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Marx believed that the bourgeoisie own the means of production and gain a profit from the surplus value of the workers. This key concept in Marxist thinking, surplus value, is the excess amount the proletariat earn beyond their labour and how much profit the bourgeoisie gain from their work. This intrinsically exploitative concept is portrayed through the Oompa Loompa workforce as they are seen to be responsible for the automation of Wonka’s chocolate factory. These indigenous individuals were recruited by Willy Wonka as they left the impoverished island they were originally from and were to be paid in cocoa beans, not an exchangeable wage for their labour. This highlights how the wealth and profit of the upper class increases due to the exploitation of the working class.
Class hierarchy and materialism are seen distinctly throughout the film as the plot focuses on the production of chocolate and portrays the upper-classes greed, especially through the characters of Mike Teavee, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde and Veruca Salt. Drawing on Marx and Engels, Mike Wayne notes that their ideas on materialism have implications for understanding the study of media. In the Marxist sense, the concept of materialism has a double meaning as ‘it means sheer physicality plus social relationships’ (Wayne 2003, pp.121-122). This can be applied to the film as materialism is portrayed through the children as they are drawn to the materialist objects that surround them, whereas Charlie’s only desire was to benefit his family, coming from a less affluent background.
There is a clear subtext of Marxism in Tim Burton’s adaption of the original novel by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). The film follows the story of a young lower-class boy, Charlie Bucket, who, along with four other children, wins a ‘golden ticket’ found in Willy Wonka’s chocolate bars which allows them to visit his factory. The polarising social classes of all five children come together when they meet as they are united by the famous golden ticket.
One of the main principles of Marxist theory involves the idea of a social class structure. Marx believed there were two main classes within the social class structure identified as the bourgeoisie or capitalists and the proletariat. The proletariat are a huge mass of workers who are exploited by the ruling class and whose condition becomes increasingly more desperate (Berger, 2005). These classes who interact through what Marx called ‘class conflict’. This conflict resulted in limited social mobility due to classes acting in ways that benefit their own interests.
Marxism is a theory based on the work of Karl Marx, a philosopher who wrote in the nineteenth century, and he developed his ideas focusing on the economic and social power in societies and has since influenced the work of many theorists. Although Marx does not explicitly write on the media, he discusses the general effect of changes in communications throughout his work.
Overall, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory associates with Marxist theory through the injustice and class hierarchy that is clear throughout and it displays the consequences of capitalism.
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