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Music / Land of Confusion

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"Land of Confusion" is a song from Genesis' 1986 album Invisible Touch, written by Mike Rutherford and dealing with the uncertainties of the Cold War in The '80s. The song was released as the album's fourth single on November 17, 1986 through Virgin Records (who were in the process of absorbing the band's label, Charisma Records) in the UK and Atlantic Records in the US, accompanied by a music video. Said clip is well remembered, because it was maybe the first major music video featuring puppets. Said puppets were made by the creators of the UK-based satirical show Spitting Image, which included puppet caricatures of almost every well-known political figure and celebrity of the '80s. Since the show already had a puppet of Phil Collins made, Phil himself requested the Spitting Image team to make puppets of the other two members of Genesis, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, as well as to re-make his own puppet.

The video starts with an elderly Ronald Reagan (voiced by Chris Barrie) going to bed with his wife Nancy (as well as a chimpanzee), as he suddenly starts having nightmares featuring an army of soldiers stomping through a jungle filled with the heads of many political figures. While Reagan starts sweating profusely (almost drowning in sweat), his other selves in the dreams begins to have strange adventures filled with dinosaurs and more political figures. These scenes are interspersed with puppet versions of Genesis trying to organize a huge concert with almost every big name of 80s showbiz (in a parody of "We Are the World"). In the end, Reagan wakes up from his dreams, but accidentally presses the "Nuke" button, instead of the "Nurse" button, next to his bed.

The video can be viewed here. Not to be confused with the music video of Disturbed's cover of this song.

And these are the tropes we're given:

  • Adaptational Ugliness: Everyone, literally everyone, looks uglier here than they do in real life but probably the most blatant example are Genesis themselves. Phil looks like a squashed tomato, Tony looks like a caricature of Mick Jagger, and Mike is a tall, gawky person with a cartoonishly huge nose.
  • An Aesop:
    • It's only natural to be concerned about the state of the world and worried about the future.
    • You can't always rely on the political establishment to fix things; they don't necessarily know how to solve the world's problems and may even have helped cause them. If you want positive change, you need to work for it yourself.
  • Autocannibalism: Prince is shown applying mustard, ketchup, and a hotdog bun to his own tongue before shoving the whole mess into his mouth.
  • Belly Mouth: Madonna has another mouth where her belly button should be. This may or may not be a reference to a teen pregnancy chronicled in her song "Papa Don't Preach."
  • Big Red Button: The above mentioned "Nuke" button, identical to the "Nurse" button right under it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Reagan, all the time.
  • Celebrity Cameo: By puppets of celebrities, of course.
  • Charity Motivation Song: The final scene, featuring dozens of puppets lip-syncing to the song, is a clear parody of "We Are the World".
  • Cool Old Guy: The Pope is depicted wearing Cool Shades and playing guitar, a trait of his character on Spitting Image.
  • Cosplay: Reagan dresses in his dream as Superman, a caveman, and a cowboy, another reference to his acting career.
  • Creator's Culture Carryover: Ronald Reagan's alarm clock is a 24-hour clock. Such things are common in the UK, where Genesis and Spitting Image were based, but in America are only seen in the military (and sometimes in aviation). In fact, American English generally calls the 24-hour clock "military time". Granted, the President is the highest-ranking member of the American military, but the US civilian sphere almost exclusively opts for 12-hour clocks.
  • Cue Card: The cameo of the Bob Hope puppet shows him unable to even say "I gotta tell ya" without looking at cue cards. (A recurring joke about Hope was that he needed cue cards to say or do anything.)
  • Funny Background Event: During the "concert" scenes in the song's chorus, a puppet version of Phil Collins can be found in front singing, and a second one behind the drums, occasionally standing up from behind to sing the "whoa-ohhh-oh's". The background Phil also is playing drums with the palms of his hands, bongo-style.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Cowboy Reagan doesn't ride a horse. He rides a triceratops.
  • Instant Roast: Nancy Reagan looks out of the window of her White House bedroom at a small bird that flies by, which suddenly bursts into flames and becomes a small roast with a price tag attached to its feet.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Mike Rutherford's puppet, which was later reused as Jesus in later seasons of Spitting Image.
  • Music and Sound Effects: The music video for the song originally featured sound effects and other noises during the song that were dubbed in after filming of the video was complete. While they may not be THAT important, they do complement the video quite nicely, and unfortunately for those who prefer the video that way, they have been removed completely on DVD.
  • Nightmare Sequence: The entire music video is a nightmare in Reagan's mind.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Completely Averted, as would be expected from something produced with the help of Spitting Image. Puppet versions of Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Paisley, Bob Hoskins, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Tina Turner, Richard Nixon, Fran├žois Mitterand, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ferdinand Marcos, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Meryl Streep, Benito Mussolini, Muammar Gaddafi, Ruhollah Khomeini, Marlon Brando, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, Bob Hope, Sylvester Stallone, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Lord Lucan, Robert Maxwell, Konstantin Chernenko, snooker player Steve Davis, Bruce Forsyth, BRIAN BLESSED, Cliff Richard, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen, Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Bette Midler, Hulk Hogan, Prince Edward and Sarah Ferguson, Bill Cosby, Yoko Ono, Sting, Mr. T, Dolly Parton, Pope John Paul II, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Grace Jones, Barbra Streisand, David Bowie and Elton John can be spotted, some only for a few seconds.
  • A Nuclear Error: Played for Laughs. Reagan pushes a button labeled "Nuke" by mistake at the end of the video. Nancy awards Ron a Dope Slap as a response.
    Reagan: That was one heck of a nurse!
  • Protest Song: One about the leadership of the USA and the USSR's continued feuding that fueled the Cold War.
  • Raising the Steaks: At one point, a little bird flies by, explodes in midair and turns into a flying roast chicken. The weird thing is, this is happening during the "reality" portion of the video...
  • Recursive Reality: In his dream, Reagan is watching an episode of Spitting Image.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: In keeping with Spitting Image itself, Reagan is depicted as this. He kisses a chimpanzee after mistaking it for Nancy, is a Failure Hero either when dressed as Superman or a cowboy, is implied to need constant medical care and accidentally sets off a nuke when trying to call a nurse.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Reagan as a caveman throws a bone in the air, spoofing the most famous Match Cut in cinema history, the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The bone falls down and turns into a phone used by Phil Collins to call other musicians, actors etc. for a Genesis concert. Subverted when a gigantic bone lands on some celebrities anyway...
    • The concert itself is a blatant parody of "We Are the World", with the celebrities (some of whom appeared in that song) swaying their heads in unison.
    • Reagan shares his bed with a chimpanzee. This is a reference to one of his earlier films, Bedtime for Bonzo, in which he did just that.
    • One of the clips Reagan watches on TV shows Mr. Spock working on a Rubik's Cube.
    • For some reason there's Popeye among the celebrities in the end.
    • After the verse "My generation will put it right", a Pete Townshend puppet gives a thumbs up to the camera.
    • At the end of the video, Ronald attempts to drink a glass of water, but instead ends up chucking the water behind him, referencing the "drinking problems" gag from Airplane!
    • Reagan pressing "Nuke" instead of "Nurse" is a possible reference to Far Out Space Nuts.
    • Superman: Ronald dons the costume as Genesis ponders, "Oh, Superman, where are you now?"
  • Stock Footage: The shot of a nuclear bomb exploding.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The cynical ending.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Reagan sweats so profusely his bed is submerged, and outside the dream sequence he spends the second verse exhaling bubbles. But he awakens and rises out of the water at the end of the song. Nancy slept through it wearing a snorkel and mask.
  • Take That!: The song hits at governments having skewed priorities. The music video simultaneously hits at the nuclear tensions earlier in the Reagan Administration (which were waning at the point this song and music video were produced), and also at the peaking Charity Motivation Song craze of the mid-80s.
    • Also, as mentioned above, the scene of Bob Hope needing three whole cue cards to read a four-word sentence, which was a less than subtle jab at the relatively common knowledge that Hope was completely useless as a comedian without his team of writers.
  • What Does This Button Do?: "Nurse", not "Nuke"!