As a child of the ’80s, I grew up watching prime-time TV on all (count ’em) three channels that were readily available to viewers during that time period. During the 1980s, automotive-themed shows like Knight Rider, The A-Team and The Fall Guy were all the rage, with those shows and many others leaving an impression on me that would last well into my 30s.
One of those shows was the Dukes of Hazzard, starring of course, the 1969 Dodge Charger known as the General Lee. Featuring bright orange paint, a brush guard in the front, an “01” on the doors and a now awkwardly controversial Confederate battle flag on the roof, it would become a symbol of pop culture that would last for decades.
Bo and Luke Duke, “a pair of cousins who were closer than brothers,” played aspiring racers by day and moonshine runners by night, always found themselves on the wrong end of the law but ultimately helped save the day. While the plots were thin, the dialogue was cookie-cutter and the characters were one-sided, it brought a family element into living rooms all across the country that’s unmatched by a lot of shows, even today.
The show first aired in January of 1979, and throughout its six-year run concluding in 1985, had its share of controversies. One of which, was the aforementioned battle flag fixated onto the car’s roof. The show was created at a time when the flag was a symbol of pride of the South, although many focus groups deemed it as a highly unorthodox symbol and called for the removal of it from the car.
Of course the creators of the show dismissed these claims and refuted, continuing to film the car as it was originally conceived – even during the nineties and 2000s with the reunion shows and movie remakes. Toys, clothing, lunch boxes and other Dukes merchandise featured the flag and have continued to do so all the way up until this week, when it was announced that Warner Brothers has stopped production on General Lee products.
Word is, that production will resume with either an American flag, or nothing at all, in place of the original. Which also begs the question, if the flag is appropriate on the toy, then what about the car’s nickname itself, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee?
When I rang up a close friend of mine the other night the subject came up. Being a huge Dukes fan himself, he made some valid points about how the politics of this situation should be handled, but did agree that removing the flag from the car is just taking it too far. To guys like like us who watched the original TV show as children, it’s simply part of the car’s look and character.
Out of curiosity, we hit up eBay and checked pricing on some of the die cast models of the car. For obvious reasons, the asking prices of most of the toys had skyrocketed into the stratosphere as a result of anything representing the flag had to be pulled from the auction site.
Now while I won’t get heavy into the politics, my position on the flag or even talk about why this has become an issue lately, it does provide an excellent example of where we draw the line in political correctness. At what point do we separate politics, war history and stereotypes from pop culture and classic TV?
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of Timeless Muscle Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.