By Annie Barrett
Updated June 22, 2012 at 02:00 PM EDT

Welcome to ‘What Is Your Damage,’ Annie Barrett’s summer shop of all the melodrama and self-absorption she misses from springtime reality TV. Every Tuesday and Friday, she’ll rant about a current offense to her humanity, then assess readers’ damages via video replies. Don’t be shy about admitting what annoys or intrigues you. We’re all in this pop cult together!

What is your damage, creepy boat scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

Now that it’s officially summer, I thought this would be the perfect time to examine how my obsession with a boat ride from hell has chartered my own slow but sure descent into madness.

This s— gets dark. Read on at your own risk.

The creepy boat scene from Willy Wonka did not scare me as a child. I wasn’t particularly brave in the real world but enjoyed journeying to dark places in my mind and often latched onto things that would safely let me do that. None of the Chocolate River passengers ended up overboard like poor Augustus Gloop, so to me everything about this scene seemed fine! It was a “mind mine,” nothing else, and creepy little me appreciated that.

The best part is right before Wonka begins to sing very softly.

Ahhhh, this look! This was everything to me — a eccentric chocolatier genius exhibiting complete calm in the midst of a bad acid trip powered by incredible edibles and the furious rowing of little orange men.

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going

There’s no knowing where we’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing

I’ve always found such profound peace in this CRAZY boat ride — I love that he’s so calm about not knowing a damn thing. I mean obviously the adult me realizes that Gene Wilder’s Wonka is a complete psychopath and perhaps I should have chosen a different childhood hero, but as a kid I just recognized hey, this is exactly how I feel in relation to my surroundings all the time. I too can sit perfectly still and dart my eyes around with knowing glances at the wonder of all the not-knowing. I want a feast. I want a BEAN FEAST of tranquil uncertainty!

Is it raining, is it snowing

Is a hurricane a-blowing?

I constantly sing these six lines to myself when I’m feeling weary/eerie — or just the last two lines if I’m pressed for time or brain space because at this point they require absolutely no thought at all. I sing them out loud while sitting in traffic or staring at an unfinished reality TV recap in the middle of the night. I wish I was kidding. Not that it’d be funny, but still. I wish Veruca’s dad, Mr. Salt, would step in and stop me. “Barrett, this has gone far enough!” Stop the boat! I would decide. But in order for that to happen I would need to get EVEN CRAZIER. I’ve never progressed beyond “a-blowing” in my solemn chanting of this ridiculous verse, because right here is where Willy Wonka begins to raise his voice and go truly insane and I’m just not into that.

Or is it inevitable? I’ve been theorizing about this for awhile and feel confident enough to announce that I think the next two verses eerily describe…THE INTERNET.

Not a speck of light is showing

So the danger must be growing

Are the fires of Hell a-glowing

Is the grisly reaper mowing?

Yes, the danger must be growing

For the rowers keep on rowing

And they’re certainly not showing

Any signs that they are slowing!

The pace of the internet gets to me. I feel I can never catch up and even if I could, I’ve already lost time — plus the chocolate-river Tunnel of Data has somehow managed to clog itself up even further as I dared to take a breath. It will never slow down for me; too many millions of people are “keeping current” at a certain highly acceptable, even sought-after level of insanity. And yet is this boat really moving? Watch closely; it’s just sitting there like a hunk of fudge. Like me, when I’m writing!

So maybe I’m in charge of this ship after all. One can certainly navigate one’s own way on the internet. One just might go mad in the process. Is the grizzly reaper mowing? No, that’s just the stupid sun coming up while I’m still rowing through the murky waters of the previous night’s American Idol.

Suddenly “Seacrest” sounds like a viable name for a competing candy factory. Maybe gummies?

Basically I’ve been romanticizing what is essentially a wormhole of terror throughout my life, and I wonder: Am I eventually going to freak out and start SCREAMING? I really don’t want to! Not my style. But will the internet kill me first?

Stay tuned!


A recent deep dive into the visual aspect of the Wonka boat scene horrified me in new and disgusting ways. There is so much more at play here than overwhelming uncertainty and the reflective glares of a madman!

What bugged me the most was that this looked exactly like Tim Curry when he creepily wore the fake mustache in my and my sister’s other favorite movie at the time, Annie. (My sister’s name is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Barrett. How weird is that?) Now that I’m older, I’m thinking Freddie Mercury instead.

“What is this, some kind of freakout?” asks Violet Beauregarde. How does this child know about freakouts? What exactly was in that original piece of gum? Also, Violet Beauregarde is such a freak.

A chicken gets its head cut off. How did I keep missing this? I love chicken!

SLUGWORTH. This one is a big problem now that I moved to L.A. and must drive through one specific tunnel all the time. I keep looking off to the side of the tunnel, wondering if I can trick my eyes into seeing Slugworth’s face on the wall. What would even be the gain in that?


This chocolate river really looks more like blood.


Needless to say, I’ll be heading over to London for the Sam Mendes Wonka stage show at some point. Have the Oompa Loompas built a tunnel across the ocean yet? If not, what is their damage?

This is definitely the weirdest thing I’ve written — and more disturbing than I expected. I KNOW. I’m sorry. I’ll try to stick to lighter topics…or just stop this boat altogether!


WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE THIS WEEK? Tell me! Reader Damages for June 22, 2012: I’ve ranked the following atrocities, submitted by readers this week, on a scale of 1 (harmless) to 10 (Heather Chandler) in the ‘WIYD’ video player below.

–Princess Merida in Brave

–Chipotle’s new medium salsa

–Botox and boob jobs

–Olivia Munn

–Adam Carolla


–Bad reality TV over the summer

–Tara’s continued existence on True Blood

*New feature!* A “fetch” instead of a “damage” to lighten the mood

–Fiona Apple’s new album

–Justin Timberlake’s attitude towards his *NSYNC days

–Rita Wilson: recording artist?

–Andy Cohen: creepy?

–Bookstore snobs

–First World problems

Click on the text prompts in the video player below to see my expert assessments.

What is your damage? What is with you today? What’s with today, today? Let me know what’s annoying you by sending me a “question” in the video box. Start with “From [your name, or a code name if it’s too embarrassing to be seen with me]” so I can address you properly). You can also tweet and/or e-mail me your damages. Do not mail me your damages. I do not believe in paper.

Thanks for playing along, and I’ll see you Tuesday!

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