Cheap Seats 2016
The Boys are Back - 11/30
By Rich Trzupek
Hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, along with producer Andy Wilman turned the iconic BBC motoring show Top Gear into the most successful show in the network’s line-up. At its peak, Top Gear generated 50 million pounds of profit per year for the BBC and was seen in over 200 countries around the world. It was a phenomenon.
Everything fell apart in 2015 when Clarkson punched one the show’s producers and the BBC decided not to renew his contract. May, Hammond and Wilman then declined to remain in the BBC stable.
I don’t think Clarkson is especially proud of striking the producer, but nor do I think that he or many of the show’s millions of fans attribute nearly as much importance to the incident as the BBC. Yes, acting out with violence is always a bad thing, but one should maintain a sense of perspective.
For me, versions of religions that encourage and defend “honor killings” of females who behave “immorally” are a bit more concerning than a television host slugging somebody in a moment of anger. For me, the slaughterhouse that gang warfare has brought to the streets of my hometown of Chicago is somewhat more troubling than Clarkson and Company getting another show.
And, get another show they did. Grand Tour debuted on Amazon Prime a couple of weeks ago. I very much enjoyed it. But, as is my wont, I was curious what human beings who are not me thought of it, so I poked around this interwebs thingy all the cool kids are using to see what people who are not me were saying. And that’s where I ran across Sonia Saraiya, television critic for Variety.
Now, by definition, any position that includes the word “critic” necessarily involves an opinion and Ms. Saraiya is of course entitled to express hers in any way she wants. I did find it remarkable however that she felt obligated to not only review the actual show, but to also review white males in general and the white male who will be moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW next January in particular.
You can find Ms. Saraiva’s entire review on-line and some of it is actually complimentary to the show, but she reserved the two most important parts of her, or any, story – the lead and the close – to vent her frustrations with American society and its President-elect.
“If there is one lesson to be learned in 2016, it is that white men in media have a free pass to fail upward with impunity. Corey Lewandowski assaulted a reporter and got a job at CNN; Roger Ailes sexually harassed women at Fox News for decades and got a position as a senior strategist for Donald Trump’s campaign. And our president-elect himself… well. It appears that we have a truly extraordinary capacity for forgiveness.
For Jeremy Clarkson, who physically and verbally assaulted a BBC producer and was subsequently let go from the massively popular show “Top Gear,” forgiveness comes in the form of a lush upgrade: “The Grand Tour,” from Amazon Studios, which preserves nearly everything about the BBC show’s gearhead enthusiasm, international adventuring, and swaggering masculinity.”
Because, you know, only white conservative males get to take advantage of our extraordinary capacity for forgiveness – which I kind of think is an attribute, while Ms. Saraiva seems to believe it’s an indictment. It’s not like left-leaning entertainers ever get a free pass when they are cruel to their partners, sing horribly misogynist songs, abuse drugs, promote violence and a seemingly endless list of other horrible behaviors that, had a white male committed them, would result in journalists like Ms. Saraiva tripping over each other in the race to condemn him.
And, the close:
“Literature isn’t far from Clarkson’s mind, either. While complaining about the “boring” feel of a rather nice-looking white Porsche, he says to Hammond: “It was like being stuck in a Victorian women’s novel.”
There is something to marvel at in this sentence. It cannot be questioned without belying that by doing so, you care — about women, about novels, about Victoriana, all of which are just about feelings, while cars are about doings. Though this is beside the point, I doubt that Clarkson has ever read a tempestuous Gothic novel, which of course would imply a female audience anyway; novels began as a female art form. Or is he here to say that a Victorian novel written by a man would be less boring? (Students slogging through “Oliver Twist” might disagree.)
No, the important thing in the sentence is that Clarkson can use it to make someone feel bad — bad, or hurt, or at least provoked. It is just a method of establishing strength. What matters is the engine on the road — speed and strength traversing the world — and awing those who cannot afford it with expensive cars and exotic locales. Never mind that the more “The Grand Tour’s” drivers drive, the less exotic world there is left to drive through; never mind that on the other side of remaking the world is the responsibility of taking stewardship over it.”
No, Ms. Saravia, Jezza wasn’t trying to make you feel bad, he was making something we old-timers call “a joke” and – had you not been educated by a broken system that defines the world in terms of the oppressed and their oppressors – you might have been able to reconcile yourself with the fact that Clarkson pokes fun at everyone on planet earth, including old white American males like me. If you are truly unbiased you have two choices: everyone is fair game or no one is. I believe the world is a far more interesting place when people choose the former.
Picking out Clarkson’s throw-away line about a Victorian women’s novel and using it as the focal point for your determination to be offended is as pointless and petty as if I chose to make the focal point of this column you erroneously describing an over-flight of jet-powered trainers as “a formation of fighter jets”.
This, unfortunately, is what the next four years are going to look like in the MSM universe. Everything and anything will be about the white-male oppression that Donald Trump supposedly represents. I’ll offer one gentle word of advice to Ms. Saravia and her like-minded colleagues: as Sigmund Freud famously observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.