The winds of public focus are making it a bad time for any and all things related to the confederate flag. With the shown affinity for confederate iconography from the perpetrator of the June 17 South Carolina church shooting tragedy being the catalyst, the broadest movement yet to eliminate the rebel flag has expanded its reach. Consequently, a seemingly unlikely object in the famous hot rod ride of The Dukes of Hazzard in the classic show now finds its swag unshelved.
It is being reported that Warner Bros., the studio who owns The Dukes of Hazzard property, has taken measures in concert with the current atmosphere that widely calls for the confederate flag’s removal. With the recent announcement from a collective of retail giants (like Walmart, Amazon, eBay. Sears and Etsy) making their intention to cut the confederate cord clear, Warner clearly saw the writing on the wall - or in this case, the car roof - when it came to their iconic television vehicle, the confederate-flag-decked 1969 Dodge Charger known as The General Lee. The decision was shared with various news sources via email, according to Vulture.
General Lee toys and other merchandise have been big business since The Dukes of Hazzard first began its 1979-1985 run on television. The removal of its signature decal is actually a rather shocking development, given how generations of children and adults for over 35 years have had General Lee model cars, die-casts and various other wheeled representations of the iconic vehicle. While the connotation of having the confederate flag on the car’s roof never reflected any ideological leanings of the titular protagonist siblings, Bo Duke (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat), the depiction of the logo has nevertheless become a source of serious controversy.
In fact, rumors began to surface in the summer of 2012 that Warner Bros. Consumer Products was considering no longer including the General Lee’s confederate-decaled roof from future merchandise; it was something they emphatically denied at the time. Clearly, however, the recent tragedy has served as the rather heavy straw that broke that particular camel’s back. Yet, the juxtaposition of the tragedy and a television show from the early 1980s certainly poses an interesting dilemma when it comes to the age-old struggle between the longstanding venerability of art and its continued susceptibility to the fluctuating context of the times.
Warner’s decision to cease licensing confederate flag-bearing Dukes of Hazzard paraphernalia does appear to be a preemptive move to squelch the inevitable tide of indignation that would have come their way once people started to remember what the General Lee, which graced not only television screens but the big-screen in the 2005 revival flop, sported on its roof. Yet, it also exemplifies a kind of retroactive censorship that ignores, at least in this case, a rather innocuous context. Regardless of what your views are regarding the flag, the idea of altering any property’s historical authenticity for the expediency of the moment does seem like a problematic slippery slope for just about anything.
For now, barring any calls for some movement to digitally erase it, the confederate flag will remain visibly prominent on The General Lee in episode reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. However, it seems that future merchandise will carry on sans the bars and stars.