Original Dukes of Hazzard stars are standing by the show’s controversial use of the Confederate flag.
The hit show premiered at the beginning of 1979 and ran for six years on CBS. But before it even hit screens, it was riddled by TV critics who claimed the two male leads, considered “good old boys” promoted being on the wrong side of the law. According to the Hollywood Reporter, critics also disliked how the show mocked the subject of illegitimate parenthood and the skimpy clothes of an actress who made regular appearances.
One North Carolina critic believed the show’s stereotypes misrepresented the “New South.”
However, programming chief B. Donald Grant disregarded their concerns and went on to broadcast the show, winning over millions of fans while doing so. It has been reported the show garnered 20 million viewers per episode and was rated the second-biggest TV show by the third season.
But the renewed fervor to ban the use of the Confederate Flag has brought attention to those that have used it, including the Dukes of Hazzard. A dark cloud looms over the show’s use of the Confederate flag on the roof of the boys’ orange 1969 Dodge Charger, known as General Lee.
Although many tie the flag to a slave-era that triggers the emotion of hate, star John Schneider (Bo), 60, believes “the whole politically correct generation has gotten out of hand” and stands by the use of the flag. “I have never had an African American come up to me and have any problem with it whatsoever,” he told the THR.
Co-star Tom Wopat (Bo’s cousin, Luke), 68, had a more passive tone. ”The situation in the country has obviously changed in the last 40 years. I feel fortunate to be living in a time when we can address some of the injustices of the past. But the car is innocent.”
The show’s curator, Gy Waldron, 87, grew up in Lenoxburg, Kentucky, an area where you can see many flags proudly worn and hung. “I had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War, and we honored both the American and Confederate flags,” he said, and according to him, “no one even connected the Confederate flag with slavery. It was simply a part of our southern culture.”
Waldron says he “wholeheartedly.” supports the Black Lives Matter movement and “its quest to address racism around the world.”
The cast says the new wave to ban the flag has caused them déjà vu. It was after Dylan Roof’s 2015 killing of nine Black congregants in a South Carolina church, that TV Land, the only network that airs the show, took it off the air. The show is now only streamed on Amazon.
THR also spoke with Ben Jones, who played Cooter the mechanic, and later went on to serve as a Democratic Georgia congressman between 1989 to 1993. Jones seemed more sympathetic to the flags “feelings.”
“There are 80 million descendants of the Confederacy — one out of four people has that heritage. Most of them have no problem with the flag at all,” Jones, 78, said. “This was a family show. Black families watched it for generations. I know this. I had an [congressional] office right there in the Martin Luther King district. King’s right-hand man Andy Young is a dear friend of mine. We couldn’t care less about rebel flags.”
Jones is also the organizer of an annual fan convention for the long-running series in West Virginia called the Good Ol’ Boys Fest and is the owner of a “Dukes of Hazzard” themed-shop, known as Cooter’s Place.
Jones is against digitally removing the flag from the car in an attempt to put it back on the air. “That wouldn’t please anybody.”
“After 40 years seen all over the world — in thousands of jigsaw puzzles, on model cars and lunch boxes — the General Lee, by not having the flag there, would just draw attention to itself,” he added. Schneider shared the same sentiments and said he believes the show is being unfairly targeted.
“Dukes of Hazzard was a unifying force. Mom, grandma, everyone wanted to watch it together. But who benefits from division?” he says. “The Dukes of Hazzard has been shot down, I believe unfairly. We haven’t missed a generation yet, but we may miss this next one.”
“That would be like taking the ‘S’ off Superman’s chest.” Now that’s a strong comparison.