Growing up, I watched a lot of Lawrence Welk, Hee Haw, 60 minutes, and Hawaii 5-0. As I’ve explained to my children, who regularly scale through the hundreds of channels available to them, I had only 5 stations available to me growing up and the shows were more often than not, geared towards adults, not children.
That’s what made Friday nights so special.
At 9:00, every Friday night, most American kids, regardless of race or gender, were tuned in to The Dukes of Hazzard. Start singing the first few lines of the theme song,
Just two good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm.
And most folks in my generation will without hesitation belt out the rest…
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born
30 years later.
I used to watch the show, curled up on the ugly orange couch in my home in Southern Virginia—5 miles from Colonial Williamsburg. So though young, I was acutely aware of racism, the symbolism of the confederate flag and who General Lee was. None of it mattered when I was watching that show. Frankly, I didn’t feel then that the show was making much of a political statement, but instead was giving us a peek into someone else’s world. Isn’t that what television does?
And the world of Hazzard County certainly didn’t make a positive statement about Southern people. One of the primary characters, Cooter, was absolutely imbecilic; Boss Hogg was corrupt and senseless; Bo and Luke, the main characters were criminals; Daisy, while a brunette, confirmed every “dumb blond” joke. Most of the characters were usually sweaty, dirty and broke. It was just fun.
So when TV Land pulled The Dukes of Hazard following the terrorist attack and brutal murders of 9 worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, my first reaction was that of confusion. I was, of course, distraught about the savagery of the murders and the blatant racism that fueled the murders in Charleston. I just don’t understand how pulling Dukes of Hazzard addresses anything.
I wonder if we have lost our way a bit? Are we so scared of the savagery of Dylan’s crime that we, as a country need to do something—anything—to ease our fears that this won’t happen again? Are we desperate to answer many of the mourners collective cries: “Just fix it Jesus!”?
I believe that Dukes of Hazzard had the power to entertain and certainly can bring back fond childhood memories for 80s kids; but I don’t think that even 1 person decided to become racist or murder people after watching the Dukes of Hazzard.
Acts such as pulling a show distract us from working on America’s real, deep-rooted, painful issues of racism. At best it’s a knee-jerk reaction; at worst it is a distraction that will refocus our collective energies on the hill when we need to start climbing a mountain.