After filming in Brunei for its latest series, Top Gear is protesting against the country’s threat to make homosexuality punishable by stoning to death.
In an effort to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community, the show painted the motors they drove in the south-east Asian country with the Pride flag.
“We would never have filmed in Brunei had the law been announced beforehand,” new presenter Freddie Flintoff has commented.
In a column for The Guardian, Flintoff explained: “We flew home on 28 March. That date is important because when we landed we found out that – as we’d been in the air – the sultan had announced new laws making homosexuality and adultery punishable by stoning to death. We were horrified.”
He continued, “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.”
The statement coincides with efforts to create a show with more “emotional depth” than previous incarnations of Top Gear.
Flintoff has suggested that “humour in the world has changed. Don’t get me wrong – there’s humour in the show now. I’m all for having a laugh and a joke – but not nasty.”
By contrast, in the most recent series of Grand Tour, the Amazon Prime show that features former Top Gear trio Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, the presenters were accused of making “repulsive” jokes about the LGBT community. During one episode, when Clarkson’s co-hosts suggested that his Jeep was for gay people: Hammond suggested that Clarkson needed a new grooming routine and a change of clothes.
The episode prompted criticism from singer Will Young, who commented on Twitter: “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.”
No word from @PrimeVideo so @Ofcom beckons . Enough is enough and I’m pissed and fed up. I want Amazonprime and the producers of grand tour to meet young lgbt who want to kill themselves because of shaming and laughter and normalising of shaming homophobic narratives..:— Will Young (@willyoung) January 29, 2019
Clarkson responded to Young’s criticism by 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.”
Chris Harris, the motoring expert who retained his presenting role on the new series of Top Gear, has spoken recently about the change in tone. “Whenever I say goodbye to them after a day’s work, we have a hug,” he explained. “We live in a different world. The new Top Gear will embrace all sorts of emotions.”