Dax Shepard’s “Top Gear America” Reimagines Car Culture and Masculinity

Top Gear America is here to disrupt the car show formula. The new season of the series, which was inspired by the long-running BBC series Top Gear, made its debut on January 29 to MotorTrend’s streaming app. With actors Dax Shepard and Rob Corddry and British car enthusiast Jethro Bovington at the helm, the new iteration of the show sets out to do things differently. 

When you think of vehicle-themed reality programming, shows like Pimp My Ride and American Chopper may come to mind. Examples like these have proven valuable in the cluttered television landscape, but they also carry with them a tried-and-true macho aesthetic that reinforces a formulaic and outdated idea of masculinity. 

This version of Top Gear doesn’t necessarily break the mold entirely — each episode is chock full of cool cars, crazy race sequences and a fair amount of trash talk — but at its heart is an awareness of what maleness is and what it’s becoming, as opposed to what it was. And we have Dax Shepard to thank for that. Known for his acting and his wildly popular Armchair Expert podcast, he’s openly obsessed with the balancing act that comes with maintaining his masculinity while projecting kindness and authenticity into the world.  

“I didn’t live with my dad,” he tells InsideHook. “So no one was patting me on the back saying, ‘You’ve done it. You’re a man.’ I was in search of male approval at all time.”

Like most latchkey kids growing up in the ’80s, Shepard looked for that approval elsewhere. “I was willing to jump BMX bikes,” he continues. “Other kids thought that was brave and masculine. And then it turned into motorcycles and then cars. I wasn’t afraid to drift out of the parking lot in high school. I think I came to it, believing I just loved it. But I’ve come to realize it was also a real way for me to win male approval.” 

It’s refreshing to hear Shepard being so open about his origin story, and…

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