Land of Confusion

February 9th, 2007 | Posted in General

I was at the gym yesterday warming up on a cross trainer, staring at the huge bank of TV screens they have along the upper wall. Most are silent, as you need to tune your radio to a posted specific frequency to get the corresponding sound, but one is the “Lifetime Fitness” channel, and that is all music videos with the sound throughout the gym. On that channel they play a lot of kick ass music to really pump you up for exercise… you know, like Cher, Hilary Duff or Ashlee Simpson. I hope everybody understands that sentence was typed with my tongue firmly in my cheek. Generally the music is awful to work out to, but they do play a lot of old 80’s videos that I at least remember from high school and haven’t seen in years.

Anyway, yesterday while I was warming up they played a video I haven’t seen in about 15 to 20 years. I had forgotten completely about it and it was great to see it again, especially since I was just getting started doing caricatures in the mid eighties and didn’t properly appreciate the brilliance of the visuals it features. I’m talking about this video of the Genesis song “Land of Confusion”:

The caricature puppets/sculptures were done by the “Spitting Image” people. “Spitting Image” was a satirical TV show from the United Kingdom that ran from 1984 to 1996 that featured these same kinds of latex caricature puppets . It was something that the caricaturists I worked with at Six Flags used to rave about, but I don’t think any of us ever really saw any episodes. I know I never did. I saw magazines with pictures of the puppets and this Genesis video played about 3 times an hour on MTV (yes, kids… MTV used to play music videos one after another all day and night). This video was America’s only really major exposure to the talents of the folks that did the show. Apparently in 1986 they did a special feature for NBC for American audiences called “Spitting Image: Down and Out in the White House” which was not very successful. I never saw or even knew about that on, or the two follow ups they did. It’s a shame that show never caught on in this country, but Americans are generally less tolerant of the more savage kind of caricature and satire that Europeans enjoy.

The caricature work in the video is as good as I remembered. Obviously there is no way they created all these puppets for just one video, so I expect they had a lot of them from their previous shows that they used. “Spitting Image” skewered all media personalities but especially delighted in going after politicians. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were favorite targets. The Reagan in this video is hilarious, especially when the head is just a mask on a full body. I love the bit when he puts on the Superman suit and runs around on the streets. Funny stuff.

Wikepedia has a fairly extensive article about the creators and history of the show. I suppose being so focused on politics, watching old episodes of the show would be difficult, unless you are a history buff or have an unusually potent memory for political shenanigans. You can always enjoy the caricatures, though. They really are fantastic.


  1. Trevour says:

    Oddly enough, just yesterday I was listening to a 1986 Genesis concert over at Wolfgang’s Vault (highly recommended site!). When “Land of Confusion” started playing it prompted me to go over to YouTube to watch the video. It used to scare me as a kid, but now I can easily place it in my Top 20 list of all-time favorite videos. Some of the puppets remind me of Kr?¬∫ger caricatures-come-to-life!

  2. SteveH says:

    Ahhhhh memories….. used to watch spitting image every time it was on! Towards the end though the writing became a bit tame and the programme lost its audience. There has been a call to bring it back but to no avail. I have met a couple of people from the ‘team’, a caricaturist who drew the initial sketches that would become the puppet and one of the sulpture artists, who has his studio only 2 miles from where I currently live! He was featured in one of the recent editions of the NCN’s EF magazine! Spitting Image will be in the history books and never forgotten!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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