Family TV shows and movies are supposed to be kid friendly, but we’ve all heard stories of seemingly innocent movies or shows that end up scaring or traumatizing a kid. Many people have witnessed a traumatizing piece of childhood media that remains ingrained in their minds. For me, this was “Matilda.”
Danny DeVito‘s film adaption of “Matilda” tells the story of a gifted young girl who is constantly mistreated and neglected by her parents and brother at home. At school, she has to deal with the strict and terrifying headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Although the story has serious themes, it’s told in a very family-friendly and lighthearted way. So what about this movie is so bad? Well, I’ll tell you: it’s the chocolate cake scene.
This particular scene starts with the headmistress Miss Trunchbull calling together the entire student body at an assembly. There, a chubby young boy named “Bruce Bogtrotter” gets called out by Trunchbull and walks on stage. Trunchbull accuses the boy of eating a slice of her personal chocolate cake and calls him a “disgusting criminal. Trunchbull then brings out a huge gold platter and opens it to reveal a huge slice of chocolate cake. Bruce eats it cautiously at first but soon the whole slice is gone. All is good and well until Trunchbull calls out the school cook and she brings out the rest of the cake, a monolith of a chocolate cake. Trunchbull forces Bruce to “eat it!” As the scene proceeds, Bruce looks like he’s on the verge of vomiting with closeups of his dazed eyes and chocolate stained face.
Although Bruce ends up finishing the cake with the help of his schoolmates’ encouragement (go Bruce!), this scene is painful to watch. Even though there’s nothing inherently scary about it (besides the blatant child abuse), the scene does a great job at playing with your imagination. We see shot after grueling shot of Bruce shoving messy cake into his mouth, intercut with the disgusted reactions of the student body and a domineering yet evilly pleased Trunchbull. At one point Miss Trunchbull even mentions that the cook’s “sweat and blood went into this cake.” The mystery of whether she meant this literally or figuratively leaves us questioning for the entire scene: what exactly is in that cake?
While eating a gigantic chocolate cake might seem like a dream for those who like sweets and chocolate, this scene is anything but appetizing. In fact, it’s quite painful to imagine being forced to eat an entire chocolate cake while a frightening principal hovers over you. And just a glimpse at poor Bruce’s face while he tries his best to finish that cake is enough to make you hurl.
As I revisit the scene, I realize that it is not nearly as bad as I remember it. Sure, it’s not anyone’s idea of a good time, but it’s all fiction anyway. The cast even reunited years later to create a hilarious reenactment of the scene, but there’s no denying the impact that the original scene had. I mean, even to this day, I still can’t look at chocolate cake the same again.