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Don't Take Jeremy Clarkson Too Seriously

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Don't Take Jeremy Clarkson Too Seriously

Bill Crittenden
March 22, 2014


At the end of the Burmese adventure episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson and crew finished building an actual bridge over the River Kwai.  Clarkson says, "That is a proud moment, but there's a slope on it," as an Asian man is seen crossing over the new bridge.  Now, for those who aren't familiar with the term (and I had only heard it once before), slope is a racial epithet directed at Asian people.

To make the reference more tongue-in-cheek, Richard Hammond responds, "You're right, it's definitely higher on that side."

In any other context, that would have been a really shitty thing to say.  But I think the U.S. adverts for Top Gear (when it was first coming to our shores legally) summed it up perfectly: "it's like Jackass...with cars."  It's supposed to be humorous, and good comedy doesn't follow the boundaries of political correctness.

It fell flat as a joke (as does almost all comedy where privileged whites mock people of color), but I'm not going to categorize Jeremy Clarkson in with the likes of Confederate-flag waving, n-word throwing white supremacists, nor is he even on the level of the guy who tells me he's "never buying a gook car," with actual anger in his voice at the thought of Chinese cars on American roads.  Jeremy's just a comedian that had a groaner of a tasteless joke.

It happens to every comedian occasionally, more frequently if they're pushing the boundaries of taste and working outside of "safe topics."  Have you ever heard the end of Ricky Gervais' "Out of England 2" show?  He explains why comedy should have no boundaries and proceeds to tell the absolute worst joke I've ever heard in my life.  Telling a joke like that doesn't make him a pedophile any more than a bad joke makes Jeremy Clarkson a racist.

Nor does this need to be another international incident.  Jeremy Clarkson is not the Ambassador to Thailand, he's not the Prime Minister, Top Gear isn't the evening news and his level of seriousness on television is more Carrot Top than Sir Attenborough.

If you're taking Jeremy Clarkson too seriously, I think that says more about your issues than his.

In both the incident in question and the example given with a more obvious comedy show, they're just comedians who took a swing and missed.  Lesson learned, both for Jeremy and the folks who had no idea what he was referring to.  Now let's take our newfound knowledge and move on.



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