I am offended that I have to defend “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a show I was not a fan of, but this is where the purveyors of popular culture have brought us. Not “where we have been brought,” but where they have decided to bring us.
Two blogs broke the news today that TV Land, a channel dedicated to TV nostalgia, has silently pulled the late-’70s comedy from its line up. “TV Classics ‘R’ Us” published a piece, and then Will McKinley’s great website, “cinematically insane,” followed up on this news, and he requested an official comment from the nostalgia channel. A representative from TV Land confirmed to him that the program had been deleted but gave no elaboration. (Article: “TV Land Pulls ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.'”)
The best in true, helpful political correctness, and there is such a thing, is seen when people take actions to not be jerks and make others aware when they are being jerks or about to be jerks—it comes from the ground-up, democratically; the worst comes when someone in power insists that we are all being jerks always all the time (and they aren’t, so we must follow them) and we can’t judge things for ourselves any longer—it is dictatorial. The TV Land decision, and its stance of doing it without explanation, is that latter sort, and it is silly.
In an effort to not be accused of being politically incorrect by airing an old (it aired from 1979 to 1985) and sometimes amusing program that featured southern Americans being Southern in a stereotypical way (a way that always struck me as something I would find insulting if I was from the South) that included having the Confederate stars and bars painted on a super-capable car called the “General Lee,” TV Land erred on the side of being politically incorrect and thus offended, in no particular order: everyone.
There are people who love the show for its qualities as a show; there are people who do not care about the show but resent being told by a corporate interest what is okay to watch; there are people from the South who always disliked the show or found it to be a bunch of mild nothing but who do not like being told by a corporate interest what to watch even more; there are those Southerners who feel no affiliation with the battle flag but feel that an issue having to do with symbols is being forced on their region in particular; there are people who believe racism is a terrifyingly real issue in America and not just one region and who see this as corporate America (TV Land is owned by Viacom) trivializing that issue.
TV Land (Viacom) is acting like just another corporate bully here, albeit in a truly minor way, which makes it all the more insidious; because its personnel so dreaded protests that have not been promised and are not forthcoming about this ancient show, those decision-makers decided to act as if they are responding to something and making a difference in the world. All Viacom did was tell viewers what we should think.
I have written about racism and I will again, and I have written about economic inequities in America. I have written about people bullied (and worse) by people in power. Bullies in positions of power, economic power and social power and religious power, these figures always need to be shown for who and what they are. I was personally heartened by Bree Newsome‘s actions on Saturday, when she took down the flag from a place of honor in Columbia, South Carolina. TV Land is no Bree Newsome here.
The Confederate battle flag ought to have no place in active daily life; I am aware that I am a non-Southerner, and three people whom I respect, all Southerners who agree with that statement about the flag, have written things to me to make me reflect on the full spectrum of issues regarding this symbol. At best, the Confederate iconography as seen on the various iterations of the flag, at best this is seen as a region’s thumbing its collective nose at authority. Innocuous, audacious, individual: qualities that people everywhere can embrace. At worst, it is seen in the way the anti-civil rights movement employed it starting in the 1940s: as a claiming of a banner for racist hate. “Innocuous” does not seem to me to be strong enough to tip the scales back to viewing that flag as innocuous.
The piece of cloth should not be erased from memory, because that is what dictators attempt to do; it needs to be erased from active, daily life. Put it in a museum. Stop selling the flag in Walmart and stop selling copies of the General Lee there, too. We do not need new iterations of that flag. Whitewashing a hit TV show by corporate powers does not, can not, do this. Let the show be on the TV channel that was expressly set up to be a museum of television. In a similar vein, “Hogan’s Heroes” is still on TV Land.
If you want to watch a pretty vapid show just to protest corporate arrogance, “The Dukes of Hazzard” is available in a DVD seven-pack from Warner Brothers, and streaming for $19.99 per season through Amazon Instant.
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