Tortilla cars and refried sick with cheese
February 2, 2011 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond call the Mexican sportscar Mastretta the "tortilla car" and say that since cars reflect national characteristics, a mexican car will probably be "a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat". The Mexican ambassador in London complained to the BBC about the comments and demanded a public apology from the presenters. Meanwhile, [person who is pretty clearly not] James May continues to attack Mexicans over on his Twitter page.
posted by CrazyLemonade (161 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christ, what assholes!
posted by ericb at 3:15 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, for fuck's sake, Jeremy. Cut that out.

I love Top Gear apart from bullshit like this and their disdain for climate change and cyclists. Like, really?
posted by dunkadunc at 3:16 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wow. The Top Gear folks say something racist/sexist/offensive. Shocked I tell you.

Troll is obvious folks. Come on. Don't feed 'em.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow, what is it with boys, toys, games, and assholes today?
posted by cavalier at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't think that's actually his Twitter account.
posted by brundlefly at 3:18 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like these guys because they say what takes dumb, insecure, middle class white men at least two beers to say.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:18 PM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


Trolls gonna be trollin.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:18 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hmm, I'm not entirely convinced, even though it says RealJamesMay, that that is the Real James May on Twitter.
posted by IanMorr at 3:19 PM on February 2, 2011


protip- any twitter account name that starts with the word "real" may not be the genuine article.
posted by zamboni at 3:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's nice to know I can always count on Metafilter to keep me up on who's offended in the world. That said, I really didn't need a news flash to tell me that Jeremy Clarkson said something offensive and that someone then took offense and demanded an apology.

The Mexican ambassador is right to be offended. Clarkson's comment was offensive and rude. If he was really trying to say the car reflected national characteristics, he could have just commented on the state of Mexico's economy or the effectiveness of its government.
posted by The World Famous at 3:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can't believe all these mexicans tweeting. Apart from speedy Gonzales they've given nothing to the world apart from shit food and body odour

Somebody hand this knucklehead a shovel, because I think he can dig his own grave faster.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:22 PM on February 2, 2011


I thought James May was the sensitive one.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:22 PM on February 2, 2011


Meh. If you think that's bad, you should hear what they have to say about the English.

Top Gear is a humour show, and the humour is very much in the vein of sporting jibes at everything and everyone, including themselves and each other, and it often relies heavily on clearly ironic use of national stereotypes.

It sounds boorish, I know, but you pretty much have to see it in its full context to understand how utterly benign it is.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


Stewart Lee on Top Gear.

Usually, I quite like Top Gear. I know it's stupid and that most of it is fake and pre-scripted, but despite that there are usually a couple of moments in each episode that are downright hilarious. The Mexican thing, on the other hand, just seemed downright mean-spirited and nasty. Even the audience is standing there stony-faced.
posted by afx237vi at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2011 [21 favorites]


I gave up on Top Gear when they pulled that unforgivably idiotic stunt in the American South - I think it was during the American Road Trip special - I tried hunting around and couldn't find the clip. They painted their cars up with what they felt would be offensive slogans (i.e. "NASCAR is rubbish" and "Hillary Clinton for President") and basically goaded some folks in chasing after them.

Made me want to go to downtown London and start handing out free toothbrushes. Stupid, stupid show.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would expect nothing less than defensive beligerence from Clarkson and Co but has the BBC made any sort of response? They seem to have some sort blind spot for this. I can only cringe every time Alan Davies engages his "hilarious" Mexican caricature (which seems to be about every second episode) on the otherwise excellent QI.
posted by adamt at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fake.

http://celebswhotwitter.com/fake/james-may
posted by dunkadunc at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that is the real James May in that twitter feed

Mexican here: This is fucking hilarious. A bunch of my friends on facebook are boycotting Top Gear, writing page long screeds and getting pissed of at anyone who disagrees.

This are the same friends who laugh at racists jokes and make misogynistic and homophobic remarks without a second thought. One of them linked a "response to top gear" youtube video that has 43 "likes" right now. It shows a picture of Hammond overlaid with the word 'puto' (faggot) and a loop of Molotov's song Puto repeating the lyrics "Puto Puto Puto. Matarile al maricón" (faggot x 3. Kill the faggot).

Mexican TV, specially talk shows, gossip shows and night time comedy shows, is full of casual racism and homophobia, and excels at perpetuating all kinds of stereotypes. I cringe every time I see a bespectacled horse toothed asian or flamboyant lisping homosexual on Mexican TV.

Anyone here remembers the whole Memin Penguin debacle? "The criticism from United States officials was not only ridiculed by public opinion leaders in Mexico and by most of the Mexican population"

I've asked some of my facebook friends if they ever noticed the Top Gear hosts making fun of other nationalities or ethnicities before, and the common answer is "Yes, but this time they crossed a line", along with a couple of "Yes, but [non-mexican ethnic group insulted by top gear] are really like that".

I wish now for a Mexican or at least Spanish language Metafilter, where these friends could get some exposure to other cultures and turn this into an opportunity to get sensitized and educated.

Finally, extra points to Top Gear for trolling an ambassador.
posted by Dr. Curare at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2011 [84 favorites]


Wait a minute. Did I just hear a couple of English toffs - English toffs - talking shit about Mexican food?

Good gravy. Never mind the smirking racist caricature they cribbed from a sketch in their mums' ration books - these sneering gits lack the basic sensory inputs and neural processing pathways for ordinary everyday tasks like tasting whatever it is they shovel into their smarmy gobs as sustenance.

Don't hate, folks. Just pity those like these gentlemen who've never had a real taco in the miserable lives they've been forced to pass on some dreary island that elevated the grey-hued overboiled pea to culinary hall of fame status for want of a real cuisine.
posted by gompa at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


Ah, so they're going to have a go at the boiled, underpowered British sports cars that coast on their former reputations and are only worth driving if you're too racist to consider any sports cars made in nations that matter?
posted by klangklangston at 3:29 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, seems as if the Twitter page is just a troll and not the real James May. Sorry for that.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:30 PM on February 2, 2011


Or, shorter joke: So, British sports cars all have fucked-up grilles?
posted by klangklangston at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


That is a pretty ugly fucking car. Way to ruin a Lotus, losers.

And there's no way that's Mays twitter account.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2011


Ah, so they're going to have a go at the boiled, underpowered British sports cars that coast on their former reputations and are only worth driving if you're too racist to consider any sports cars made in nations that matter?

Yep. Already did, in fact, a month or two ago.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:32 PM on February 2, 2011


I thought James May was the sensitive one.

Actually, while Clarkson's persona is pretty much a put-on, I remember May's column in Car Magazine, well before he joined TG, as falling often into juvenile, non-ironic xenophobia.
posted by Skeptic at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2011


Perceptions of Mexicans in the UK are a bit surreal. No Brit has ever met an actual Mexican so they get the stereotypes, I think, from American films and TV including Westerns. I find it a bit hilarious, actually.

Thats why this tortilla chip packaging is not only ok but actually wins packaging awards. Mexicans aren't real, silly, they're caricatures.

Speedy Gonzalez, of course, is everywhere. He is being used right now to sell Virgin Broadband - the fastest broadband in all the UK!!!

It's pretty bad. But they don't hate Mexicans. They're actually a bit fascinated by them. Wrestling masked midgets killed by fake hookers? or narco-bling? These people can't be for real, can they?
posted by vacapinta at 3:34 PM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


adamt, I was just about to say the same thing. I've seen Alan do similar things with Asian cultures. It's funny that the Brits will generally give Americans shit for being xenophobic hicks but don't realize that this kind of humor makes them look terribly provincial.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Yep. Already did, in fact, a month or two ago."

Sorry, Beeb America gets them here late.
posted by klangklangston at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2011


Also, about 10 years ago I spent 6 months working in London. I hung out mostly with undocumented Mexican immigrants. All had jobs in bars, restaurants and hotels, and every single one was told at some point by one of the managers "I had no idea you Mexicans were so hard working and clean, do you have any Mexican friend I can hire". We took the hint and started working less hard and bitching more often, English style.

When I went to the Mexican Embassy in London to sort out my student visa situation, I was told that at the time there were about 20,000 undocumented Mexicans working in London in the service industry. I can only guess how much Mexican spit the Top Gear hosts will be eating from now on.
posted by Dr. Curare at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's a good post aside from the mis-attributed twitter account. Can a mod remove that please? For someone browsing through quickly it does NOT paint a good picture of May -- even in comparison to the poor way he's behaving in reality.
posted by codacorolla at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm fairly sure that Jeremy Clarkson's business card reads Professional Arsehole. It's what the guy does.

Romanians, truck drivers, Vietnam veterans, Morris Marina drivers, and that's just off the top of my head.

It has an entire Wikipedia section, for crying out loud.
posted by zamboni at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2011


Oh, get over yourselves.
posted by flippant at 3:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the Vietnam trip they did, south to north on broken down motorbikes, was one of the best things ever.

Yes, seems as if the Twitter page is just a troll and not the real James May. Sorry for that.

I knew Captain Slow wouldn't do that.

Actually, while Clarkson's persona is pretty much a put-on, I remember May's column in Car Magazine, well before he joined TG, as falling often into juvenile, non-ironic xenophobia.

Damn, I guess the little guy is my favorite now.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:41 PM on February 2, 2011


It should be noted that the presenters have made nasty comments about practically every nation on the planet, especially America, and especially England itself.

However, listening to Brits complain about the quality of another nation's food is somewhere six-thousand light-years past irony.
posted by Vaska at 3:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


So. You can Andy Gray for making a handful of off-air sexist remarks about women not understanding the laws of football, but you defend the hosts of Top Gear because their racist jokes are an intrinsic part of the show and quite frankly, well-executed and well-rounded. Got it.
posted by phaedon at 3:49 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Next thing ya know, they're gonna be makin' cracks about the gingers!
posted by fairmettle at 3:50 PM on February 2, 2011


But we haven't finished with the injustice of Penny Arcade. Can we postpone this injustice for another time?
posted by crunchland at 3:51 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, listening to Brits complain about the quality of another nation's food is somewhere six-thousand light-years past irony.

I've never been to the UK (except for Heathrow airport) and so I don't know about the food, but to hear the guy say "they can't do food, the Mexicans, can they?" made me wonder if all the "Mexican" food he's ever tasted is some sort of Taco Bell monstrosity.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:51 PM on February 2, 2011


The Who Have Top Gear Insulted This Week thread from the Final Gear fan forum.
posted by zamboni at 3:51 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stewart Lee on Top Gear.

This is just about perfect.
posted by dng at 3:51 PM on February 2, 2011


How Peurile
posted by the noob at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2011


or indeed puerile, which is worse
posted by the noob at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2011


I'd like to point out that Speedy Gonzales was created by Warner Bros cartoonists who are American. He was not, in fact, given to anybody by Mexicans.

Also, Mexicans did not invent body odor. Earliest records indicate that it may in fact have been first developed to overcome the stench of human excrement that used to back up in the Thames when the tide came in.

Finally, Mexicans did not invent bad food.

As much as I like Mexican people they have unfortunately not invented all that much. This guy should check his facts.
posted by GuyZero at 3:56 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, added a little note re: the fake twitter account since that's pretty, yeah.
posted by cortex at 3:57 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Top gear is usually fun but I cringed when I caught the episode last Sunday. Any American/Canadian TV personality who went on like this would instantly be crucified
(I hope) and frankly, they would deserve it.

Next thing ya know, they're gonna be makin' cracks about the gingers!

I'm pretty sure they did at some point.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 3:58 PM on February 2, 2011


I think the problem here is that "Mexican" is a racial identifier in the US rather than a descriptor of someone's nationality. For many people, any hispanic person is a Mexican regardless of their place of birth. This is why his comments seem to be especially harsh, even though the Top Gear guys have made similar nationalistic comments in the past.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 3:58 PM on February 2, 2011


Thats why this tortilla chip packaging is not only ok but actually wins packaging awards.

...is that really a chubby British dude in brownface with a fake moustache?
posted by elizardbits at 3:58 PM on February 2, 2011


Lazy Mexicans! Stealing jobs all lazy-like with their napping and laziness!
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:59 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Made me want to go to downtown London and start handing out free toothbrushes. Stupid, stupid show.

Um. About half of Jeremy's jokes center around the fact that British people (himself included) have godawful dental health.

Also, I'm really not sure that the TG hosts were the ones who came across most poorly in the American South episode. It was a dumb stunt, but one side wanted to make a joke, while the other wanted to literally beat the shit out of a group of tourists.
posted by schmod at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Stewart Lee on Top Gear.

This is the best thing to appear in this thread.
posted by zamboni at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2011


What is wrong with everyone in this thread?!

The correct first response should have been "They just messed with the wrong Mexican Embassy"

Carry on, but I'm watching you.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


They also make fun of Americans for being dumb and obese constantly. I love Top Gear. That is all.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2011


If I had been in the audience I would have booed them and would have probably been thrown out.

Next up: 100 year old stereotypes about Africans and Chinese. Just kidding, of course they would never do that because the rest of the audience would turn on them.

Not that it needs to be said, but in the US a lot of manual labour is done by Mexicans. That's pretty much the opposite of "lazy and feckless".
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:06 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched this episode. I seem to recall them being fairly confident that they wouldn't get any complaints, because the Mexican ambassador would be fast asleep, wearing his poncho and sombrero.

Presumably he had the VCR set?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2011


Apart from speedy Gonzales they've given nothing to the world apart from shit food and body odour.

In all fairness, a sketch composed of Englishmen making jokes about some other nation's "shit food" probably kills on the other side of the Channel.
posted by Hylas at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2011


"Mexican" is a racial identifier in the US rather than a descriptor of someone's nationality.

Dunno about that. I've met a few Guatemalans and Salvadorans who insisted there was a distinction. Maybe you're thinking of Hispanics? Mexicans specifically come from Mexico.
posted by ryanrs at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2011


Did you not read the very next sentence I wrote? I'm not saying it's accurate, I'm simply talking about common usage and how it informs our perception.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 4:18 PM on February 2, 2011


I can only cringe every time Alan Davies engages his "hilarious" Mexican caricature (which seems to be about every second episode) on the otherwise excellent QI.

adamt, I was just about to say the same thing. I've seen Alan do similar things with Asian cultures.

Ugh, yeah. I fucking hate those bits on QI. And it's especially galling because most of the rest of the show is so great. And then they do that shit and I'm just like, "seriously? WTF Stephen and cohort?" At Stephen Fry usually doesn't participate but I think he has once or twice, and he's never discouraged it.
posted by kmz at 4:20 PM on February 2, 2011


Seems like complaining about it legitimizes the stereotype more than ignoring it would.

Do these same people also complain when the Top Gear guys attach a ridiculous stereotype to every other car that was made in a country? Including Britain?
posted by gjc at 4:20 PM on February 2, 2011


Yes, gngstrMNKY, I read the next sentence. I'm saying that in everyday, colloquial usage, most people seem to recognize a distinction between Hispanic people and Mexicans specifically. Granted, this probably doesn't apply in rural backwaters. But I wouldn't say that 'Mexicans' is generally used as a racial signifier in the US.
posted by ryanrs at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh come on, Top Gear are equal opportunitie insulters. They insult all nationalities (including their own) equally, plus each other, and themselves.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2011


I'd ask Top Gear to try not to be dicks, but it's way too late for that. Consider this the dick that broke the proverbial back.

Top Gear is a stupid show, anyway. There. I said it.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2011


English car nuts complaining about the presumed quality of cars from other countries?

I've got two words for them.

Robin Reliant.
posted by Jimbob at 4:49 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree. Top Gear are 100% equal opportunity insulters. If you're a fan of the show and have watched it for a while, you'd know that this is far from the most insulting thing they've said. Indeed, the worst insults I've heard have been about the British.

Also, I am The Stig. Just so you know.
posted by Go Banana at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I wouldn't say that 'Mexicans' is generally used as a racial signifier in the US.

I can absolutely guarantee to you that "Mexican" means anyone who looks like they are from south of the border to many people in most parts of the US
posted by Think_Long at 4:53 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apart from speedy Gonzales they've given nothing to the world apart from shit food

THIS TWITTER HAS MADE ME SO FUCKING ANGRY AND OUTRAGED I WENT AND BOUGHT A GENUINE MEXICAN BURRITO AND A GENUINE MEXICAN COKE IN A GLASS BOTTLE FROM A GENUINE MEXICAN OK HE'S FROM OAKLAND AND I'M FUCKING EATING IT RIGHT NOW FUCK I JUST SPILLED MY FUCKING SALSA!

Oh, it's fake? I just got trolled, hard, but I suppose the "shit food" comment coming from someone in the UK should have been a giveaway.

But I did just go get a burrito. It's fucking delicious. AND VERY ANGRY.
posted by loquacious at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Separated by a common language, once again.

I'm Irish. In the US that means a certain number of social interactions which start with jokes about Irish people loving to drink, possibly loving a fight, and presumably hating the British. Stereotyping, for sure, but with a (loose) basis in fact and usually offered without any malice. Avoiding over-enthusiastic Brit-haters is the only part of this I find really annoying. Now, over in Britain there's a different kind of Irish stereotyping, which can be good or ill-humored, but because of the complex history I'm sensitive towards it in a quite different way. Ill-humored stereotypes (ie nastiness rather than clumsiness or insensitivity) from a British person would hurt my feelings a lot more even though I am largely apolitical and something of an anglophile. If there were an Irish car and the top Gear hosts suggested it must run on a mixture of Guinness and plastic explosive, I would not be very enthusiastic (although I would not be very surprised or truly, deeply offended either).

So, Top Gear making fun of Mexicans in a studio in London, well that's just those well-known and arguably deliberate wankers on TG doing their thing, which is to say being wankers while talking about cars. Anyone who takes TG seriously is doing themselves a terrible disservice. Unfortunately, over here in the US there are a lot of people who view Mexicans (or anyone who might plausibly be considered Mexican) with the same warmth and imagination that early 20th-century Germany viewed Jews; politicians up and down the country are trying to outdo themselves passing laws to promote or facilitate the arrest and deportation of Mexicans* and are able to espouse authoritarian and xenophobia fairly easily because their brand looks mild compared to the non-politicians who would like to just shoot them.

The TG hosts are (naturally) blissfully unaware of this, so I think their lack of sensitivity is rooted in ignorance and negligence rather than malice. The best way to explain it to them is that their remarks about Mexicans appeal to exactly the sort of people who were chasing them around the southern US states.

* Technically, they just want to deport illegal aliens of course. But it's not a coincidence that many existing or proposed laws make it difficult for anyone who's Mexican to immigrate legally. Of course, there is not a simple cause or solution for this issue, despite the claims of people on both sides of the discussion.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2011 [18 favorites]


The Mexican ambassador is right to be offended. Clarkson's comment was offensive and rude.

Actually, it was the Hammster what said it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


gompa: Wait a minute. Did I just hear a couple of English toffs - English toffs - talking shit about Mexican food?

No, you didn't. The Top Gear hosts - or at least Clarkson and Hammond - have regional backgrounds, minor public or grammar school educations, and are living the dream of owning imitation stately homes in the countryside with long driveways full of cars. If you want to attack them on the grounds of class, they are nouveau riche middle class, but it's an odd line of attack to choose.

There's the first few minutes of Stewart Lee's bit on Top Gear here, for those who enjoyed the first link. It's mainly about the viewing audience, so might be a bit closer to the bone.
posted by DNye at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2011


ryanrs - I'm not sure if you're being specifically dense, but the point of the ""Mexican" is a racial identifier" is that people in a position of privilege - white people mainly - refer to any Hispanic person as a Mexican. That is, "I'm too lazy, from my exalted perch, to ask you and or figure out you're actually Guatemalan, brown guy. MEXICAN it is."

re: Top Gear in the American South - yeah, I live here, I wasn't offended. If people choose to chase after other people and behave that way -even people who are behaving stupidly to begin with . .well, rising to the bait says enough about them. Not to even mention their totally out of proportion response (the rednecks, that is).

FWIW watching the video, I feel that Hammond is listing off stereotypes with the knowledge that they're untrue and stereotypical. It does not mean that it was in good taste and I think in this case they too the schtick a bit too far, but in general, as with most of the racist, misogynistic, and primarily studiedly stupid things they say on the show, they know what they're doing. They over shot the joke and carried it too far, though.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:02 PM on February 2, 2011


Years ago when I was an undergrad exchange student taking six months of classes in London, I recall waiting for a train in a tube station and seeing a full size advert for some absolutely vile looking canned Mexican food. This brown, vaguely saucy, somewhat gelatinous and thoroughly unappealing glop was cheerfully being served up with a tag line like, "Make it La Mexican Tonight!" The food being advertised literally looked like canned shit: equal parts dog food that had been left to spoil in the sun and prison rations, mixed with the remains of a diseased spleen. For perhaps the first time on my trip, I found myself pitying my host family and British classmates, who would never know the joys of eating real (and fresh!) Mexican food. ¡Qué lástima!
posted by mosk at 5:03 PM on February 2, 2011


The Robin Reliant episodes crack me up, along with seeing a VW Campmobile turned amphibian, or stars driving normal cars. The Stig is great stand up comedy.

Too bad they forgot to mention the fine quality of Pemex gasoline. Because hey; leaded gasoline is very smooth for valves and stuff. The nature of comedy will always offend some; FIAMO.
posted by buzzman at 5:08 PM on February 2, 2011


I think Top Gear is possibly the best show on television, and I think the fact that they don't care about offending people's precious sensibilities is what makes them so great. But I cringed when I watched this week's episode, because there was something about the insults that I thought crossed a line. If it had just been one or two quick stereotypes, that would have been one thing - standard Top Gear, grow a thicker skin sort of thing. But when Hammond got going, it didn't feel like banter anymore, it felt...mean-spirited. Like they decided, "we're going to offend people!" and then set about doing it.
posted by Dasein at 5:16 PM on February 2, 2011


I can absolutely guarantee to you that "Mexican" means anyone who looks like they are from south of the border to many people in most parts of the US

OK, but those people aren't the ones complaining about this Top Gear episode. GngstrMNKY's first comment suggested that there was an American perception that Mexicans == Hispanics, and that belief intensified the outrage. I disagree. I think the people that are outraged are not the same people that make that lazy simplification.

I'm not sure if you're being specifically dense

Thanks for the kind words, Medieval Maven. I try not to be.
posted by ryanrs at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2011


ryanrs, I would posit that if people did not conflate Hispanic ethnicity with Mexican nationality, people would not be describing these comments as racist, as May did not mention race specifically.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2011


I WENT AND BOUGHT A GENUINE MEXICAN BURRITO

What, like with sauce poured on top?
posted by ryanrs at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2011


Damn, I guess the little guy is my favorite now.

It was actually the little guy who went on the biggest rant.
posted by madajb at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2011


Britain has a history of "havin' a laugh" at Mexico.

I find it odd the common defense on Metafilter of these limey twats' jokes about Mexicans is that it is OK because they make fun of everyone. Equal opportunity xenophobia is OK. And it is OK to make slurs as long as you're making a joke. Top Gun needn't make jokes about the various ethnicities when there's so much they could say about the cars. But they do. At least it isn't that total abortion called Top Gear USA.

Perceptions of Mexicans in the UK are a bit surreal. No Brit has ever met an actual Mexican so they get the stereotypes, I think, from American films and TV including Westerns. I find it a bit hilarious, actually.

My Mexican friends that have visited the Reino Unido tell me that they're often confused with being American or from somewhere in S. America. We joked that without a burro, bigassed sombrero and a bottle of Tequila they were impossible to spot. My globe trotting Mexican friends are treated like a novelty since they're not maids or gardeners or other stereoptypes people see in the media.

And the poor ambassador? When I think of Mexican food in London, I see Mark from Peep Show showing up at my table with a bowl of chips. I'm sure even the diplomatic pouch can't keep food fresh enough.
posted by birdherder at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2011


Oh, the other thing that bothered me is that usually their stereotypes ring true - or at least have an air of plausibility which let you laugh a bit. But Mexicans as lazy? Seriously? The country that's exporting millions of underpaid labourers to the U.S. who toil for a better life, doing jobs Americans won't do? Lazy? From the country that brought us British trade unions? Just too incredible.
posted by Dasein at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would consider it an honor to have these three say nasty things about me or my country.
posted by foxinsocks at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've never been to the UK (except for Heathrow airport) and so I don't know about the food, but to hear the guy say "they can't do food, the Mexicans, can they?" made me wonder if all the "Mexican" food he's ever tasted is some sort of Taco Bell monstrosity.

It has been some time, but I recall the Mexican food in England being quite frightening. Think the worst kind of chain "cantina" glop transported 5000 miles and then stuck in a microwave.
posted by madajb at 5:26 PM on February 2, 2011


My comment from a previous thread applies here:

I have never understood the stereotype of the "lazy Mexican" because around here, the only Mexicans I see are busting their asses 12-14 hours a day doing landscaping, roofing, restaurant work, etc. Meanwhile virtually all of the white people I know are sitting at desks, chatting up coworkers and/or surfing the Internet half the day.

Can someone explain where this stereotype even comes from? I literally have no conception of it.
posted by desjardins at 5:30 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


For perhaps the first time on my trip, I found myself pitying my host family and British classmates, who would never know the joys of eating real (and fresh!) Mexican food.

You know, there are Mexican restaurants in England, owned and run by Mexicans. And there are also planes which can carry English people to Mexico, where they can eat Mexican food. The line of argumentation around here suggesting that the very wealthy and well-travelled hosts of Top Gear have never experienced any foodstuff other than peas and boiled beef is really odd.

It does not mean that it was in good taste and I think in this case they too the schtick a bit too far, but in general, as with most of the racist, misogynistic, and primarily studiedly stupid things they say on the show, they know what they're doing.

Sure - but nobody is suggesting that they don't know what they're doing, are they? On occasion, they misjudge it, but the basic business model is completely intentional. Pace Dasein, presumably they care very deeply about offending people's precious sensibilities - that's their differentiator from other car shows.
posted by DNye at 5:32 PM on February 2, 2011


This is something you don't say in America, because that shit be real here. Anti mexican racism and bigotry is a BIG problem here. But in the same vein that American's aren't shocked by Polish jokes, or general sports-team trash-talking when it's known to be such and not pretending to be meaningful.

In Great Britain, where Mexico is exotic, and which doesn't suffer from countless issues surrounding mass Mexican immigration, the nationalistic trash talking is just that - it simply lacks that extra American baggage, connotations of racism, etc.

In the context for which it was made, it's the same level of bigotry that you display when you say "So an Irishman, an Englishman, and a Scotsman walk into a bar...", ie, fairly low, even though there are a few places in the world you could go where telling that joke would come accorss horrifically badly. Especially during The Troubles.

Likewise, take those Top Gear Mexican comments to the Americas, and they would become shocking in a way that they kind of aren't.

Oh.. hello internet.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:34 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Can someone explain where this stereotype even comes from?

Siesta
posted by -harlequin- at 5:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ask yourself why you get offended on behalf of the Mexicans but not for the French or Germans.
posted by smackfu at 5:40 PM on February 2, 2011


You know, there are Mexican restaurants in England, owned and run by Mexicans. And there are also planes which can carry English people to Mexico, where they can eat Mexican food. The line of argumentation around here suggesting that the very wealthy and well-travelled hosts of Top Gear have never experienced any foodstuff other than peas and boiled beef is really odd.

Hammond, at least, is notorious for not wanting to eat anything when they go outside the U.K, going so far as to bring his own food when they visit France.
It's a running gag, so one should not take his opinion on food too seriously.
posted by madajb at 5:42 PM on February 2, 2011


But when Hammond got going, it didn't feel like banter anymore, it felt...mean-spirited. Like they decided, "we're going to offend people!" and then set about doing it.

I haven't seen it, but it sounds like it would have worked better if instead of using his "Now here are some reasonable assumptions" serious face, he should have used his more air-headed "I didn't do my homework and now I have to talk about something I don't know anything about... I KNOW - I'LL FAKE IT!" bluster-through-it face, so that part of the joke is that he knows so little that describing WB cartoons and spaghetti westerns is all he can do.

Then it could be offensive AND funny :)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:43 PM on February 2, 2011


dunkadunc: "Oh, for fuck's sake, Jeremy."

Ad hominem: "Damn, I guess the little guy is my favorite now."

Seriously, watch the first 30 seconds of the video, it's not Clarkson going all racist grandpa.
posted by boo_radley at 5:44 PM on February 2, 2011


afx237vi: "Stewart Lee on Top Gear. yt "

Hey this was completely not what I expected.
posted by boo_radley at 5:47 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ask yourself why you get offended on behalf of the Mexicans but not for the French or Germans.

Who says I don't? Porsche make excellent cars and if Clarkson weren't such a prejudiced bigot, he'd say so.
posted by ryanrs at 5:51 PM on February 2, 2011


desjardins - I don't know about everywhere but for some reason my dad, FSM help us all, has decided that Mexicans are lazy but Guatemalans are the bees' knees.

I have no idea where it came from but at least someone wins? (Sort of? Not really. I know.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:53 PM on February 2, 2011


climate change

To be specific, the Top Gear chaps don't think that the Prius and other hybrids are the answer* to the green car question, which is not actually the same as be "anti" climate change. And they don't think that consumer vehicles are the major offenders when it comes to the burning of petrol and harmful emissions.

*In fact, they had an episode featuring a green Honda concept that they think is the answer.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:58 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Top Gear is sometimes offensive. The alternative is US Top Gear.

Think about it.
posted by LordSludge at 6:01 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Porsche make excellent cars and if Clarkson weren't such a prejudiced bigot, he'd say so.

But then Porsche-loving Hammond and stick-in-the-mud Clarkson would have nothing to argue over.
And then there would be no show!

Ok, one less thing to argue about. But it's a major thing.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:04 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


They'd still have jokes about hair and jet engines, respectively.
posted by ryanrs at 6:07 PM on February 2, 2011


In fact, they had an episode featuring a green Honda concept that they think is the answer.

A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, powered by hydrogen gas which currently comes from oil refineries and a type of fuel cell which may be decades from mass production. And they referred to it as an 'electric car' (presumably with the basis that hydrogen could maybe someday be produced electrically if we had a ton of extra electricity for some reason). I'd be more mad about this if it were an American show, since a lot of Americans genuinely believe this kind of greenwashing. In the context of super-eco-aware UK culture, it comes across as humorous stodgy contrariness.
posted by miyabo at 6:12 PM on February 2, 2011


birdherder: "I find it odd the common defense on Metafilter of these limey twats' jokes about Mexicans is that it is OK because they make fun of everyone. Equal opportunity xenophobia is OK."

It's not "Equal opportunity xenophobia" if they actually make fun of everyone, including themselves/their own ethnic group.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:43 PM on February 2, 2011


Senor Chang would tell this guy to shut his pompous vortex of overlapping fangs.
posted by supercrayon at 6:49 PM on February 2, 2011


Can someone explain where this stereotype even comes from? I literally have no conception of it.
As far as I know, it's about the tradition of siestas. You see, the closer you get to the equator, the hotter the climate tends to be. This means that it's often too hot to work outside during part of the afternoon, so people who live in those area often nap in the afternoon and then make up the difference either at dawn or dusk (or both) when it's cooler. Folks who come from farther from the equator and don't realize this just go, "WTF sleeping during the day? These people must just be lazy or something!"
posted by Karmakaze at 7:00 PM on February 2, 2011


Speaking of "lazy & feckless", that's the lamest non-attempt at a metaphor I've ever heard.

"A Mexican car would be like a [insert cartoon stereotype of Mexican person, wholus bolus], AMIRITE?"

I mean, you could potentially go somewhere milking a metaphor like that if you tried, but they didn't even try, and just dropped the stereotype in, complete, without relating it in any way to the characteristics of an actual car.

For example, in Devil's Advocate style: "It looks exotic, although the body is a bit broad and squat. It's kinda slow but it'll go all day, other than conking out for a few hours over midday. The accessories can be a bit tacky, and some models blow a lot of smoke, but overall this is a solid, reliable family-oriented car that'll run on the scent of an oily rag"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I once clean and jerked a Mexican. Easy to jerk, hard to clean. They're dirty little bastards. Any Mexicans here? PISS OFF!"

Part of this Australian comedian's live act, which you can purchase on line. That always struck me as Michael Richards level stupid, yet it somehow went under the radar.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:26 PM on February 2, 2011


Can someone explain where this stereotype even comes from? I literally have no conception of it.

In addition to the siesta mentioned above, there is also the different views of what showing up "on time" means between various countries.
posted by smackfu at 7:27 PM on February 2, 2011


They're also lazy for coming here illegally to raise families and smoking marihuana. I'm pretty sure the lazy stereotype comes out of pure old fashioned racism.
posted by polyhedron at 8:10 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, watch the first 30 seconds of the video, it's not Clarkson going all racist grandpa

I'm pretty sure Clarkson bullied the little guy in to saying that. Come on Hamster Hammond, stand up for yourself!
posted by Ad hominem at 8:12 PM on February 2, 2011


birdherder: "I find it odd the common defense on Metafilter of these limey twats' jokes about Mexicans is that it is OK because they make fun of everyone. Equal opportunity xenophobia is OK."

It's not "Equal opportunity xenophobia" if they actually make fun of everyone, including themselves/their own ethnic group.


You're right. I was trying to take a shortcut and be cutesy using "equal opportunity" with "xenophobia." It is so typical of people of my own ethnic group to do.

I still think that the "it's ok because they make fun of everyone" is as defensible as "he's old so he says some racists things." Those are excuses but doesn't make it acceptable. I'm not offended. Nor are probably most Mexicans. To offend them, you just need to call them Guatemalans.
posted by birdherder at 8:40 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm with those who have suggested that to your average Brit, taking the piss out of Mexicans is like taking the piss out of the French. There is none of the US racial baggage that goes with this. As far as the lazy thing is concerned, they'd probably say the same thing about the Spanish and it's due to the tradition of the siesta. Whilst I'm sure that there are many Mexican workers in the UK, it's not like the US where the entire country would collapse without the hard work of the Mexican population. So it's a distorted and ill-informed stereotype (along with the comments about Mexican food). Of course, I think they were hinting at that in the clip, but that may be my spin on it. Anyway, I don't want to justify what they said, just explain it in a non-UScentric way.

TL;DR

Different countries look at other countries in different ways.
posted by ob at 8:44 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This entire episode just reminds me how pitch-perfect the casting was for the previous failed US version of Top Gear (we'll leave discussion of the currently-airing failed US version for another day). The difference is that NBC would have edited Adam Carolla's inevitable excursions into casually-racist stereotyping out of the show rather than airing them.

Man, I wish they'd have picked up the Adam Carolla version.
posted by Lazlo at 9:25 PM on February 2, 2011


I can't wait for the week of Penny Arcade strips guest-written by Clarkson & Co.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:41 PM on February 2, 2011


Another Mexican here. I think that the weird part of the insults was how strange the stereotypes seemed. The food references sounded more like a description of tex-mex food not mexican, and the whole lazy mexican meme is Speedy Gonzalez circa 1950s (erased forever after the NAFTA maquiladoras).

I think that if they had made jokes about narcos and immigrants, a stereotype based on something a bit more real, the furor would have been much less. As it is, they made fun of things (our cuisine and hard working population) that mexicans are actually proud of and that have no validity as stereotypes.

I also think that the ambassador's reaction was a bit knee jerk. It would have been more jujitsu of him to invite Clarkson and the boys to Mexico. I suspect that if they traveled here they would have a much different experience and it would have been good PR for the country.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:12 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain where this stereotype even comes from? I literally have no conception of it.

While I wouldn't expect there to be a single definitive answer to this, one thread of this knot can be traced back to Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. He's talking (and this oversimplifies but I'm trying to be brief) about Catholics and the Spanish being less productive than Protestants (especially Calvinists) due to different cultural priorities. It's a short hop from Catholic Spain to Catholic Mexico.

I don't think this is the whole story, but perhaps it's part of it. This stereotype has deep roots.

I do not endorse Weber's thesis.
posted by kprincehouse at 10:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of the joke was that the stereotypes aren't seriously-held stereotypes - his approach (cars reflect national character), which started out sounding quite reasonable sounding, was immediately bolstered with an exchange with Clarkson giving a solid example, showing that this approach is Sound Indeed, and then immediately it breaks down right out of the gate when he applies it, starting with the ridiculousness of the stereotypes he was using (the mind boggling at trying to somehow apply them metaphorically) and it just got more and more silly from that point on.

The more I think about it, the more I'm wondering if this is a dry-Brit-humour thing that is causing the shockiness to Americans. Seriously, can anyone here come up with any recognisable Mexican stereotypes that are more obviously patently false?

It looks like they tried pretty hard to pick stereotypes that couldn't be mistaken for actual slurs, but the dry-ish delivery overwhelmed that.

On a related note, if it had been a stereotype where it isn't crystal clear that no-one actually believes that, such as if he'd said "And the sportscar comes factory equipped with runflat tires, which means that if you patch punctures for a living, it'll steal your job", would it have been more obvious that poking fun at the stereotypes is part of the fun? Or less?
posted by -harlequin- at 10:41 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would have been more jujitsu of him to invite Clarkson and the boys to Mexico.

I agree. But until quite recently the Mexican ambassador was Attorney-General of Mexico, and dealing with border security issues for many years before that. So I can understand him overreacting a bit - he probably thought running Mexico's embassy in the UK would be a pleasantly relaxed assignment with a minimum of antagonism.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:41 PM on February 2, 2011


(I think the silly spaghetti-western stereotype works better than the steal-your-job stereotype joke - it just brings in less nasty. I realize that seems like a false dichotomy ("why not use no stereotypes at all?"), but I don't think there is as much to be gained from that as it might seem at first glance, either.)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:49 PM on February 2, 2011


Porsche make excellent cars and if Clarkson weren't such a prejudiced bigot, he'd say so.

What, the same Clarkson who owns and drives several Mercedes and frequently boasts on the show about how good they are? His prejudices would never let him praise a German car.

Oh, wait...

The more I think about it, the more I'm wondering if this is a dry-Brit-humour thing that is causing the shockiness to Americans.

Of course it is. Perhaps people would prefer if they did their schtick like Lisa Lampanelli? First you make jokes about the stereotypes, then you spend ten minutes at the end of the show reassuring everyone about how you really love the blacks, the mexicans, the asians and the homos?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:23 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and as an actual Mexican-American living in London, I'll say that, yes, there are the usual horrible Mexican food places serving only as an excuse to get drunk on margaritas and tequila. But, there is decent Mexican food to be found here as well.

Wahaca is quite good. I recommend it to other people as a good example of Mexican food.

The burritos at Chilango are also up to the standard of an average San Francisco Mission taqueria.

So these guys don't even have to leave the UK to learn a bit more about Mexican food.
posted by vacapinta at 1:41 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The more I think about it, the more I'm wondering if this is a dry-Brit-humour thing that is causing the shockiness to Americans.

But Top Gear is not dry humour, is it? Top Gear, specifically, is wet humour - it's to be enjoyed at home by people after a glass of beer over dinner, and then enjoyed again by discussion in the pub after work over a pint or two. It depends on broad humour, overstatement, exaggerated gestures and facial contortions - like the two exaggerated expressions you described above, -harlequin-:

I haven't seen it, but it sounds like it would have worked better if instead of using his "Now here are some reasonable assumptions" serious face, he should have used his more air-headed "I didn't do my homework and now I have to talk about something I don't know anything about... I KNOW - I'LL FAKE IT!" bluster-through-it face, so that part of the joke is that he knows so little that describing WB cartoons and spaghetti westerns is all he can do.

The only way it could be considered dry humour is if one believes that any joke delivered in an English accent is dry.
posted by DNye at 2:30 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a previous life I was a night janitor in a supermarket. Cleaning and waxing floors for the daytime crowd provided most of my entertainment. My Mexican partner who spoke almost no English was a total workaholic. I was flabbergasted at how much this guy sweated getting the floors gleaming every night. All his money went into a totally titsed out deep maroon Chevy Nova with mag wheels, big white-lettered racing tires, complete tuck-and-roll interior and an always-scrubbed white vinyl top. The engine compartment was a study in polished chrome and expensive accessories. One day I came into work, and was surprised to see him there because I hadn't seen his rolling pride-and-joy outside. With tears in his eyes, he told me that his car had been totalled.
posted by telstar at 2:54 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's all a bit of storm in a tea cup. I've had decent Mexican food (in South California) and to be honest, I think the TG boys described it well. The main problem I have with the whole segment is that it just wasn't funny.
posted by salmacis at 3:32 AM on February 3, 2011


the miserable lives they've been forced to pass on some dreary island that elevated the grey-hued overboiled pea to culinary hall of fame status for want of a real cuisine.

Heh. Way to meet lazy national stereotype with lazy national stereotype.
posted by penguin pie at 3:36 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trust me salmacis, what the TG boys described does not represent at all mexican food in general. It completely sounded like they were describing Taco Bell style food, which is decidedly NOT mexican, it's american. We do not eat tex-mex food in Mexico. We put cheese on everything? It's all refried? Really? Well, not 99% of the food I eat over here.
posted by Omon Ra at 4:30 AM on February 3, 2011


I've noticed people on all sides of these discussions tend to generalize - usually based on one experience. It is human nature, I suppose. "I knew this one Mexican guy who..." Yeah? Maybe his traits had more to do with him than with being Mexican.

Also, there is bad Mexican food in Southern California. There is great food of all types to be had in London and in the UK. There are crappy restaurants in Paris. London's "bad" weather is about the same as Paris. There are both lazy AND hard-working Mexicans. But stereotypes persist, I guess.

My wife and I were discussing the other day how everyone *knows* that food from their own country is highly regional. An American knows that food from NYC is different from food in Memphis or Chicago or Los Angeles. A Brit knows that food in Cornwall is different from Yorkshire is different from Edinburgh. An Italian knows that food from Piemonte is different than food from Sicily, etc. A Mexican knows that Michoacan food is different from Sonoran and both very different from Veracruz.

And, yet, when it comes to other countries everyone happily lumps it all together. It is a bit blind and perverse.
posted by vacapinta at 4:47 AM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


And what you get in Chinese takeaways in the UK is a world away from actual Chinese food they eat in China, and half of the menu in Indian restaurants in the UK doesn't exist in India and was specifically invented for the UK market. The fact that we like to invent styles of food and pretend it's authenticly foreign is old news :)

For what it's worth, we don't get Taco Bell here and most people's conception of "Mexican" food is probably the Old El Paso brand of tortillas/salsa/"fajita kits".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:48 AM on February 3, 2011


Sorry, my comment was following on from omonra.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:49 AM on February 3, 2011


Right, EndsOfInvention, that's why I wrote Taco Bell-Style. And there you go, I've never eaten a fajita in a Mexican restaurant outside of Chilis.

That bit of the TG "joke" irked me in a funny way, more than anything. It's the one bit that really put a knot in my stomach when I heard it, because if this country has produced one unabashedly great thing is its food (which, and I realize this is somewhat meaningless, was recently declared by the UNESCO as a world heritage).
posted by Omon Ra at 5:20 AM on February 3, 2011


This thread reminded me to torrent Machete.
posted by delmoi at 5:25 AM on February 3, 2011


Hmm, well I guess I see Taco Bell and Old El Paso as pretty different food (having eaten both). It's kind of the different between PizzaHut and a "make your own pizza kit" that came with a ready made base and some tomato sauce. Both are pretty different, but neither are anything like an actual Italian pizza.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:41 AM on February 3, 2011


Oh god in hell, not another "OMG offensiveness!" row. People really need to lighten the fuck up and learn to distinguish between seriousness and joking.

I despise Clarkson and his kind to a level beyond the capacity for a sane human to imagine. I think Top Gear is horrible, loutish "entertainment" served up for beered-up yobboes by three of the most reprehensible, superannuated "lads" it has ever been my pain to experience. But that remark was so obviously not intended seriously, was so obviously ironic - yes, that word; that precious, beautiful concept - that I can but weep yet again for the utterly busted humour-o-meters of those who shriek "racism" at it.

And if Clarkson et al really believe that Mexican food is like "refried sick" than all that shows is they've never had proper Mexican food.
posted by Decani at 5:49 AM on February 3, 2011


Last time we were in England, my wife and I smuggled in some Mexican seasonings so we could have a break from stereotypical English food available in the Cotswolds. We were overjoyed when we found some dude selling California-style burritos in Camden.

We also recently discovered Top Gear once it showed up on Netflix Watch Instantly. We both have 0 interest in cars, but we like shows where English people bicker. There is an inherent Manchild element to the show - you could hear the same sort of discussions on playgrounds everywhere, except replacing Lamborghini vs Ferrari with Batman vs Superman - so hearing these sorts of random stereotypes is not all that surprising.

One of the things I enjoy about the show is that, when they travel, the hosts have their stereotypes confronted and confounded. I'm thinking especially of the Vietnam episode here. I enjoyed watching the initial disdain they had for their motorbikes fade and develop into genuine affection. They went from looking down at the locals to being amazed by their ingenuity.

So maybe a Top Gear in Mexico episode is in order? Just ask the boys to leave the hat dance playing horns at home. It's hard to learn anything over that stereotypical din.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:50 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


No Brit has ever met an actual Mexican so they get the stereotypes, I think, from American films and TV including Westerns.

This is true. And the same is true for Asian people in the US - a character like Apu would never be written in a UK sitcom, unless at the very least he was voiced by a British Asian actor.

I'm with those who have suggested that to your average Brit, taking the piss out of Mexicans is like taking the piss out of the French.

Only dullards take the piss out of the French. See also: use of the word 'limey'. STOP LIVIN IN THE 1700s YO.
posted by mippy at 6:05 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Decani But that remark was so obviously not intended seriously, was so obviously ironic - yes, that word; that precious, beautiful concept - that I can but weep yet again for the utterly busted humour-o-meters of those who shriek "racism" at it.

I can see why that would be very upsetting.

I do have a question, though. I can understand why the above is ironic - someone getting upset and sweary at the failure of others to maintain a mood of detached levity is indubitably a case of situational irony. But in what sense is:

Cars reflect their national characteristics, don't they? So German cars are very well-built and ruthlessly efficient, Italian cars are very flamboyant and quick, so a Mexican car is going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.

actually according-to-Hoyle ironic? It might certainly be being said for comic effect. It might certainly not reflect a sincerely-held belief - Stewart Lee jokes in his routine about Top Gear that the presenters' stock in trade is expressing views they do not actually hold in the pursuit of monetary gain. But in what sense is it ironic? Likewise:

They can't do food, the Mexicans, can they? Because it's just like sick, with cheese on it.

or

I'm sorry, but just imagine waking up and remembering that you're Mexican!

My question is not whether these quotes are xenophobic, or racist, or whether it's appropriate for Mexicans or non-Mexicans to be offended by these statements, or indeed whether or not they are incorrect, or hyperbolic, or intentionally absurd - or any of the other Morissettish misinterpretations on offer. I'd just like to understand in what sense you feel they are ironic.
posted by DNye at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Only dullards take the piss out of the French. See also: use of the word 'limey'.

I have to say that I'd prefer to be called "limey" than the endless round of bad food jokes that I normally hear. STOP LIVING IN THE 1970S YO.
posted by ob at 6:50 AM on February 3, 2011


Well, I would have said that, but I remembered I;d had a bastardized version of a tortilla at lunch, so best not.

(Look. I make the tortilla, I get to decide if houmous and sour cream go together, ok?)
posted by mippy at 6:56 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe the moral of the story is that nobody has any idea what any other nation is like at all, and the only question is whether or not the misinformed generalisations are going to be flattering or unflattering - they will never be accurate.

(There's an interesting bit in Jeremy Clarkson's programme about Germany where, having demonstrated that Germans have no sense of humour by telling mother-in-law jokes in broken German to a silent crowd, he then talks to a German journalist who is very funny, but so deadpan that if you thought that Germans had no sense of humour you might think you were getting the brutally honest straight dope on the German psyche. Stewart Lee (again), talking about national variations in humour, recounted a story of having a drink in Hannover before a gig, and finding himself completely flummoxed when one of the locals said "You will notice there are no old buildings in Hannover. That is because you bombed them all." Which, if you don't think Germans have a sense of humour, is a horrible moment of social awkwardness, and if you do is hilarious.)
posted by DNye at 7:06 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]



Jeremy Clarkson is a tool. He is the tooliest tool in Tooltown. Jeremy Clarkson is in fact such a tool that he has provoked an international incident. That's how much of a tool he is.

Nick Clegg is visiting Mexico in two weeks. Apparently Top Gear is shown there, too. This is likely to disrupt happy the otherwise straightforward UK/Mexico relationship

They want the BBC to apologise as a "matter of urgency" before Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visits Mexico later this month so there is "no interruption to the excellent political and economic relations that the two countries currently hold".

posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 7:25 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haha, that just reminds me of the Brazilians and Simpsons.
posted by smackfu at 7:29 AM on February 3, 2011


Have any of you complaining about offense ever watched Top Gear? The offensive phrase quoted is so so very far over the top and absurd that it is clearly infact a parody of racist stereotyping itself.

Its like suggesting that an Australian made car would run on beer and spend most of the day lazing about at the beach and come with BBQ. Which as an Australian I don't find offensive at all.
posted by mary8nne at 7:45 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


You guys really don't need to watch Tosh.0
posted by LordSludge at 7:53 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain where this stereotype even comes from? I literally have no conception of it.
The lazyness stigma is part of the old colonial (as a general term) dictionary. Hardworking colonists take control by force of another country and find the natives strangely reluctant to work for them for minimal or zero wages. The official reason: the natives are naturally lazy and should have work ethic beaten into them. So South Americans were lazy, Africans were lazy, Asians were lazy etc. Tibetans are lazy too, according to some Han businessmen in Lhassa.
The resilience of the "lazy Mexican" stereotype is still a little bit odd. There's a French popular song from the 60s, called The Mexican, written by Charles Aznavour and featuring a Mexican so lazy that he can't be bothered to eat, drink or take part in the Revolution (Every day, every night is the same, it's much better to sleep).
posted by elgilito at 8:39 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


They want the BBC to apologise as a "matter of urgency" before Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visits Mexico later this month so there is "no interruption to the excellent political and economic relations that the two countries currently hold".

Oh my. Poor old BBC. If they reprimand Top Gear under pressure from the UK government, it will be said that they have lost the independence that distinguishes them from commercial channels, which will put the license fee at risk. If they do not, it will be said that they are so dangerously subversive that they will risk an international incident just to thumb their noses at the government ... which will put the license fee at risk. David Cameron may be secretly delighted. Nick Clegg, who will be the one getting delicious gorditas thrown at him, probably less so.

The shockwaves may reach beyond Mexico, though. What if a diplomatic perfect storm blows up when Argentina makes it clear that if Hammond apologises to Mexico/doesn't apologise to Mexico (depending on the quality of international relations) he can forget about coming back for the next season of Total Wipeout? Actually, that sounds sort of great. Can we encourage this crisis to spread?
posted by DNye at 8:44 AM on February 3, 2011


I too love Top Gear, and I too winced. Like others upthread, I went through the mental arithmetic which involved things like "yeah, but they're assholes to everyone..." and I figured out what seemed to be the difference here, when they make fun of the French, or the Germans, or whatever, they are gently prodding at old stereotypes with countries that they are nearly universally on good terms with. Making fun of Mexicans is them not appearing to not be aware of the fact that there is a goodish portion of people in America that have a very real, hostile impression of the people from Mexico, who would gladly eat up that kind of language, and on the other side, people who seriously take offense and bridle at its use.

But I figure that they aren't actually making the show for North America, their target audience isn't people who knee-jerk into hatred for Hispanic immigrants, and the hosts are probably mostly oblivious to the fact that their words might be taken as more than the way a listener might hear "the French are rude" or "the Germans are strict".

Not in any way a defense of a stupid statement on their part, but perhaps an explanation as to why it sounded so unexpectedly hostile to American viewers.
posted by quin at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2011


Have any of you complaining about offense ever watched Top Gear? The offensive phrase quoted is so so very far over the top and absurd that it is clearly infact a parody of racist stereotyping itself.

Not just that but, even in that section Clarkson made a "xenophobic" joke about France, despite the fact he holidays there more than anywhere else, and admits it's one of his favourite countries. They're boorish because it seems to work for them. And I like their refusal (like the Penny Arcade guys at the moment) to cave in to pressure from idiots who take everything far too seriously.
posted by opsin at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2011


Oh, and if it might disrupt diplomatic relations between the UK and Mexico? Then Mexico needs to grow the fuck up. It's nothing to do with our government, and even if it were, is it really harmful to you?
posted by opsin at 9:03 AM on February 3, 2011


Jeremy Clarkson is a tool. He is the tooliest tool in Tooltown. Jeremy Clarkson is in fact such a tool that he has provoked an international incident. That's how much of a tool he is.

IT WUZ HAMMOND THIS TIME WHAT SAID THE BAD THING.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:07 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


(like the Penny Arcade guys at the moment)

Lloyd, get ready to be heartbroken.
posted by DNye at 9:24 AM on February 3, 2011


The Mexican ambassador is right to be offended. Clarkson's comment was offensive and rude."

I love Top Gear, but Clarkson rather unfairly seems to get all the criticism. In this case, though, it was Richard Hammond who was clearly the worst instigator, with the whole "lazy, feckless, flatulent" national characterization and "just imagine waking up and remembering your Mexican"... followed by Clarkson's "you could just go back to sleep again." Embarrassingly bad.

James May really was the sensitive one here. I think calling the car a "Tortilla" and comparing their food to "sick with cheese on it" was fair game, really... even if the food is very tasty sick.

The thing is, I could see them making the same kind of food jokes if they were reviewing an Indian car, along with implications of such a car being a cheap POS. What they *wouldn't* do is talk about lazy Pakis, walking around in dirty pajamas, wearing their underwear on their head. That simply wouldn't fly in the UK, and could -- quite rightly -- get the entire show canceled over there.

And frankly, their crass, tasteless stereotyping of Mexicans shouldn't fly on BBC America, which is a very significant, growing part of BBC viewership. I don't know if they have a writer who comes up with this stuff, but it simply comes off as wildly racist in this country. It's quite likely this segment won't air in the US... and really, it probably shouldn't.

As for the fallout with the Mexican government, I hope that the cast does find a way to apologize and smooth over the situation. It would be a shame not for this to happen, because I would *love* to see Top Gear do a series of challenges while riding balls out through parts of Mexico.
posted by markkraft at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2011


I'm amazed that so few people seem to understand what Top Gear is essentially about, namely trying to provoke Daily Mail readers and other hyper-sensitive types into apoplexy. Clarkson has admitted as such on several occasions. They've created a show that's almost immune to criticism - whatever you accuse them of they'll happily admit to, including the whole thing being a massive media trolling exercise and I'm glad they do it.
posted by NeonSurge at 10:46 AM on February 3, 2011


I would posit that if people did not conflate Hispanic ethnicity with Mexican nationality, people would not be describing these comments as racist, as May did not mention race specifically.

That's an incredibly narrow definition of racism. Prejudice against specific nationalities is pretty commonly seen as one of the many ways racism manifests itself.
posted by kmz at 11:01 AM on February 3, 2011


Mastretta? MITCHELL!
posted by FatherDagon at 11:55 AM on February 3, 2011


...there is decent Mexican food to be found here as well.

Yeah, it's crazy how better and more readily available Mexican food in London has gotten just in the last couple of years. I blame Thomasina Miers, who won the British Top Chef equivalent and then opened the aforementioned Wahaca. Which is not bad at all, but I prefer Mestizo for my mole, not to mention their 'Jueves Mexicano' in the bar downstairs with cheap tacos, yum!

The burritos at Chilango are also up to the standard of an average San Francisco Mission taqueria.

I haven't tried Chilango yet (they only have cilantro-lime rice, boo!), but it boggles my mind that there's 5 Mexican places within walking distance from my work. I like Tortilla for my SF-style burrito (and Anchor Steam!). And down at Waterloo station, the Buen Provecho taco stand has not only mole, but cochinita pibil so good I almost cried.

And with the Cool Chile stand at Borough market, and all the store brands that are popping up these days, it's also easier to cook Mexican food at home. Tonight, we're having Marks & Spencer mole (although it might be weird, it has kidney beans in it and apparently can also serve as chile con carne?!) and Waitrose tortilla chips! I just wish Morrisons would bring back the Monterey Jack...
posted by KatlaDragon at 12:33 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed that so few people seem to understand what Top Gear is essentially about, namely trying to provoke Daily Mail readers and other hyper-sensitive types into apoplexy.

That's a curious statement to make about Top Gear. The core audience of Top Gear is made up of Daily Mail readers, no? The things Clarkson and Top Gear rail against or mock - European federalism, the French, the Germans, foreigners in general, immigration, feminism, champagne socialists, liberals, political correctness, climate change science predicting the weather in 20 years when they can't even tell you whether it'll be raining on your barbecue at the weekend, environmentalists, speed cameras, Gordon Brown - are exactly the things Daily Mail readers are angry about. This is why Top Gear is successful, and why the Daily Mail is successful. The editors may not be fans, but the readership absolutely is.
posted by DNye at 1:14 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


What, like with sauce poured on top?

Hah! What're you, some kind of comedian? A wise guy?

Seriously, a taco truck opened up near my place two months ago and they actually make good burritos. This makes me unreasonably happy. I haven't been able to find a proper burrito near downtown Seattle. Apparently legit taco trucks have existed or some time out in the industrial suburbs, but not in downtown Seattle where I can walk less than a half mile to get a damn good burrito.

Yeah, the guys that own and operate said taco truck are actually from Oakland and SF. They may be one of the first to successfully import a Mission style burrito to Seattle.

posted by loquacious at 3:46 PM on February 3, 2011


Count me among those confused by the "lazy Mexican" stereotype.

From a U.S. and Texas-centered perspective (plenty of Mexicans here), the whole segment was just bizarre. It's just as confusing as if the Top Gear guys joked at length about terrible French cuisine, or the how Italians are always so serious and stuffy.

U.S. stereotypes = Mexicans work hard, have great food
U.K. stereotypes = Mexicans don't work, have bad food

????????
posted by texano at 10:08 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganized and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organized," the statement read. "We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centered on national stereotyping are a part of 'Top Gear's' humor."

BBC "apologizes" for comments said on Top Gear.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 7:50 AM on February 4, 2011


And what you get in Chinese takeaways in the UK is a world away from actual Chinese food they eat in China

...and just different enough from what you get in America to be maddening. I've been living here in the UK for over three years now, and I know it's not authentic, I know it's bad for me, but god damn it, I want some sesame chicken.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2011


Jeremy Clarkson on the whole issue: "I'm sorry... that you have no sense of humour".
posted by micketymoc at 12:30 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or it could be that the joke simply wasn't funny. Not really offensive either; just kinda meh.

Perhaps they ought to think about employing a scriptwriter or two, instead of lazily plagiarising material from their children...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:09 AM on February 6, 2011


I think the last sentence of that - Why doesn't Mexico have an Olympic team? Because everyone who can run, jump or swim is already over the border- at least shows that Clarkson is ready to update his humour to make it more relevant to modern perceptions.

But, as mentioned above, why would Clarkson or any of the other presenters worry about this? The only successful campaign against a banner BBC name of late was against Ross and Brand, and the only reason that happened was because the Daily Mail got involved - before that the BBC had received two complaints. The Daily Mail presumably knows that a campaign against Top Gear would get no traction (pun not intended) at all among its readers, because its readers like Top Gear and like Clarkson, even if they can't stand the BBC as a whole.

So, the BBC attempts to satisfy critics without implicating its product, and the presenters can use their newspaper columns to say that they, personally, are not sorry at all, which keeps the viewers happy that the Top Gear boys/chaps/lads/guys (there's a real language of sodality which I think bespeaks a genuine affection - you can see it in this thread) are on their side, and will continue to tweak the noses of the easily-offended PC crowd in defiance of the effete metropolitan elites at the BBC. Everyone's kind of a winner.
posted by DNye at 4:38 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a handy video guide for Top Gear presenters.
posted by ob at 8:01 AM on February 7, 2011


A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, powered by hydrogen gas which currently comes from oil refineries and a type of fuel cell which may be decades from mass production. And they referred to it as an 'electric car' (presumably with the basis that hydrogen could maybe someday be produced electrically if we had a ton of extra electricity for some reason). I'd be more mad about this if it were an American show, since a lot of Americans genuinely believe this kind of greenwashing. In the context of super-eco-aware UK culture, it comes across as humorous stodgy contrariness.

It uses hydrogen fuel cells, which produce the electricity required to power the electric motor (mentioned, I might add, in the first 2 minutes of the Top Gear piece). It's not a hydrogen motor. It's an electric motor. The presumption is your own. And yes, Americans are idiots. That point really props up your argument beautifully.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:25 PM on February 11, 2011




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