Last month, I reviewed Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, a Medieval Times–style dinner-theater show that serves up heaping portions of nostalgia for the Civil War–era South alongside chicken and biscuits. (Hold any mention of slavery, please.) The same week that a monument to the Confederacy led to the death of an innocent woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, I watched the show’s patrons play-act the War Between States in a “friendly” competition between guests seated in the “North” and “South” sections of the theater. Among the show’s features were Southern belles lovingly lit up like Christmas trees, a depiction of Native Americans as a people “steeped in ... magic,” and bathrooms labeled “Northerners Only” and “Southerners Only.”
The show has been running for nearly 30 years, but many casual Dolly fans like myself weren’t aware of it until recent debates over Confederate monuments brought it to light. As I wrote:
Dolly’s Dixie Stampede has been a success not just because people love Dolly Parton, but because the South has always been afforded the chance to rewrite its own history—not just through its own efforts, but through the rest of the country turning a blind eye. Even though the South is built upon the foundation of slavery, a campy show produced by a well-meaning country superstar can make-believe it’s not.
I recently reached out to Dixie Stampede’s media team to ask whether they were going to modify the show, and Pete Owens, their director of media and public relations, provided this statement via email:
Throughout Dixie Stampede’s thirty years of providing family entertainment, we strive to constantly improve the guest experience at our shows. Through that process, we survey our guests at every show. Accordingly, we will evaluate the information provided by Ms. Harris in her Slate.com article in regard to our Pigeon Forge and Branson operations.
As an admirer of Parton’s other work in movies and music—and as someone who believes that it matters how honestly we tell our nation’s history—it’s nice to hear that my review might inspire the show’s creators to reconsider its framing and presentation. Maybe they can do what they did to their Myrtle Beach show and just make it about pirates? That might be about as historically accurate.