The Dukes Of Hazzard Season 1 Episode 1 One Armed Bandits


 I'm going to start off with the proverbial elephant in the room. This show has a car named after a Confederate general that has a Confederate battle flag painted on it. My talking about the show is not in any way an endorsement or an excuse for using that symbol or romanticizing people who fought to preserve slavery. Slavery is the most shameful blemish on our country's history, and racism is a scourge which plagues us still. I wish the show hadn't included these tributes to such a terrible cause. As a southern kid watching the show I didn't understand the real meaning these things had. Now I do, and it almost kept me from even doing this show. But the show was not only a big part of my childhood, but was a big part of pop culture in the 80's and beyond. A lot of 20th century pop culture unfortunately has shameful and even detestable elements regarding race, gender and sexuality. I don't think that this should mean we just pretend they don't exist. I think we should still be able to talk about them. I also don't think we should just brush over some things with the "it was a different time" excuse. This show may not be virulently racist, but it did have a certain amount of passive racism just by using that symbol and that name and associating them with the heroes. That kind of thing was so prevalent in the south of that time that it did not even elicit comment. There are things we should not have tolerated at the time, but we did. We should acknowledge that, because only by recognition and acknowledgement can we begin to move forward and do better.

\Now that all that heavy shit is out of the way, I can talk about what is, in essence, a goofy show about a couple of rednecks getting chased around by inept law enforcement. I went into this having not watched it since it was in it's original broadcast run when I was a kid. I loved this show as a kid. One of my favorite shows was Smokey and the Bandit, and this was like a weekly dose of that on t.v.  I had watched one of the reunions as an adult, and I can safely say it was one of the worst things I have ever watched. That, together with the issues I talked about in the first paragraph, made me very hesitant to delve back into this show. I was deeply afraid that the racism was more than surface deep. I didn't want childhood memories to be tarnished by discovering that something I enjoyed as a kid was actually endorsing something morally reprehensible, like white supremacy. I was also afraid it would be so dumb that I wouldn't be able to make myself watch it.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. I actually found myself enjoying the episode, in much the same way I still enjoy Smokey and the Bandit (which is one of the movies I rewatch pretty regularly, right up there with Star Wars and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) or even the Fast and Furious movies, which I think have a direct lineage from this show. Some of you may think that's a silly statement, but consider this. In this episode there's a heist pulled off in muscle cars with a hot woman in a bikini used as bait. Replace John Schneider with Vin Diesel and you've got the opening scene for Furious 10. Cars are jumping over other cars. People walk away laughing from crashes that should have killed them, especially since no one ever seems to be wearing a safety belt. 

The cast is likeable. John Schneider plays Luke and Tom Wopat plays Bo. Catherine Bach plays their sexy cousin Daisy, who is described in a great line by narrator Waylon Jennings (my favorite country singer by the by) as able to "drive like Richard Petty, shoot like Annie Oakley, and knows the words to every Dolly Parton song". Uncle Jessie is a devoutly religious ex-moonshiner, played by Denver Pyle. Pyle is a veteran of about a million t.v. shows, having been on 14 episodes of Gunsmoke and 8 episodes of Bonanza and played a different character in every episode of each show. Roscoe P. Coltrane is James Best, another t.v. veteran who similarly showed up a lot in old westerns, including palying a few different characters on both Gunsmoke and Bonanza himself. Boss Hogg is played by Sorrell Booke. The plot of this episode is about as formulaic as it gets. The Duke cousins steal some illegal slot machines that Roscoe and Boss Hogg are smuggling into the county. They use them to raise money for the orphanage that Boss Hogg wants to replace with a shopping center. They work it so that Roscoe is given credit for saving the orphans and thus is unable to retaliate.

There are car chases and jumps. Some of the jokes are actually funny. It may not be intellectually stimulating, but it is fun. There's a rueful wince every time that Confederate flag gets shown, and it pulls you out and makes you wish they hadn't made those choices in design. I do have to admit though, that those choices are true to what people in the south were still like at the time, and largely still are today. And while it does add a cringe factor to the show, it didn't completely ruin it for me. Maybe it's similar to how I still feel close to my dad, even though I abhor many of his viewpoints, I don't know. I do know that I'm likely to have people up in arms against me for daring to admit that I enjoyed a show which shows a Confederate flag without painting the bearers of said flag as absolute villains. If that's the way you feel, I'm sorry. All I can say is, you shouldn't watch this show if you feel that way. Honestly, while I enjoyed it, I can honestly say you won't be missing much. I'll also say that if the Confederate flag makes you like the show more, you can pretty much go fuck yourself. I can't stress enough, my saying I enjoyed watching this episode is not a defense of that symbol, which stands for defending the worst thing this nation ever did. I do enjoy fast cars and good looking women and dumb jokes though, and this show delivers all of those things. I'm sure it will all get old quickly, we'll see.

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