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Ahh, Jeremy Clarkson. Last year, you offended Mexicans. This year, you go after the largest English-speaking country and one of the most Internet savvy communities in the world: India.

Credit © BBC

Last month, Clarkson and his “Top Gear” band of idiots filmed their wildly popular show in India. And Jeremy was in rare form as The Guardian reports:

During the 90-minute special, which was aired twice over the Christmas break, Clarkson made a string of jokes about the Indian food, clothes, toilets, trains and even the country’s history.

Incidents during the show included Clarkson driving a Jaguar around an Indian slum with a toilet fitted in the boot, and stripping off his trousers in public in front of two Indian dignitaries to show them how to use a trouser press. He joked that he used it to make naan bread.

Now the Indian High Commission has formally lodged a complaint to the BBC. Oops. The Guardian story continues:

“We have received a letter [of complaint] from the Indian high commission,” said a spokeswoman for Top Gear. “We will be responding directly to them in due course”.

The spokeswoman would not elaborate on the exact nature of the complaints, although a report in the Telegraph says that the high commission letter accuses the show of being “tasteless” and breaking a filming deal.

“The programme was replete with cheap jibes, tasteless humour and lacked cultural sensitivity that we expect from the BBC,” the high commission said in its letter, according to the Telegraph. “I write this to convey our deep disappointment over the documentary for its content and the tone of the presentation. You are clearly in breach of the agreement that you had entered into, completely negating our constructive and proactive facilitation.”

According the the Guardian, the UK’s most racists ambassadors—Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May—pulled their tasteless and lazy humor pranks throughout India. Here is just a snippet:

One stunt involved putting banners with seemingly innocuous slogans – such as Eat English Muffins – on the side of trains. However, the banners were strategically placed so that when the trains carriages split a new, offensive, phrase emerged: “Eat English Muff.”

The train banner stunt included one slogan that said “British IT For Your Company” that transformed into the word “Shit For Your Company”.

The BBC initially received 23 complaints about the show, which attracted five million viewers when it first aired on 28 December, although the spokeswoman said on Thursday that this number has now risen to 188.

Once again, “Top Gear” is playing to the lowest common denominator of bad and racist British humor. There is wit and then there is “Top Gear.” The fact that it is still popular only confirms that Clarkson knows his audience: better to offend with bad and lazy jokes than to try and be a bit more witty and intelligent. Controversy is a part of comedy, but only when it is good. Give us Monty Python any time.

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In the interest of our readers, we created a bit.ly bundle of all the TOP GEAR posts that have been published on this blog in the last week. To see this summary, visit this link: TOP GEAR Summary.

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Kudos to the BBC for actually answering my complaint to them about the TOP GEAR fiasco. I just received a form email from them. However, old media responses just won’t cut it in my opinion, but thanks for the response, BBC Complaints Department! I still don’t agree with you. Bring back Monty Python!

Dear Mr Varela

Thank you for your feedback about the comments made about Mexicans in the Top Gear broadcast on 30 January 2010. The producers of Top Gear have apologised to the Mexican Ambassador for the comments made about him during the show. Whilst the majority of the piece on the Mastretta had been discussed in advance with BBC Editorial Policy staff, the comments about him were ad libbed by the presenters during the recording. The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines are very clear about singling out individuals for irreverent/mocking/ comments. Those guidelines were not adhered to and the Top Gear production team has apologised for this. The comments about the Ambassador have been removed from all repeats of the programme. With regard to the other comments made about Mexicans, these were indeed playing off a stereotype, and that practice is something that regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar with, as the presenters often make jokes about the perceived characteristics of various nationalities when talking about the cars made in those countries. It is something that has been done in the past with the French, the Germans, the Americans and the Italians, so Mexico was not singled out for special treatment in this case. Comments made by the Top Gear presenters are clearly exaggerated for comic effect – to imply that a sports car is no good because it will spend all day asleep is self evidently absurd, and not meant to be taken as vindictive. The Top Gear audience understands this clearly and treats these remarks accordingly.

[SIDENOTE FROM ME: So this is not vindictive? Ok.]

The UK prides itself on being a tolerant nation, but one of the contributing factors towards that tolerance is the fact that jokes made around national stereotyping are commonplace, and are indeed a robust part of our national humour. Typically the most comedic ones are negative – for example our own comedians make material out of the fact that the British are supposed to be terrible cooks, terrible romantics, and forever happy to come second. In fact, some of the more humorous complaints we have received from Mexico are based on stereotypical retorts, with one excellent one in particular referring to the presenters as effete tea drinkers. In line with that British tradition, stereotype-based comedy is allowed within BBC guidelines, in programmes where the audience has clear expectations of that being the case, as it indeed is with Top Gear. Of course it may appear offensive to those who have not watched the programme or who are unfamiliar with its humour. Please accept our assurance that it was not the intention of the programme to offend Mexicans but rather to use a clearly unbelievable stereotype of Mexicans to humorous effect. Thanks again for contacting us. Regards BBC Complaints
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided Kind Regards BBC Audience Services

I still think the apology is lame and their reasons about ethnic humor weak. And for that, BBC, you get a CHORIZO award!


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TOP GEAR co-host Richard Hammond issued a statement from his blog about the recent controversy with the popular BBC program.

TOP GEAR Co-host Richard Hammond

Titled Current News: The Mexican Affair, Hammond writes:

About time I spoke up on the Mexican affair.

Look, I was talking about the cartoon characters in western movies we all watched as kids and I am really sorry if I’ve offended anyone. Yes, we were stereotyping on Top Gear and yes, that can go wrong – as it rather has – but it can also be quite funny and that’s what we were hoping to do. We Brits are often portrayed as clumsy snobs in bowler hats with brown teeth and terrible food. And it’s funny. The BBC knows that and that’s why they’ve stated quite clearly that ‘stereotype comedy is allowed within BBC guidelines in programmes where the audience has clear expectations of that being the case.’ I don’t think anyone will disagree that Top Gear falls into that category.

Nevertheless, if we really have upset anyone, if they really feel I was expressing a genuinely held view that I believed Mexico to be populated by blokes in big hats and moustaches, then I am very sorry. Clearly, I don’t really believe this, any more than I imagine France to be full of amorous cyclists with onions round their necks.

Of course, if I really did believe in these things, don’t you think the joke would rather be on me? RH

As for the other two hosts, Jeremy Clarkson and James May, we have yet to see or read any statements from them. The last words they spoke in public about the incident were these:

Dear Mr. Hammond, we applaud you for trying to come out with a statement, although we find your reasons a bit faulty. However, your last line is actually pretty genuine, and that’s cool. But to bring up Speedy Gonzales as the reason you said what you said? Doesn’t cut it. So, in the end, you will still get THE CHORIZZO award.

UPDATE: Carkson has written about the incident in his column for THE SUN.

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