Spitting Image: Real life has become more like the puppet satire – Jim Duffy

As TV show Spitting Image returns, Jim Duffy feels that modern life is increasingly imitating its subversive art.
As TV show Spitting Image returns, Jim Duffy reflects on the caricatures of those in public life today (Picture: Avalon/Mark Harrison
/PA Wire)As TV show Spitting Image returns, Jim Duffy reflects on the caricatures of those in public life today (Picture: Avalon/Mark Harrison
/PA Wire)
As TV show Spitting Image returns, Jim Duffy reflects on the caricatures of those in public life today (Picture: Avalon/Mark Harrison /PA Wire)

So Spitting Image is back! New characters, new memes, new laughs. I missed the old Spitting Image and its sarcastic optics trained on those in power, celebrity and the nouveau riche. The writers didn’t miss and hit the wall when they went to town on Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Prince Charles.

The programme was so accurate in how it characterised these people from the Royal Family and Rupert Murdoch to the Pope to even Roger Moore of 007 fame. But, as the new series begins to air, I actually feel a little sad, as really nothing has changed about those in power, with money and in the limelight. I actually feel we are living in a literal and figurative Spitting Image world, where we are really just all memes.

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Now more than ever, the “personality” and caricature of people in public life is what holds meaning for those who love them or loathe them. That is where we are in politics, celebrity, actors and activists just now on planet Earth. And I am finding it increasingly hard to make my mind up on whether people are being genuine and authentic or playing a role to increase their own realm of influence, money, power and reach.

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Let me give you a few examples and see if you feel the same way.

The first one is easy. His name is Donald Trump. He is the President of the United States of America and he will be front and centre on the new Spitting Image programmes.

But, how do I truly feel about the meme that is Donald Trump? Well, I know his lawyer, Michael Cohen, got jail for bad things and has now written a book called Disloyal in which he opens up about what he did and what his old boss did. Cohen went to prison, but Trump has not made it there – yet. Trump’s companies have had numerous bankruptcies, he has had numerous wives and girlfriends and has been caught on tape making disparaging comments about women. But, he is a family man with Christian values and loves America, right? And his dissenters are a gang of lefties who want America back so they can rule it the way they always did – just look at the Clintons, where they really any better? You see where I’m coming from here? Is the Trump meme a good guy in that he is protecting the USA from China and the enemy within or is it really a narcissistic, right-wing, gun-toting big mouth? And despite all the attempts to put him down, he may actually win another four years as there is something appealing about him and his messaging. Confusing eh? Welcome to my Spitting Image world.

Next up is Meghan Markle. The meme that is being pushed by some media is that she is a scheming witch who stole our nice wee prince away to the USA to become stinking rich, while she pontificates about right and wrong and pioneers young women’s rights. You see, how awful is that? How dare she lecture us from her multi-million-dollar pad in Los Angeles, eh? Meghan is a manipulative actress who is ‘gonna milk it dry’. But, wait a minute.

If one actually listens to what she is saying it makes sense. Who wants to hear hate speech after all? And maybe she has done Prince Harry a favour by extracting him from Royal duties as a prince without portfolio. God, just look at Prince Andrew and one can see the logic. She’s a fighter and a crusader. And if given the chance, she could be a terrific ambassador for peace and championing the underdog. And there it is. I don’t know what Meghan meme to trust. I’m confused by media and spin. Do I give Meghan the benefit of the doubt or cast her into a money-grabbing celebrity bucket?

What about the world of business? Spitting Image will not miss Zuckerberg or Bezos. Amazon is a rip-roaring success that Jeff Bezos has worked his ass off to build over 30 years. He deserves his richest man on the planet status right? He started in his garage and has built a global tech giant. Just because his wealth has rocketed during a global pandemic doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy ey? Right place at the right time some would say. He makes it so easy for me to buy stuff online and get the next day. In short, a global entrepreneur. Well done Jeff. Very positive meme there... But, perhaps not.

The gig economy isn’t really providing real jobs that are sustainable with proper wages, holiday pay and benefits. Working in an Amazon warehouse will soon be the realm of ‘oompa-loompas’ and robots as he phases out humans. After all who wants humans? They cost money and complain, right? And Jeff B feels that he is entitled to his wealth as he has had to sacrifice so much in life – poor thing. And here we are again ... I have no clue how to respond to the memes of Bezos and make my own mind up as to whether I like him or not. Perhaps his Spitting Image puppet will tip me one way or the other.

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And this is the wold we live in today. Deep voids that sit between two different realties of “personality” and we are forced to make a decision. And the shades of grey keep being erased so that the decision is binary: love or hate, admire or despise, guilty or not guilty.

As you watch the new Spitting Image series, I wonder what side the creators will come down on. The funny thing is – they are almost always spot on. Keep an open mind...

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