Notes on Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson

Words by Afam
I love Top Gear. Back when I was away for school, my mum, the esteemed and extremely singular Mama Afam, would phone me and say, "Afam, my dear chap, you really should pick up your phone more often. I've had to start watching Top Gear to bridge the gap." That statement echoes two things. The first is that I'm terrible with my phone. Whenever anyone calls me I feel inclined to run the thing over with a tractor. The second is that I used to watch Top Gear so much that she'd often find me giggling in front of the television at three in the morning. 

Back then, Jeremy Clarkson was a god, and his cronies, Richard Hammond, and James May were the cool dodgy uncles I'd never had. That's not to say that my uncles aren't cool and dodgy, it's just to say that it is always better when the dodgy uncle is only thrust upon you when you choose to sit in front of the television for an hour. After the hour is up you can go and do other things. In real life dodgy uncles don't go anywhere. This paragraph is general. My uncles are actually not very dodgy at all. There's one that's a little bit dodge, but I love him for it. He took me drinking the night before I graduated. Walking up to the podium with the sort of hangover that makes you wish for death wasn't ideal, but that was two years ago. He is forgiven. 

My blind love for the show died a bit when I watched that now infamous outtake where Jeremy said something that sounded awfully like, "Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, Catch a Nigger by the toe." It was easy to laugh it off and think, "Haha! Classic British humour. Dry as a bone, scathing as vinegar." But then I remembered that this one wasn't about Mexicans being lazy, feckless, flatulent and overweight, and it wasn't about referring to a Thai man as a slope - a derogatory term for people of Asian descent, it was about me. Nigger generally isn't the term I'd use to describe myself, but the shoe fit, and it stung. It didn't sting enough for an op-ed, but it stung enough for me to restrict all Top Gear viewing activities to times when there was absolutely nothing else to watch. And then it inspired me to take my fears that Jeremy wasn't actually that good for my daily bouts of escapism and accent touch up to the internet (wikipedia and casual research) and what I found wasn't pretty. 

In 2008, he made a joke about Lorry drivers murdering prostitutes. In 2009 he said that  TV bosses were consumed with the idea of having "black Muslim lesbians" on shows to balance white heterosexual men. In 2011 he said that workers participating in a strike at the time should be executed in front of their families, and in 2014 he named his black puppy Didier Drogba. Any one of those would have been forgivable if there'd only been one of them, but all of these seemingly random, seemingly offhand, seemingly well intended, seemingly done for the purpose of entertainment comments raised a definite flag. I'd met his type before. It's the type that cracks the, "What do you say when you see your television floating at night? Drop it nigger!" joke. It's the type that sees you on the street and says, "Solomon! Where is the diamond?". It's the type that you must avoid if you see yourself as more than a stereotype with a punchline hanging over your head.

So when the news of his latest misdemeanour broke I wasn't surprised. To be honest he always seemed like the type to lose his head in a temper and punch somebody. The day after, I heard about the fast growing petition to remove his suspension. That too was unsurprising, we love our television idols so much that we'd even forgive them of murder. His firing too was expected, I didn't see how he could do what he did and keep his job. It is honourable that he reported his irrational behaviour himself, and it is great that he attempted to apologise but that doesn't excuse what he did. The only thing about the whole situation that I found surprising was the response that Oison Tymon (the victim) got on social media. Some of the more tame tweets about him are as follows. I didn't choose any of the ones with swear words, because I'm fairly convinced that swearing is bad for you. 
Talk about blaming the victim! I think the entire thing is an honest to God tragedy but talent should never be an excuse for inappropriate behaviour. To support Clarkson in the way that these fans have would be the same as trolling the women that called out Bill Cosby for his alleged abuse. If he disliked that Oison brought him cold food that much, he should have fired him (I'm fairly sure he's got enough clout to see a producer transferred elsewhere). Your boss can't flog you because you miss a deadline! Sometimes, the internet is great, but this time, I think it missed the mark.

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