Last ride for the General Lee? 'Dukes of Hazzard' streaming future uncertain as Confederate symbols face renewed scrutiny.
It looks like these good old Duke boys need a new home. Since 2018, all seven seasons of the 80s series The Dukes of Hazzard have been streamed from CBS to Amazon, initially as part of the Prime Video Library and currently on IMDb TV, the streaming arm of the popular website. However, a recent Vulture report suggests that the brothers Bo and Luke (played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat) and their cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach) may face eviction.
The series is the latest artifact in pop culture, following the Black Lives Matter protests inspired by the death of George Floyd and again inspiring Americans to grapple with the legacy of racial injustice and exclusion in popular entertainment as well as in the To deal with policing. In recent weeks, TV shows such as cops and live PD have been canceled, Gone With the Wind has been temporarily removed from HBO Max, and famous brands such as Aunt Jemima have been discontinued. If the Dukes of Hazzard join them in exile, it's because the show has its insulting symbol on its sleeve - or more specifically, on the roof of Bo and Luke's signature car: a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger with a namesake from the civil war - Gen. Robert E. Lee - and a Confederate flag above.
This flag has landed General Lee in hot water before. Five years ago, the show was put on a bench by her former home, TV Land, after the Charleston Church was shot by white supremacist Dylann Roof. At that point, Warner Bros., which produced the original series, as well as the various spin-offs and successors, including the 2005 large-screen version, ceased licensing the Dukes ride for toys and other goods. News that The Dukes of Hazzard might lose another venue due to the prominent placement of the Confederate flag appears to series co-star Ben Jones as a familiar tune. "This is not a surprise," Jones told Yahoo Entertainment from his Virginia home. "And it's almost meaningless. Nobody knew it was on Amazon Prime unless they came across it when they searched there. I think it would be a shame, but everyone collapsed at different times."
Jones' story with the dukes precedes the show; One of his earliest appearances as an actor in North Carolina in 1975 was the film Moonrunners, which was remodeled four years later in The Dukes of Hazzard. He was the first actor to audition for the series, and played the Hazzard County mechanic Cooter Davenport for seven years, helping Bo and Luke in their weekly attempts to frustrate the plans of property baron Boss Hogg (Sorrell Brooke) and one Staying ahead of the limping lawyer Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best). While pursuing other careers after Dukes went up in 1985, including a period in Congress as Georgia's democratic representative, Jones described himself as the “steward” of his legacy, a legacy he increasingly sees as under attack.
Ben Jones poses with General Lee in the television film The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood from 2000. (Warner Bros. Television / courtesy of the Everett Collection)
"In the end, I keep defending myself and my culture on these issues," says the 78-year-old owner and operator of Cooter's Place, a Dukes of Hazzard museum and shop located in Tennessee and Virginia. “The rebel flag on this car has been seen by hundreds of millions of viewers for 40 years. You can't just say that we will be politically correct and give in to whatever they want because it is insensitive. We had a huge black audience and black people came into our stores all the time and said, “I loved this show. I saw it with my family. "
You can't just say that we will be politically correct and give in to whatever they want because it is insensitive.
Journalist Kevin S. Aldridge, who grew up in the early 80s, was one of the Black fans that Jones describes. "When I was a child, it was my favorite show," he tells us. "It was this fun, funny police chase that didn't really deal with very serious issues. I remember that for Christmas I just wanted an electric racing kit from Dukes of Hazzard, where the car was like a show across a canyon I got it and played with it all day this Christmas! "At this age, General Lee saw him as a" cool car "like the Batmobile or KITT." I completely lost the symbolism behind it, "he recalls 45-year-old Aldridge, who is the opinion and engagement editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I don't remember ever having deep philosophical conversations about the show with my parents trying to tell me about the story or to tell something like that. I think they wanted me to enjoy what I enjoy. "
General Lee makes one of his signature jumps in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. (Courtesy of the Everett Collection)
However, in an Enquirer column from 2018, Aldridge wrote about a moment in his childhood when his enjoyment of Dukes waned. While reenacting scenes from the previous episode with his white classmates from kindergarten, Aldridge tried to sit in the driver's seat of the wooden car that represented General Lee. His essay describes what happened next:
Just as I was about to sit in the driver's seat, some of my white male classmates stopped me. "You can't drive because you can't be one of the Duke Boys," said one of them when he blocked my way. "And why not?" I asked. "Because you're black," he said matter-of-factly. ... "Don't feel bad," said another of my white male classmates, to soften the blow. "You can pretend to be a scooter."
"It was the first time that I felt like I was standing in front of a barrier for something I wanted to do," Aldridge says now. "I wanted to be the Duke Boys, but I found out that day that I couldn't be one of the Duke Boys because they were white and I wasn't. I continued to see and love the show after that experience, but it was a bitter moment - I remember that. "
Aldridge still expresses nostalgic affection for The Dukes of Hazzard, although revisiting the show reveals the racist elements that flew over his head as a child. For example, while Jones argues that Dukes was “color blind” in his approach to the race, Aldridge remembers very few black actors who even appear on the show. "It just shows how African Americans in this country who have been fighting for equality and equal treatment for so long do not realize how much white culture is normalized for you as a child."
The Confederate flag on General Lee can no longer be overlooked. Aldridge attributes to his university education at the University of Wittenberg that he confronted him with the meaning of the flag, in contrast to the "whitewashed version of the story" that he was taught in primary school. "When I started to learn more about the time of the civil war and the symbols of the Confederate flag - the idea of white domination and the continuation of black enslavement in America - the show is very different."
Jones, Denver Pyle and Catherine Bach in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. (Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)
It is no coincidence that colleges are among the institutions that Jones seeks to turn public opinion not only against the Dukes of Hazzard, but also against what he expressly describes as his heir to the Confederate Army, whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy and who joined the confederation to fight for equality in the 1960s. "This didn't start until the 2000s," he argues. "During all the years the show was aired, we never got a complaint. Then it was "Oh, that's bad" because the NAACP said, "Any display of [the Confederate flag] is bad." And then politicians were scared and companies were scared, so it got insane. Who can decide these things? Is it just the academic left, or is it the people who have the right to an opinion, and that opinion should be understood and accepted. "
"When I started to learn more about the era of the civil war and the symbols of the Confederate flag, the show is very different."
Kevin S. Aldridge
Jones' own opinion is that the current debate about the Confederate flag is based in part on a misinterpretation of history. "It is not the Confederate Government flag," he says of the special flag that adorns General Lee. "This was a battle flag, and it is a St. Andrew's Cross - St. Andrew was the first disciple of Christ, and he was crucified in this dispersal eagle position. It symbolizes it and it is an international understanding. There are currently 80 million descendants of the United States in the United States Confederation: Obviously, these ancestors were on the wrong side of history ... but they were their time and their descendants have fought in every war this nation has waged since then.
"I came into politics through the civil rights movement and fought against the Ku Klux Klan," continues Jones. “I knocked my teeth out, got shot and went to jail, but together, black and white in the south, we have changed America for the better. Suddenly we are a persona non grata because we have this symbol there. Given the demographics and our history, that's surprisingly tight. This is a new thing, but this country is not a new thing and this flag is not a new thing. So that's the problem. I don't have the problem. It's a Christian cross that was used as a battle flag, and people in the south still like to wave it and say, "Yee-haw." But to equate it with hate, bigotry and evil - these are bulls ***. "
Howard Graves, a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, would consider this assessment of history to be just as narrow. While repeating Jones' description of the specific flag on General Lee as a battle flag as opposed to an official Confederate government flag, he offers a very different account of life after the civil war after the civil war. "It reappeared at the beginning of the 20th century when attempts were made to re-contextualize the confederation and bury the truth that separated the south to maintain the institution of slavery," explains Graves. “And throughout history, it has been reappearing regularly when white Southerners have tried, on the whole, to maintain institutions that prevent black and brown people from being equal political. That is the truth of what this flag represents. "
Graves' work with the SPLC involves monitoring the use of Confederate images among modern white supremacist groups, and has seen the battle flag embedded deep into their cause. "Neo-Confederate hate groups like the Southern League have said they are ready to use force to defend the monuments and Confederate iconography. All of this is accompanied by images of the battle flag. At the Unite the Right rally [in Charlottesville , Virginia] One of the flags we saw most on the ground that day was the Confederate flag, a white nationalist rally attended by hundreds of thousands of people to make sure a statue of Robert E. Lee wasn't was removed and Heather Heyer died because of this willingness. "
Freedom of speech protesters hold shields and flags during the Unite the Right Freedom of Expression gathering at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. (Emily Molli / NurPhoto via Getty Images)
As a Confederate Army soldier, Graves understands why some, like Jones, prefer to see the flag as a kind symbol of the southern heritage. "I think they are doing it honestly. They have not really dealt with the entire historical context of this flag and believe in the kind of myth" do not hate heritage ". But I think we have to dig a little deeper and look at the roots and the look at the specific context of this flag. The idea that it is something other than a glorification of white supremacy just doesn't stand up to the test. "
At least for the moment, the future of the Duke brothers is in the air. The series can still be streamed for free on Amazon Prime’s IMDb TV channel. And even if the company decides to remove it, the full seasons of digital services like Vudu and DVD will remain available. But the series discussion continues, and some of Jones' co-stars seem open to how Dukes fits into a pop culture landscape that is no longer satisfied with the casual display of Confederate iconography. Bo Duke himself, John Schneider, recently posted a video on his official YouTube page asking for feedback on the legacy of the show.
"I want to know from you ... are the Dukes of Hazzard worth taking out of the air because of General Lee?" Schneider asks in the video. "Was The Dukes of Hazzard a racially charged show? Was the design's intention, General Lee's paint scheme, in any way a white supremacistic statement? If you think it was, I want to know. I really want to know. ... I know what I think and I want to know what you think. "(For the recording, this is a far more conciliatory tone than Schneider in 2015 when TV Land dropped the series.)
Wopat and Schneider run for cover in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. (Courtesy of the Everett Collection)
A possible way for Amazon would be to follow HBO Max's guidance with Gone With the Wind. After the film was removed from the streaming service, it will be restored with a newly added introduction by black film scientist Jacqueline Stewart, who places the film in a historical context. But Jones, who still exhibits and sells merchandise with General Lee and the Confederate flag at Cooter's Place, is skeptical that the Dukes of Hazzard will receive similar treatment. "Who will write the disclaimer? What does the disclaimer say? Would say that in the 1980s and 1990s, millions of blacks watched this show along with millions of whites and reds, and browns and yellows, but they didn't know they were doing something resembling sin by watching this show ? I don't care what they write. They are idiots. You are afraid of political pressure. They cannot get up and do their homework. We are here and are not ashamed of our history. We accept it, we understand it and hopefully the whole country has learned from it. "
The idea that [the Confederate flag] is anything but a glorification of white supremacy is simply not being scrutinized. "
Aldrdige, on the other hand, sees the advantages of an introduction to the series as a way of putting it into context. "With films like" Gone with the Wind "and television programs like" The Dukes of Hazzard "there is a real chance not to get rid of them but to have a thoughtful discussion about them," he says. "I also understand that a network or organization like Amazon has the right to determine what they want to show and what they don't want to show. I don't necessarily know that I would say," Shut it down. "If you do want to keep, put a disclaimer or other frame around it and let it go. "
Aldridge is also very aware that the future of Dukes will ultimately be determined by the next generation of viewers - not Jones or the children of the 1970s and 1980s - and this generation will vote with their eyeballs. "When I wrote my play, a younger millennial wrote: 'What is it? Nobody knows what this show is today, ”he laughs. "The Dukes of Hazzard doesn't even register in the minds of most modern millennials, so I don't think I would worry too much about the show polluting young people's thoughts today - there are many other things they do watch and they're more interested in. "
The Dukes of Hazzard is currently streamed on Amazon with an IMDb TV subscription.
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