought it is sexist. You might as well go and bash hugging you will have the same effect. If the woman was seen hugging the guy would you say it is sexist because she hugged him not the other way around?

    • 11 Joanna March 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

      I just want to defend one thing I said. The man does not feed the women, she is feeding him. If the exchange was mutual, i.e., he feed her and she him, then your point would be valid, but as it stands she is doing all the feeding.

      Second, he is elevated above her, she is reaching up to him. It is an image of subordination. The man is located higher than the women.

      Third, Mr. Salt (the rich man and white equivalent to the prince in this movie) isn’t doing that to his wife or daughter. His wife is standing next to him in the clip. Taken together it sends a colonist message that white men treat women properly and brown men do not.

      You will probably think that I’m just over analyzing, and your entitled to think that, but imagery is always very subtle. It is never about what is said, it is always about positioning, and who is doing what.

  9. 12 daffiepie March 1, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I definately agree with joanna on this matter. If it was shown that all royalty is “stereotypically” like that then veruca’s family would be the same.

  10. 13 vampiricphantess March 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    A well-worded reply, Joanna. While there is nothing sexist about feeding one’s partner this scene does play into the myth of the “submissive, subservient, exoitc eastern woman”

  11. 14 Anonymous March 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    just because a person is sitting higher doesn’t make it that she is a slave. I am sure there have been many times in your life that you have sat on the floor and someone else in a chair does that mean it was sexist? Also again feeding is a normal human interaction I am sure that you or someone in your family has performed the food in the mouth action. It is shown both ways in many different movies and as i said you might as well bash something like hugging or pouring the ladies drink first. Its just something that is done be everyone and is in no way sexist and can be done by the man to the woman or by the woman to the man. What if instead of her feeding him, she opened a door for him. Would you consider that sexist? And if they guy did it to the girl would you consider that sexist? If you are still convinced she is a slave look at when the palace is collapsing he waits for her and holds her hand while walking across the pond of chocolate. I cant think of why some rich prince would risk his life waiting for and helping a slave.

    For your argument about the woman and man standing equal, well they are clearly being interviewed. If you were being interviewed in front of cameras you would stand as well besides the other people being interviewed. If your talking about the part where they are giving her the ticket, they are both standing just to make it seem that the “gift” is coming from both of them. I thought you would be more concerned about how the rich father does everything to get that ticket for his daughter and the wife just sits around and drinks and yet still takes credit for helping to find the ticket. But it seems like everyone is more concerned of a guy sitting in a chair then a woman taking advantage of a man.

  12. 15 Wilhelmina March 2, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Anonymous, no one said the lady was anything like a “slave”. No, there is nothing sexist about the imagery per se, simply the insinuation. I think you should read the posts again. As stated before, the imagery here simply echoes a stereotype that has colonialist undertone. It’s not just the gender depiction, but the cultural depiction as well. That is pretty clear from the above posts.

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