Monday, 12 October 2009

Jeremy Clarkson – voice of the nation or too opinionated for his own good?

Following his most recent rant against television bosses for their obsession with having, in his words, “black Muslim lesbians” on shows in order to balance out the numbers of white heterosexual men, Jeremy Clarkson has shown himself once again unafraid to court controversy. Few would disagree that Clarkson has shown himself to be a bastion of political incorrectness over the years, yet are people beginning to get sick of his aversion to caution and penchant for telling it like it is, no matter who he may offend? Well from a personal point-of-view, I'd have to say no. Whilst I accept that he does have far too much to say sometimes, and acknowledge his lacking any discernable tact, there are few people prepared to be honest and in the simplest terms, ‘call a spade a spade’. Those questioning the lack of female presenters on Top Gear should ultimately accept that they are fighting a losing battle against public opinion. Any attempts to change the Top Gear presenting line-up one including a female appears tantamount to forcing shows such as Loose Women, which has a predominantly female audience, to accept male panellists, as Top Gear is principally directed towards men aged between sixteen and thirty. If anything Clarkson has emerged far more favourably from this incident than those bombarding him with questions and accusations, as he unlike them he tends “not to draw distinctions between men and women” as "girls are just people”, whether at work or on the road.

Politically I would deem Clarkson’s credentials fairly dubious, and whilst I am a member, along with 515,936 others, of the ‘Jeremy Clarkson should be Prime Minister’ group on Facebook, one could imagine his potential policies to be right-wing bordering at times on mildly fascist. Yet on the issues of political correctness and common sense his views are mostly spot on. Top Gear is one of the most popular shows in the BBC’s canon, and frequently gains 8 million viewers when screened on BBC2. The success of the television channel Dave is very much a testament to Top Gear’s enduring popularity, as it is arguably the channel's flagship show. The BBC frequently receives complaints on almost a weekly basis about either the nature or content of Top Gear or any 'controversial' comments made by Clarkson. Seemingly some members of the public have failed to grasp the idea that it is supposed to be entertaining as well as factual. To me there is a very simple solution to this problem; if anyone takes exception to the way in which Clarkson expresses his views, or happens to object to what he says, they should not watch his television show. Life must have become truly boring if all some people have to do is watch a show they do not like or fundamentally disagree with to hear the views of a person they do not like simply in order to have something to complain about. People ought to understand that Top Gear isn’t a show about ‘environmentally-friendly’ cars such as the frankly dangerous and terrible G-Wiz or the Toyota Prius, which actually does significantly more damage to the environment due to the transport costs involved in its creation. It is up to those involved with Top Gear to decide its content, not the narrow-minded 'moral majority'.

Yet no matter how passionately Clarkson is defended by people with sufficient mental faculties to acknowledge that his comments are mostly said in jest, there will always be those who take what he says far too seriously. The latest of these has blasted Clarkson for fuming about political correctness and his unjust (in her view) ownership of a Ferrari, amongst other things. She argues that Top Gear should be “more representative of British society”, yet the fact is that Top Gear's huge popularity shows that it actually is representative of British society. I think its safe to say that eight million people comprise a large proportion of the British population, and significantly outweigh the number of those objecting to the show and its content. She goes on to ask where the disabled community is on Top Gear and television generally, in some ways a fair question, but once again the disabled community is far smaller than the ‘white heterosexual’ one being objected to. I’d also love to be told exactly which “sad, old stereotypes” Top Gear is reinforcing; maybe she feels the time has come for television to cease being interesting, entertaining and worth watching and be replaced by mind-numbing, politically-correct, inoffensive, safe, dull viewing for those recovering from or about to receive a lobotomy. Whilst she deems Jeremy Clarkson to be someone who “makes a living from being gratuitously offensive”, and assumes he would tease any female co-presenter on air, I would question whether she has any evidence to support this assertion. Even the chief executive of Eddie Stobart, Andrew Tinkler has acknowledged that Clarkson’s joke referring to the murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich by a truck driver was “used to comically exaggerate and make ridiculous an urban myth about the world of lorry driving” and “not intended to cause offence”. At least there are still those who have managed to retain a modicum of common sense and the ability to appreciate humour.

I personally hope Jeremy Clarkson remains on our television screens for many years to come and continues to speak out against those who are constantly attempting to strangle the reasonable expression of views and individuality that makes people like Clarkson and shows like Top Gear such an important part of society. It seems people are too easily offended nowadays, and need to be wrapped up in cotton wool in order to be protected from real people with real opinions. It would be a sad day if the BBC were to betray Clarkson and cancel Top Gear, and I for one would refuse to watch any BBC programming were this to happen. Clarkson’s success comes because he says what people are actually thinking, and isn’t afraid to break the oppressive glass of political correctness surrounding him. He isn’t the one making equality an issue; this is done by the people who constantly emphasise the differences between us. Employing quotas in order to shoehorn a specific group of people into a profession seems incredibly patronising, as it suggests that they are unable to decide for themselves or succeed without the help of others. If it ever happens that our nation becomes one in which offence is avoided like the plague and equality becomes inequality, as positive discrimination constitutes, then we have lost everything we ought to value. For me, this is what Clarkson is trying to protect against; the liberal tide that seems to consider alienation a small price to pay to make sure that every conceivable minority is represented on television.

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