Why is Jeremy Clarkson so threatened by Meghan Markle?

Meghan is not only living rent free in this man’s head, she could probably wear his skin like a glove. She’s won

Harriet Williamson
Monday 19 December 2022 09:52 GMT
Harry and Meghan Official Netflix Trailer 2

Jeremy Clarkson has a fantasy. No, it’s not about finally finding a car that can increase the size of his genitals. Or being served steak and chips by the BBC 24 hours a day, when he rings a little silver bell. Neither is it about picking up a rifle and shooting striking public sector workers in front of their children – that was back in 2011, do keep up!

This time, he’s lying awake at night, imagining – nay, dreamingof the day when Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is “made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her”.

I didn’t make that line up for effect. I didn’t invent it to hammer home a point about Jeremy Clarkson and the kind of person who is seemingly endlessly rewarded by certain sections of the British media and the viewing public. I don’t think that I could’ve come up with something so vile, even if I was trying to caricature him in the most extreme way possible.

These words are straight from the ex-Top Gear presenter’s mouth (or rather, keyboard). In his column for the Sun newspaper this week, Clarkson told everyone that while he’s “unable to sleep” at night, he grinds his teeth and recreates that scene from Game of Thrones, where Cersei Lannister is humiliated and spat at, dragged naked through King’s Landing while angry bystanders throw s*** at her.

Clarkson has now published a statement via Twitter. He writes: “I’ve rather put my foot in it” as if he’s accidentally let on that someone’s new hairstyle doesn’t suit them, rather than generating 6,000 Ipso complaints and counting. Clarkson calls his words “a clumsy reference” that has “gone down badly with a great many people”. There is no real insight into or acknowledgement of why his column has sparked so much backlash, or why it’s not ever acceptable to share a violent and degrading fantasy in a newspaper about a woman who has been the target of intimidation, harassment and abuse – fuelled in part by coverage in certain sections of the press.

Why do people like Jeremy Clarkson feel so threatened by Meghan Markle? Why did Clarkson write that he hates Meghan in the same breath as he mentioned hating notorious convicted serial killer Rose West? To my mind, the answer is quite clear.

Meghan has refused to remain meekly silent, refused to allow her story to be told by others. She’s spoken her truth and raised up her voice for the world to hear via Harry & Meghan, Netflix’s most-watched documentary ever. It riles Clarkson and his ilk – the Piers Morgans and the Dan Woottons of the world – so much that a beautiful, successful, articulate woman of colour hasn’t just swallowed a sustained campaign of bullying. Instead, she’s held up a mirror to British society, and what we see in it is extremely uncomfortable.

It’s part of an unspoken rule that famous – and non-famous – women should just keep quiet, suck it up and get on with things when we are targets of abuse. Pretend it never happened. Accept it as part of having a public profile. It calls to mind the responses my female colleagues and I get when we highlight the gendered vitriol we received in our jobs. And this abuse is worse for women of colour in media roles, as the misogyny is often fused with racism.

The fact that a privileged man like Clarkson is able to use his platform in a national tabloid to outline how much he despises Meghan – who has shared experiences of racism in the royal household and at the hands of much of the UK press – and share his fantasy about her degradation and humiliation is, frankly, sickening. The sentiment in his column wouldn’t be out of place on 4chan or within an abusive thread by some faceless troll that Elon Musk has reinstated on Twitter.

This isn’t the first time that Jeremy Clarkson has crossed the line, either. Clarkson, lest we forget, punched a BBC colleague because he couldn’t get a hot dinner when he wanted it, and engaged in ableist mockery of the former prime minister Gordon Brown, calling him a “one-eyed Scottish idiot”. The bitter divorced dad energy is not just pitiable and boring – it should raise important questions about who is rewarded and listened to, and why.

Once again, Clarkson has gone too far – but given he’s a 62-year-old white bloke in the public eye, will it even matter? He’s been called out for this abhorrent and misognyistic rant by stars including Carol Vorderman, John Bishop and Kathy Burke. His own daughter – podcast host Emily Clarkson – spoke out on Instagram, writing in her stories: “I want to make it very clear that I stand against everything that my dad wrote about Meghan Markle and I remain standing in support of those that are targeted with online hatred.”

The other bright spot here is that we now know exactly how embedded Meghan is in Clarkson’s consciousness. He’s admitted to lying awake at night, dreaming about her naked, shamed and suffering, because he despises her “on a cellular level”. Meghan is not only living rent-free in this man’s head, she could probably wear his skin like a glove. She’s won.

As for Jeremy Clarkson, who fantasises about humiliating a woman he doesn’t like, he’s nothing more than a national embarrassment. It’s not exactly surprising that violence, harassment and feeling unsafe is a daily reality for women and girls in Britain when a prominent newspaper columnist and TV star feels emboldened to spout scatological degradation fantasies from a public platform.

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