Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Is this racist?

I know that Top Gear is deliberately designed to wind up non-driving liberal lefties like me, but is it really OK for Richard Hammond and friends to say stuff like this on television?

"Why would you want a Mexican car? Because cars reflect national characteristics don't they?
"Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat."
Jeremy Clarkson and James May went on to describe Mexican food as "refried sick". Clarkson, who has repeatedly been criticised for making offensive comments on the programme, said on Sunday's show there would be no complaints this time because the Mexican ambassador would: "be sitting there with a remote control like this,". The presenter pretended to slump in a chair, snoring.

Britain has a long tradition of racist comedians - Davidson, Manning, perhaps Jimmy Carr, but mainstream society has moved on. The detail of this one really does put it beyond the pale: it's not a quick gag laughing at stereotypes: it's a complete list of them.

I know many of you think I'm humourless, but I really don't see why three publicly-funded bullies can say this kind of thing. If it was Davidson or Manning, or the remarks were addressed to black people or the Scots, there would be public anger. Instead, all that's happening is a stiff letter from the Ambassador, who is wide awake and not very happy.


Connie said...

Of course it's racist but they get away with it because nobody with an IQ over 100, or a mental age of 10 takes them seriously. And that's the point. People laugh at them because they're three silly boys in men's bodies.

The audience are sophisticated enough (I hope!) to realise their comments say something about them and not about Mexicans. And however politically correct we're supposed to be, I think the UK are ridiculously xenophobic. Maybe this was just being acknowledged and caricatured? Of course, I may just be over-analysing the whole thing and revealing myself as someone who needs to get out more.

Incidentally, re Bernard Manning: in Perth, Australia (where else?!) there's a street called Bernard Manning Drive in his honour. Make of that what you will.

Ewarwoowar said...

Blossom and Vole - I love the fact that you acknowledge what the programme is, but then fall for it spectacularly, which to be honest just makes it even more fun.

The Plashing Vole said...

I see your point Ewar, but I think there are limits even for this kind of show. The pretext was a picture of a Mexican car - that's all. Are we saying that any kind of abuse is allowed as long as there's a 'funny' context. Replace Mexican with 'black' or 'Jewish'. Still funny?

Ewarwoowar said...

I'm not saying that at all, and the comparison, in my opinion, is misguided.

In this particular instance, the crux of the joke is that these people are characters - Jeremy Clarkson plays "Clarkson", the obnoxious bore who reads The Daily Mail, hates Germans, longs for the English empire and makes these awful stereotypical comments. The joke is based on his bigotry, not on the Mexicans. Remember Alf Garnett? It's the same principle.

One of the most boring and ghastly debates of all time is the "what can/cant people say anymore?" nonsense. Have you gone through life without making a stereotypical comment about a nation? If you genuinely have, I'll be impressed. If you haven't, how would you feel if I replied back with "would that be funny if it was about blacks/Jews" etc? You wouldn't think it was comparable, would you?

Connie said...

For goodness sake. Firstly Ewar you missed my point. I do not find Top Gear offensive or 'fall for it' because I KNOW that Messrs Hammond, May and Clarkson want us to laugh at them! I watch Top Gear with my lads and find it very funny. They pick on each other just as much as pick on other groups- yes they are racist and they get away with it because they will turn their abuse on each other just as quickly. They are not trying to field public opinion to think like they do, they are just trying to entertain in their laddish way.

And Vole- they did not make their comments about black people or Jewish, so chill. If they did make comments about the Jewish community and they jokingly made reference to the holocaust, yes it would be offensive, but they're more likely to say a Jewish owned car has the Torah in the glovebox. If they mocked slavery then again, that would be offensive, but they would probably say that a car made by the black community would have a larger than average gearstick, and I for one would buy such a car. They mocked the British view of the Mexican stereotype. That is all.

Sorry if I appear grumpy- it's just a phase...

Ewarwoowar said...

Everything I was trying to say, but expressed in a smarter way. Well said, Blossom!

Connie said...

Why thank you, Mr Woowar.