Posts Tagged ‘Steve Coogan’

Lord Michael Grade

The criticism coming out the UK towards the TOP GEAR Mexican fiasco continues.

The Digital Spy reported this morning that Lord Michael Grade, BBC chairman and executive chairman of ITV from 2007 to 2009 , spoke to the The Daily Telegraph about the BBC car show and its co-host, Richard Hammond, who on the January 30 TOP GEAR episode called Mexicans “lazy, feckless [and] flatulent,” leading to an international incident between the Mexican government and the BBC. The BBC eventually apologized, but the social media space is still very active and it appears that criticisms against the TOP GEAR hosts will not end. Lord Grade joins Manchester United star Chicharito, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and UK comedian/actor Steve Coogan in slamming the infamous Mexican segment, presented here.

The Digital Spy posted the following about Lord Grade:

Lord Grade, the former head of ITV, told The Daily Telegraph: “I don’t think that’s acceptable in this day and age.

“That was disgraceful, it was horrible. How dare he [Richard Hammond] sit there, [on] prime-time television, casting aspersions on a whole nation.

“What’s he going to do next, talk about the Jews making money? Or the slitty-eyed Chinese, like the Duke of Edinburgh? I’m not a PC fascist, but it seemed to me to take us back to the dark ages of television.”

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This TOP GEAR story just won’t go away. And even though the BBC issued an apology, the criticisms continue to stream in from around the world. Now, the TOP GEAR hosts—Jeremy  Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May—are taking their lumps from their own countrymen.

Steve Coogan, a rather well-known comedian and actor in the UK, wrote a commentary published in Saturday’s edition of THE GUARDIAN, saying that Top Gear’s offensive stereotyping has gone too far.

Steve Coogan (©Rex Features)

After stating that he is a “huge fan” of TOP GEAR and that he has made three appearances on the show (and he highly doubts he will make a fourth now), Coogan writes:

I normally remain below the parapet when these frenetic arguments about comedy and taste break out. But this time, I’ve had enough of the regular defence you tend to hear – the tired line that it’s “just a laugh”, a bit of “harmless fun”.

Coogan continues to summarize the comments the hosts made, which can been seen in this video segment from the controversial episode:

He then makes what we think is the most central part of his argument:

OK, guys, I’ve got some great ideas for your next show. Jeremy, why not have James describe some kosher food as looking like “sick with cheese on it”? No? Thought not. Even better, why not describe some Islamic fundamentalists as lazy and feckless?

Feel the silence. They’re all pretty well organised these days, aren’t they, those groups? Better stick to those that are least problematic.

Old people? Special needs? I know – Mexicans! There aren’t enough of them to be troublesome, no celebrities to be upset. And most of them are miles and miles away.

After describing the BBC’s apology as “mealy-mouthed” and “pitiful,” Coogan chastised the network for using traditional examples of European humor as a weak excuse and claims that TOP GEAR right now is the network’s most popular export and its “public face.”

He continues:

The [BBC’s] hand-wringing suggested tolerance of casual racism, arguably the most sinister kind. It’s easy to spot the ones with the burning crosses. Besides, there is not a shred of truth in Top Gear‘s “comic” stereotype. I can tell you from my own experience, living in the US, Mexicans work themselves to the bone doing all the dirty thankless jobs that the white middle-class natives won’t do.

Coogan also makes some salient points when he writes:

There is a strong ethical dimension to the best comedy. Not only does it avoid reinforcing prejudices, it actively challenges them. Put simply, in comedy, as in life, we ought to think before we speak. This wasn’t one of those occasions. In fact, the comments were about as funny as a cold sweat followed by shooting pains down the left arm. In fact, if I can borrow from the Wildean wit of Richard Hammond, the comic approach was “lazy”, “feckless” and “flatulent”.

As for the comments about overreactions and the “political correct police,” Coogan writes:

It’s not entirely their fault, of course. Part of the blame must lie with what some like to call the “postmodern” reaction to overzealous political correctness. Sometimes, it’s true, things need a shakeup; orthodoxies need to be challenged. But this sort of ironic approach has been a licence for any halfwit to vent the prejudices they’d been keeping in the closet since Love Thy Neighbour was taken off the air.

Coogan closes with this paragraph, which, quite frankly, was the original reason we wrote our first blog about this just a few days ago:

Gentlemen, I don’t believe in half-criticisms and this has nothing to do with my slow lap times. But, increasingly, you each look like a middle-aged punk rocker pogoing at his niece’s wedding. That would be funny if you weren’t regarded by some people as role models. Big viewing figures don’t give you impunity – they carry responsibility. Start showing some, tuck your shirts in, be a bit funnier and we’ll pretend it all never happened.

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