Mischief and mayhem: a cultural history of the relationship between children and old people in the contemporary family film

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The basic conceptual metaphor (or root metaphor, to use George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s terminology) that “children are like old people, and vice versa” also appears in the contexts of international family film. In this chapter, I will consider specifically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Paddington (2014), and argue that the relationships between young and old characters serve to emphasise the regenerative effects of the spirit of adventure and mischief in the elderly while children are valued for the imaginative contribution that play and youthfulness can make in everyday life. Charlie’s Grandpa Joe accompanies him to Willy Wonka’s factory, having been the only one in the family to support his wish to find a Golden Ticket. Joe develops a new lease on life as he experiences Wonka’s fantasyland through the eyes of his grandson while Charlie assumes adult responsibilities as he proves to Wonka that he is not a selfish kid like the rest of the winners. As a young bear from the deepest and darkest jungle of Peru, Paddington follows a path to maturity as he is adopted by the Brown family in London. Childlike enthusiasm for the tube, tea and marmalade sandwiches symbolise youth and innocence in Paddington while he also learns the importance of individual responsibility and family loyalty. The elderly Mr Gruber befriends Paddington and relishes the company of the youthful bear as it reminds him of his own childhood as an immigrant coming to England.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConnecting Childhood and Old Age in Popular Media
EditorsVanessa Joosen
Place of PublicationJackson
PublisherUniversity Press of Mississippi
ISBN (Print)978-1496815163
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2018

Publication series

NameStudies in Popular Culture Series
PublisherUniversity Press of Mississippi


  • Paddington Bear
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • childhood
  • old age
  • film
  • national identity
  • literature


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