Firstly, I’m a huge fan of Top Gear and the presenters. For as long as I can remember the highlight of my week has been Sunday nights at eight. In college I even watched the daytime repeats on Dave. Call it stupid but there was always something refreshing about three old(ish) men who just couldn’t grow up. In the early days Jeremy Clarkson was just an overbearing orangutan with silly curly hair and a motormouth (pun intended). Even James May, labelled Captain Slow and Mr Sensible, was an embodiment of idiocy with constant jokes about his hopeless sense of direction and his increasingly vulgar shirts. The whole show was ridiculous and beautiful. But as the series grew, the show’s ambitions changed.
Pre-Clarkson, the show began its life presented by Angela Rippon in the ’70s. This show can be completely removed from present-day Top Gear as Angela Rippon presented a purely factual car show around motoring itself, rather than fast cars and ludicrous challenges. Common features included service stations, motorway policing and safe driving. A far cry from Jeremy driving million-pound supercars around Grand Prix circuits in Eastern Europe.
With the addition of Jeremy and gang, the show soon rocketed towards its present 3.5 million strong audience. However, you can safely place good money on the fact that half this audience don’t care in the slightest for cars. What they actually want to see is three rich men infuriating each other with constant tomfoolery. It’s rare you’ll see a car worth under £50,000 on the show unless it features in one of the challenges. So why do the public like the show so much when most of them will never see enough money to buy the cars featured in their lifetime?
Simply because Clarkson is charismatic. Like him or hate him, you have to admit he does his job well. He became a caricature of himself with his humour lightening-quick and razor-sharp even at the age of 54. Granted the show is now a series of skits, all planned and rehearsed. But in interviews he still presents a witty conversation. So why did it all turn south so quickly?
Jeremy has been a huge liability to the BBC for a while now. His years in the public eye, heralded as the man of the people, speaking out against politicians in countless instances. His ego and confidence have been filled beyond capacity. Even when approached by the media following his suspension, Clarkson remained calm and simply stated ‘Well I’m off to the job centre now’. An online petition was created for his reinstatement which reached half a million signatures in a matter of hours. The fact is however, Clarkson hasn’t got a leg to stand on.
The argument for Clarkson remains solely as ‘he’s just joking around’. Try and argue with Clarkson’s supporters and you’ll most likely be met with expletives and insults. The fact is, he is nothing but toxic to society. People like him are the exact reason I have trouble identifying as British. As Top Gear is the biggest motoring show in the world and an international sensation, I for one do not want Clarkson as an ambassador for Britain. Once being a colonial empire, it’s hard for Britain to shake the image of racism. Having an old white male northerner who is openly racist, homophobic and sexist is not the picture of Britain we want the rest of the world to see.
For instance, did anybody really find the Falklands-inspired number plate funny? Were you actually creasing up in tears of laughter at the ingenuity of the prank? Or did you actually feel awkward and confused as to how Top Gear had taken such a dark turn. I don’t support what that group of people did to Top Gear in Argentina, but it was easily predictable. In the end they didn’t even portray the number plate as a joke. Instead they played themselves off as victims. And the worst part of all, is that the next show Clarkson pretended he was apologizing, but instead went back on himself and made a further joke about the whole affair. The sheer audacity is tangible and frankly disgusting.
The simple fact of the matter is, there’s no need for the racist comments. The comments themselves only last less than a minute in the show, so add nothing to the production. More than anything, it’s disappointing. Top Gear was a brilliant franchise. It was funny and spectacularly stupid. It earns the BBC millions upon millions of pounds. And now because of a few derogatory comments, the show is forever tainted. You can’t just blame Clarkson alone. The production team aired the comments and the BBC never penalised him. But now things have gone too far.
Of course Clarkson wasn’t suspended because of his comments (as he should have been a while ago). He was actually suspended for punching a producer in the face. To which the response from the half million people who petitioned for his reinstatement was ‘everyone has wanted to punch their boss, he probably deserved it’. This effectively shows that not only is a large majority of the nation inadvertently condoning homophobia, racism and sexism, but also abject violence. Remove the enigma of Clarkson as the protagonist and look at the facts of the situation. Are they really acceptable?