02 April 2012

Willy Wonka to the 33rd Degree

Last month I saw that the National Heritage Museum’s announcement of a conference on Masonic history promised this paper by Bradley Kime of Brigham Young University: “Freemasonry in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

That amused me as an example of academic triviality, so I went looking for more information. I discovered that as of last fall Kime was a TA at BYU, and I found the abstract for another version of his paper at the ACA/PCA national conference:
The film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl’s famous story, has exercised an enormous amount of influence on American popular culture. The film score was nominated for an academy award and Sammy Davis Junior’s cover of “Candy Man” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The original film gave rise to a forgettable Freudian remake in 2005, to new lexical items such as Oompa Loompa and Golden Ticket, and to the unforgettable character of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. Yet, there is more to this morality tale than meets the eye. My research shows that this story is far from being understood or completely unpacked: there are not only strong thematic parallels with Free Masonry, but also biographical details in Dahl’s life that show his own exposure to Masonry. I have used unpublished archival materials, including from the Dahl archives, to outline the remarkable parallels to Masonic ceremonies in the film and to explore possible Masonic influences in Dahl’s life during key moments when the story was inspired and written.
I recognized that PCA/ACA stands for Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association. And I realized that I know that because I myself have presented at the New England Popular Culture Association’s annual meeting. And suddenly this effort didn’t seem so amusingly trivial.

No comments: