Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Do Not Feed The Rednecks

I’ve been doing a little light-hearted America-bashing recently, so I thought I’d follow that up with another story that not only makes fun of America a little more, but also highlights a little of the stupidity of my own nation.

In England, there’s a car show called ‘Top Gear’. It’s a weird show in that you don’t really have to be into cars to enjoy it.

Basically, they drive Supercars, do the occasional review of them, and generally dick around.

For example, on one show, each of the three presenters had to buy a second hand car and make it amphibious, leading one to fit a forty-foot mast to the middle of an old morris minor. In another, they decided to ‘prove’ that no one in England really needed to buy a four wheel drive car by driving across the spine of Africa in some thirty year old, two wheel drive wrecks. The best thing about that episode is that they actually made it (after a few million breakdowns, of course).

Anyway, the story I want to tell you is about an episode where they came to America.

The premise of the episode was that fly-drive vacations are a gigantic pain in the ass because of the rental car process. So the challenge was to arrive in Florida, buy a used car for a thousand dollars and then drive across four states, doing mini challenges along the way…and then see if they could then sell their cars for around the same price they bought them for.

Then one of the challenges they had to do on the American show made my mouth drop open.

You see, they make fun of pretty much all country’s stereotypes, but they do so in a very light-hearted, non-serious way. For example, in a show where they competed in challenges against the hosts from a German car show, they arrived for the first day of challenges in WW2 Spitfire fighter planes.

Basically, they pick the most blatant obvious stereotypes and then act as if they’re fact, even though they know that’s not the case.

With the American episode, they should have taken it a little more seriously.

One of the challenges was, and I quote:

“You may not get shot at or arrested in the following challenge, although getting one of the other’s shot or arrested will score you points. To do this, you must each ‘decorate’ the others cars.”

So that’s the setup. They could write things on each other’s cars, drive through an American town and get lots of good shots of people ‘reacting’ to the things they’ve decorated their cars with.

In other words, this would be like an American car show coming to England and driving around with things like “We saved your ass in WW2” or “Soccer sucks” on the side of their cars.

However, the show’s hosts wrote things like “Hillary for President” “Country and Western is Rubbish” “Manlove Rules” and other things of that nature on their cars.

Then…they decided to drive through rural Alabama.

As you can guess, it started off pretty much as they expected. They were driving along a freeway and got lots of shots of people’s shocked expressions, a few angry motorists honking their horns at them, basically what you’d expect…but then they had to pull into a gas station.

As you can guess, their cars did not go down well. He segment ended with a pick up truck full of shirtless rednecks screaming into the gas station, people throwing rocks at their cars and thehosts literally having to run for their lives.

You see, that’s the thing with stereotypes. They’re usually not true in the sense that everyone is like that…but the stereotypes themselves wouldn’t exist if some people weren’t like that…and rural, country Alabama isn’t the place to find this out.

Basically, if an American show like I mentioned above drove around with their cars decorated like that through the center of Liverpool, chances are all that would happen would be people mostly pointing and laughing. People would see the cameras and realize they were on TV.

If they tried that in a place like Moss Side in Manchester or Toxteth in Liverpool (both notoriously rough areas…they’d probably get stabbed.


Kelly said...

I saw that show, and I don't like Top Gear but even I was amused by it..

admin said...

The trouble with Top Gear is that people feel the need to try and categorise it, rather than just enjoy it for what it is - just light-hearted entertainment. Its not *meant* to be a serious car programme, because most of the cars they 'test' are out of the reach of the ordinary motorist. Its not *meant* to be a satire programme, because they always become stale and boring after a while. Its not even meant to be a 'lads' (or in your case, Rednecks) programme, because its audience is made up of nearly as many women as men.

Having said what is *isn't*, let me tell you what it *is*. By a HUGE margin, the most popular programme in terms of viewer numbers on the BBC's second channel. It pulls in the sort of numbers that the two best-viewed soaps can only *dream* of. Its made Clarkson arguably the most recognised 'journalist' in the world, and despite regular attempts to kill it the programme is now confirmed for yet another series this Autumn.

Just one note, though. I have a Google alert set up to let me know about new items indexed for 'morris minor', which is how I found your content. In the show you referred to, it was actually a Triumph Herald that had the mast added!