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On Richard Hammond, 'The Grand Tour' And 'Gay Ice Cream'

27/12/2016 09:01
Faith Moran / Splash News

A message to Richard Hammond:

Listen, it's Christmas, and we're all a bit knackered. In the past few days I've barely been across the doors, but have still managed to eat quantities of Celebrations so vast I'm as tired as if I'd run a half-marathon. So I'll keep this as short as I can. But I do feel compelled to say something about this whole "gay ice cream" debacle.

I know that right now your Twitter mentions must be blowing up with angry lefties, calling for you to be sacked or demanding some class of public apology. That must be annoying, and I'm willing to acknowledge that.

But I don't want you to look at this backlash and brush it off as the Twitter brigade taking offensive to something for the sake of it, and blowing up what probably felt like a throwaway comment from you into something far uglier than you intended it.

Because the thing is, Richard, regardless of whether you actually meant to hurt anyone's feelings, your "joke" was still offensive. It was completely at the expense of LGBT+ people, a community which has taken a bit of a beating in the past 12 months.

Of course, I'm not saying that you suggesting that ice cream is not for straight men is the most homophobic joke that's ever gone on TV. Hell, it's not even the most homophobic joke to air on one of your shows. But in the current climate, it's becoming tougher and tougher to take jokes at the expense of LGBT+ people - or any other minority, for that matter - on the chin.

Up until recently, things had been getting gradually better for us, so remarks like yours stung a lot less. On a rare sunny day, you have to make an effort to not let a few wasps spoil your picnic (another activity I assume you think is off-limits to straight people, I apparently can't help myself).

The events of the past 12 months have made that a lot more difficult, though, Richard, because we're all so tired. And we just don't need any more aggro. We have enough to contend with, do you know what I mean?

It's been well-documented that you and your co-stars are getting paid a hefty sum to present 'The Grand Tour', with millions of viewers thought to be streaming it on Amazon Prime every week. With that in mind, is that really how you want to use your power and influence? You've been given an enviable platform, and you're choosing to use it to make jokes at the expense of a marginalised group, using stereotypes that don't even exist?

And Richard, without wishing to get too personal, you're a father. Aren't you concerned that if one of your daughters were to come out as gay, they could switch on TV one morning and see some random man cracking a cheap joke at their expense, just for a few measly laughs from a studio audience?

Or worse, not "some random man" at all, but their own father? Their own father, laughing away at them on TV, without batting an eyelid?

It's an inevitability that there will be closeted teenage boys watching 'The Grand Tour' with their dads all over the world each week. You probably haven't considered the feeling in their stomach they'll have had the moment you made your silly joke. Or the embarrassment they'll have felt at the sight of their own dad, laughing along with you. Or, indeed, the shame in that moment of having to laugh along with him, just so he wouldn't think anything was wrong.

And listen, I don't want you to feel bad or ashamed or anything like that. This isn't even really about you, or Jeremy Clarkson, or ice cream, or gay people, or 'The Grand Tour'. This is about recognising that your words -- and all of our words - have weight and consequence.

So it's important that you - and all of us - learn something from this. We all need to realise that we have choices when it comes to the language we use, and the jokes we make. And either we can use our brains, have some compassion for other people and think, "do you know what? I am not going to give a marginalised group any aggro they don't need today. I want to be better than that".

Or we can go on TV, and we can say that we won't eat ice cream, because it's a bit gay.

The choice truly is ours. So... what's it going to be?

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