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Published on Tue, Feb 1, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The British cast of Top Gear. L-R: Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May

The British BBC show Top Gear has always been a favorite of enthusiasts, in part because of its irreverence. Even American viewers were forced to laugh at themselves when the three stars spent time in the US a couple of seasons ago, making fun, largely of American cars and people. But a recent episode went too far, descending into uninformed slander: BBC Top Gear co-host Richard Hammond: “Why would you want a Mexican car? …Cars reflect the national characteristics… Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a mustache, leaning against a fence, asleep, looking at cactus with a blanket with hole in the middle and calling it a coat.” Top Gear co-host James May: “They can’t do food, the Mexicans, can they? Because it’s like sick with cheese on it.” Hammond: “Re-fried sick.” Hammond goes on to say, “I’m sorry, but just imagine waking up and remembering you are Mexican.” To which co-host Jeremy Clarkson replied, “It’ll be brilliant, because you can go straight back to sleep again.” Note: You can watch a video clip of the part in question here In response to the ignorant tripe spewed about Mexico, let’s counter with a couple of facts: 1. Mexicans are not lazy, sleepy, or blanket-wearing. They are industrious and hardworking, a leading producer of consumer goods and a crucial partner in NAFTA. It’s hard to believe that three educated, traveled men would be stuck on racist “Frito Bandito”-era images as their notion of what Mexico is. 2. The country is not all cactus plants. A trip to Mexico City, for instance, will reveal a bustling, cosmopolitan place with beautiful colonial architecture complemented by new builds that surpass anything outside of Singapore for beauty and ambition. 3. The food is hardly the slop these three describe it as. In fact, UNESCO has recently declared it an Intangible Heritage of Humanity. 4. Mexican autoworkers do make cars, and have for a long time. Ford, GM, VW, Toyota, and others have made and continue to make vehicles there. As we all realize, that is in part because wages are lower than they are in the US or Canada. According to a recent Bloomberg report, nearly 20 percent of the cars sold in North America are made in Mexico, Over the past decade, Mexican auto plants have been cited as having better quality than US ones at certain junctures. Anyway, isn’t a Brit criticizing someone else’s ability to make cars a little ironic? Or for that matter, a Brit criticizing someone else’s cuisine? The answer, of course, is that the show is going for humor (or humour)—it’s not a news program, but an entertainment one. Fine, but taste and the thin line between satire to invective need to be discriminated. So here’s some advice for the three faded, puffy stars of the British show: shut your mouths until you know what you’re talking about. Or were those your “arses” talking? It’s hard to tell the difference. For the rest of us, let the BBC know that you think there’s a difference between humor and ignorance. Comment at - Brian Kennedy Note: LA CAR Editor-at-Large Brian Kennedy taught British literature in study abroad programs in Oxford, England.

The object of the show’s disaffection: The Mastretta MXT from Mexico


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