My black flag for Jeremy Clark­son

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP -

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

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