UK satire show Spitting Image has been savaged online after unveiling a puppet of teen climate crusader Greta Thunberg that some claim mocked her autism. With no episodes of the show yet released, others questioned the outrage.
BritBox TV’s reprisal of the political puppet satire attracted major backlash after unveiling its Thunberg puppet on Tuesday – a typically-absurd looking construct exaggerating the pint-size eco-warrior’s furrowed brow, hectoring finger, and braided pigtails.
The show originally ran for 12 years before being canceled in 1996 and is set to return next month with contemporary characters.
While every puppet gets the production’s signature grotesque-caricature treatment, critics on social media nevertheless tore into the still-unaired new series for its portrayal of Thunberg.
The 17-year-old’s autism makes her off limits, many argued.
Misjudged this one folks. She’s an autistic young person. Plenty of people more deserving of your attention.
— Ryan Love (@RyanJL) September 22, 2020
I sincerely hope you will not be encouraging more vicious personal attacks on a young girl with autism.I suspect that that will be the result.So shame on you.Cruelty is not funny.
— angie – Brave New World explorer (@lifelearner47) September 22, 2020
A number of commenters condemned the series for “punching down” without specifying what exactly elevated the youthful Swedish scold above comedic criticism.
I’m old enough to remember when Spitting Image punched up
— Elaine Crory (@ElaineCrory) September 22, 2020
ooh! reeeallly punching up here with some cutting-edged satire, can see this being *great* content, nice one guys
— lottie (@sellottie) September 22, 2020
Others, who’d seen the original Spitting Image, tried to mitigate the outrage, pointing out that not every character who appeared on the show was ruthlessly mocked and worrying about the future of comedy itself.
I wouldn’t blow a gasket just yet. There were always ‘straight’ characters on Spitting Image that gave the writers the opportunity to rip into politicians etc. And she is a public figure, after all.
— Dan Oliver (@danoliver) September 22, 2020
i don’t think there’s any winning for Spitting Image. No one wants to laugh at the thing they care about and no one wants to see others laugh at it either. So as long as no one laughs at anything, everyone will get what they want and be miserable all the time.
— Chris (@onemorechris) September 22, 2020
Several defended the satire, pointing out that Thunberg was a public figure who traveled the world lecturing people on their carbon footprints and thus a valid target.
She has out herself in the public sphere and hold a lot of influence over policy-makers and politicians. It’s perfectly acceptable to satirise her.
— Gary Norwood (@GaryNorwood2) September 22, 2020
But isn’t it the fact that they take the piss out of everyone in the public what makes them so very cool?
— Catherine Russell (@catherinerusse2) September 22, 2020
Ironically, one of those defending Spitting Image was apparently Thunberg herself, who has proven herself able to take a joke much better than her legions of defenders.
If Greta is cool with this, I am too. Ironically, everyone jumping to defend her because she’s a teenager or has autism is doing no one a favor and proving she had thicker skin than all of us. pic.twitter.com/HnWUmSWIhY
— the Laughing Fool (@SeanDStevens1) September 22, 2020
The original Spitting Image directed mockery at politicians of all parties as well as celebrities, royals, and anyone else making news, something that many may find difficult to imagine in hyper-partisan 2020. The show was scheduled to return to the airwaves in 2016 after a special broadcast two years prior, but a fight over certain puppets put it on the sidelines temporarily.
The Thunberg likeness’s co-stars are set to include ex-royals Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, PM Boris Johnson, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump, erstwhile Democratic Socialist presidential challenger Bernie Sanders, rapper/sometime presidential challenger Kanye West, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
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