Sorry, but Grandpa Joe is the worst.

Ceara Milligan
3 min readDec 12, 2023
Image credit: Screen Rant

Grandpa Joe, the supposed invalid turned sprightly dance enthusiast, is the dark horse in Willy Wonka’s whimsical tale — a cunning antagonist masquerading as a lovable grandparent.

Initially confined to a bed for a whopping twenty years with his wife and in-laws (Can you imagine the smell?), Joe miraculously recovers from his chronic case of lethargy the moment a golden ticket presents itself. Suddenly, he has the agility of a caffeinated kangaroo, proving that the only cure he needed was the prospect of a free tour through a candy factory.

After all, who needs a steady income when you can freeload on your grandson’s assets?

While Charlie, the earnest protagonist, toils away to support his struggling family, Grandpa Joe conveniently springs from his bedridden blues to join the expedition to the chocolate kingdom. It’s a miraculous recovery akin to a soap opera twist, where a character regains mobility just in time for a ratings-boosting event. Forget about the moral lesson of hard work paying off; in Grandpa Joe’s playbook, it’s all about seizing opportunities and (literally) dancing away from your own responsibilities.

As Charlie and Grandpa Joe embark on their fantastical journey through the eccentric confectionery, the true colors of the supposedly endearing grandparent start to emerge.

Sure, he wears a smile that could rival the Cheshire Cat’s, but behind that facade is a sly enabler, pushing his honorable grandson towards questionable decisions in pursuit of candy-coated dreams. For one, a responsible elder would have second thoughts before entering a factory where Everlasting Gobstoppers are considered a legitimate dental plan.

Grandpa Joe’s culpability deepens as the story unfolds, revealing his role as the puppet master pulling the sweet, innocent boy’s strings. The Fizzy Lifting Drinks incident is a prime example of the patriarch’s Machiavellian tendencies. He not only encourages Charlie to sample the forbidden beverages but actively participates in the escapade, in which they are almost killed by the blades of the massive ceiling fan. It’s as if he sees the factory rules as mere suggestions, blissfully unaware of the potential consequences.

While Wonka’s quirky ethics lessons are delivered by Oompa Loompas via metrical, harshly lyrical songs, the real mischief-maker is the seemingly reformed senior citizen gleefully floating towards utter chaos.

The Golden Ticket might grant access to Willy Wonka’s magical realm, but it also unleashes the mischievous side of Grandpa Joe. His influence extends beyond mere rule-breaking; he eventually encourages Charlie to consider pilfering an Everlasting Gobstopper, a blatant act of betrayal against the notorious candyman who granted them entry in the first place. Loyalty be damned, as long as there’s a chance to secure a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Grandpa Joe’s questionable ethics reach their peak during the Gobstopper morality test. While Wonka tests the moral fiber of his visitors, Grandpa Joe shamelessly suggests selling the coveted treat to Slugworth, a move that could jeopardize Wonka’s entire legacy. In this pivotal moment, the veil of the caring grandfather slips away, revealing the shrewd opportunist beneath. Loyalty, virtue, and family values take a backseat to the allure of a potential fortune.

In the grand tapestry of the beloved Roald Dahl classic, Grandpa Joe stands out not as a wise elder but as a conniving antagonist. His redemption arc turns out to be nothing more than a plot twist, a strategic maneuver to infiltrate Wonka’s domain. While Wonka’s factory is a world of enchantment, Grandpa Joe is the real golden ticket to trouble. So, the next time you watch arguably one of the best dramedies of all time, keep an eye on the spry old man with a penchant for bed-to-ballet transformations — the unsung villain of the story.

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