13 Jan 2012

Cultural communications in Top Gear India Special criticised for “Lacking Sensitivity”

Browsing the BBC website this morning, I came across a story that certainly piqued my interest. It wasn’t just that I was surprised to see another news story about Jeremy Clarkson’s controversial antics, but I couldn’t help but think that the manner of these complaints have somehow missed the point.

For those who may not be aware, the recent Top Gear India Special has been criticised by the High Commission of India (HCI) in London for being “offensive” and “full of toilet humour”. In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, the HCI spoke of its disappointment at a lack of “cultural sensitivity”, and called for the BBC to take action to appease those who have been offended.

The show, which the BBC aired on the 28th December, has currently received 188 complaints.

One Indian diplomat told the BBC News website that, “People are very upset because you cannot run down a whole society, history, culture and sensitivities. India is a developing country, we have very many issues to address, all that is fine but it is not fine to broadcast this toilet humour.”

The diplomat was particularly angry when Clarkson, showing off his customised Jaguar complete with a toilet seat fitted on its boot, remarked on air “This is perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots.”

I do not profess to be a huge Top Gear fan, but I did watch this Top Gear episode. My interest in this show was not because of the cars, the three presenters, or the theatrics, but I was looking forward to seeing the Top Gear team journey through the vibrant Indian heartland.

However, instead of lovely scenic shots, viewers watched the hapless presenters drive through the Bombay rush hour, and create mildly-offensive banners on a packed cross-country train. Worst of all, we were made to endure the wholly contrived embassy scene, where Clarkson even made a customised firework.

I am sure that some of the scenes were representative of Indian life (embassy sequence notwithstanding). However, in my opinion, the latest episode of Top Gear did not make enough of an effort to portray India as a beautiful and culturally diverse nation.

For example, I remember when I first saw the Top Gear Vietnam special, all I could think of was how I would love to visit Vietnam. Unfortunately, the Indian episode only evoked a reaction of frustration and disappointment.



 
 

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