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This Top Gear Mexican Furore. What on Earth?

I have been a long-time Top Gear viewer and I know there is casual xenophobic remarks. You deal with them as they offend everyone and also offend each other. It is part of the nature of the show and of real life. If people don’t think they offend others then they are nave in the extreme. We all have opinions whether they be about chavs, teenage mums, Essex boys/girls, whatever. We all have them and whilst they are our opinions as a blanket rule we don’t use them to pigeon-hole a person if we meet them.

I know teenage mums and some of them are terrific. I know chavs and some of them aren’t anywhere near as bad as what the media says. I live in Essex and some of the people purposefully live up to their stereotype and they like it, some of them detest it. Casual stereotypes are just a part of life and people who don’t see that I often feel are chronic deluded.

I missed Top Gear last week as it clashed with the American Football but I recorded it and caught up with it later. Was there any complaints that the Australian Top Gear presenters were forced to arrive in a prison van? Were there any complaints where they made them drive upside down in one of the challenges? I don’t recall reading about any. Is that because casual xenophobic remarks about Aussies are ok?

The remarks made by the Top Gear team are as follows (courtesy of The Guardian):

Hammond: …Cars reflect national characteristics, don’t they, so German cars are very well-built and ruthlessly efficient, Italian cars are a bit flamboyant and quick, a Mexican car’s just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight… (laughter) leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle as a coat.

May: It is interesting, isn’t it, because they can’t do food, the Mexicans, can they? Because it’s all like sick with cheese on it, I mean… (laughter)

Hammond: Refried sick!

May: Yeah, refried sick.

Hammond: I’m sorry, but just imagine waking up and remembering you’re Mexican: ‘awww, no’. (laughter)

Clarkson: No, it’d be brilliant… because you could just go straight back to sleep again.

What here is personally offensive in any Mexicans? I like Mexican food but it does look like sick. All Hammond said it his opening remarks was portraying a national stereotype. Whether it was funny or not only the individual can decide but was it genuinely offensive? I think you’d need pretty strong blinkers on to say that it was.

I have also read that a Mexican student wants to sue the show and the BBC for up to £1million because he was personally offended. The 30 year-old has said, “I have never had a bad experience in the UK due to my nationality. I do not understand how such ignorant people hold such high-profile jobs.” I ask myself, ‘Was it really such a bad experience?’ and ‘You are a 30 year-old man – grow up you little so n so.’ Do I sue The Simpsons when they constantly go on about the British having bad teeth and being involved in soccer violence all the time? I don’t believe I do.

The Mexican government are getting involved as they are considering suing the BBC for potential loss of tourism. What bull. This is the best type of advertising the country could get being constantly in the media. With lots of people who believe they are above Top Gear and childish humour saying great things about Mexico and Mexicans just to prove a point that they are better than that.

People need to stop taking things too seriously. If it wasn’t for the media telling us we were appalled then we wouldn’t be. Is this what media is these days not exactly reporting the news but creating news to get us all talking? It is starting to feel that way.

I know there is a delicate balance between xenophobia and racism, the difference to me is would you treat someone any differently if they came from another social group/race/sex etc… I do not believe the Top Gear presenters would, hence this whole furore is overblown for me. Maybe that’s just me as I’m not swayed by what the media are telling me to think, I like forming my own opinions and not just joining the crowd.

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  1. KL KL

    Andres – isn’t the “bee” character in the Simpsons a spoof of Mexicans? It’s also done through the telenovela spoofs which Marge watches, and the Spanish comedy channel that the bee appears on.

    Staying with the comments, Groundskeeper Willie is a classic stereotype – as a Scot, am I offended? No – it’s funny. Part of British comedy (and much of Top Gear falls into that category now) is the use of stereotypes – for example, that all Oxbridge graduates are toffs who get through on Daddy’s earnings, that students are lazy, spend all day in bed watching “This Morning” before going out and getting pissed in the evening, and that the Welsh / Aberdonians have a certain predilitcion towards sheep. We just accept it and move on. Cultural difference, I guess.

  2. Andres Andres

    That is the thing with stereotypes and comedy; if the remark or sketch is not funny it becomes an insult to the people that it was directed to, and to comedy.
    I don’t remember any episodes where The Simpsons show Mexican stereotypes, I wish there where, but I do know more than a few in Family Guy; Mexican Superman, G.I. Jose, the truth about the Mexican border, etc. All are very funny and as a Mexican I was not offended at all, there are a lot of idiosyncrasies and situations of us Mexicans that can be humorous even if tragic.

    One thing that I agree with you is that the whole incident was blown out of proportion, I don’t agree with the angry and even xenophobic reactions that some Mexicans had because of this incident, we are better that that. We have to be able to take criticism and not whine about it, but let’s do it with respect.
    Must of us Mexicans where just disappointed to see and hear this. There are many, actually there where, many fans of Top Gear here in Mexico, it’s going to be very difficult to see the show the same way.

    If there is something to be learned about all of this mess is that we have to realize that when a minority is still a victim of discrimination and hate crimes because of there ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or identity unfunny comments, similar to the ones made by the Top Gear commentators, do have an effect on people daily lives.

    I wish they had reviewed the sports car (Mastretta MXT) with funny stereotypes and all. If the car is good, perfect, if it is terrible, no problem we can take it, more amusing if it is delivered through comedy.

    There are a couple sentences from comedians Paul Rodriguez and Paul Money, that where said after the Michael Richards (Kramer) rant at The Laugh Factory, that applies to the situation.
    “All of us expecting a punch line that never came”
    “You can do racial jokes as long as there are funny”

    ¡Salud and Cheers!

  3. Nonconformistradical Nonconformistradical

    “However I am allowed an opinion and that opinion is people like to get het up about things that really don’t matter”

    You just don’t get it! What apparently doesn’t matter to you (and it seems to me you have appalling taste in humour if you find this stuff acceptable) may matter deeply to someone else yet you want to sit in judgement as to whether or not they are allowed to be offended and to complain.

    • I do get it. I get it perfectly. However many people get offended because they believe they should be – not because they actually are. These things get a life of their own and peoples true opinions are not the same as those they portray in many cases.

      As for my taste in humour – comedy is very subjective. I didn’t find this funny but neither did I find it offensive. Three blokes make not that witty remarks – big deal. You know what you are getting with these guys (and many comedians) and if you don’t like it – just ignore them, it’s pretty easy to do. To take offence some jokey remarks for me is just sad.

      • Andres Andres

        Just one question. What do you think is the purpose of this comment?
        “I’m sorry, but just imagine waking up and remembering you’re Mexican: ‘awww, no’.”

        • Purpose seems to be comedic. It’s not awfully funny – not a lot of what they said was.

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  5. Nonconformistradical Nonconformistradical

    “However I will say that people get offended far too much about things when it’s not actually directed at anyone inparticular. Sweeping generalisations are what they are and why people get so het up by them I’ll never know. Those that do probably rarely sleep they are so full of angst.”

    Who are you to dictate what others ought and ought not to feel offended about?

    I never watch Top Gear so I’m only going by the remarks as quoted by you. They seem to me to be nothing more than pointless gratuitous offence. Frankly I object to part of my licence fee going to pay these scum.

    • I’m a nobody. However I am allowed an opinion and that opinion is people like to get het up about things that really don’t matter.

      Top Gear makes tens of millions of pounds for the BBC so this show helps keep the license fee down as the profits are used to make other programming. So in fact none of your license fee goes to the show as it is insanely profitable.

  6. John Minard John Minard

    My niece is Mexican and she was deeply offended by these remarks, they really hurt. This is much worse than what Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand did. But nothing will happen because of viewing figures.

    • I’d say otherwise. Brand & Ross were being very specific with who they were taunting. This was a sweeping generalisation. Do you believe they think every Mexican is actually all those things? I know I don’t.

  7. Cat Cat

    Rubbish! Hammond’s remarks weren’t re-iterating a national stereotype, he was making a pathetic joke which wasn’t even funny and totally incorrect. The most nauseating thing is that Mexicans migrants work like dogs for shit money in shit jobs with zero security and constant threat of deportation.

    “I like forming my own opinions and not just joining the crowd.”

    No you’re joining the Clarkson sycophant crowd where anybody who takes offence at one of their “laddish” jokes is branded a bore.

    • Did I ever say people were a bore if they found offence at his comments? I do not believe I did. Scratch that. I didn’t. You made that up. I did tell them to grow up though, you should’ve gone with that instead.

      Truth and stereotypes don’t always intertwine. Everyone knows this. However the Mexican stereotype is not too dissimilar to what was said.

      As for joining the Clarkson ‘sycophant crowd’ – already shown that I didn’t call anyone a bore. However I will say that people get offended far too much about things when it’s not actually directed at anyone inparticular. Sweeping generalisations are what they are and why people get so het up by them I’ll never know. Those that do probably rarely sleep they are so full of angst.

      • Cat Cat

        I never said you called anyone a bore, I said you’re joining the sycophants who believe that – strange how insulting Mexicans is fine but make a generalisation about you and you’re moaning your head off. Isn’t it always the way!!!

        “However the Mexican stereotype is not too dissimilar to what was said.”

        Only know nothing morons think that about Mexicans, especially wealthy Americans who see migrant workers as indentured servants.

        • You think that is me moaning my head off? Me saying I didn’t say nor insinuate that all those who didn’t like Clarkson were a bore? You think that’s moaning? Oh dear oh dear oh dear…

          You should speak to SI editor Jon Heyman regarding your last comment (sorry thats an in joke) but in all seriousness do people really think all the French are garlic loving wusses? Do people really see all the English as beer swilling, soccer violence, bad teeth thugs? Do people really see every German as towel-on-sunbed in the early morning and insanely boring? Do people believe every American in fat and that those from the south are all hicks? Does everyone really think every chav is a knife-wielder? The answer to all these is no and that it is a stereotype. Everyone knows all Mexicans aren’t everything Hammond said. Everyone knows that. You make it sound like everyone really believes these stereotypes and to be honest – an extremely tiny insignificant percentage of people do and those who think everyone does – they are just as moronic as those who believe them.

          I don’t know you or where you are from – I’ll assume you are English as you have a e-mail address. When foreigners use English cultural stereotypes do you threaten to sue the TV network that broadcast these statements or do you just not care as it’s just people using cultural stereotypes? Do you write to your local MP demanding they raise it in parliament? Do you boycott produce from those countries and burn their flags? If you don’t then why not? This upset you about comments regarding people who aren’t you so when people insult your people in a casual way you must be even more hacked off surely, yes?

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