Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, directed by Dennis Hopper, 1969
In the recent Associated Press obituary for the late actor and director, Dennis Hooper, is quoted as believing that, for him, the 1969 counter-cultural classic motorcycle film that he directed, “Easy Rider”, was more a statement about the political landscape of the times than a male-bonding biker “road” movie. I agree with him, or at least that is how I have always viewed the film. The subjects of drugs, using and selling, dressing for “hippie" success, the hard road of rural communal living (or urban communal living, for that matter), and trying to cope with the “squares” and “rednecks” were all in a day’s work back in the days for those of us committed to “seeking a newer world.”
In that sense “Easy Rider” is a very, very different road trip from that of the literary one in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 “On The Road” (although the “action” of that book actually took place in the late 1940s). That small generational difference in time probably in cultural time was a matter of different epochs. The action of “On The Road” speaks to an almost subterranean escape from the bleakness of American conformity in the immediate post-World War II period behind the backs of the "squares". The bikers, Fonda and Hopper (Wyatt and Billy, alright), in “Easy Rider” are up front and public about their “making and doing” , as reflected the change in mores of their times as they confronted their version of American conformity in the 1960s. In the end they lost that very public battle, and we have been fighting a rearguard series of “culture war” battles ever since. But watch this film to get a slice of 1960s Americana. (Did we really wear that stuff and get all crazy like that? Yes, we did. Although under oath I will plead the 5th.) And if you are too young to know some of the references just ask mother and father (or the grandparents, ouch!). They WILL know.
Note: The late Doctor Gonzo”, journalist Hunter Thompson, rather eloquently in HIS countercultural classic, “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”, mentioned toward the end of that fearsome saga that sometime in the late 1960s he could almost see the high tide of the movement ebbing before his eyes signaling the end of all those fierce dreams that we had of that “newer world” and the beginning of the approach of the “night of the long knives.” “Easy Rider” is the cinematic take on that proposition