President Cakes

June 8, 2009

The year is 2057. Like some horrible science-fiction cliché, every aspect of your life is governed by one entity, President Cakes. Not an elected leader or a self-appointed dictator, President Cakes is a children’s television programme.

Water now only covers 2% of your world’s surface and it is more valuable than gold. To save money, you bathe in crude oil. All your food is grown, harvested, processed, marketed and sold by President Cakes. It is low in protein and incredibly high in carbohydrates, so it requires very little water to digest.

You are happy. You are content. But you are not free.

The year is 2009. Danny Waverly’s house stands sandwiched in the centre of a red-bricked terrace on the outskirts of Luton. At six o’clock on a bleak February Saturday morning, Danny, as he always did on the weekends, leapt out of bed and hit the ground with a dull thud. Not only was it Danny’s fourth birthday today, but there was another reason to be particularly excited this morning. The BBC was premiering a brand new Saturday morning kids TV show called President Cakes. The teaser trailers and promotional campaign had captured Danny, and his entire classes’, imagination. It was all that was spoken about at school. This was the televisual event of his life so far.

“Happy Birthday, big fella.” Danny’s Dad rubbed his thigh awake as he limped out of his bedroom and into the sitting room “What are you watching?” Danny didn’t even look up. He was already transfixed.

The show itself was rather crudely animated and certainly didn’t seem to have half the budget of the thirty second trailers that heralded its arrival all month. A jagged computer generated chef walked onto a plain and seemingly infinite white background.

“You know Danny this reminds me of something. Danger Mouse and Penfold started having more and more adventures in the arctic, as the show started running out of money?” Danny’s Dad hadn’t expected much of a response to his little factoid, but he felt a tangible sense of discomfort with the sheer engagement that his son now had with the television. “You know? It was cheaper to paint?” Almost involuntarily, Danny began to sing along with the droning and charmless theme tune that simply repeated…

“President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes” and so on.

The Chef, the show’s star and host, was swarthy and unsteady on his feet. He spoke with a shamefully stereotypical Italian accent that made the Dolmio puppets seem authentic and made Danny’s Dad, a man without a single Mediterranean bone in his body, feel deeply offended. “Lets-a make-a de cakes-a!”

“Whad-a flavour a-cake-a do-ya want-a?”
Danny shouted “Chocolate!” at the television. The Chef paused before replying.
“Banana cake! OK, we-a make-a da banana-a cake-a. Just for you. And whad-a-ya want on top-a da cake?”
“Chocolate!”
“You’re-a da bossa! Banana it is!” and, in real time, he would make the colourful cartoon cake right then and there. A little memerized himself, Danny’s Dad wondered whether Fyffe’s or Chiquita had a hand in producing the show. Was this a devious power play by the evil and preeminent banana lobby?

After a couple of episodes, Danny knew to only ask for Banana on his cake. It was all this Chef was able to make, it seemed. That was until the following series, in the Autumn, when all he made was cheese cake. Danny caught on much quicker this time around.

The monotonous deep chorus of “President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes” made Danny’s Dad’s toes curl each time that he heard his son singing along to it. By series four, they were churning out three episodes a day and never took a series break. It just broadcast constantly and seemingly indefinitely.

President Cakes quickly became the most influential television programme ever. If it told the children once to ask for cheese or bananas or apples, it didn’t have to repeat itself. Whatever the Chef claimed he had heard his little helpers order, in their minds, that was what they asked for and indeed what they would be asking for from then on, until told otherwise.

By the time President Cakes began broadcasting globally, it had broken free of the BBC and transmitted via its own satellite on its own network. It would hold weekly auctions where the planet’s biggest Corporations would bid billions for their product to be the ingredient used in the next cake or to be the oven the chef cooked it in, or to be the jeans that he wore. A little word in this fat Chef’s ear, one seemingly innocuous endorsement would send their profits ballistic. Instead of hard cash, Corporations began offering shares and within three years President Cakes became the major shareholder in every company that was worth mentioning. Within twelve years, it outright owned them all.

Needless to say 2038 was the first time that a television show had been elected US President. Needless to say, not one single person audibly questioned its legality. Within six months President President Cakes had taken over and abolished all of the world’s national and international governmental bodies. And who would stop it? The people who governed the nations of the world, were the same children that had grown up watching the show, the children who would never dare question the Chef’s demands, be they reasonable or otherwise. In the end it was all so simple.

In the future, when extra-terrestrial life finally visits earth, they will hear one sound as they approach; “President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes – President Cakes.” And if they’re unfortunate to listen long enough, who knows how far its sound will end up spreading?

Thank you. I wrote this allegorical story after I became increasingly worried about ‘In The Night Garden’.

…Not Also, But Only.

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