From 1979 to 1985, CBS aired a family-friendly TV show starring Tom Wopat and John Schneider called The Dukes of Hazzard.
While the humor was light, the hijinks were cute, the gratuitous T&A was on display, and the script was elementary, there was one part of the TV series that no one seemed to scoff at then, but definitely have a problem with now — those repugnant stars and bars on top of the “General Lee” (and under [Catherine Bach] Daisy’s Dukes…yes, that’s from whence the term came).
And, although we live in much different and more inclusive times, The Dukes of Hazzard had the General Lee and its emblazoned Confederate flag — and those are going nowhere anytime soon, so says the curator of the Volo Auto Museum in Illinois.
History vs. Bigotry
As is common to ignorant debates like this, one side who can look at the Stars and Bars and see nothing wrong believe it’s just part of “history.” The other side, looks at the flag of yesteryear, remembers what happened then and recalls it today, and says that particular symbol should have no tomorrow because of “bigotry.”
The once collectible automobile was regarded as TV folklore, thanks to the popularity of The Dukes of Hazzard. Today, the Dukes’ car, the General Lee, is housed in the Volo Auto Museum centered in the crosshairs of controversy.
Now that Mississippi has finally decided to stop being the final holdout on the racist stain in U.S. history and removing the Confederate flag from its state placard, some eyes focused on up north to this vehicle.
Even though the South will definitely never rise again — at least on a flagpole anywhere in the United States — what side of the aisle do you think the Volo Auto Museum stands?
We feel the car is part of history, and people love it. We’ve got people of all races and nationalities that remember the TV show and aren’t offended by it whatsoever. It’s a piece of history and it’s in a museum.Volo museum director Brian Grams
Interviewed by the Crystal Lake-Based NorthWest Herald
The museum first acquired the last surviving Dodge Charger from the TV show in 2005. Since that date, Grams notes “nobody has complained.” Although the landscape has remarkably (and finally) changed concerned symbols of hatred in America, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard is a symbol many (who are in contact with the Volo Auto Museum) appreciate as TV history.
To wit, Grams points a finger elsewhere:
If we’re going to get complaints about the General Lee being here, we’ve got much worse items over in our military buildingMore from Museum Director Brian Grams
The South Rose Again
It was the apex of what was known as “Jiggle TV” in the late 1970s. Shows like Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angels, Hee Haw, and I Dream of Jeannie were all part of weekly softcore television. Back in the day when Americans only had three to five channels to choose from, these shows were a ratings bonanza and The Dukes of Hazzard was at the top of that list.
As the noted Waylon Jennings’ theme claims, Bo and Luke Duke really were “good ol’ boys” who, if you watched the show, really were “never meanin’ no harm.” Sure “the mountains might get ’em” there in Hazzard County, Georgia, “but the law never will.”
In truth, they were decent guys who each had a string of rebellion in them. Not ‘middle finger to the man’ rebellion, but maybe enough of a Heisman to make them eat their dust when they got just a tinge out of line.
If their MOPAR muscle car of lube-ridden love, a 1969 Dodge Charger. was any other color palette found in a Crayola box, this story would never exist. Censors never had a problem with this TV show and the ratings it earned showed that. But, for some homogenized (and surreptitious bigoted reason), a producer used the Confederate flag on the roof of the car.
After The Dukes of Hazzard was far off the air, a controversy was born decades later.
Yank the Dukes of Hazzard, Not the Flag?!
When The Dukes of Hazzard hit TV, the car became the focal point (outside of Catherine Bach’s denim-clad behind). Fast forward to 2015 when a troglodyte bigot pig named Dylann Roof shot up a church and murdered nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
His white power gave power to everyone else, which made the license of the WB/CBS TV show in serious jeopardy. Americans were finally coming to grips with the Confederate flag as a part of history not really in need of celebration.
So, TV Land, which had the show still in syndication, yanked the episodes from its schedule in response to the public outcry. Why? The General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger. Moreover, “Warner Bros. Consumer Products said it would no longer license toys or models of the iconic 1969 Dodge Charger, dubbed General Lee, joining a number of other retailers vowing to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.”
And now…we are still talking about this?! WHY?!
The flag is a symbol of hate more than a symbol of a fun-loving TV show. One is a memory of a television series that lasted six years. The other is a symbol of sinister hate that lasted for more 400 years. Let’s stop talking about this and just not promote the car. The memories will never go to the salvage yard. Maybe the General Lee should.
We need to be talking about stuff like this, to use the words of a prophet and hero…
…Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.