Mexico: Reactions to “Racist” Remarks on BBC's Top Gear

On Sunday January 30, Richard Hammond, one of the presenters on the BBC’s popular car show Top Gear, made these comments while talking about the Mexican designed car Mastretta: “Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.” These and other comments during the show have become a big topic of discussion in the national blogosphere.

Top Gear. Image by Flickr user mikkelz, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

Blogger Alejandro Ortiz Sotomayor from Vivir Mexico [es] explained the situation:

El hecho fue que en dicho programa en vez de analizar al vehículo como tal, solamente se dedicaron a criticar al pueblo mexicano a base de estereotipos ignorantes y mal fundados, llegando incluso a ofender al embajador de nuestro país en Inglaterra.

The fact is that in the program, rather than analyze the vehicle as such, the presenters devoted their time to criticizing Mexican people based on ignorant and ill-founded stereotypes, even offending the ambassador of our country in England.

Jeremy Clarkson, another of the show's presenters, said: “We won't get any complaints about this because the Mexican ambassador's going to be sitting there with a remote control like this.” Mexican Ambassador to the UK, Eduardo Medina-Mora, has written to the BBC asking for an apology.

Blogger “El Enigma” expressed his thoughts on the matter:

¿A quién le dolió y porque las palabras que dijeron en el programa ingles Top Gear?

A MI SI. Pero que quede claro que no estoy siendo patriotero buscando el ser el líder de una noche de los cuchillos con antorchas y demás en contra de los británicos.

A mí me molesta el que sigan los estereotipos encasillando a los mexicanos en el mundo

Who got hurt –and why– with the words they said in the English program Top Gear?

I DID. But let me be clear that I am not being patriotic trying to be the leader of a [revolt] with torches, knives and other things against the British.

It bothers me that they keep stereotyping Mexicans in the world

Later in the post he writes [es]:

Así que si en verdad reviso el cumulo de tonterías que dijeron en TopGear me queda claro que a) el conductor es inútil torpe que no sabe ni siquiera de que habla, b) no puedo darle el título de conocedor si basa su criterio al hablar de autos pro el país de donde vienen y por ultimo c) ni siquiera tiene los pantalones en twitter para dar la cara sino que cierra la cuenta y se va.

Apoyo la queja interpuesta por el embajador Eduardo Medina Mora por esta manera tan absurda e irresponsable de hablar de un “conocedor” pero con el tacto y el criterio de un hipopótamo al tocar el piano.

So if I actually review the bunch of nonsense they said in TopGear, it is clear to me that a) the presenter is useless and dumb and doesn't even know what he is talking about, b) I cannot give him the title of an expert if he bases his approach to discussing cars according to the country they come from and finally c) the presenter does not even have the pants to come forward on Twitter and instead closes the account and leaves.

I support the complaint filed by Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora, for this absurd and irresponsible way of speaking by someone that is “knowledgeable” but has the tact and judgment of a hippopotamus playing the piano.

In the blog Agencia Sinarquista de Noticia, the opinion of writer David Valdez has a different tone [es]:

Lo más sorprende de todo es que esto suceda en un país que se precia de reírse hasta de sus muertos con un humor sabrosón, y sin embargo ahora refunfuña porque alguien le dijo cositas feas similares a las que dicen los niños de primaria.

No deja de llamar la atención que andemos requete indignados ahora que los british nos sacaron la lengua, cuando en los programas de humor de Estados Unidos somos blanco de burlas todos los días, como los son los negros, y los judíos, y los irlandeses, y los white trash… se trata de humor y nada más, no pasa nada.

Como ayer dijo alguien en Twitter: si por cada chiste en el que nos burlamos de otras razas hubiera una reacción como la de México, ya estaríamos fuera de la ONU.

The most surprising thing is that this happens in a country that prides itself on laughing even about their dead with a great sense of humor, and yet now [the country] grumbles because someone said mean little things similar to those that schoolchildren say.

It doesn't cease to call my attention that we are super angry now that the British stuck their tongue out at us, when in comedy programs from the Untied States we are teased every day, as are blacks, and Jews, and the Irish, and “white trash”… it's humor and nothing more, it's not a big deal.

As someone said on Twitter yesterday: if for every joke in which we make fun of other races there was a reaction like Mexico's, we would be out the UN.

Tim Johnson in Mexico Unmasked wrote a post where he reports on the different reactions the comments caused:

Apparently many Mexican internet users didn’t take the kind of offense at the show that the ambassador did, if the remarks posted on the El Universal website are any indication. Many showed the refined sense of irony that I personally find refreshing in Mexicans.

“Why such a scandal?” one poster asked. “How insecure people are to be offended so easily.”

Another said: “This stereotype of the lazy Mexican is so out of date. To make the joke more current, instead of calling the car a ‘tortilla’ it should be called a ‘hit man.’ Instead of ‘lazy’ it should show a high-caliber weapon.”

A Mexican student in London accused Top Gear of racism and asked lawyers “to bring a test case against the show,” as reported by The Telegraph.

The BBC issued a formal apology to Mexico. Here is a part of their statement:

The Executive Producer for Top Gear has written to the Mexican Ambassador and apologised for the comments made about him during the show. On the broader issue of comments about Mexicans as people, the show has explained they were making comic use of a stereotype; a practice with which regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar.

“We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centred on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humour, and indeed a robust part of our national humour. Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganised and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organised. When we do it, we are being rude, yes, and mischievous, but there is no vindictiveness behind the comments.

15 comments

  • george

    Humour is so not understood in our world today .everyone seems ready to pick a fight.sorry but i dont get how we can be like this in the 21st century.so mideval.or worst.one thing to learn from the brits is self sarcasm .thats why they ve got the power to make jokes .they first joke about themselves.so all this is just ….bad.as for those who say they will not watch the show ,they will be missing lots.and i m not british ,i m greek…..greasy greek ..so what?

  • Lulu

    ven though I’m not Mexican, I have been a resident here for the last 6 years so I do feel it’s part of me now.

    Analising this incident with a foreign judgement, I can tell that (whether or not have I lived here or only visited Mexico) there still is a very ingrained stereotype at a global level, which is very sad because it has nothing to do with what Mexico is now.

    When I found out about the comments made by the presenters, I was shocked!
    And I’m sure that if something similar happened the other way, the British would be as (or even more) angry and hurt than mexicans.

    It’s good that they made a public formal apology, but the damage has been made, because this could have repercussions on the image of Mexico worldwide.

    • Rick Stewarat

      @Lulu – I must disagree – the British would not be angry and hurt at all, they would be laughing their butts off (watch the show – they are always making fun of themselves).

      My daughter lives in London, I spend a lot of time in England, I’ve never met a Brit without a great sense of humor. Equally, I have traveled a lot in Mexico (including last week) and have never met a Mexican without a sense of humor.

      Let’s hope we can keep it that way – Brits laughing at Mexicans, and Mexicans laughing at Brits, and both laughing at themselves.

  • 552

    They have overdone it.

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