Monday, July 25, 2005


Originally uploaded by The Gulde Family.
Some things make me really sad. The Dukes of Hazzard movie is one of them.

When I heard there was going to be a Dukes of Hazzard movie, I was cautiously optimistic. If you are an American male born in the early to mid 1970s, the Dukes of Hazzard probably played some role in your development. I was no exception.

For some, that development was spurred by Catherine Bach’s short-shorted portrayal of Daisy Duke. As a late bloomer, I myself was not sufficiently interested in girls to understand the Daisy Duke phenomenon. I just thought she was the Duke Boys’ clear-eyed cousin who could be trusted to carry out any number of required *ahem* diversions. She and the mechanic, Cooter, were interchangeable in my mind.

You might find it hard to believe that the Dukes of Hazzard brought much to the table other than Daisy’s obvious talents and the dirt-road exploits of the General Lee, but it really did. The show was about redemption. Bo and Luke Duke were on probation (“been in trouble with the law since the day they was born”). I don’t remember if the Dukes’ backstory was explained in this detail, but I would expect that their offense related to the illegal transportation of moonshine. Because of their probation, neither Bo nor Luke could carry a firearm or travel out of the state. Faced with similar circumstances, you might expect two unemployed young men to return to a life of crime. I’m sure Hazzard County had its share of recidivist moonshine runners.

In spite of the odds, and with the loving support of their Uncle Jesse and cousin Daisy, the Duke Boys focused their collective talents (smooth talking (mainly Bo); fast driving; ravine jumping; explosive arrow-shooting . . .) toward the doing of justice throughout Hazzard County. Often, this pursuit placed the Duke Boys on the wrong side of Boss Hogg and his minions. Thus, the Boys are said to have bucked the system “like a true modern day Robin Hood.”

When you make a really big mistake, it’s hard to accept the possibility of redemption. A lot of people live with the secret fear in their hearts that “no matter how good I am in the future, I’ll always be the guy who screwed [insert screw-up] up.” Many convicts live with a lifelong stigma on their hearts. The Duke Boys reminded us – every Friday night – that two convicted felons could also be the guardian angels to a whole county of rural Georgia. How many role models like the Dukes are on TV today?

I could go on about the virtues of this show, but I mentioned my disappointment about the movie version, so I ought to talk about that.

Ben Jones, the actor who played Cooter on T.V., posted his opinion of the new movie on his website. He described a “profanity laced script with blatant sexual situations that mocks the good clean family values of our series.” Jones continued, “Now, anybody who knows me knows that I'm not a prude. But this kind of toilet humor has no place in Hazzard County. Rather than honoring our legendary show, they have chosen to degrade it.”

Now anyone who knows me knows that, like Ben Jones, I’m no prude. I even enjoy the occasional toilet humor. But you have to draw the line somewhere. I’m drawing it right here – at the edge of Hazzard County. The Dukes I know never used explicit language. As the song says, they were just good old boys. They never made a sex joke for a cheap laugh, at least not on screen.

Bo and Luke Duke are a lot like the Arthur Fonzarelli, the “Fonz” from Happy Days. They’re the coolest guys in their universe. They play by their own rules, but they’re intensely honorable and can always be counted on to do the right thing. I can’t think of any characters in modern T.V. like that. Now, sit-com protagonists are patterned after Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza. It’s fun to watch those guys make messes of their lives, but I miss watching the Fonz turn on the jukebox with a rap of his fist. I miss seeing Bo Duke’s trademark slide over the hood of the General Lee. It seems like nowadays, we’re embarrassed that we were ever inspired by Bo, Luke, and the Fonz. It’s like inadvertently getting the chills during the Ewok scene in Return of the Jedi.

My hope for all of you is that you embrace characters like the Dukes and the Fonz. Carry the Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox and think about what the Fonz would do if he were in your shoes. Don’t approach life with a seinfeldian sneer, but with a broad Duke smile.

Let me offer some final remarks on casting. Did anyone see the Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey Christmas Special? It was apparently intended as an homage to Bing Crosby and probably Perry Como. I don’t know what to say. Picking apart her performance would give it too much honor. Let me just say this. My sincere hope for our society and our taste in entertainment is that we become more of a Rosemary Clooney/Vera Ellen society than a Jessica Simpson/Brittney Spears one.

Please don’t let Freddy Prinze, Jr., Stifler, and Johnny Knoxville remake The Philadelphia Story.

Call me old fashioned.


Donoghue Nation said...

I do not pretend to know who most of the real people you name in your post are (although I am well acquainted with the residents of Hazzard County), but I would tend to agree that this would be a better world (or perhaps country is more appropriate) were Jessica Simpson and the like were a less prominent part of it. Having said that though, do we really want a nation patterning itself off of the Fonz? Would we really have a nation of heroes or just poorly spoken, generally unemployed, motorcycle-riding, emotional recluses wearing leather jackets and saying "Hey-y-y-y-y" to cover up their deficencies? We may as well be a nation patterning itself off of its sports heroes like Terrell Owens, Charles Barkley, Chris Webber . . . . Oh wait, we are. I would vote for turning to real people for our heroes -- doctors, scientists (those struggling to cure cancer, not those working on making cigarettes more addictive), social workers, mothers.

Did I just take something light-hearted and fun and make it too serious? I only intended to point out that you ought to see the movie before you give up on it. Despite Cooter's wise words, you might find that the Duke Boys are still uplifting and inspirational.

Matt said...

I take issue with your assertion that the Fonz was unemployed. He was a successful mechanic, teacher, and eventual co-owner of Arnold's restaurant.

I'm all for real-people heroes. I just mourn the fact that we're too embarrassed to have TV heroes like the Fonz and the Dukes anymore. Like I said, there's too much sneering and not enough sincerity.

As for the Dukes movie, are you really suggesting that it might surpass my expectations? What could possibly give you such high hopes?

Laura Donoghue said...


Kristen said...

I don't care if you are taking the Dukes Boys too seriously, it just made me laugh to think of your title, "Dukey".

Thanks for the giggle.

killedasouthernbelle said...

Right on! Why are so many movies coming out today REMAKES of fine films or shows. Im so sick of it.
They were better the first time.. i sound like a fuddy duddy but that attitude i embrace with all of my 32 year old might.