(Slate) -- The same week that a statue of Robert E. Lee led to the death of an innocent woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, I watched him oink and squeal in a race for the fate of the country. Lee, this time, was a piglet—part of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, a Medieval Times–style dine-in attraction where seven nights a week and at occasional weekend matinees, the South rises again.
Advertised as an “extraordinary dinner show … pitting North against South in a friendly and fun rivalry,” Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede is the Lost Cause of the Confederacy meets Cirque du Soleil. It’s a lily-white kitsch extravaganza that play-acts the Civil War but never once mentions slavery. Instead, it romanticizes the old South, with generous portions of both corn on the cob and Southern belles festooned in Christmas lights. At its sister staging in Branson, Missouri (the original is up the road from Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee), it’s put on at a venue that can only be described as resembling a plantation mansion. Also, everyone in the audience must pick a side.
So when the debate over Confederate monuments reignited earlier this month, I knew I had to see for myself whether this thing was really as tasteless as it seemed. The Dixie Stampede has been running for nearly 30 years, but some informal straw-polling suggests that many casual Dolly fans (including black fans like me) have never heard of it. They might also be surprised to learn that the Union vs. the Confederacy was just the Lakers vs. Celtics of its time.
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