Friday, March 11, 2011

The Gospel According to Duke

One of the consequences of going to a Christian university is that the young, curious mind is inundated with all manner of Jesus talk. This is especially true if said young, curious mind is, like mine was, a bit of a tabula rasa when it comes to talk of the Big JC. It's not that I was raised a pagan, as some of my more earnest classmates would have had me believe, but that I did not grow up attending vacation Bible camps and was not already firmly satisfied that I had a firm grip on Absolute Truth at the tender age of 18 (By the way, 18 year olds who feel this way are scary as hell. Just saying. They're sort of like an older version of Mordecai from Children of the Corn).

Whereas I initially found talk of finding Jesus in all that I encountered on a daily basis cumbersome and a bit naive, I eventually thought of it as a sort of tongue-in-cheek intellectual game. It was sort of like spiritual hide-and-go-seek. Jesus H. was out there hiding in my morning bagel, political science classes, and Wednesday margaritas, I just had to get in the right frame of mind and he would jump out at me with an "Aww, shucks, you found me" grin and embrace me with the grace and tenderness of The Lord. Kind of like a Jack-in-the-Box...but a Jesus-in-the-box!

This was especially true one evening when some of my more irreverent friends and I were sitting around a table at the local coffee shop snarkily commentating on an article that had appeared in the university paper about a student who had a deep and aiding love for all things Dukes of Hazzard. I can't believe the article can still be found online, but there you go.

Anyhow, our snarky commentary eventually led to a serious and well-reasoned Christological interpretation of The Dukes of Hazzard. I know, I know...$30,000 a year to discuss Jesus as he pertains to one of the worst TV shows of the late 70s and early 80s. Sorry, Mom and Dad! But I still think we were really on to something. Allow me to elucidate:

First let's talk about the theme of the show. Bo, Luke, and the Duke family and friends were, at best living on the fringes of Hazzard County life, yes? I mean, they were just some good ole boys, never meaning no harm, but they'd been in trouble with the law since the day they were born. It's even in the theme song. Fact. What were JC and his early followers if not on the fringes of early Judaic law? Lepers, hookers, outlaws, heretics? And they certainly didn't mean any harm. They were just trying to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. The whole show is all about the Duke boys trying to do the right thing even though they're desperately misunderstood as petty criminals and hell raisers.

Once that understanding of the shows driving thematic element is pinpointed, it becomes pretty easy assigning roles to the characters. Let's start with the bad guys:

Boss Hogg

As I recall, there was some debate about whether Boss Hogg was more of a Pontius Pilate or a Caesar. I went with Caesar. Look at the guy! All white (just like a Roman toga), cigar smoking luxury, and that fat, tanned and greasy look of a man living in the lap of ill begotten wealth. It's not too much of a stretch for me to imagine Boss Hogg being fed grapes and drinking wine...ok, maybe pork rinds and Boone's Farm, but you get the point.

Roscoe P. Coltrane

In my Gospel According to Duke, Roscoe is the Pontius Pilate figure. If it were up to him, he'd just wash his hands of the whole Duke boy situation and get about the business of patrolling Hazzard County. He really never thought of the Dukes as being all that bad, but he had Boss Caesar up his ass all the time demanding that something be done about those wily rabble rousers so he really had no choice.

Enos Strate

Enos was sort of a minor character and was Roscoe's deputy so that automatically qualifies him as a Roman Army henchman. Having said that, he had a thing for Daisy Duke and really kind of liked the Duke boys. Chalk it up to a disinterested Roman Legionnaire who got stuck out in the boonies because he signed up for the army. He just wanted to put in his time and get back home alive...and also bang Daisy. Isn't this sort of a typical enlisted man's plight?

On to the good guys!

Uncle Jesse

Uncle Jesse was the patriarch of the Duke clan and the font of wisdom that kept the Duke boys on The Path. He's the tangible legacy through which the Duke line could be traced back to the early days. Therefore, Uncle Jesse has to be The Stump of Jesse. I mean, it's in his freakin' name! Isaiah 11:1 reads: There shall come forth a root from the Stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. This is a horticultural parable for the growth of the Davidic Line that eventually spawns a one Jesus Christ. Jesse was David's father - Does anyone else think 'Jesse' is the least Biblical sounding of all the Biblical names?! - and is the guy who sort of started it all. Nothing says, "I'm the God damned pater familias," like a massive white beard and transcendent Southern wisdom.

Daisy Duke

That feathered hair! Those sultry eyes! Those incredibly short, short, short shorts! Daisy Duke = Mary Magdalene or I'm a monkey's uncle. Mary was a woman of ill repute who was taken in and forgiven by Christ. Despite her appearance or past actions, she was a good woman who eventually became the Apostle of Apostles. Daisy was Bo and Luke's right hand woman. Dressed like a ho, but had a heart of gold. Yeah, she was flashing ass all over Hazzard county, but she also helped the Dukes spread the good news. Bonus points for having a badass white Jeep.

Bo and Luke Duke

As the main characters of The Dukes of Hazzard, Bo and Luke have to be Apostles. I know, I know, why isn't one of them Jesus? Well, firstly, there are two of them. You can't have two Jesuses, that would be Jesi. Secondly, the main characters of the story of the spread of Christianity are actually the Apostles. They did all of the writing and all of the promotion of this kickass guy named Jesus who was crucified for all of our sins. By the time the Good News was being spread like wild fire, JC had long since lived, died, and been resurrected. It was left to remaining 12 to go out into the world and preach the Gospel. Bo and Luke drove all over Hazzard County doing good deeds, foiling Boss Hogg's nefarious plans, and looking out for the downtrodden and disadvantaged. If you're like me, you never thought of Bo and Luke as early purveyors of Christianity, but there you have it.

The General Lee

So who's the General Lee? You guessed it, Jesus. I do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Amen. How many times were the Duke boys in a tight spot, an impossible spot, and The General Lee got them out of it? How many leaps of faith did they take in that Dodge Charger to escape the clutches of evil men? I mean really, it's like the whole of Hazzard County was comprised of a road system predicated on dirt ramps set on either side of a creek. And that "01" emblazoned on the doors? Who's Christ if not number 1? Also, did you ever notice how the Duke boys seemed to be the only ones capable of driving The Lee? Remember that one episode where Boss Hogg tries to get in The Lee and he gets stuck in the window because the doors are fused shut? Mark 10:25 - It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter The Kingdom of God. You can see my logic is unassailable here.


I'm probably going to hell for saying it (let's face it, I'm probably going for all sorts of things other than this), but Cooter is The Holy Spirit. Cooter is the guy who kept The General Lee running. He was a mechanic who helped the Dukes with all things technical and repaired The General Lee when the Dukes had taken it for a few too many creek jumps on the roads of Hazzard County. You could say - and I'm going to here - that Cooter breathed life into The General Lee and gave the Dukes the pick me up they sometimes needed to continue to spread the good word.

Waylon Jennings

Most people forget that Waylon Jennings was on The Dukes of Hazzard as the omniscient voice who narrated the Duke's adventures. He sang the theme song at the beginning of the show, knew everything that was happening with all characters at all times, and could FREEZE LIVE ACTION before the show went to a commercial break. Waylon Jennings was God. Think about it. All seeing. All knowing. Knew the Dukes and all of the other characters better than they knew themselves. Plus, I like to think God would talk to me in a deep Southern drawl. Waylon Jennings, who art in heaven...

Related posting: Ancient Economics

No comments: