The Politics of Bo and Luke
I thought I was out of touch for a moment this morning when I read Douglas Kmiec's commentary on Findlaw. Discussing the public outcry over the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v New London (which I have discussed here, here, and here), Kmiec writes that despite several other stories competing for the attention of the public, "the nation's attention remains transfixed upon the injustice of forcing families from their homes for the economic development advantage of other private owners." I follow the news and thought this was a bit of an exaggeration, so I did a quick Nexis search of U.S. News from the Midwest and found that a search of the month of July turned up 32 hits for "Kelo," 55 hits for "Plame" and 80 hits for "John Roberts."
My relief was short-lived, however, as the Friday movie reviews made me realize that Kmiec was right. AO Scott's review of the Dukes of Hazzard movie, opening today, elicited a groan from me, since I hated the television show as a kid growing up in Georgia. I'm sure the movie is no more flattering to the South and no more interesting to my mid-30s self than the show was to my pre-teen self.
But a moment's reflection made me realize that the film's makers had more on their minds than redneck buffoonery. Scott's review confirmed Kmiec's statement through its brief summary of the plot. The scheme of villain Boss Hogg, described as a "corrupt local official," is "seizing land - including the Duke farm - to convert Hazzard County into a strip mine." The highest profile Hollywood movie of the week, designed as a populist crowd pleaser, is a clear dramatization of the issues raised by Kelo. Obviously, this case has captured the popular imagination.
Not only does the Dukes movie reflect the Kelo decision's substance, its assignment of hero and villain roles takes the side of Kelo critics. Hollywood, belying its reputation for liberalism, puts the position of New London and the Court's most liberal members in the person of the corrupt Boss Hogg, while the Duke boys take up the stand made by the conservative wing. Clearly, Hollywood is responding to the conservative shift signaled in the last several elections.
I look forward to the Dukes of Hazzard sequel, wherein Bo, Luke, and Daisy must again save the family farm by lobbying Washington to eliminate the estate tax.