Great, now Richard Hammond’s the homophobe

How are you holidays so far? If they’re anything like ours, they’ve been a curious mix of pleasure and pain: the pleasure of seeing loved ones from far-flung places, the pain of having to endure thinly veiled barbs from newly emboldened right-wingers who feel their day has come. (Don’t worry, we have a hunch that Trump’s honeymoon with alt-America will be even shorter than it’s been with his wives.)

Of course, we’ve had to deal with the same casual homophobia we do every year. It’s bizarre to see family members accept and love our own partners but still crack gay jokes at the dinner table. “Don’t take offense,” they say. “You’re different. You’re not like them.”

But we are, uncle. We are totally like them.

In the auto industry, that kind of overt homophobia used to be pretty common–hell, it’s one of the reasons Gaywheels was started. Now, nearly 12 years later, many companies are acing HRC’s annual corporate equality index.

But elsewhere in the car world, there’s still plenty of hate and fear to go around. Take for example Top Gear. I mean Grand Tour. Same diff.

For years, the three middle-aged amigos have been making jokes at our expense–bad, unoriginal, mostly unfunny jokes. Usually, Jeremy Clarkson has been the one poking fun at flamers while Richard Hammond and James May have rolled their eyes or chuckled quietly to themselves. This time, Hammond himself has gotten into it by saying that men who enjoy ice cream are gay (as if that’s a bad thing):

Here’s a transcript for those who can’t watch video at work:

Jeremy Clarkson: “The only problem is that in one of those [a Rolls Royce] you couldn’t enjoy a chocolate Magnum ice cream.”

Richard Hammond: “It’s alright, I don’t eat ice cream. It’s something to do with being straight.”

[Clarkson and May look confused. Some laughter and applause from audience.]

Hammond: “What? What?”

Clarkson [To audience]: “Why are you applauding him?” [To Hammond]: “What do you mean? Are you saying everyone who likes ice…”

Hammond: “Ice cream is a bit, you know…”

Clarkson: “So you’re saying all children are homosexual?”

[Audience laugh.]

Hammond: “No, but… There’s nothing wrong with it, but a grown man eating an ice cream, you know, it’s a bit… it’s that way rather than that way… it is—”

Clarkson: “Welcome to the inside of Richard Hammond’s head.”

Hammond: “I’m right! I can’t believe you can’t see that. It’s easy, it’s in front of you.”

You can tell from Clarkson and May’s hammy, goggle-eyed expressions that Hammond’s comments are scripted the way that all of their interactions are scripted. It’s clearly intended to get a reaction from viewers–even though he says “there’s nothing wrong with [being gay]”, leaving out the implied “but I’m not that way“. In fact, some of us think it would be better to ignore this side-trip into Bizarroworld than give Hammond the attention he’s asking for.

But you know, screw that.

This is casual, dad-style homophobia, and frankly, it’s casual, dad-style homophobia that helped pass Brexit and put Trump in office. It’s casual, dad-style homophobia that’s become a growing problem because the not-so-casual homophobes (who are also not-so-casual xenophobes, misogynists, racists, and anti-Semites) now feel like it’s okay to be homophobic (and xenophobic, and misogynistic, and racist, and anti-Semitic) in public again, which can only lead to worse.

So I say, let’s put a lid on that right now. Hammond, if you’re reading, back off and hire a better writer. There are plenty of things you could be doing rather than poking fun at the Gays, reiterating that we’re different, abnormal. We’ve got great senses of humor–hell, we’re known for being funny–if only you’d serve up something worth laughing at. It’s a tall order but…well, you’ve been on the receiving end of many a short joke, so I’ll stop there.