I’m a sucker for a good movie trope (a nice, non-judgmental way of saying movie cliché), especially one I’ve never noticed before myself. That’s is why I’m in love with this site called Doom Cakes. And just what is a “doom cake?” I will let the site’s founder, Tom Blunt, explain (emphasis his):
“Cakes are rarely eaten and enjoyed in movies the way they are in real life. Instead they are nearly always demolished — perhaps in anticipation of the audience’s repressed desire to participate vicariously in wanton acts of decadence and destruction (probably hearkening back to the Death and the Maiden motif which originated in Renaissance art). There is a correlation between a cake’s extravagance and the likelihood that it will be destroyed.
Alternately: the cake remains intact, but serves as a harbinger of chaos and human suffering — the exact opposite of its intended effect. In such cases, the cake is presented at precisely the moment when the film’s characters are, for whatever reason, unable to rise to the occasion; suddenly the cake’s apparent splendor is unable to mask the essential futility, superficiality, frivolity, or artifice of such a gesture. (In other words, the cake is a lie.)”
Fascinating. And the Doom Cakes’ site has plenty of examples to back the theories up. Here’s a perfect one from the 1961 version of “The Parent Trap.”
The doom cake isn’t solely a thing of the past though. Consider this more recent example, from 2009’s “Drag Me to Hell”:
Cakes, then, are sort of like guns in movies: you can’t just have a character hold one. At a certain point, the audience is going to want to see that gun go off (or, in this case, that cake smash on someone’s face). Knowing viewers derive so much suspense simply from waiting for these cakes to deliver their inevitable splat of doom, that when it actually happens it’s just, well, the icing on the cake.
From now on, keep your eyes peeled for doom cakes: as soon as you see on in a film, you can be pretty sure something bad is about to happen to one or more of the characters. For many more examples, make sure you dive deeper into DoomCakes.Tumblr.com. Now I need to get back to work on its sister site: Suspicious Cinnamon Buns.