The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture

By Henry Jenkins | Go to book overview

7

“Going Bonkers!”
Children, Play, and Pee-Wee

We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
and stare until their eyes pop out…
they sit and stare and stare and sit
until they're hypnotized by it,
until they're absolutely drunk
with all that shocking ghastly junk.1

—Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a Dantesque vision of the faults and foibles of contemporary children, reserves special ire for the young television addict, Mike Teavee. When we first encounter Mike, he is so preoccupied with a television gunfight, “his eyes glued to the screen,” eighteen cap guns assembled at his side, that he refuses to be distracted even by the news that he is the recipient of one of the much coveted Golden Tickets: “Didn't I tell you not to interrupt! This show's an absolute Whiz-banger! It's terrific! I watch it every day! I watch all of them every day, even the crummy ones, where there's no shooting!” (p. 39). Once inside the mysterious chocolate factory, where the punishment always fits the crime, the sensation-crazed youngster receives his just deserts: he is “televised.” “A giant camera split[s him] up into millions of tiny little pieces which are so small that you can't see them, and these little pieces are shot out into the sky by electricity” (p. 134). In order to be projected through the medium he loves, Mike must be transformed, atomized and shrunk to fit within the cramped confines of the television world. Meanwhile, the moralistic Oompa-Loompas sing of the dire consequences of excessive viewing:

-159-

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