Jeremy Clarkson, the most recognized man in the UK (and surely among the best paid employees of the BBC) recently compared former white Stig, Ben Collins, to the Michael Douglas character from Wall Street, Gordon Gecko. Gecko, you may recall, proclaimed that “greed is good”, a philosophy that Clarkson ironically disavows on camera. Clarkson claims to be genuinely hurt by Collins’ betrayal, and says that revealing his identity has damaged the Top Gear franchise. At a recent charity event, Clarkson even referred to Collins as “The Greedy Twat” instead of the “Now Unemployed Former White Stig”.
There’s no doubt that Collins’ departure has had an impact on Top Gear, but Clarkson lecturing Collins on greed is like Kirstie Alley lecturing Kate Moss on losing weight. Clarkson, the man who has owned cars like a Ford GT, a Ferrari F355 and a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, has no concerns about money or income. It would appear that the other Top Gear hosts, Richard Hammond and James May, are also financially well compensated for their efforts.
We can’t know what each of the stars make, but it’s a safe bet they earn substantially more than Collins did for his work behind the helmet. Collins Autosport, his business, racked up some $1.5 million in debt over the past few years, which is what prompted Collins to pen his book. When you’ve got that kind of debt, you start to consider options that would be off the table under normal circumstances.
Has Collins’ reveal damaged Top Gear irreparably? Will they even bother to introduce a new Stig, or is that just too played out? Will Clarkson ever stop being the bitter, cynical pessimist we all know and love? I guess we’ll need to tune in to the next season of Top Gear to find out. One thing’s certain: all the controversy will help Ben Collins sell books and will draw even more viewers to Top Gear. There is no such thing, after all, as bad publicity.