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What’s wrong with a bit of bullying between friends?


As a writer, I make it my business to take an interest in how people interact. If I can’t get the relationships correct in my books then my characters just won’t be plausible to the reader. So I wait with anticipation to see how Richard and James respond to the departure of Jeremy Clarkson as the lead presenter of Top Gear.
I’m not a great fan of the show but have watched pretty much every episode as a result of my son’s borderline obsession with the programme.
This has allowed me, over the years, to reach some kind of judgement on the dynamic between the threesome. Clarkson is most definitely Top Dog (perhaps this could be the title of the show he goes on to make with another channel? – Just a suggestion). Just who is next in the pecking order has varied over time. At first, Richard Hammond was very much Jeremy’s side-kick and Captain Slow was the bottom of the heap, cheerfully shouldering the insults of his fellow presenters. But as May has found his feet on the show and gained certain accolades for his work outside of Top Gear, the power balance between the three has gradually shifted, with Hammond now being the but of the majority of his colleague’s jokes.
The three presenters claim to be great mates. Indeed, James said yesterday that they come as a ‘package’. But Hammond has remained remarkably quiet over the whole ‘fracas’ episode. I will be fascinated to observe if they really do stick together over this.
My personal feeling is that friendships based upon bullying never run that deep. People may claim that the insults are purely ‘banter’ and intended only in affection. But this argument hasn’t ever convinced me. I’ve seen these sorts of groups in action many times and I’m always left with the sense that someone has been demeaned and belittled by the process.
Nobody likes having their appearance, habits, intelligence, choice of girlfriend/boyfriend ridiculed. If they insist that they do, it’s a lie. Trust me on this. They just want the group to accept them and feel it is the only way to gain access.
But the dynamic ends up being fragile. Bitterness seethes away just beneath the surface and one insult too many can lead to meltdown.
Often, these unhealthy relationships occur primarily in childhood and early adolescence. As soon as we gain the confidence of adulthood, we drift away from those who think it’s funny to bring us down. Perhaps Jeremy’s sacking from the BBC will mark this transition into maturity for the three men.
But then, maybe not.
We shall have to wait and see.

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