(thanks, Brian Coltrane!)
There’s trouble in Hazzard County for sure this time. A few days ago I overheard two guys (one older, one younger, both black like moi) arguing over whether or not The Dukes of Hazzard was a “racist show” (in my opinion, it’s not). The conversation took a strangely surreal and slightly amusing turn because the guy defending the show also happened to have a load of Dukes collectibles thanks to relatives who bought all that merchandise back when the show originally aired and him holding onto most of it.
Now, there’s a deep fried dill pickle for you, ladies and gentlemen.
But not really. Although some major to minor retailers have been hastily yanking anything with a Confederate battle flag off their shelves, Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia seems to be one of the few exceptions. That said, one does have to wonder with an arched eyebrow how much of that stuff was not so ironically but somewhat ironically manufactured outside of the good ol’ U.S. of A. (by underpaid workers) and how much of it was bought over time for by folks who’d probably NOT want it because it wasn’t made here…
As I eavesdropped, I started to wonder: how do you now justify a show that on the surface to some younger (and older) people will seem a hell of a lot more controversial than it actually ever was? Do you see it as a product of the era, some light fun for the whole family for a hour each week? Or do you start in right away on the General Lee, that famous orange 1969 Dodge Charger with its stars ‘n bars roof flag and car horn blaring the opening to “Dixie” in every episode (save for “Mary Kaye’s Baby” where the car doesn’t appear). I’ll admit the latter going to be a bit problematic to some folks newly discovering the show and I wasn’t totally ignorant about the negative connotations thanks to me being a big reader back then. I used to watch the show as a kid just for those car stunts, but I didn’t last all seven seasons. Thanks to other, better shows and movies getting my attention, I moved on to my teenage years Duke free.
I’d forgotten all about the show until the 2005 and 2007 films that I didn’t see because I wasn’t at all interested in them. That wasn’t because of any perceived notions, mind you. I just have a thing for avoiding Hollywood remakes of TV shows because they tend to be pretty awful. As I attempted to tip-toe away from my eavesdrop spot, the older guy noticed me and called me over. Eeek. He asked if remembered the show and watched it when I was younger and I had to admit I did, enjoyed it and never took it for anything other than lightweight fluff. I told him that he could probably sell anything he wanted related to the show on ebay or to private collectors who also didn’t see the show as solely based on a single image. And yes, black folks up North and across America DID watch this show (and as you’ll see if you follow that link, there were a number of actors of color on different shows during the series’ run).
As I strolled back home, I thought of an old issue of MAD magazine that ran not one, but TWO shocking but well pointed jabs at Hogan’s Heroes, a hugely popular TV show for CBS set in a POW camp. A later issue of MAD (#219, December 1980) had a Dukes parody called “The Dopes of Haphazzard”, but I don’t recall it at all as I believe I wasn’t following MAD for much of the 70’s or 80’s. Anyway, this post is more or less a quick filler as well as a small bit of brain food. I’m keeping politics out of this one because history says it’s time for a change on a few fronts and you don’t mess with progress because you end up back where you started (or in a twisted, ugly version of Mayberry) wondering how the hell you’re still there after all this time.