The mention of Jeremy Clarkson’s name in any sentence is likely to stir in many people what can best be described as a mixed reaction. This Sunday Times columnist and TV presenter could be described as a taboo buster, but to me, he’s just dull.
I’m not a petrol head, or part of the BBC’s key and highly lucrative demographic, so when I hear about yet another controversial situation which this tall man of Chipping Norton finds himself in, just for his sniggering fans to drool over, I feel a bit bored.
Yes Jeremy, we get it. You think people who look different are funny; you think people who are different by virtue of their disability, are funny; you think the foreigners are funny; you think people who strike are funny; you think people who care about things that you don’t care about are funny.
Basically, it seems if someone isn’t you or one of your mates then they are not just funny, but a legitimate target of your ire.
Clarkson will wield his considerable power not just to attack, belittle or decry those who he feels entitled to criticise or ridicule, but he does so from a comfortable place of entitlement.
The fact that Clarkson does so from within the walls and with the protection and support of the BBC begs the question: who does the nation’s broadcaster seek to represent?
The non-apology apology occasionally doled out to complainants of Clarkson’s behaviour are reminiscent of a genial childless uncle remonstrating gently with their relative, and suggesting that others should calm down and cheer up.
Those who pursue complaints are simply branded humourless and told so in replies from the public broadcaster which tend, in my experience, to begin with the classic phrase: “We are sorry if you were offended”.
Clarkson does not offend me. I’m just bored of middle-aged rich white men trying to act like their adolescent fan base and looking like menopausal fools.
I’m embarrassed for them.
It’s not just that the jokes Clarkson tells and Hammond and May laugh along to play on stereotypes of entire groups (Mexicans, learning disabled people or those with mental health problems) it’s that in telling them, in laughing at them, these men look foolish.
Given the deal Clarkson signed last week with the BBC (Clarkson and his Top Gear co-presenters have signed a highly lucrative three-year deal to continue hosting the programme) it seems the profitability of mocking for money is an end in and of itself.
It’s a sad truth that where we as consumers have moved away from the shock value of sexual exploitation as a selling point, now it seems that the currency of cruelty speaks loudest.
All it takes is a curly mullet, some stonewashed denims and a couple of giggling pals playing the free speech card and those cash registers rattle and fill on a perma-loop.
Critics are silenced or ignored, but it takes determination to push the behemoth that is a national broadcaster to an integrity-based decision.
Confronted by genuine and repeated concerns, the top floor of this esteemed institution, this public body that have a requirement in law not to degrade or disparage those with human rights, such as disabled people, have decided to uphold a complaint.
The corporation ruled that comments by the BBC's highest-paid star, in which he compared a Toyota Prius camper van to people with "growths" on their faces, were in breach of the BBC's guidelines on harm and offence.
With viewing figures in one hand and merchandise deals in the other, it can’t be easy for the BBC to stare down those like me who love them. The BBC is to me quite simply one of the best broadcasters in the world. I don’t see the business, I see the legacy of quality programming. The corporation is not one unit, but many strands which have all been contaminated by the actions of a “fearless funboy” and his giggling mates.
The mantra of “inform, educate and entertain” is now being manipulated and damaged by celebrities who couldn’t give a damn.
This is the first time in four years that a complaint against Mr Clarkson has been upheld – since he was seen sipping gin and tonic on a drive to the North Pole.
The time to stand up for the many, and not the privileged few, is now. I applaud the BBC on their decision and hope they continue to follow through with complaints that offend their viewers.
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