February 19, 2007

Put the brakes on Top Gear's prejudice…

I’m not complaining about the money that they spend on ridiculous stunts (quite good telly sometimes). I don’t even mind that the footage of one of the presenters nearly killing himself was watched by millions. My beef is that Top Gear reinforces our prejudices and stereotypes.

During tonight’s installment, criticism of Kia cars was based on the notion that

The Koreans eat dogs.

There’s also ill-informed nationalism

We are Britain; we are the inventors of everything.

And I don’t think either of these came from the worst culprit, Jeremy Clarkson. I’m sure I could find countless examples of blatant sexism and there were hundreds of complaints about the presenters’ mocking of post-recovery Richard Hammond.

I enjoy the sarcastic banter. I thought the idea of trying to send a Robin Reliant into space was brilliant. I just don’t think it’s a good message for the BBC to be putting out. Clearly, these aren’t the worst things anyone’s ever said and perhaps for tolerant Warwick students it’s all just a bit of misguided fun. My worry is that the audience is a lot wider than that and unquestioning young people can’t help but see this way of speaking as acceptable and maybe even intelligent.

I don’t want to see the programme end. I’m sure the presenters are bright enough to keep producing such otherwise quality output, without resorting to such narrow-mindedness.

- 24 comments by 4 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Actually it was Jeremy who said the bit about the Koreans, and I can’t remember who said the other bit.

    19 Feb 2007, 06:32

  2. My apologies…but my point remains.

    19 Feb 2007, 08:38

  3. I believe it was James May that spoke of Britain inventing things, during the Space thing.

    Not that I’m saying that implying all Koreans eat dogs, but would you be as worried if MrC had put down a car by saying “The French eat Horse” or “The Scottish eat Haggis” ?

    19 Feb 2007, 10:17

  4. Just how much did the rocket cost? It was great to see it fly and a shame it didn’t work.

    19 Feb 2007, 10:54

  5. Chris May

    “Didn’t work” is a relative term of course; it flew up in the air, and then made a massive explosion – in my book that counts as a pretty good result :-) One of their best features so far, I thought.

    I’m quite enjoying this series’ strategy of “don’t do all that boring driving cars stuff, just get three blokes to arse about with engines for a bit”. It’s a bit like ‘scrapheap challenge’ but with a bigger budget.

    19 Feb 2007, 11:26

  6. Allan Smith

    With regards the ‘Koreans eat dogs’ remark by Clarkson, I see it mainly as him playing up this obnoxious, mildly xenophobic persona he has cultivated; however most of the time Richard Hammond or James May will retort with something to make it plainly obvious he’s being ridiculous (I think it was Hammond being bewildered by his insane logic last night, or words to that effect)

    Whether this can be seen as a get-out clause of sorts is down to the individual, of course.

    19 Feb 2007, 13:36

  7. How about a different criticism of a Kia car then? Like they are utterly terrible. I would use an offensive word but I’d rather not. I’ve had Kias, Hyundais, VWs, Skodas, Seats, Vauxhalls and Fords as Hire Cars. I’ve hated the Vauxhalls, I’ve loathed a Hyundai but I’d rather take an MOT free bald tyred 10 year old Cavalier than a 56 plate Kia on a trip of 300 miles. The handling is poor, the brakes are questionable and it’s a sea of grey plastic. Cheap yes, but a year old Focus etc offers far better value and quality for the same money.

    19 Feb 2007, 16:04

  8. Chris May

    Clarkson could have made such a criticism, but it would have been boring.

    Top Gear’s production team have realised that actually the majority of people really couldn’t care how grey or not-grey the inside of a car is, or whether it goes round corners fast, but watching Jeremy do his politically-incorrect Daily Mail reader impersonation is funny, as is watching James do his ‘terribly clever but a bit baffled by all this modern stuff’ act, and so on. Hence the lack of very many items about cars that you might actually buy one day (750BHP convertible dragsters obviously don’t fall into this category).

    So Jeremy sticks his foot in, and the other two cover their mouths and go all wide-eyed about it, the audience gets a good cheap laugh, and the producers get a few more ratings. It’s all good…

    19 Feb 2007, 16:54

  9. Both the comments were relatively funny.
    Talk of it being offensive is ridiculous – it’s a few lads having a laugh. Most of what they say isn’t particularly serious. The smile on James’ face, the tone of voice as he says the British are the inventors of everything, and the laugh of the crowd afterward, is enough to tell you it was a joke – I really do think he does not believe that that is the truth(!) Or does someone have to sit next to you when you watch tv, to tell you everytime someone is making a joke on the programme you are watching?

    Did you watch last week’s episode?
    Why no complaint from you about their stereotyping of the southern United States? It was more ignorant, and not as funny.

    Unless this whole post is a joke, and I’ve been had, and you’ve exposed my gullibility on the issue of liberals getting upset at irrelevant shit. Was it an excellent satire on the twats that continuously feign “being upset/offended” for no apparent reason?

    19 Feb 2007, 23:25

  10. Chris is spot on. I don’t care about cars – I don’t even drive – but I love the Top Gear clowning.

    20 Feb 2007, 09:05

  11. James

    Not that I often find myself in agreement with Vincent, but he’s absolutely spot on here. Who on earth takes Clarkson seriously? He is a bad actor hamming up a part (in an entertaining fashion, I should add) for the show.

    Anyone who can’t see that deserves to get upset, and more.

    There’s an old saying about sticks and stones. A few of the precious viewers should remember it.

    20 Feb 2007, 11:00

  12. I enjoy the sarcastic banter. I thought the idea of trying to send a Robin Reliant into space was brilliant. I just don’t think it’s a good message for the BBC to be putting out. Clearly, these aren’t the worst things anyone’s ever said and perhaps for tolerant Warwick students it’s all just a bit of misguided fun. My worry is that the audience is a lot wider than that and unquestioning young people can’t help but see this way of speaking as acceptable and maybe even intelligent.

    At no point have I suggested the BBC scrap the programme. Nor have I suggested it become a serious car magazine show. I do, however, worry that some people (especially children – now it’s a family show) will hear these views and not be able to see that this flaunting of stereotypes is Clarkson’s big joke. I don’t mind if he wants to make moronic comments to put down a car, but need they be full of nationalist prejudice.

    20 Feb 2007, 22:39

  13. ...and to answer my question on the previous week’s episode?

    What about the level of violence in cartoons, or the sex so prevalent in most commercials on tv? Oh God, our kids are suddenly now having sex, killing people and being racist. Oh God!

    And how far are people responsible for other people’s stupidity?

    21 Feb 2007, 09:50

  14. James

    “need they be full of nationalist prejudice.”

    Why not? Gives a laugh, prompts a reaction … Besides, if Clarkson was putting Britain down (which he does too) would that be a cause for concern?

    It isn’t just the sex, Vincent. It was once observed that there’s so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?

    21 Feb 2007, 10:50

  15. tom

    bq.There’s also ill-informed nationalism: We are Britain; we are the inventors of everything.

    I think that’s more hyperbole than Nationalism. I appreciate that language is becoming ever more scrutinised and sensistive but should we be castigating people for the use of innapropriate Pathetic Fallacy or reckless personification? :-/

    21 Feb 2007, 12:36

  16. Graeme Stewart

    Welcome to the space age! Do Korean dog-eaters have a rocket programme like ours?
    Probably best not to worry about it. IMHO

    I think the Topgear team are just playing with a not even populist aspect of media zeitgeist. I have a picture in front of me of a number of dried dogs strung up in a Korean market place with a young chap sitting waiting for customers. I found it, inevitably on the web.
    Koreans do eat dogs apparently. When I posted this picture on a University humour conference/blog I was asked to move it to the ‘smut’ column and include a warning.
    Now, I am a vegetarian and have been for 33 years (sic). So to me, objectively speaking I have to be able to laugh at the tragic state meat eaters have gotten themselves into generally. James May said, “Did I mention my vegetarianism” when Clarkson presented the three of them with a dead cow for supper in the previous ‘Redneck’ edition. He’s not of course, its stock humour.
    Stereotyping besides, I think what Clarkson says about “Koreans eat Dogs” is more a statement about the relative insanity of the human race as a species than a racial slur. He probably smoked so much tobacco before giving up, that he burnt out a vital part of his brain function that no longer warns him to tone down the motor mouth.
    Personally I love the guy; I think they’re all a fantastic hoot, most of the time.

    But I know that people who work with people for a living, carers, psychologists and that lot, don’t like him, probably because he flaunts a part of the human character that they seek to possess and control, repress or legitimise as they feel uniquely qualified to.

    I mean, how can you eat dogs AND have any appreciation of what a truly good car is about?

    21 Feb 2007, 18:32

  17. Am I the only one who read “British invented everything” as more of a self-referencing joke about the British than some kind of nationalist proclamation?

    I imagine that Korean TV shows wouldn’t shy away from suggesting that Americans enjoy burgers ;)

    23 Feb 2007, 15:13

  18. Of course it was,
    of course they wouldn’t.

    Still waiting on a response from Shapland-Howes on the important question.

    23 Feb 2007, 17:04

  19. James

    The original author informed me that:
    ” Thanks for your criticism…
    I’m not sure my post says that Top Gear offends me. What it does say, however, is that children watching this now family programme might begin to think that talking in this way is somehow acceptable in normal conversation.”

    My reply is : ... and we don’t want that now, do we?

    So best not to let them watch, say, the A-Team either, or they might think it’s ok to say “Crazy Fool”.

    Or the Simpsons, or it’ll be “Don’t have a cow, man”

    Or Gangsta Rap, (shudder), best stick with John Denver. But then he was into faux nationalism, with all that jingoism about West Virginia, and Rocky Mountains in Denver …

    I’m going to stop, as I’m about to agree with Hamid as well as Vincent, and we can’t have that on the one post, surely …

    23 Feb 2007, 21:38

  20. Allan Smith

    I think it’s important that kids know from an early age that Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.

    24 Feb 2007, 03:01

  21. Gareth Herbert

    Ah yes, all us enlightened Warwick students take it for the banter it is, of course, jokes about Koreans eating dogs and Britain inventing everything are dangerous in the hands of the proles, if only we could turn the clock back to the days when these people were illiterate serfs – those were safer times.

    Seriously, it’s utterly innocuous, light-hearted fun and I see a sinister, misguided authoritarianism in all those that argue otherwise.

    27 Feb 2007, 23:39

  22. Robert O'Toole

    Hilarious. Did you not realise that Top Gear is actually a clever and deeply ironic joke? Last year the British people spent almost £46.8bn on new cars. And all they do is sit in traffic jams getting increasingly frustrated as their “vehicular investment” depreciates by the second. Fools.

    Do you not get it? The BBC are taking the piss out of you all! You sit at home on laughing at stupid stunts because you have nothing better to do.

    Here’s a secret leaked to me from a friend at the Beeb. Top Gear is actually written by a team of motorcycling comedy geniuses with the sole intention of demonstrating that every car driver is a retarded moron, laughing like an idiot at stupid pointless stunts while their £63,000 BMW X5 slowly rots away in the garage.

    In real life Clarkson actually does ride a Suzuki Hayabusa. His screen persona is all a brilliant spoof.


    Get a bike.

    28 Feb 2007, 09:48

  23. Bert

    Top gear is one of the last outposts of reality in our pc obsessed world. Anyone watching it and being influenced in a negative way would probably end up doing bad things anyway, since they would likely have no role models to exert positive influence over them..
    I find it highly entertaining because it is saying, in the same vein as The Simpsons and South Park, that everyone needs to stop worrying about whether their words offend and start realising that GETTING OFFENDED by the noises that other animals make is not only foolish, it is decided stupid..

    Long Live Jeremy Clarkson and his provocative ways!! Do we not advise children to ignore tauts from other children, and rise above it? There is a very good reason behind such teachings.

    11 Mar 2007, 20:15

  24. markle

    What about Monty Python? That had all sorts of non-PC stuff in it! Funny how we can laugh about it now, after we have had years to incorporate it (and other provocative TV), into our collective conscience’s!
    One day, we will look back at Top Gear in the light of a nostalgic glow and see it as it was (is) and laugh (probably)

    10 Aug 2007, 01:20

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