Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Dukes of Hazzard Played Too Large A Role In Shaping My Value System

This weekend, while the crew is off fighting evil, enjoy Part 2 of the TV Trilogy.

Just two good old boys, never meanin' no harm...
Beats all you never saw, been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born.

Straightenin' the curves, flattenin' the hills...
Someday the mountain might get 'em but the law never will.

Makin' their way, the only way they know how...
That's just a little bit more than the law will allow.

Just two good ol' boys, wouldn't change if they could,
Fightin' the system like two modern-day Robin Hoods...

written and performed by the incomparable Waylon Jennings

When I was just a lad, I used to come home from school and watch the afternoon reruns to pass the time. Most of them were run of the mill sitcoms, mere playthings to distract me from the trials and tribulations of pre-adolescence, but some shows rose above the noise to educate, inform, and sculpt me into the columnist before you. Recently I've been able to trace my issues with authority to The Dukes of Hazzard. That and my intense urge to run moonshine in an orange Charger.

For those of you who don't remember too clearly, The Dukes of Hazzard is set in Hazzard County, a fictional area in Georgia. Bo and Luke Duke, two cousins on probation for running moonshine, live on the family farm with their Uncle Jesse, a crotchety old man who used to run moonshine in the good ol' days. Hazzard is run by County Commissioner Boss Hogg, a heaping mass of humanity who rose to corrupt power after an early career running moonshine with Uncle Jesse. Boss Hogg's evil schemes are executed by his sheriff (and brother-in-law) Roscoe P. Coltrane (aka Roscoooe!), whose incompetence is only exceeded by that of his deputies, Enos and Cletus, who are probably cousins.

But this supporting cast would have been nothing without the three stars of the show. In no particular order, these are the lake-jumping General Lee, the cutoff-sporting Daisy Duke, and the country witticism-spinning narrator/balladeer Waylon Jennings. This man, woman, and automobile elevate the show from merely cool to artistic perfection.

The basic storyline goes something like this: Bo and Luke are on probation, and Boss Hogg really wants them thrown in prison so Uncle Jesse can't run the farm anymore and has to turn over the deed. But Bo and Luke just can't stay out of trouble, so Roscoe chases them around Hazzard for about half of each episode. Hazzard has an inordinate amount of water, and an awful lot of makeshift ramps. Bo, the ex-stock car driver, would jump the lake, swamp, river, creek, inlet, canal, puddle, or fjord. Then Roscoe would try to follow, but despite the fact he was pretty much matching speed with the Duke boys, he'd always land square in the middle of the water. This is widely attributed to his failure to give a proper Rebel yell in mid air.

But even if he did, how could his cruiser compare to the General? A souped up Dodge Charger with its doors welded shut, its suspension so loose it swerved and fishtailed going around corners in town, and its hood so slick that Luke never fell while ass-sliding over to the passenger side. Try it next time you're busting out of your county jail, it's harder than it looks.

Many people dismiss The Dukes of Hazzard as having only one plot: Bo and Luke have to outrun Roscoe and company in the General Lee, jumping a variety of obstacles. This ignores the premise for the car chase. In actuality there are two plots: Plot A, where Boss Hogg has some sinister plot to lie, cheat and/or steal that gets foiled by the Duke boys; and Plot B, where some criminals first frame, and then get foiled by, the Duke boys. That both plots end in the same exact fashion leads most to assume that the entire plot is the same.

But, as everyone knows, the show was really an allegory to illustrate the moral ambiguity necessary to maintain the individual's innocence when the system is inherently corrupt. The purity of the individual is symbolized by the unreal beauty of Daisy Duke in her cutoff shorts. Boss Hogg oppresses Daisy by forcing her to work long hours at The Boar's Nest bar, in sort of a Jabba The Hutt - Princess Leia thing. She is protected by the reckless Duke boys, who wield the power of the General Lee and the crotchety wisdom of their Uncle Jesse.

The Dukes of Hazzard was about breaking through conventional thinking. Bo and Luke showed us that the blonde/brunette stereotypes could apply to men too. Daisy pioneered the rare combination of cutoff shorts and nylons. Every other episode proved that hang gliders were suprisingly useful for reconnaissance, chases, and even sneak attacks. And Boss Hogg somehow kept getting elected to the post of county commissioner, even though he had a personal vendetta against at least half of the electorate (the electorate consisting of the Duke family, Cooter, Roscoe, Enos and/or Cletus, and a few extras).

Bo and Luke's probation tends to get in the way of their ongoing quest to protect the glory of Daisy's sweet, sweet legs. It makes them the only inhabitants of Hazzard County over the age of six without ready access to firearms. The deck may be stacked against Bo and Luke, but they always come out on top. Why? Because they're cooler. Granted, they are unarmed (or occasionally armed with bows and arrows like a' two modern day Robin Hoods), but they have bigger and fluffier hair, tighter jeans, and their car horn plays "Dixie." If two guys held them at gunpoint, the boys would just rush them and kick the guns out of their hands. It wouldn't matter how far away the men were standing, they would stand there with a mixture of mean and stupid on their faces as the Duke boys gradually approached them. Not that it was all that brilliant of a moment for the Dukes either, but the lesson taken away was clear: It is okay to be an idiot if you only fight morons.

All the while Waylon Jennings treats the audience to a narration that has yet to be equaled. It makes The Wonder Years look like the work of a retarded 8 year-old. His voice over supplies all the key exposition and explains big plot points like a severely inebriated Greek chorus. The Dukes of Hazzard doesn't just astound you with a plot twist, Waylon is there with "Don't that just beat all?" before the break to commercial. We may have known the situation was bad, but we didn't necessarily know the boys were in a "heap of trouble." Most viewers come from places where one bloodline didn't populate the entire county, so Waylon Jennings serves as the cultural ambassador. My personal favorite was when a helicopter forced a truck off the road by throwing bags of oil onto the windshield, Waylon told us, "I know it may be a quart low, but that's not where you put it."

Perhaps the strongest symbol of the virtuous common man overcoming the corrupt state is when the Duke boys break out of the Hazzard jail. This is why that scene was written in about twice an episode. They kept a better eye on Otis the drunk in Mayberry. An important point here is that Bo and Luke are not virtuous in and of themselves, seeing as how by that time they had broken parole about three or four times over. But fighting The Man makes them virtuous by default. They are against Boss Hogg, and that's all that matters. Being on the side of Daisy Duke and her succulent, nubile beauty doesn't hurt either.

It is a surprise anyone could grow up with this show and not have an ingrown mistrust of authority. Boss Hogg has a mandate from the masses, and look what he does with it. The only time he's not doing something evil is when he's eating multiple buckets of fried chicken. He is always picking on the Dukes and being mean to poor, lovely, lovely Daisy. The man walks around in a white suit and big ass white cowboy hat. His ride is a huge white Cadillac with longhorns mounted on the front. If there's a uniform for Team Evil, that's it.

Not all is lost, though, for even the goons employed by the System can still be lured back to the side of goodness and decency. Enos has a gawking crush on Daisy, as did so many of us young lads staring slack jawed at the screen every time she slinked into view, so you know deep down he's a good guy. True enough, he even got a spin off that lasted at least two and a half episodes. And even Roscoe could fall for a Duke diversion, invariably Daisy trying to fix her Jeep, bent over under the hood, jeans hugging tight skin milky white curve flesh smooth... Power corrupts, but booty saves.

I still try and take in an episode whenever I can. The show was important. It proved that the everyman Duke boys could hold the fat, bloated, big ass Cadillac driving System at bay, leaving the world safe for their moonshine, fast cars, and women in tight shorts lifestyle.


miss kendra said...

booty saves!

slappy said...

And Esposito scores on the rebound!

(old Boston joke)

Lee Ann said...

I have the movie, but I have not watched it all the way through!
Maybe I should!

jamwall said...

i know numerous people who broke every bone in their left eyeball watching the theatrical version. a good portion of that might have been due to jessica simpson's acting.

Nick said...

Please Jamwall, let's give credit where credit is due. Jessica Simpson might not have been the great, but they should have given her tits the Oscar.

Carl Spackler said...

this post is an absolute masterpiece. you really put alot of thought into this and it shows.

i thought the Gilligan's Island post was shear genious but this clearly takes the cake.

how about doing a review of Fat Albert? i loved that show.

jamwall said...

you'd have to give two big oscars to her. one for each tit plus two tiny ones for her nipples.

slappy said...

Dukes of Hazzard: Starring Jessica Simpson's tits.

Co-starring Jessica Simpson.

darrell said...

that is some deep stuff. I'm just glad you thought to mention the bow and (flaming) arrow. I do know that everyone wants to be a duke boy at some time in his life.