Spitting Image returns for 2021 – with a tumultuous year to mercilessly lampoon

By Mason Quah

A YEAR on from the 80s satire’s return to British television, Spitting Image’s second season has come out the gate swinging with a fresh cast of celebrity puppets and a willingness to punch up.

As can be expected from the shows reputation, the political puppets are the stars of the show.

Moments that seem so distant now are brought back into the public consciousness, as Rudi Giuliani’s puppet re-enacts his infamous hair dye meltdown from last year.

The memorable visuals of Giuliani’s face melting have overshadowed in many people’s minds that the speech was about baseless election fraud allegations.

In a post-credits skit, Boris Johnson offers the QAnon Shaman of the January 6 Capitol Riot a position as Education Secretary – a similarly funny moment that is born from a rather disturbing context of white nationalists storming the US halls of Congress.

Punching to the other side of the aisle, Biden’s appearance is as a doddering old man, unwilling to act on any of the numerous issues plaguing America domestically and abroad.

Kamala Harris is meanwhile waiting for an unfortunate accident to off the President and hand her the keys to the country.

While played for laughs in a musical duet with Prince Charles, there was a great deal of fearmongering on the campaign trail towards exactly that possibility.  

Acknowledge the limits of his own mortality, Biden commented on the campaign trail that “She’s ready to do this job on day one.”

However, the show warrants strong criticism for its segment on the coronavirus – which at times leans on Orientalist tropes.

Xi Jinping appears with a cigar in hand and a bat perched nefariously on his shoulder. This far into the pandemic, the bat feels like a strangely old talking point amidst the more contemporary skits on the Texas abortion ban and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Several ideas are played for laughs that underlie more serious discussions that can be held.

A brief skit of two naked mole rats watching nature documentaries raises the often understated point that ugly animals don’t get the same conservation and documentary support and their more photogenic counterparts.

While both the puppets and the animals they’re based on do indeed resemble shrivelled genitalia, we cannot forget that those shrivelled genital rodents are highly resistant to cancer and form matriarchal societies, two things that we could learn a great deal from.

Another sincere appeal masked under several layers of satire is the plea that we do not lose all the self-improvement progress achieved during lockdown, from an increased interest in fitness and local health to a willingness to band together and support our local communities through hard times.

This very genuine appeal from Joe Wicks and Marcus Rashford is interrupted when the former is executed by the Queen for interrupting her pint.

As close as the show is willing to tread towards serious topics, it is at the end of the day a satire and you won’t be disappointed if you watch it with that expectation going in.

Episode 1 is now available to stream exclusively on BritBox, with new episodes to be added weekly.

Featured Image: Britbox

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