Really Internet: Grandpa Joe From ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ Was a Lying Walker – Decider

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Analyzing children’s movies as an adult is weird. Often you come away from the experience with a greater sense of compassion for the parental figures of the film and a finger-wagging rebuke for the child protagonists. However, even under the perception-altering guise of time, I think we can all come to agree — Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a bad person.
Welcome to Really Internet, a corner of the internet devoted to weird, obsessive, and at times oddly believable fan theories. Typically I use this column to explore a whether or not a fan theory that interests me could possibly be true, but this week I want to do things a little differently. It’s time to explore the weird vortex of never-ending hate that is the internet’s relationship with Grandpa Joe.
By now, we all are familiar with the grandparents in Roald Dahl’s choco-verse. The Bucket family, which was already a poor family to begin with, was made even poorer because the family’s mother and father have to support Charlie’s (played by Peter Ostrum in 1971 and Freddie Highmore in 2005) four invalid grandparents. All four old people share a bed, and it’s all very sad and cramped.
However, we know for a fact at least one of those grandparents has been holding out on us. It appears that Grandpa Joe (played by Jack Albertson in 1971 and David Kelly in 2005) could walk the whole time. However, instead of getting a job or helping to support his family in any way, he prefers to lounge with the other grandparents and generally worsen his already struggling family’s life.
This isn’t really so much a fan theory as it is an odd observation from the movie. When Charlie first finds the fifth Golden Ticket, Grandpa Joe literally hops out of bed and starts dancing a jig, proving that not only can he walk, he’s actually quite athletic. He then proceeds to stroll through the factory with Charlie without any difficulty once so ever. Clearly, the man is not immobile.
So the argument goes, if Grandpa Joe could walk and move around all of this time, he could have easily worked instead of placing more of a financial burden on Charlie’s parents, especially his mother. Not only that, but once the Bucket parents leave, Grandpa Joe reveals that he regularly squirrels away money to buy tobacco. Remember, Charlie’s family is so poor, they can barely afford cabbage soup, and Charlie’s birthday present every year is one chocolate bar. Obviously this tobacco money could be spent on something better than smoking around a young child and three elderly people who can’t move. It’s a selfish move.
There are other ailments out there. Maybe there’s a good reason that Grandpa Joe can’t work. Expect, no, now that I’m thinking about it, there’s not a good reason. Charlie’s favorite grandparent really sucks, and that’s a fact.
What makes this particular fan theory so interesting is how adamantly a certain subsection of the internet has latched onto it. There is currently a Facebook page called “The I Hate Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Page,” which has been liked over 17,000 times. There’s also a site from 2004 completely about hating this one character, titled SayNoToGrandpaJoe.com. It definitely looks like a mid-2000s site, but the undying hatred is still there.
At this point you may be mentally shrugging. After all, there are tons of weird, abandoned webpages, and Facebook did go through a teenage phase where it was cool to make stupid pages. If you need to prove to yourself that present day Grandpa Joe hatred is alive and well, all you have to do is go to the internet’s hivemind, Reddit. There you’ll find a subreddit entitled “F*ck Grandpa Joe” that has over 6,000 readers. Hate-filled Grandpa Joe content has been added as recently as five days ago. The subreddit even stays topical. Here’s the Grandpa Joe anti-fandom’s take on the Kathy Griffin controversy. Here’s a recent investigation into a new way Grandpa Joe is a liar. Here’s an April Fool’s Day post from this year that’s more than worth the click. A certain pocket of our population has been quietly seething about a fictional character from the ‘70s for almost 50 years now.
Over the years, hatred for Grandpa Joe has transformed. What started as a community that hates one fictional man for using his his family has transformed into a multi-tiered takedown of Grandpa Joe. People have made arguments that the grandparent is also misogynist (he only seems to insult women), a secret spy working against Wonka, and possibly has a coke addiction (he has what one Reddit user describes as “coke nails”). God bless the internet and its weird hobbies. Also? Grandpa is the worst.
Where to stream Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Where to stream Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
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