I love the show Top Gear. I own many of the DVD’s, went to see the live show in Birmingham and for a Christmas present, my family all chipped in and bought me the opportunity to be driven around the Top Gear Test Track by The Stig.
Me with the Stig in a Porsche GT3
When the show was cancelled after Jeremy Clarkson punched a producer, I was gutted but I fully understood why the BBC did it. It wasn’t just a case of it being Clarkson’s last chance, but he assaulted someone. In any line of work that’s a sackable offense (though technically he wasn’t sacked, the BBC simply chose not to renew his contract)
So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced yesterday that Jeremy, along with fellow ex-Top Gear presenters James May and Richard Hammond, are making a new car show to be shown on Amazon Prime. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to see what these guys were going to come up with. I saw no issues with it. Amazon are well within their rights to offer him a new contract and my response to those who say “he punched someone, I wouldn’t be working again” was “you wouldn’t be working for that employer, it doesn’t mean that you would never work again. Same here for Clarkson” But note the past tense.
As I was discussing this on Facebook with Sarah and a mutual friend, something dawned on me; there seems to have been virtually no uproar to this. No petitions, no angry blogs; nothing and then the thought struck me. If Clarkson had assaulted a woman, what would the reaction to yesterdays news have been? I suspect the answer to that would be the polar opposite to now; miles and miles of opinion columns dedicated to it. It would be very easy for me to now take the moral high ground and get on my soap box about how assault is assault and just because it was a man that was assaulted doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. But I can’t because my response was not one of anger, as I said I was excited at the news; and I know I would be all over the angry blogs and petitions if it was a woman that Clarkson assaulted. But because it wasn’t, my reaction shows that its OK because it was a man that got assaulted. My work with the Great Men Project is partially about showing boys that there are other ways than resorting to violence, that men and women are indeed equal and assault does matter regardless whether a man or a woman is the abuser or the victim My reaction to Clarkson coming back actually undermines all this as my friend made me painfully aware of. It’s case of me contributing to the very problem I’m trying to solve.
There have been many things written about how public figures can assault people and seemingly not lose any status, can come back to the public limelight almost immediately and this is what has happened here. As my friend said, what does rewarding this kind of person teach people? The answer is that if you are a popular celebrity, you can get away with almost anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in second chances when people have admitted guilt and are working to change; this is why I had no problems with Dwain Chambers coming back to compete after his ban for failing a drugs test. Jeremy Clarkson admitted he was in the wrong but that doesn’t mean he should be able to effectively pick up where he left off. If the message that assaulting a woman doesn’t mean you lose your status, the non-reaction to yesterdays news that actually assaulting a man doesn’t mean a loss of status either has now joined that message.
The Independent, to it’s credit, is asking whether people should cancel in protest but how many will and how many more will subscribe because they have Clarkson making a show for them? For my part I won’t be subscribing to Amazon Prime though I’ll probably going to end up watching the new show by another method because I love the work the 3 of them do, probably further proof that I act on my convictions when it suits me so I can’t really be surprised or angry when I’m not the only one to do so. But maybe I should be angry at myself, maybe we should all be angry that a man who carried out an assault is now pretty much immediately back in the limelight and be asking Amazon to reconsider their decision.
But I’ll take at least anger as a starting point.