Book Review: The President Show // Costanza Casati

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In her debut novel The President Show, Costanza Casati tells the story of a dystopian world where politics and entertainment have inextricably merged. Young, pretty girls from poor districts in the Great States are sent to become Lovers on the reality show The President; in other words, they must entertain politicians. The audience can follow their leaders in the Golden Palace while watching Lovers live the ‘dream’. 

The book begins in the year 2087, when Iris is caught stealing and sent to prison, before being forced to join The President. Three years later, Iris is still on the show and entertaining high-profile Visitors. We learn that you can only leave if you are picked for Evaluation and subsequently win; no one knows what happens to the contestants who lose.

Casati’s portrayal of the power dynamic between men and women is haunting, though painfully familiar, acting as a stark reflection of our own divisive, patriarchal society. There are no female politicians in this oppressive world, and it is made clear that men are in charge, whilst women are there for pleasure. Although The President Show is set just 70 years in the future, it appears that society has regressed once more, for there is no longer a space for women in politics or positions of power.

Whilst it may seem like these girls live a celebrity lifestyle, they are ultimately the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The Lovers are mere commodities consumed by the audience, with Visitors reinforcing the idea that women are objects, existing solely for the pleasure of men and worth nothing more. 

There is some resistance in the outside world, as people begin protesting against the totalitarian state. The show is used to quell the protestors, for the producers make it seem as though the Lovers are taking the side of the Great Leader, though they have no insight about what is going on in the real world. Casati is commenting on the dangers of reality TV, for the show is fabricated and used to deceive the audience. The politicians present themselves as kind and generous leaders, but when the cameras are off, they are dangerous, incompetent and abusive.

In Casati’s 2087 dystopian world, society no longer cares about whether a politician is qualified or a good leader, but whether they are entertaining. Iris reflects on this, “My mother used to tell me about a time when politics and entertainment were different things. Now if you don’t appear on a screen in the Great Cities, you’re no one.” This feels all too familiar, as we currently live in a society saturated by celebrity culture, with the lines between politics and entertainment becoming increasingly blurred, especially after witnessing Trump’s America.

The President Show is a dark, biting critique on the state of contemporary politics. Moments in this novel are reflective of Trump’s presidency, particularly as he was accused of running his campaigns like a reality TV show, with many people following the elections and his presidency finding him ‘entertaining’. In this world, we discover that the Trump’s infamous US-Mexico wall was successfully built- a striking and almost unthinkable concept, presenting a terrifying “what if” scenario to her readers.

The President Show can be purchased here.

Words by Lauren Taylor

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