Yawn yawn. I'm rather disappointed to see the The Guardian seems to be becoming the Mail this morning, with Top Gear firmly in its sights.
I watched Top Gear last night and I can't help but feel the journalist in questions is jumping on a bandwagon without bothering to acknowledge the context of the package. The fact they acknowledged Albania's troubled past, highlighted in a silly and exaggerated way the problems the country has with crime, but also that the presenters acknowledged what an interesting and beautiful country it is.
People seem to forget that using stereotypes and sweeping generalisations in a humorous context often helps to highlight a point. These sort of jokes hold a mirror up to ourselves and challenge our thinking. I could find five people in no time, who found last night's Top Gear offensive (so of whom probably hadn't even watched it) but that doesn't make them right.
Top Gear is like conversations I have with my friends (women and men) in the pub. Their scripts are better obviously, but jokes fly about, stories are recounted and occasionally somebody says something that causes a little controversy. My friends are not intolerant of others or nasty or racist or homophobic (if they are, I get rid of them), we are all secure in who we are and we know what that person is really like and crucially, we understand the context in which something has been said.
As a TV producer, I can safely say that context is absolutely key – and not always easy to define. Top Gear, like all programme makers will make mistakes. Something should've been edited out which causes a little upset. But, I would say that if occasionally Top Gear leave something in that could be deemed offensive (let's fact it, it's always going to offend somebody) before you automatically taking offence, think about the context in which things are being said.
A couple of years ago Top Gear went on a road trip to America, the usual larking about ensued with dead cows on bonnets and supposedly being chased by rednecks. But at the end of the film, the trio arrived in New Orleans to a scene of total devastation. It was a strong end to the programme and a point well made. Sometimes, you barely have to scratch the surface to see that the presenters are intelligent, open-minded and dare I say it, caring people.
I do not believe for a second that Clarkson & Co. are racist xenophobes. Strong minded, deliberately provocative, sometimes coarse and juvenile, certainly. But racist? Intolerant? Xenophobic? Well, I wouldn't say travelling the globe, sampling cultures, marvelling at people, buildings and landscapes whilst laughing at their own and others' inadequacies is any of those things. It's just being human.