How TV's 'Dallas' Won the Cold War


While others may be toasting the 2012 Emmy award nominees, we'll take this opportunity to tip our hat to the Ewing clan and the TV series that helped topple communism. 

Original text below:

The oil-and-sex soaked TV show Dallas is back on the small screen. The unapologetically odious J.R., the unappealingly ethical Bobby and the uncontrollaby alcoholic Sue Ellen are all back, along with a new crew of young, hardbodied hotties to pull in viewers who have yet to start pulling in Social Security checks.

During its original run from 1978 to 1991, Dallas was an international cultural phenomenon with ratings higher than late-'70s interest rates. It was the most or second-most watched show in the United States for half a decade, showing up in ABBA songs and Ozzy Osbourne videos, and spinning off the megahit Knots Landing.

But Dallas' greatest impact ultimately wasn't in these United States but in communist Romania, where it helped topple the brutal Ceausescu regime.

Dallas was the last Western show allowed during the nightmarish 1980s because President Nicolae Ceausescu thought it showcased all that was wrong with capitalism. In fact, the show provided a luxuriant alternative to a communism that was forcing people to wait more than a decade to buy the most rattletrap communist-produced cars.

"I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [communism]," Larry Hagman told the Associated Press a decade ago. "They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, 'Hey, we don't have all this stuff.'"

After the dictator and his wife were shot on Christmas Eve 1989, the pilot episode of Dallas—with a previously censored sex scene spliced back in—was one of the first foreign shows broadcast on liberated Romanian TV.

The impact of Dallas on global worldviews reminds us that "vulgar" popular culture is every bit as important as chin-stroking political discourse in fomenting real social change.

Throwaway cultural products influence far-flung societies in ways that are impossible for anyone, even dictators, to predict or control.

That lesson is more relevant than ever in a world where movies, TV shows, and music cross borders with impunity and the free West engages the semi-free East, whether in China or Iran. If the United States is interested in spreading American values and institutions, TV shows may go a lot further than armored personnel carriers.

Like Mikhail Gorbachev, poodle haircuts, and Members Only jackets, Dallas didn't long survive the post–Cold War world it helped create. But like an uncontainable gusher in a Texas oil field, the original series left us far richer than we ever dreamed possible.

About 2.30 minutes. Produced by Meredith Bragg. Written by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. For a fuller treatment of this topic, go to…

NEXT: Obama Campaign Outspent, Outraised Romney, Also Spent More Than It Brought In (Familiar?)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Koch Brothers own TNT now?

    1. Of course, the Kochtopus secretly owns all media.

    2. Falling Skies isn’t fiction! The Overlords are the Kochs! It all makes sense now!

      1. Hey Epi, have a question. What holster do you use when ccing your p3at? I’ve heard you say it’s very low profile and easy to access.

        1. It’s a Blackhawk neoprene holster, size 1. However, I cannot find it anywhere on Blackhawk’s site or even Googling. However, I did find this image of it in a larger size. I’ve seen them in multiple gun stores so I suggest you just go into one and ask for it.

          It’s super comfortable and does not irritate the skin at all.

          1. Thanks for the info. It’s been difficult trying to find a comfortable holster for my p3at. How do you usually wear it? Small of the back?

            1. Front waistband. I wear it all day sitting in front of a computer so a back holster would dig in.

              1. I’ve always had comfort issues with holsters when carrying in the front, although I haven’t tried it with anything as compact as my p3at. Do you position it so you get a bit of a cross draw, or do you keep it slightly closer to your strong side?

                1. Just slightly to the strong side. The P3AT is so small, thin, and light that won’t even know it is there. That’s what makes it a great carry gun: you carry it.

  2. A rerun? Seriously?

    1. Damn, I think we had that exact same TV in the 70s.

  3. This is where we’re fucking up with Cuba. We ought to open the trade floodgates with Gulla-Gulla Gulag and drown those commie cocksuckers in bitchin’ capitalist goodies.

    1. I’ve been saying the same thing for years. We’ve isolated Cuba, yet they’re still communist after all these years. Coincidence? I think not.

      1. Ditto North Korea, but that has more to do with the lunatic regime than it does us.

    2. OBTW, I think a Republican could better get away with opening trade, etc. with Cuba. I even had hopes, once upon a time, that GWB would be the guy.

      1. I was hoping that GWB would, too. But I think 9/11 derailed a lot of 43’s foreign policy. He took his eye off the ball.

      2. I also have been saying for decades that the embargo is counterproductive. It made no sense to me as an elementary school student, and it still makes no sense. US bullying is exactly what Castro needed to stay in power for so long. He is a hero precisely because he is the little mouse, roaring and flipping his middle finger to the big American Eagle circling above him. Full free trade, even if only unilateral on our part, would have destabilized Cuba in our favor fairly quickly, I think. The fall of the Soviet Union gave us the perfect opportunity, and we blew it. Why?

        1. Also, lifting the embargo back then would have made sense, when they still made good cigars.

        2. The fall of the Soviet Union gave us the perfect opportunity, and we blew it. Why?

          Could it be Florida’s 29 electoral votes? Lots of anti-Castro Cubans in FL.

      3. ^^THIS^^

        It would almost have to be a Republican. Were a Democrat to try, Team RED would be all over it like a fly on shit, screaming communist empathizers or some such shit.

        1. Only Nixon could go to China, only Team Red can open up to Cuba. Romney should.

          1. I’ll bet Romney understands that perfectly well. I just doubt that he is prepared to lose Florida and give the next election to the Dems by doing it.

            1. That’s why he needs to do it early on, so the regime has plenty of time to collapse and the exiles have time to let it fade from memory.

              1. If the Cuban exile community is known for something, it sure as fuck isn’t forgetting.

                1. I have an unsubstantiated hunch that the concerns over the “Cuban community” are overblown.

                  1. I agree. The sooner we free trade Cuba to death, the sooner The Castro sisters meet the same fate as The Ceausescu’s.

                    1. Here is a good article outlining the US policy towards Cuba and the trends of Cuban-American voters.

                      From what I gather, a positive stance towards normalized relations with Cuba will piss some off, but it ain’t gonna be the difference in a presidential election. Demographics indicate that a hard line stance towards allowing trade and travel isn’t as important to the younger generation of Cuban-American voters.

              2. OR…do it in his second (cringe) term.

      4. GWB was supposed to be the one to free up trade and end the foreign intervention. 9/11 and Cheney definitely changed him

    1. That’s supposed to have an OT tag, but yeah, thought I’d share a nice one.

  4. Nicolae Ceausescu should be a model for how all national leaders retire from their political careers.

      1. Ugh, so much douche in that room.

        +1 for the Romanians use of automatic weapons.

  5. By the way, my wife and I are loving the Dallas “Next Generation” episodes. I don’t think the youngsters have yet proven themselves able to carry the show, but they are an excellent supporting cast for Hagman, Gray, and Duffy. Brenda Strong, Mitch Pileggi, and Carlos Bernard are all very welcome additions to the cast, as well. Finally, the Tesla Roadster that Bobby’s adopted son drives is awesome, especially in contrast to the Corvette driven by JR’s son. Those cars, parked together in front of the main house on Southfork Ranch, provide the perfect metaphor for the tensions between “new energy” and “old.” I hope the show can continue to explore those tensions without coming down on one side or the other, or getting preachy.

    1. JR is still as crooked as the day is long, and there are some pretty long days in the Texas summer.

      I loved his quip about judging someone by who his friends are and who his enemies are. He said his friends are in the state house, and his enemies, well, they’re a bit harder to find.

    1. I saw the movie this afternoon. First reactions are a little disappointed, but I’d still go with 3/4 rating for anyone who might be interested. (I’m in a good mood; perhaps, I should rate it 2.5/4.)

      Anyway, the movie accomplishes the goal of wrapping up Nolan’s ideas. The plot is incredibly messy, and the ending felt more than a little shoehorned. But the action scenes are what kept me interested. (Despite the slow pacing, there is no lack of Bane-on-Batman physical abuse.)

      1. I take it you didn’t care for the militarized police force either?

        1. (Possible spoiler alert): Might. What are you referring to?

          1. No spoilers, just the overall police presence and behavior.

        2. (Spoiler alert): The Dent Act concept? Actually, I kinda liked that because the movie ends up ridiculing the idea that you can give the state enormous power all because of the made-up fantasy behind the death of Harvey Dent.

  6. Searchin’ da tubez for stuff about gun control advocates and their responses to what happened at The Batman movie and was surprised to find that Rupert Murdoch is a gun control freak.

    So yeah, fuck him and his dumbass newz network.

    1. Interesting how one can legally buy an automatic assault gun, but can’t legally buy Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs. God Bless America!

      1. Guns don’t kill people, Kinder Surprise Chocolate Eggs kill people…

        But it’s a yummy death.

      2. What is an “assault gun”?

        1. It’s a gun with a plastic stock, which is way scarier than a gun with a wood stock.

        2. A lethal fire hose of death that sprays bullets from the hip. Its’ insatiable appetite for killing requires an all-you-can-eat buffet from high capacity “clips”.

      3. I still can’t legally buy an AK-47 in Kalifornia, thanks in large part to a certain Senator who got her biggest political boost (a shove strong enough also to ram through aformentioned gun control) from the death of a different Harvey.

    2. A heartfelt call to sanity regarding gun control in America by an American Parent a saddened and heartfelt American Parent that feels your pain America. Can’t we all just be sensible and enact sensible, sane gun control laws for the children; I say this as a Parent, a Sensible Concerned American Parent.

      1. These dipshits keep saying we never had the “national discussion”. Sure we did. We discussed the fuck out of it and they lost.My town now actually has a shop and range that caters to self-defense-minded progressive liberals. It’s great!

  7. Here’s a cheerful preview of what’s going to happen to the best healthcare system in the world:

    Choice excerpts:

    Stafford Hospital’s AE has been shut from 22:00 to 08:00 since December, as Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust needs to recruit additional staff.

    Sick baby? Better hope it happens before the witching hour, commoners! Gee, why would a nationalized hospital have trouble finding doctors? Hmmm….

    “Following an internal investigation, this was not reported as a serious incident.

    1. But Fareed Zakaria told me that the NHS was the pinnacle of excellent care!

  8. In 1776 the founders said we had the right to bear arms. The arms they knew were MUSKETS. I’m OK w/muskets in every home.

    1. OK, I’ll bite.

      Archimedes, have you ever been to a gun show?

    2. Just like the 1st Amendment only applies to movable type and pamphlets.

      1. And the Fourth Amendment should only mean papers and effects, not e-mail or files on a computer.

        And how the Eighth Amendment means we can still execute people for theft.

        1. Unfortunately you’re both somewhat right right about the 4th and wrong about the 8th. I’d prefer it the other way around.

          1. There is a solution. Amend to constitution or hold a constitutional convention. All those pesky “flaws” can be easily fixed.

            You just have to convince the rest of America. That’s the part that liberals find so goddamn onerous.

    3. Well, you’re off by a few years (the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1789, not 1776), but yes, the founders were talking about muskets — arms of military usefulness, on par with what the average foot soldier carried.

      So I assume you’re comfortable with an M4, M16, or AK47 in every home now.

  9. Eliot Spitzer took time out of his busy schedule playing two girls, eliot, and a cup to wade into the gun control debate. He also is concerned, has sympathy and wonders why we can’t just enact some common sense sensible gun laws.

    1. So why can’t we?

      1. We do! It’s called legalization.

        1. Our gun laws seem pretty sensible as they stand. Though they could use some liberalization, especially in places like DC and NYC.

          In PA if I want a gun I go to the store and buy one; seems pretty sensible to me. What do you think guys?

          1. Far too many restrictions. The 2nd amendment is all the gun law we need.
            I’ve never understood the prohibition on convicted felons (who’ve served their sentence) owning firearms. You’d think convicted felons would probably have more of a need to defend themselves.

            1. Or that you can be give additional time if you posses a firearm during commission of a felony. Note that I didn’t say use a gun in the commission of a felony.

              If you grow weed and have an unloaded hunting rifle in the closet you face additional time (happened to a buddy of mine). Since you are constitutionally permitted to own a firearm couldn’t they pass a law against criticizing the government during the commission of a felony? A felony like growing weed, or one of the 3 million other felonious crimes in our nation.

      2. C’mon Eureka boy, answer my question at 11:30.

        1. Relevance?

  10. People wanna live in make believe, gun violence will not happen to them and if it does, they can shoot back and defend themselves

    1. Have you been to a gun show, Archimedes? I’m trying to have a principled discussion with you. Please answer the question.

      1. Relevance?

        1. You’re holding forth about the need for gun control legislation. I’m asking you a question about gun shows, the conducting of which is a major facet in the debate. Have. You. Ever. Been. To. A. Gun. Show?

          1. Objection Sustained. Do you have any substance to add?

            1. OK, you’re a troll. What a waste of time.

    2. People wanna live in make believe, gun violence will not happen to them and if it does, the police will be right there to make it all better.

  11. Your nutpunch for the day. Cops sic K9s, fire beanbags at women protesting shooting of an unarmed man.

  12. I thought TV’s Frank won the Cold War, myself.

  13. eign shows broadcast on liberated Romanian TV.

    The impact of Dallas on global…..c-3_9.html worldviews reminds us that “vulgar” popular culture is every bit as important as chin-stroking political discourse in fomenting real social change.

  14. ng forth about the need for gun control…..-3_22.html legislation. I’m asking you a question about gun shows, the conducting of which is a major facet in the debate. Have. You. Ever

  15. rth about the need for gun control…..-c-30.html legislation. I’m asking you a question about gun shows, the conducting of which is a major facet in the debate. Have. You. Ever. Be

  16. as Tiffany replied I am stunned that anybody able to profit $5569 in one month on the internet. did you read this site link makecash16com

  17. I lived in Romania from the summer of ’93 to the summer of ’95 and the ideal time to go out and do anything was when “Dallas” was on… you literally could walk through the blocs and hear the theme song echoing across the vast barren cement wasteland. Everybody dropped everything and went in to watch that show… Unfortunately, the other big show was “Beverly Hills 90210″….

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.