Strip Mining the Dukes of Hazzard

The plot of the recent Dukes of Hazzard remake is relatively straight-forward. Boss Hogg wants to create a strip mine in Hazzard County. To do so he needs permission from the Hazzard Country court and to get permission he needs to ensure that there are no objections from citizens. So he organises the spectacle of the annual Hazzard Road Race to be held at the same time as the court hearing. The Dukes find out about this (after a convoluted series of plot turns and chase scenes through “the city”) and figure the only way to get the attention of the good folks of Hazzard is to win the race and make sure everyone follows them to the court house so they can object.

The evil plan of Boss Hogg “to strip mine Hazzard County for coal” is emblematic of the actual evil plan of the producers of this movie remake of the Dukes of Hazzard. Yeee hawwww…

The Dukes of Hazzard is a cultural franchise event. The original Dukes of Hazzard television series was a serial form of the event. Every week or so the Dukes of Hazzard would again be actualised and certain element would be repeated as they were let loose according to the accident of the script. However, the Dukes of Hazzard as an event is actualised very poorly in this particular year-2005 example. The film is far too knowing in its post-ironic representation of the yuk-yukking Southern culture. The highlight, and the only element of the original Dukes of Hazzard they could not get wrong is the ‘General Lee’ Dodge Charger (oh, and quite possibly the uber-cool Waylon Jennings ‘Good Ol’ Boys’ theme song… damn, for a C&W track, that shit rocks). Both the car and the song are products of a Fordist cultural industry and can easily mass (re)produced. A fidelity to the original iterations of the Dukes of Hazzard cultural franchise event is certainly not guaranteed.

The difference between the seriality of the television series and the seriality of the movie remake’s repetition is a simple example of how there can be different actualisations between the different serial forms of a singular set of singularities.

But back to the role of the post-Fordist cultural industry. First, the ‘Dukes of Hazzar’, the material cultural artifact, embodied in a series of television shows, has not been appropriated. If that were the case (and, so, ok, it probably is), then you would be able to buy bargain basement box set DVD knock offs at a discounted rate the final price for which could be negotiated with the peddler cultural-pusher selling them on a shady inner-city street corner. What the post-Fordist cultural industry is worried about capturing is not a specific likeness of one character to another or something, but the enthusiasm of fans of the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ cultural franchise. The fans are already reproducing themselves, and the impersonal social dimension of the Dukes of Hazzard fandom circulates within the social like a virus infecting punters and forcing them to see this film.

Sure there are multiple dimensions to the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ as a cultural franchise and any actualisation of this franchise will only ever be a compromise. The key point is to maintain enough of a fidelity to previous iterations without appearing to simply be trying to capture the impersonal, social fan-subjectivity’s interest in the possible variation that you (as movie maker) might be producing.

Desire(Flow) [into] (((Becoming-Expressive [equals] Variation) [equals] Territorialisation) [minus] Image of Transcendence [equals] Code) [into] Capture

The architecture of the image (my phrase, not theirs) is ‘simultaneously [one] of powers and territories they capture desire by territorialising it, fixing it in place, photographing it, pinning it up as a picture, or dressing it in tight clothes, giving it a mission, extracting from it an image of transcendence to which it devotes itself’ (D&G, Kafka, 86).

Enthusiasm organises around this image: thus producing a cult. The problem is that desire rendered as enthusiasm is, firstly, of the viral cultural form, and, secondly, exists between bodies and texts (material or immaterial) as a constellation of habits, gestures and discourses. To ask if you are a ‘real’ fan of the Dukes of Hazzard is a bit like asking if you are a ‘real’ sufferer of leprosy (with or without the associated medieval non-medical stigma).

The post-Fordist cultural industry organises around this enthusiasm to overcode the flows of desire and extract surplus value from its labours: thus producing a manageable cultivation. The most efficient cultural industries are those that only produce images with no correlative material commodity. The cultural franchise event becomes a highly sophisiticated branding or logo.

However unsophisticated the original Dukes of Hazzard may be, it is infinitely more sophisticated than the material commodities produced through the southern and eastern neo-colonial, neo-Fordist encampments of the global dromocratic trade war. The lack of sophistication hides the real conditions under which the material dimension of the commodity is produced. We can’t tell that the Nike shoe is produced by exploited, alienated labour, we need to be told this. Paraphrasing what Marx said, you can’t tell which farmer grew the wheat by tasting it. However, a fan going into a cinema knows immediately that they have been exploited for their enthusiasm by producers (farmer/miners) of the cultural industry. If the post-Fordist cultural industry is going to continue attempting to tap markets of enthusiasms that already exist, then the people who ‘own’ such enthusiasms need to mobilize against poor quality and exploitative actualisations of such franchise events.

Just the good ol’ boys,
Never meanin’ no harm,
Beats all you’ve ever saw,
Been in trouble with the law since the day they was born.

Straight’nin’ the curves,
Flat’nin’ the hills.
Someday the moutain 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 good ol’ boys,
Wouldn’t change if they could,
Fightin’ the system,
Like a true modern day Robin Hood.

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