As Amazon reportedly mulls whether or not to evict The Dukes of Hazzard from its Prime Video streaming service, a Midwest auto museum has announced that the Duke boys’ signature car won’t have to find a new garage.
Since 2005, the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Ill., has been home to the last surviving General Lee from the stunt-heavy show’s first season, which premiered on CBS in 1979. As explained on the museum’s website, this 1969 Dodge Charger is one of six that the production used on location in Georgia — the series relocated to California for the rest of its seven-season run, where new cars were built and wrecked — and the only one that survives in its original form. And that original form includes the controversial Confederate battle flag that’s emblazoned on the roof, a symbol that largely went unquestioned during the show’s 1980s heyday, but today is part of a larger conversation about the presence of racist imagery in American popular culture.
Speaking with the northern Illinois newspaper the Northwest Herald, museum director Brian Grams argues that a car museum is a suitable place to display a piece of automobile — and television — history. “We feel the car is part of history, and people love it. We’ve got people of all races and nationalities that remember the TV show and aren’t offended by it whatsoever. It’s a piece of history and it’s in a museum.”
The General Lee is featured alongside the museum’s extensive collection of cars from movies and television series, including the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy; the 1957 Plymouth Fury from Christine; and a 1976 Ferrari Daytona Spyder from another era-defining ’80s series, Miami Vice. (The museum has been closed to the public since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.)
As an extension of the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd, Confederate imagery is increasingly being removed from public view by protesters and corporations alike. Numerous monuments around the country memorializing Confederate soldiers and officers, as well as historical figures like Christopher Columbus, have been torn or taken down, while NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag from its races and venues. But Grams claims that he’s been contacted by individuals who are supportive of his decision to leave the General Lee in place. “Several people have reached out with positive comments about us leaving it on display,” he told the Northwest Herald, adding that those voices have been “complimenting us for leaving it there and not having a knee-jerk reaction to remove it like a lot of places are.” As the story circulated online, some took to Twitter to echo those compliments.
Good for the Volo Auto Museum. https://t.co/aDvUD1xxUR
— Coder HTTP Autonomous Zone (@CoderInCrisis) July 6, 2020
It's called the General Lee - and it shouldn't be removed, touched or edited. People need to get over themselves - stop looking for racism in everything.
— jojo (@ginger_consult2) July 6, 2020
Thank you @Voloautomuseum for NOT removing the General Lee from the museum, or removing the Confederate flag from the roof.
History is critically important to conserve, including entertainment history.
— JB (@Gadsden1791) July 6, 2020
But others took a more nuanced view, arguing that even if a museum is a proper place to house a pop culture relic like the General Lee, it still shouldn’t be displayed in an information vacuum. Even as Grams described The Dukes of Hazzard as “a wholesome family show,” the battle flag that adorns the General Lee has a far different history. “It reemerged in the early 20th century in the midst of an effort to recontextualize the Confederacy and bury the truth that the South seceded in order to maintain the institution of chattel slavery,” Howard Graves, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Yahoo Entertainment in June. “And throughout history, it periodically reemerged as white Southerners, by and large, have tried to maintain institutions that keep Black and brown people from having equal political footing. That’s the truth of what that flag represents.”
This I do not have a problem with. While Confederate iconography must be removed from the PUBLIC square (legally), this is a museum. What the @Voloautomuseum might want to do is add a reference to the exhibit acknowledging what the Confederate flag has come to symbolize. https://t.co/9tqLxptxq8
— Michael J. Gaichas (@mikegaichas) July 6, 2020
The car should stay as this is a museum and preserving history is what museums actually do. However, the white privilege exuding out of every pore of the owner of @Voloautomuseum is just disgusting.#Bigot #ReadTheRoom #NoEmpathy #WhitePrivilegeEqualsWhitePower https://t.co/dqQF8h0qtj
— Devin Nunes has negative IQ (@manosgigante) July 6, 2020
@Voloautomuseum If you're not going to cover the confederate flag on the Dukes of Hazzard car, you need to put an educational sign next to it, explaining the painful history of the flag for many Americans. I won't return until this is done. #VoloAutoMuseum #DukesOfHazzard
— Lila Fox🌈🌊 (@LilaFox1978) July 6, 2020
Similarly, affixing a disclaimer to The Dukes of Hazzard would be one potential way for Amazon to continue streaming the series, in much the same way that HBO Max added an introduction before Gone With the Wind after briefly moving the controversial film from the service. “There’s a real opportunity with movies like Gone With the Wind and TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard not to get rid of them but to have a thoughtful discussion around them,” childhood Hazzard fan turned journalist Kevin S. Aldridge told Yahoo Entertainment. “I also understand that a network or organization like Amazon has the right to determine what they want to show and what they don’t want to show. I don’t necessarily know that I’d say, ‘Shut it down.’ If you’re going to keep it, put a disclaimer or some other framing around it and let it ride.”
The Dukes of Hazzard is currently streaming on Amazon with an IMDb TV subscription.