A glimpse into modern life through    the work of Steve Cutts

Barry Kavanagh (Tohoku University)

Steve Cutts is an illustrator and animator from the UK. He can be described as a social media Banksy. Much like Banksy, his artwork is a satirical commentary on the excesses of society.

His work is inspired by vintage cartoons of the 1930’s and graphic novel art. His most notable animations that have been watched millions of times on YouTube include ‘Happiness’, ‘The Turning Point’ ’Man’ and ’Man 2020’.

These short animations have no dialogue but use a soundtrack that compliments a visual feast that conveys multiple messages in each frame. In this respect, the adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is very much applicable here. His animation ‘Happiness’ looks at how we have become a rat race consumed by materialism and are never satisfied with what we have. ‘The Turning Point’ examines a world where humans and animals have changed places and it is humans who are on the verge of extinction. The video is a damming comment on what mankind has done to its environment but from the perspective and position of animals. ‘Man’ follows similar themes and portrays 500.000 years of destruction that man has caused the world from his contempt of the environment and cruelty to animals that stems from viewing the world as something that is to be consumed.

His sequel, ‘Man 2020’ sees our protagonist in lockdown at home with a huge amount of toilet roll in the background. Animals outside are rejoicing in a festival of song and dance as man’s absence has meant that nature has had a chance to flourish. However, it ends with man leaving his house and killing a bug in the process. The animals are seen to quickly vanish in fear as man once again is back to his old bad habits after lockdown. This video is a satirical take on the recent events that have surrounded the COVID-19 pandemic and reminiscent of news stories that illustrated how the environment and nature thrived when we were all under lockdown or running out to buy toilet paper based on the spread of misinformation on social media.

I have used the animations of Steve Cutts in content-based lessons that have looked at global issues, consumerism, media literacy and SDGs. Students have found them intriguing and with the right amount of context and scaffolding these animations can complement content or theme-based classes. English lessons can be made around these animations and be used as a tool for critical thinking and debate.

His work can be found freely on YouTube or at his website