Demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism over the past month have made clear that change is necessary. But I’ve been wondering: as just one person, who is mayor of a large city, what can I do? Political solutions can be so slow. Budget negotiations that reflect priorities and values generally only happen once per year, during the summer, in about four weeks, making it nearly impossible to effect concrete change.
Knowing that politics is the art of the possible, though, I refuse to give up. That’s why I’ve turned to market-based solutions. Capitalism, a system of economic rules that in this country was developed and implemented to systematically deprive BIPOC of liberty, wealth, property, respect, and social mobility, is well-suited to adapt to these changing times. That’s why my office is thrilled to announce that we have partnered with legendary white-owned animation studio A.L.M. to insert a CGI Black character into Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The social outreach branch of A.L.M. is well established, having partnered with the NFL — an organization in which 32 non-Black business owners profit off the labor of hundreds of physically imperiled Black men — to create an environment of anti-racism by hosting Black Culture Awareness Week. You’ve probably seen it. Black Culture Awareness Week puts on instructive and necessary halftime performances, pre-game interviews, and film screenings for every NFL game that takes place during the second week of April.
Beloved by millions, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was the perfect movie to bring into the modern era by working with A.L.M. I don’t want to give too much away about this new character, but for now I can say that Michael Mop grew up in similar circumstances to Charlie Bucket, but they don’t meet until Charlie finds him disoriented and dehydrated on the banks of Chocolate River. While the other children ignore Michael, Charlie rushes up to him, offering him water and support. As Charlie saves him, getting a gold medal from Wonka in the process, we make it clear that Michael is at the center of his own narrative.
Michael doesn’t appear again until Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Wonka are in the Great Glass Elevator, and Michael, in the background and looking fairly different due to a wave of resignations from our animators, says, “Way to go, Charlie!” His presence is never explained.
Some have theorized that he isn’t a boy but a spectral vision in Charlie’s mind, perhaps brought on by a chemical in one of Wonka’s confections. Others believe he is a ghost that haunts the premises, leftover from whatever occupied the spot before Wonka’s factory was established there. Several parents have sent us letters saying that their children were “disturbed” by this new cut and that their own memories of the movie have been “forever tarnished.”
Well, you can’t make progress without making people uncomfortable.
When we screened the film at the police department’s renovated helicopter and drone hangar by relocating all the aircraft to Tanks Field for the day, everyone loved it, so I’m not sure what people are complaining about. I wish I could share some photos of the wonderful and peaceful event, but unfortunately the photojournalist there was assaulted and had his camera stolen.
Sadly, there was an issue when we showed the film at Surveillance Park last week, with several viewers violently and quietly saying to one another, “This movie is weird and bad,” so I am grateful that the police could be there to shoot tear gas to break up what could have turned into an out-of-control mob.
This is only the beginning. A.L.M. is also working to develop a modern, “woke” film version of Huckleberry Finn. In their adaptation, the n-word never appears, Jim is white, Huck is Black, and the plot is absolutely incomprehensible. I am working around the clock to redirect funds away from social services to help fund this project, and we look forward to screening it during the public library’s newly reduced hours.