Are The Grand Tour’s homophobic comments really that big a deal?

This week, presenters of Amazon Prime show The Grand Tour (a follow-on from British cult classic Top Gear) have come under fire for their use of homophobic jokes and comments after the latest episode based in Columbia caused an online backlash. But is it really a big deal?

Clarkson, Hammond and May in a promo shot for the Amazon Prime show. Image courtesy of Amazon

In the episode in question, Jeremy Clarkson is seen driving a Jeep, which Richard Hammond and James May suggest that it is a ‘gay’ car. Hammond then details the makeover Clarkson should get to ‘match’ the allegedly stereo-typically gay car, which included moisturising, wearing some “nice chaps, suede but ventilated at the back” and complimenting his pink shirt.

The comments prompted an angry response from gay pop singer, social activist and podcast personality Will Young, who launched into a furious tirade on twitter.

One of the tweets from Will Young, criticising the comments made on the show.

This isn’t the first time that stars of the show have been criticised for homophobia; in 2016, Hammond responded to a remark about a Magnum ice cream by stating “I don’t eat ice cream. It’s something to do with being straight.” The remark prompted frustration from LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, and criticism online.

If you have never experienced homophobic abuse, then the fact that these comments are being talked about at all may be baffling to you. You could be forgiven for thinking that the statements are harmless, that some jokes based on outdated stereotypes aren’t anything to get angry about. Of course, if these jokes happened in a social vacuum, then they may be excusable. Or at the very least, they’d be not worth mentioning at all.

But the simple fact is that these jokes do not happen in a vacuum.

They were written, spoken, edited and cleared for viewing in the same world that saw Empire star Jussie Smollett violently attacked because of his race and sexuality yesterday. The same world in which currently, at least 40 gay men sit in a detention camp in Chechnya after a ‘gay purge’ of their people.

Star of Fox’s award winning show Empire, Jussie Smollett, who was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack yesterday

If Will Young’s reaction to the remarks seemed extreme to you, that’s okay. Chances are that you grew up in the same quietly homophobic society that I did, where criticism of non-straight people can be seen all around you from childhood. Especially, in the media gay people have spent a long time being accepted as normal in the media we consume.

When this sort of language and behaviour is normalised, it leads to the normalisation of other, more harmful things. In a study carried out by Stonewall, it was revealed that 21% of LGBTQ+ people have been attacked in the last year. This figure doubles when looking solely at attacks on trans people. The question here has to be asked; where are they learning this bias from?

Of course, the blame for these attacks should not be put on The Grand Tour hosts. The comments are not violent in particular, but what they are is ignorant, and they only work to normalise the stereotyping of LGBTQ+ people. By mocking queer people, Hammond, Clarkson and May are excluding them from their content. They are assuming that gay people do not exist in their social vacuum.

While LGBTQ+ people are still being victimised, attacked, bullied and killed across the world for things they cannot change, any ignorant comment on a TV show should very much be criticised.

Ellen Lovell
Ellen Lovell is a final year Music Journalism student at the University of Huddersfield. As a queer woman from a working-class background, Ellen is really into writing about politics, LGBTQ+ issues and feminism, and really not into media sensationalism. She is a firm believer that education is the absolute key to understanding the world around you, but you don’t need a university degree; learning about different points of view and getting out of your personal echo chamber is the best way to know more about the world around you. That’s exactly why she’s so proud to be writing for The Common Sense Network. In her spare time, Ellen can be found petting cats, playing video games and promoting her activism. She has experience in recording and producing podcasts and a radio show, and has written a range of articles for student magazines.

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