My black flag for Jeremy Clarkson
ON THE FACE OF IT, Jeremy Clarkson is a pretty unlikely global television icon.
The star has a face that looks like it’s been left out in the rain, unruly greying hair and a penchant for double denim.
There are no blond highlights, no Botox and no coloured contact lenses.
And yet Clarkson rose to become one of the most powerful men in television, thanks to co-hosting one of the most popular TV shows on the globe, with millions of fans in more than 100 countries.
Clarkson hit the headlines earlier this month after he allegedly hit a producer who dared tell him he couldn’t have a steak at the end of a long day of shooting.
Any other person would have been sacked on the spot. But not Clarkson, who was suspended pending an investigation.
It was a temporary move that nonetheless cost the broadcaster millions of pounds.
It should never have been temporary. The BBC’s dithering over the past few weeks says it all.
Too often men – and yes, they are mostly men – are kept in positions of power because they are lucrative for their employers.
Moral issues fade into the background in the face of making money.
Footballers are propped up week after week and sent back onto the field despite whispers of domestic violence or sexual assault that don’t go away.
TV and film stars with drug habits are wheeled out to do 12-hour days when filming starts.
And Clarkson, who has a history of pretty poor behaviour over the years, was indulged and rewarded while his show kept rating and the money kept flowing in.
Indeed, the BBC has no one but itself to blame for the position it found itself in with Clarkson.
It created the monster that is Jeremy Clarkson and cashed in on his status as an anti-PC hero.
So why is an ageing guy from country England so popular – and thus so powerful?
A lot of it, I’d say, is the fact that Clarkson is a 1970s bloke living in today’s world.
He’s a crusty old relic from a simpler time. You know, back when a 1978 Subaru GL was advertised as being “like a spirited woman who yearns to be tamed”.
Clarkson’s male fans – and there are millions of them around the world – will always love him because he’s the kind of man they secretly want to be.
He brags about drink driving and speeding, says what he wants at all times, and never worries about offending anyone in the process.
He’s Karl Stefanovic drunk on air the morning after the He’s Shane Warne smoking while he’s an ambassador for the Quit Foundation. And he’s “cultural attache” Les Patterson making bad taste racial jokes about Poms and Aboriginals.
Clarkson’s antics wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow a few decades ago.
Back then, men were men, women were their playthings and someone who threw a punch at a workmate was just “letting off steam”.
(I remember visiting my father’s office at the ETSA building on Greenhill Rd in the early ’80s and marveling at the poster of a female tennis player alluringly scratching her bare bum that adorned a co-worker’s wall.) However, we have come a long way, baby. These days, the Clarksons of this world must operate in a politically correct environment in an organisation reeling from the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Savile, a popular BBC entertainer, was accused of sexual assault by around 450 people, including those who were young children at the time of the alleged assaults. His crimes took place over an astonishing 60 years, and nothing was ever done about it.
BBC management was alleged to have indulged Savile because he was such an influential star.
While of course Clarkson’s antics do not come close to Savile’s debauched criminality, nonetheless the BBC cannot afford to be insenstitive to troublemaking stars. Clarkson is not bigger than Top Gear, and he’s not bigger than the BBC. People need to keep things in perspective. As one online writer commented, Britain has 53 million people, and 52 million didn’t sign a petition to save Clarkson.
Even Clarkson has sensed his use-by-date is up at the BBC: “We lose one animal and we get another. The world turns,” he wrote recently.
Touche. Time to rev off, Clarkson. facebook.com/newswithsuse; twitter @susieob; blog: susieobrien.com.au