Dear Jeremy Clarkson,

Look, mate, we all knew you were a bit of an arsehole, but that’s why we love you. You’re a twat, but an affable twat and you make us laugh. It’s your job and you are good at it. But given the appalling number of high profile middle-aged and elderly white men saying awful things about people of colour recently, you’ve really gone and cocked things up. The BBC is considering dropping you for your thoughtless use of the N-word, and if they go through with it I won’t feel sorry for you. Top Gear could get on just fine without you.

But I’m not entirely heartless. To help people like yourself, Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, and other privileged geniuses who think they have something to say about “the negro,” I’ve created this handy chart to help you know when it’s appropriate to say the N-word.

You’re welcome.

Yelp Reviews for Living Scriptures, Inc.

All LDS people are familiar with the products of a company called Living Scriptures, Inc. So much of Mormonism is next to impossible to translate for people who have never been church members, so it’s helpful to be able to look up video clips online of the horribly, deliciously bad cartoons that are Living Scriptures. You can actually learn quite a bit about subtextual Mormon beliefs from this series, namely the enshrinement of white male American-accented patriarchy as the optimal font of truth and righteousness. Being British, it was always very difficult for me to take those videos seriously when God started speaking and he sounded like a Yank. But although these videos are not official productions of the LDS Church, they are remarkable in their ability to present the mainstream interpretation of Mormon scripture and cultural attitudes. This is probably why Mormons use them heavily in Sunday School. Well, that and these videos are lifesavers when a teacher didn’t have time that week to put together a proper lesson plan.

It has been years since I watched any of those videos, which in my childhood were a mainstay of my Sunday afternoon entertainment when I was prohibited from watching “real” television and could only sit on my arse in front of the telly on the Sabbath if I was watching something “uplifting.” Living Scriptures were boring as hell, but at least they were cartoons and they were better than reading the scriptures. (Cut me some slack. I was a kid.)

I recently looked them up online when trying to explain to a friend what it was like to attend Mormon Sunday School. A quick search for “Living Scriptures” yielded <a href=""this amazing Yelp page whose reviews of the video production company essentially belong right on a review page for the Church itself. The highlights: The company is incredibly low rated because of its pushy door-to-door salesmen who leverage personal connections with potential customers to lock them into an expensive and exploitative long-term contract. Members who failed to read the terms and conditions before signing on are left with a bad case of buyer’s remorse. They use creepy and unethical data collection to build a profile on you and harass you to join their club until you either relent or threaten a restraining order. Sound familiar? Living Scriptures even use recently returned missionaries as their sales people. Makes sense, since they’ve already been trained in what Mormons call “the commitment pattern” to close a deal on conversion to the faith. Or buying crap videos.




Woman’s Last Stand

I must confess — I saw the Dodge Charger Super Bowl ad and thought it was very funny. The problem I had with it, though, was how it was pitched as “Man’s Last Stand.” As the commercial went on, I thought it was a very funny take on being a grownup. All the little things we must do every day, things that we don’t really enjoy, but must be done, are what define us as responsible adults. The original commercial goes like this:

I will get up and walk the dog at 6:30 am. I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast. I will shave. I will clean the sink after I shave. I will be at work by 8 am. I will sit through two hour meetings. I will say yes when you want me to say yes. I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say no. I will take your call. I will listen to your opinion of my friends. I will listen to your friends’ opinion of my friends. I will be civil to your mother. I will put the seat down. I will separate the recycling. I will carry your lip balm. I will watch your vampire TV shows with you. I will take my socks off before getting into bed. I will put my underwear in the basket. And because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive. Charger: Man’s Last Stand.

On the surface, it makes a good point. We all have to do things we don’t really want to do, like put up with difficult relatives and go to horrible meetings. But why is it so pointedly aimed at women, especially when a lot of that stuff consists of things a mature man should be doing anyway. And why is a Charger only a car for a man? And more to the point, how many women get to drive a cool car in exchange for all the annoying and depressing things they have to put up with? In my experience, it’s been the husband who gets the “fun car” as a reward for his hard work, and the wife gets the family wagon.

Amanda Hess introduced the women’s rebuttal to this commercial with her usual panache: “What if Dodge focused its ad on all the demands placed on the modern woman, in the hopes that a healthy reminder of that other gender-based oppression might inspire women to go out and buy a big fucking car? What would the demoralized Dodge woman say?” The rebuttal ad drives home the point that men alone shouldn’t whinge about the mighty burden of adult life. Being a grown-up sucks for everybody, perhaps more so for women since there certainly isn’t anyone defending “Woman’s Last Stand.” Except for this:

I will get up and pack your lunch at 6:30 am. I will eat half a grapefruit for breakfast. I will get the kids ready for school. I will ignore your smelly loser friend who is crashing on our couch. I will make seventy-five cents for every dollar you make doing the same job. I will assert myself and get called a bitch. I will catch you staring at my breasts but pretend not to notice. I will put my career on hold to raise your children. I will diet, Botox, and wax. Everything. I will assure you that size doesn’t matter. I will be a lady in the street but a freak in the bed. I will turn a blind eye to your ever-encroaching baldness. I will humour your Fantasy Baseball obsession. I will pretend not to notice when you cry at the end of Rudy. I will watch TV shows where fat, stupid, unattractive men have beautiful wives. I will allow you to cheat on me with other women. I will see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Twice. I will elect male politicians who will make decisions about my body. I will listen to Rush and tell you, yes, if there were a gold medal for air-drumming, you would win it. I will get angry, and you will ask if it’s that time of the month. I will watch Superbowl commercials that depict men as emasculated and oppressed, and I will feel so fucking sorry for you.

I realise on one hand that it’s just a Super Bowl commercial, but at the same time, it’s a Super Bowl commercial, and advertising has a massive influence on the way people think and the things that are accepted in our culture. Wouldn’t it have been nicer to see the commercial be titled “Your Last Stand”? The commercial could have featured exactly the same language, shown the faces of men and women, and ended with a rallying cry for all of us responsible grown-up types to reward ourselves and have a bit of fun once in a while. Like so many incidents of sexism, I don’t disagree with the central message one bit; I just have a problem with the way it was presented.

Do you love to be offended?

It’s a clear effort to cash in on the publicity generated by the Paris Hilton “that’s hot” advert which consisted of the scantily clad socialite washing a car and noming a burger. Like most sequels penned as an afterthought to success, this one fails horribly. See for yourself, if you like, although be prepared to feel like an enormous hypocrite by the end of this if you start out knowing it’s the sort of thing you won’t approve of but want to have a peek anyway. Here it is.

The Paris Hilton commercial I understood; the first thing I feel like doing after washing the car is having a burger, and the commercial made fun of Hilton’s catch phrase, “That’s Hot.” Provocative? Sure. But at least it was good marketing.

This commercial, like the Kardashians’ reality show, is tacky and doesn’t make any sense at all. “I’m such a neat freak,” she declares. If you’re such a neat freak, why on earth are you eating a salad in bed, you wacky tart? Then of course there’s the bit where they do a salad dressing money shot, which made me throw up a little in my mouth.

And here’s where I come to the point.

For puritanical people who get up in arms at even the tiniest perceived slight against their belief system, this kind of thing is like pouring petrol on an open flame. Human beings are already vulnerable to the bizarre need to share something awful with the person next to them. “Oh, man, this tastes awful. Here, try some.” Or “oh, man this four week old pasta smells vile. Come here and have a whiff.” Puritanically religious people must contend with this instinct as well as their need to take pride in holding up something offensive for public condemnation.

I don’t watch much television; the only way I found out about this commercial was because a relative posted the damn thing on Facebook with comments about how offensive it was and how degrading to women Ms. Kardashian’s behaviour was. It was followed by a long stream of comments from Mormons expressing how offended they were and how they were going to tell everyone they knew about the deep offence they were feeling.

I thought the commercial was stupid. So my solution is not to waste any more time watching it. I’ve got better things to do. But the Mormons wanted to go on and on: “I watched that Kim Kardashian commercial seventeen times and every time I got even more offended.”

If you have ever wondered whether or not you are a hypocritical puritan, ask yourself this: do you take pride in publicly shaming people who don’t meet your moral expectations? New England puritans burned witches. Muslims stone women who are raped. Americans engage in slut-shaming, and Mormon Americans are especially enthusiastic about this pastime. Whether it’s a scantily clad socialite, Hot Mormon Muffins, or low-profile homosexuals, Mormons love to freak out. This does two things for the Mormons: First, it’s a chance for them to feel morally superior as they somehow manage to make their way through this horribly Satanic world. Second, by publicly castigating people they disapprove of, they can exorcise the feeling that, deep down, they are envious of those who are clearly having a lot more fun than they are in life.

Pointing out this to Mormons doesn’t do any good. Every time I visit relatives they spend most of the time watching television. About every five minutes someone will cry out in horror when a character in a movie uses a naughty word, or complain about how awful television is “these days.” I suggest that if they find television so offensive, they should stop paying for cable. Suddenly the room goes silent. Mormons couldn’t cancel their cable, because at the end of the day the enjoy both the innocent and offensive material, and the pleasure they get helps them ignore the hypocrisy of paying for entertainment so that they can be offended by it.

This is just a Mormon application of a universally puritan principle. After all, a website in London that helps people link up to commit adultery is currently getting its best advertising from . . . wait for it . . . the Christians protesting the website on Facebook. There are puritans in every belief system, even atheism. But I will say that Mormonism is among those systems of belief and culture that is particularly susceptible to this problem. Repression breeds obsession, after all.

If you’re a puritan, you can overcome your tendencies, and you don’t need to listen to a Mormon-turned-agnostic like me to learn how. Jesus had an opinion on slut-shaming: mind your own business. Avoid the temptation to give yourself an ego trip by casting stones, and maybe we’ll all get on just a bit better.