Written by Jane Berney
Who to pick for 26 Twits? Mike Teavee was top of my list; I was interested in this mercurial character because of his obsession with the screen, a topical issue for any of us who care about children.
At about the same time as this project started, SKY (the local TV provider) emailed out a promotional message to all subscribers. In bold purple lettering, they proclaimed, “School holidays are better with great TV.” Crikey!
I had seen some of my neighbour (12-year-old) Meagan’s drawings when she’d scribbled away on visits with us. I adore her whimsical ways while she balances a life that includes karate and horses and being the head girl at Hunua School. I didn’t want to make her life too much busier with this project, but she jumped up and down and said Yes at the same time.
Fuelled by hot chocolates, we plonked ourselves down at the dining room table and started exploring life post-Wonka. In the book (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mike is shrunk to fit into a TV, which, despite his distraught parents, he seems to be pretty chuffed about. In an attempt to correct the situation, Wonka decides to put the gun-toting kid through a stretching machine. With rather extreme results.
Meagan says, “I looked at some photos from the movie, and read Mike Teavee’s part of the book, and I reckon all those video games have made him violent, and rude, and bored with life as he always has a blank look on his face. But why? I don’t have a clue.”
We wondered about his life with his parents:
“Hey Mum, can I…?”
“Not now Mikey, I’m busy.”
“Hey Dad, can we…”
“Aw Mikey, can’t you see I’m working?”
“Mum, Dad, what about…aww, forget it.”
And we could kind of see how he had turned to TV. But now, after the Wonka experience, his life is a different size. What would it be like if you’d been stretched? Meagan drew a picture of Mike and his family on a car ride. Mike is too big to fit inside the car, so he’s sitting on the roof. Mr Teavee is driving while Mrs Teavee is blushing.
The drawing that we chose shows the Teavee family standing together. Meagan has placed father Teavee standing within arm’s distance of Mike, but his mother is right in beside him. The only one who looks genuinely happy is Mike in his basketball gear, because, that’s right, basketball is his activity of choice now he’s too tall to get in front of a TV. And perhaps, just perhaps, it has shifted the dynamic of the family. In a good way.
We really like the way that he’s so stretched that even his gear is not quite fitting, but he’s all smiles.
Then, we thought, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written when TV screens were the size of ovens and we’re imagining this in the 21st century; could we give Mike access to a device of the time? This is the little twist at the end of it.
The first round was a rather podgy 114 words, however, with the gentle guidance of Jayne Workman, we reduced it to the requisite 100.
Now Meagan and I are trying to work out how to shrink her to fit into my suitcase to take to London this September.