The popular BBC motoring show Top Gear showed its support for the LGBT+ community by painting a rainbow flag on the cars used in filming for an episode set in Brunei.
On March 28, the Asian country announced that it would be introducing death by stoning as punishment for those convicted of gay sex — the same day that the Top Gear team completed filming there and flew back to the UK. The Sultan of Brunei later backed down following an international outcry, but strict penalties for LGBT+ people remain.
The show’s new presenter Freddie Flintoff told The Guardian he and his Top Gear colleagues were horrified when they heard that the sultan would be introducing the controversial law.
“We would never have filmed in Brunei had the law been announced beforehand. Like millions of other people around the world, I utterly condemn Brunei’s actions. No one deserves to be stoned to death, whoever they love. Love is love,” he said.
“Even though it has since been claimed that the laws will not be enforced, the threat still stands, and even the threat is an appalling abuse of human rights.”
In the Brunei segment of the show, Flintoff and his fellow presenter Paddy McGuinness enlist the help of Gurkha soldiers to drive two rare cars across Borneo to the palace of the Sultan of Brunei, who is a car collector.
Flintoff said: “In the last couple of months we have thought very hard about dropping the film entirely but we shot it before the change in the law, and both the Gurkhas and other Bruneians worked incredibly hard to make it happen. We don’t want all their efforts to be for nothing. So we’ve decided to go ahead and show it [and] we’ve given the cars a little makeover.”
The two cars were spray painted with the colours of the rainbow flag and displayed on air later in the episode. The episode was shown on Sunday (June 16), the first in a revamped series.
Top Gear has a history of perpetuating negative stereotypes
The latest episode is thought to be the first time the motoring programme has shown solidarity with the LGBT+ community – a refreshing change for the show, which in the past has been the centre of numerous offensive gaffes regarding minorities.
in 2006, former host Jeremy Clarkson was condemned by the BBC for negatively describing a car as gay.
More recently, in January this year, the gay singer Will Young hit back at the former hosts Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May for “homophobic stereotyping” on their Amazon Prime show, The Grand Tour.
In the second episode of the third series, May teases Clarkson for his choice of car, saying, “Isn’t that a very popular car with the gay community?” Clarkson replies: “What is it, lesbian, bacon, transgender?”
Hammond later suggests Clarkson might want to pair his vehicle with “maybe some nice chaps, suede but ventilated at the back” and taunts him about carrying moisturiser.
In another scene Clarkson describes the car as being “bought by people who like cruising the streets of San Francisco and Key West and Brighton and Sydney,” while playing the song “It’s Raining Men” on the car’s stereo.
In a tweet on January 28, Young voiced his disapproval at the trio’s offensive comments, describing the episode as “f***ing pathetic and actually homophobic.”
I've always thought the joke on GT and TG (which are now long in the tooth) is that the jokes on them. Look at these incompetent idiots with stupid views kind of thing. It's not funny anymore TBF regardless but I didn't ever see their jokes as malicious
— Ben Wakeman (@BCWakeman) January 29, 2019
Gay men . I DON’T drive a Wrangler Jeep. I DON’T wear pink shirts . I DON’T wear arseless chaps. You can be honest and funny without this ridiculous ‘lad’ ooh being gay and let’s laugh about it mentality . It’s repulsive and how DARE you do it and put it out @PrimeVideo
— Will Young (@willyoung) January 28, 2019
Clarkson responded to Young in his column in The Sun, saying: “I will apologise to Will for causing him some upset and reassure him that I know I’m not homophobic as I very much enjoy watching lesbians on the internet.”