Written by Philippa Perry


The Meaning of The Stig

In the first of a new series, psychotherapist Philippa Perry muses on the meaning of things. First up: Top Gear and its mystery man in white flameproofs

The Stig speaks for men of few words everywhere

Top Gear: a program about cars, I think. Three men play an amusing* banter game of Mine is Bigger Than Yours.

Rules: You choose three similar objects and then you argue which one is the best. Because of a professed love of objectivity you put them through some tests to ‘prove’ which is superior, but that is a front because this is death by banter.

It’s important when having this sort of argument never to really mean anything earnestly, if you get earnest you’ve lost. Self-depreciation in the form of getting wet or too hot gets you extra points and fostering a bullying atmosphere where two gang up on one is also encouraged.

This same game, Mine is Bigger Than Yours, is played, although probably less expertly, in every pub every Saturday night. It may break out into actual physical violence but it usually doesn’t and even passes as friendship. A group will become more cohesive if they can find another group, a common enemy, to dump any left over bad feeling upon. In Top Gear’s case I hear it has become Mexico’s lot to play this part.

Then there is the Stig. The Stig is set apart from all this talk. Not for him the banter-merchant’s accepted outfit of flowery shirt and faded jeans. He has a consistent uniform of racing driver white fireproofs and no face. No face is important because he stands for everyman. Every man’s inner hero of needing to be the best, the fastest, the most deadly and the most capable. But more important, he has no voice because Inarticulate Man is the man who needs representation the most.

The Stig plays this part perfectly. Many men are of few words or less, they cannot begin to use banter to gain supremacy, and in The Stig, this man of action, they have their role model.

A new series of Top Gear is probably inevitable. Soon.

*no, it really IS amusing

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Written by Philippa Perry

White middle-class-aged woman psychotherapist, author, journalist, occasional broadcaster. Likes watching telly, tweeting, eating and lying down. Great hair.