OFCOM, the British television watchdog, has refused to reprimand the BBC for an episode of its comedy talk show Top Gear in which host Richard Hammond joked that cars reflect the characteristics of their countries. Mexican cars, he said, were like a "lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat." He predicted that the Mexican ambassador would not complain about his remarks because the ambassador would likely be snoring in front of his television set. In fact, however, the Mexican ambassador, Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, fired off a letter to the BBC charging that the show was filled with "outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults." Nevertheless, in a ruling issued on Monday, OFCOM said that while it had received 157 complaints about the show and that "the comments made about Mexican people were based on negative national stereotypes," viewers were likely aware that Top Gear frequently uses national stereotypes and that "few, if any, nationalities had not at some point been the subject of the presenters' mockery." The audience, it concluded, would have been aware that the comments were made simply for "comic effect."

05/04/2011