Sad Willy Wonka and Missing Kate Middleton Took Over This Week

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

This week was set up to be a huge bummer. You mean to tell me that, in the hellscape that is the year 2024, there was going to be an extra day? And that day was going to be in February?!

While misery persisted in this slog of a week over here in the States, our friends across the pond generously provided us with distraction. It turns out that a Leap Day isn’t so bad when it’s spent scrolling through memes and news about that broke-ass Willy Wonka exhibit in Glasgow, or poring through conspiracy theories on where in the world Kate Middleton has disappeared to.

The extent to which these two things took over the internet and dominated all of my free time—I could not scroll enough through posts on social media about them—can not be overstated. It’s been an absolute delight, and a reminder that there’s still a germ of what used to be fun, clever, and uniting about X, née Twitter, before it became the totally diseased parasite it’s devolved into.

The two viral phenomena—each carrying the polar opposite weight of consequence when it comes to “news” and “global ramifications”—seemingly exploded at once. It was almost overwhelming. But then again, tragically absurd Willy Wonka drama intermingling with serious news about the royal family does seem to just…fit for our current darkly delirious times.

If you’re not up to speed on either, first, the Wonkopalypse. An “immersive event” held over the weekend in Glasgow inspired by, but not officially affiliated with, the recent Wonka film starring Timothée Chalamet was marketed to locals with colorful posters advertising a celebration impressively in line with the movie’s whimsical aesthetic.

Families shelled out hundreds of dollars (tickets were roughly $44 each) to explore what was sold as “a universe where confectionary dreams are brought to life.” What they arrived at was Hell.

According to The Guardian, the actual event was merely “a sparsely decorated warehouse with a scattering of plastic props, a small bouncy castle and some backdrops pinned against the walls.” Children were left in tears over the disappointing experience. It’s been branded the latest Fyre Festival, with some people comparing the actual exhibits, in stark contrast to the cartoonish sets advertised, to a meth lab. The Scotland police were even called to the scene, customers were so pissed.

It’s the visuals, though, that really caused this story to take off:

The actors who tried doggedly to salvage the event have emerged as folk heroes. The actor playing Willy Wonka said he was given a script that was “15 pages of AI-generated gibberish,” and bemoaned that there was inexplicably no chocolate—just a sparse stock of jellybeans—at this chocolate factory event. The actress who played the Oompa Loompa in the photo that garnered meth lab comparisons proved to have an admirable attitude about the ridicule the event received and her role in it, and has since become somewhat of a social media star:

I don’t know how to segue from the Wonka madness to the Kate Middleton obsession, but that jarring back and forth has been the defining experience of being a Very Online Person this past week.

Kate Middleton hasn’t been seen in public for two months, since the palace reported that she was undergoing abdominal surgery. There have been updates of her discharge from the hospital, but royalists have found it peculiar that there’s been no photos of her emerging from the hospital and heading home, at the very least—and then not for the weeks since. For some reason, this week concern for why she’s, for lack of a better word, “missing” came to a head. And from that concern grew conspiracy theories—and from that, memes. So many memes.

This is a tough one. People online have gone down rabbit holes trying to explain what is going on, linking Middleton’s public absence to some nefarious royal plot. Others have made humorous suggestions of where she could be. The truth probably is quite obvious: The palace has said that she will return to her duties at the end of the March, suggesting that Middleton has likely been very sick and is recovering from a rough surgery. It’s a bit crass to joke in light of that.

That said, royal enthusiasts have been trading in their fascinators for tinfoil hats, and the results have been funny. So if we can acknowledge that we hope Middleton’s health is doing OK and that she gets well soon, maybe we can also let off a little steam and indulge some in the tongue-in-cheek speculation as to what Middleton might be doing, if not resting, for the possibly three months until we see her next. They’re so outrageous that I don’t find them cruel.

Some people looked up what might take three months to recover from, and joked that Middleton will emerge in April with a BBL (Brazilian butt lift). Another found that three-to-four months is the optimal time to grow out bangs. There’s not been a single new piece from Banksy since Middleton disappeared. Coincidence?

Celebrities Falling Is the Best Genre of Viral Video

Others have pointed out that contestants generally are silent on social media and cancel all public gigs when they’re about to be announced in the cast of celebrity reality shows. Is Kate headed for the next iteration of RuPaul’s Drag U.K.? The Traitors Season 3? Or perhaps she will emerge with the most disturbing revelation of all: She’s now dating Pete Davidson.

My favorite joke theory came from a mom: “My three kids are roughly the same age as Kate Middleton’s so I can say pretty confidently that she is hiding in the bathroom pretending to pee for a really long time.”

I suspect there will be some photo released soon of Middleton in public, giving what global news this has somewhat shockingly become, to the point that it’s veering on international scandal—even if social media is laughing about it.

And when we do find out where she’s been, I think we’re all going to feel really bad for all of this week’s jokes. “You see,” Middleton will say, “I’ve been working on this Willy Wonka exhibit…”

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