The orange 1969 Dodge Charger has become an iconic piece of American television history. It has a place among the honored television cars, alongside the Knight Rider car, KITT, and even the famous 1966 Batmobile. Scrawled on the doors that didn't open were the numbers 01 and proudly emblazoned on the roof was the battle flag of the Confederate army, now an iconic piece of southern culture. This car was, of course, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.
In the aftermath of the Charleston, SC shooting, which according to all available evidence was racially motivated, there has been a movement to remove the flag of the Confederacy, which the shooter himself proudly identified with, from state capitols and other government buildings in South Carolina and other southern states. As with all good things, however, there are those on the left who have chosen to take the campaign too far.
Many retailers, including Walmart, Amazon and Ebay have chosen to remove the Confederate flag from their stores. These retailers are, of course, perfectly within their rights to make this decision if they feel it is in the best interests of their businesses and their patrons. If you really want a Confederate flag, there are still plenty of outlets that would gladly sell one to you. This does, however, bring up one interesting question - how far corporations and retailers are willing to go to distance themselves from the image - and it seems Warner Bros has provided the answer. It appears, with their recent announcement that any licensed The Dukes of Hazzard merchandise will have the flag removed from the roof of the General Lee, that their answer is "All in."
Make no mistake, the Confederate States of America was an insurgency against the United States. It was a rebellion, and a failed one at that, and the flag of that rebellion has no place on any government property. That said, the flag will never be fully excised from our society, and we shouldn't pretend like it will be. There will be many people across the country who will still proudly display that flag, and those who choose to display it have many different reasons for doing so. Despite what the flag represented 150 years ago, it means other things today to the different people who choose to identify with it.
To some like Dylann Roof, it is a symbol of white supremacy and racism, to some it is a symbol of pride in one's heritage and an acknowledgement of one's roots, and to others - like the Duke boys - it is a symbol of rebellion against authority.
Bo and Luke Duke were the embodiment of rebellion in the 1970s. If the show had been made today, about two young trouble makers from Ohio or Indiana, they might have been driving around in a green Charger with a Gadsden flag painted on top of it. But it wasn't. It was made in the 70s, about two young rabble rousers from the south, and the rebel flag defined who they were as characters.
I recently spoke to Chuck Dixon - former DC Comics writer and currently working on Joe Frankenstein with his one-time Batman partner Graham Nolan - about his thoughts on the controversy. "I can't imagine a sillier target for outrage than The Dukes of Hazzard," Dixon told me. "The show was harmless fluff, and enormously popular worldwide. We're now supposed to believe that Bo and Luke were the modern embodiment of Bull Conner and Nathan Bedford Forrest, but somehow we all missed that until a week ago."
John Schneider, who played Bo on the original Dukes of Hazzard television series, agrees. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “I take exception to those who say that the flag on the General Lee should always be considered a symbol of racism. Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes. If the flag was a symbol of racism, then Bo and Luke and Daisy and Uncle Jesse were a pack of wild racists and that could not be further from the truth.”
“Throwing this particular baby out with the bath water seems reactionary and overly PC to me,” Schneider went on to say. “But I do understand that publicly held corporations are in a risk-management business that the rest of us are clearly not in.”
Yes, Warner Bros - and other major corporations - are, indeed, in a risk management business. Right now, the only thing being discussed is removing the image of the flag from licensed merchandise. Warner Bros obviously isn't prepared to spend the money it would cost to digitally remove the flag from the car in the original series or the 2005 movie, and they haven't - as yet - expressed any intention to just allowing the property to die out. But this does bring up an interesting question, as to whether or not the car will sport the flag in any future adaptations.
If Warner Bros does decide to make any future movies, they will have to decide whether or not the flag has a place on the car. It is a fairly safe bet that any such revival not featuring the flag image on the roof of the car will be subject to fan outrage, and we all know how powerful the fanboy voice can be. Warner Bros is going to end up having to face the decision as to whether or not they are prepared to deal with the hassle of using the flag and facing the PC mob, or if they are just going to leave that money on the table and just not move forward with any future Dukes projects. Only time will tell, and the only thing we know for certain is that Dukes fans will reject any project that does not incorporate the flag, and that will affect the marketability of any projects featuring a flagless car.