Top Gear, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways
The fact that Sabine Schmitz is included in the new series’s presenting lineup is overshadowed by the franchise’s entire odious mentality
Top Gear fetishises the totally unnecessary consumption of fossil fuels in the name of sport, entertainment and feeling better about your premature ejaculation disorder; it normalises dangerously fast driving; it contributes to the hunger for more and more cars that we neither need nor can sustain; it treats the sheer act of moving a machine as if it’s a display of heroic bravery and skill; and it paid Jeremy Clarkson’s salary for over 25 years. In this context, disliking Top Gear because it doesn’t include enough women is a bit like hating Trident because those submarines simply don’t have enough room for your jumpers – it rather misses the point.
I am not, as is probably fairly clear by now, a huge fan of cars. Mainly because, as we read last week, cars are literally killing us. Their fumes are one of the most significant contributors to air pollution, which causes people to die of heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. Air pollution is a factor in at least 30,000 deaths each year in the UK as well as soaring rates of asthma and other lung diseases. Two-thirds of petrol cars break the carbon monoxide limit, 10% break the nitrogen oxide limit, while 95% of diesel cars emit more nitrogen oxides than is legally allowed. Which is before we even get into the number of people who die in road accidents. Road-building, to make room for the hundreds of thousands of people who lock themselves up in a heated petrol box in order to grunt their way to work every day, is destroying the British countryside; as Karl Jilg’s famous illustration, commissioned by the Swedish Road Administration, shows, cars eat up public space like Jabba the Hutt, leaving the rest of us clinging to our thin strips of tarmac like flies on a wire; and the need for oil, from which our petrol and diesel is sourced, is fuelling some of the world’s most bitter conflicts, dangerous regimes and corrupt industries.