The Dim-Post

March 26, 2015

The Clarkson paradox

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:59 am

I think the celebrity bloke is a modern phenomenon. Jeremy Clarkson will go down as being the canonical version, but we have/had Paul Holmes, Paul Henry, Mike Hosking etc, all pretty much the same template: conservative bigoted multi-millionaires closely allied with the establishment who are, paradoxically, beloved by the general public as mavericks and rebels speaking truth to power by insulting – or, in Clarkson’s case actually beating up – people who are powerless.

36 Comments »

  1. Interesting. As a fatty with a beard who thinks he is much funnier than he actually is, I would have thought you would be smack bang in the middle of the Clarkson supporting demographic.

    Comment by biglivers — March 26, 2015 @ 9:06 am

  2. It’s interesting how all the “celebrity blokes” tend to be conservative. I can think of a few exceptions (Bill Maher) but that is the general rule. One half-formed theory is that they appeal to our baser nature when they speak their “truths”. That is, they say what we would say if we didn’t have impulse control e.g. moustache-gate with Henry. Do we feel so repressed in society that watching these guys gives us some kind of vicarious thrill?

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — March 26, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  3. I think that’s it. Like Curb Your Enthusiam, they’re a kind of fantasy in which people enjoy watching them run around misbehaving, and when they’re punished it ruins the fantasy.

    Comment by danylmc — March 26, 2015 @ 9:20 am

  4. I thought the bloke he beat up was a BBC producer. Not exactly powerless.

    Comment by Mark — March 26, 2015 @ 9:45 am

  5. I think the celebrity bloke is a modern phenomenon

    I’d say a post-modern phenomenon, in the sense of playing a self-consciously transgressive role that requires for its success an audience desire to be simultaneously titillated (“what crazeeee thing have they done/said now?”) and reassured (“See! There’s still some people out there who are prepared to “say it like they see it” and won’t be beaten down by PC claptrap!”), while not regarding the individual involved as being all that serious or mattering very much.

    I thought the bloke he beat up was a BBC producer. Not exactly powerless.

    But it’s all relative, innit? Clarkson is “the talent”. Tymon was some oik whose job it was to make sure he had steak whenever he wanted steak. And if the oik doesn’t do his job, then of course he deserves a torrent of abuse and a smack in the mouth!

    Comment by Flashing Light — March 26, 2015 @ 9:57 am

  6. Theodore Roosevelt was an early, if not quite pre-modern, celebrity bloke. And is still much beloved amongst those who prize “badass”-dom.

    What I find bizarre is that Clarkson, a multimillionaire who has lunch with the PM, can be described as the “voice of the working class”.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 26, 2015 @ 10:13 am

  7. kalvarnsen: “What I find bizarre is that Clarkson, a multimillionaire who has lunch with the PM, can be described as the “voice of the working class”.”

    It’s probably to do with him being what many people aspire to be (rich, fast cars, etc), if not what they are. Not too dissimilar from our own PM: if we go with what he says, we can all become who he is.

    Comment by izogi — March 26, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  8. I guess the difference between Teddy Roosevelt and today’s “celebrity blokes” is that Roosevelt’s “blokishness” was built on actually learning to ride/lasso/bind cattle like a cowboy, leading troops into battle in Cuba and walking the streets of New York City whilst he was its police commissioner. By comparison, Clarkson drove cars with a large support crew in attendance to look after his every need and then ran away when some Argentinians threw rocks at him. Issues of “authenticity” come to mind.

    Comment by Flashing Light — March 26, 2015 @ 10:31 am

  9. conservative bigoted multi-millionaires closely allied with the establishment who are, paradoxically, beloved by the general public as mavericks and rebels

    I think you’re merging together a lot of different strands there, and could make exactly the same statement about Winston Peters.

    My impression is that most people recognise Clarkson as a dinosuar/twat, but that’s not why they love him. There’s an obvious and infectious joy that Clarkson/May/Hammond exude on screen together – they understand the absurdity of the job they hold and love being able to share that with the public.

    Comment by Phil — March 26, 2015 @ 10:31 am

  10. Add to this Veitch, who kicked his partner down the stairs and broke her back.

    He managed to fandangle his way through the court system and avoid the jail term that would have come to someone brown and unfamous. It was then terribly predictable that he would be back in the fold of his loving employers within a year, without so much as a decent apology.

    Look at that smile:
    http://www.radiosport.co.nz/on-air/veitch-on-sport/

    Comment by George D — March 26, 2015 @ 10:39 am

  11. There seems to be a confusion here between a light entertainments’ professional screen persona and his off screen behaviour. Not just in the publics mind but in Clarksons.

    Big ups to the BBC for sacking this alcoholic has been for his nasty, unacceptable behaviour and forgoing millions of pounds in revenue.

    Comment by Knob Endt — March 26, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  12. I think the celebrity bloke is a modern phenomenon.

    Frank Sinatra might have disagreed.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 26, 2015 @ 11:24 am

  13. Sinatra wasn’t anything like Clarkson and the rest. Danyl isn’t saying “there have never been famous celebrities before”. He’s saying that the qualities that make Clarkson et al celebrities are different to those of past eras.

    The “Top Gear” triumverate are not The Rat Pack.

    Comment by Flashing Light — March 26, 2015 @ 11:43 am

  14. But that is absurd, Clarkson isn’t globally popular because he is akin to some quite pathetic right-wing tosspots moping around the NZ media scene.

    Clarkson has written, starred in and co-produced one of the best TV shows of the past decade, that is why he is popular. His political views, which are strongly put forward and active, play stuff all role in his popularity – Clarkson is much more like Sinatra – famous, but with views attached.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 26, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

  15. As proof – Clarkson had a classic format talk show for a bit where he had guests on, they’d chat and it would resonate with Clarksonian political views. And I’d bet you’ve never heard of it.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 26, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

  16. And now we’ll hear about how Clarkson’s sacking is ‘political correctness gone mad’, ‘PC tyranny’ etc.

    Because the idea that people shouldn’t punch other people in the face is of course a belief only held by post-modernist university lecturers and one-legged communist lesbians…

    Comment by helenalex — March 26, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

  17. Maybe Clarkson’s popularity could be likened to that of Barry Crump, whose tales of his exploits provided a vicarious thrill to many grey flannelled suburban New Zealand men weighed down by family responsibilities and mortgages in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Comment by Kay — March 26, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

  18. Kay, Crumpy fits nicely with a conversation about the likes of Clarkson and Veitch, all three are man / children who use their fists when not getting their way.

    Comment by Knob Endt — March 26, 2015 @ 1:56 pm

  19. Because the idea that people shouldn’t punch other people in the face is of course a belief only held by post-modernist university lecturers and one-legged communist lesbians…

    Which group do you belong to?🙂

    Comment by Ross — March 26, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

  20. I miss Bob Clarkson.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — March 26, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

  21. Comment by Simon — March 26, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

  22. Frankie Boyle to host Top Gear.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 26, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

  23. Winston Peters is the Jeremy Clarkson of NZ politics.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 26, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

  24. Lee Clark: Others say Paul Henry.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 26, 2015 @ 6:47 pm

  25. @Flashing: That may be a difference, but it’s not a crucial one. The “badass” persona is annoying in and of itself, regardless of whether it’s deeply authentic, totally contrived, or anywhere in between.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 26, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

  26. I don’t believe Clarkson went after a tax scam/fraud which was running for the benefit of rich criminals ( and national party supporters as an aside ), like winston did ………… http://offshoreleaks.icij.org/search?country=NZ&q=&ppl=on&ent=on&adr=on

    These ‘celebrities’ add a bit of legitimacy for behaving like an arsehole ……

    I bet Clarkson drives like a road-rager wanker to.

    Comment by reason — March 26, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  27. There is a bully streak in the rightward side of the NZ psyche. They seem to have a 1:1 correlation with people who think whatever Paul Henry is just great……while I find him juvenile, repulsive and rude to old people, kittens and children.

    Comment by Steve — March 26, 2015 @ 7:21 pm

  28. I don’t believe Clarkson perpetuated the Employment Contracts Act which was running for the benefit of rich pricks ( and national party supporters as an aside ), like winston did …………

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 26, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

  29. Veitch is the best comparison here. Henry et al are dickheads but they never actually assaulted someone. It’s especially outrageous considering the very low level of provocation involved. If there had been a heated exchange with pushing and shoving both ways, a flying fist might even be understandable, if not excusable. But for all his attempts to frame it as a “fracas”, it sounded like he did all the yelling, and then finished it with a blow, all over a steak. And we’re talking about an *extremely* rich person here who could buy himself a million steaks and not even have to cut his compensatory car budget. He could have fucking well bought one at the pub he was pissing on at right before he came back. What a wanker. I hope he gets convicted of a crime for this, although I know he will never get anything like the consequences that he should. But perhaps losing his show is about fair, since it’s the source of his massive overassessment of his place in life.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 27, 2015 @ 11:51 am

  30. I don’t like Clarkson, but he can be amusing, which separates him from Henry whose running gag appears to be that being an annoying tosser is the same as being witty. What Clarkson and Te Winston Peters share is the ability to reframe stereotypes in such a way that his audiences will gleefully pounce on them because they feel they have received permission to act stupidly and feel grown-up simultaneously. They each promote a mythical reality, in which somehow, people who feel aggrieved find their champion, while pointedly encouraging prejudices that perpetuate bullying or persecution of those least able to stand up for themselves. Traditionally, it has been the role of the court jester to enjoy immunity from punishment when speaking ‘to power’ But only for as long as the ‘power’ shares their sense of humour.

    So, the question is how much of a sense of humour do Northland folk have?, because a jester can only be so funny, for so long, and often, as amusing as he may be, initially, can soon run out of gags.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 28, 2015 @ 7:56 am

  31. They each promote a mythical reality, in which somehow, people who feel aggrieved find their champion, while pointedly encouraging prejudices that perpetuate bullying or persecution of those least able to stand up for themselves.
    Like his old mentor Muldoon, Winnie’s vision has never extended beyond opportunistic tribal divisiveness. The concept of human rights doesn’t register in Winston 1st Land, where the issue of gay marriage was treated as fodder for just another idiot’s auction referendum.

    Comment by Joe W — March 28, 2015 @ 8:31 am

  32. Indeed all hail the saviour.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 28, 2015 @ 10:38 am

  33. >because a jester can only be so funny, for so long

    Well they way he’s going, it could easily be until he dies.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 28, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  34. Ģranted. This evening has got to be his best punchline ever…

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 28, 2015 @ 8:27 pm

  35. Have you considered building for a career Danyl? you’ve hit so many nails directly on the head that you could probably single handedly solve the housing crisis!

    Comment by Michael — March 30, 2015 @ 11:17 am


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