Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Easy Ride...Not So Easy Destination

The counter-culture movement was a defining time in American history. I have to teach myself not to be judgmental for legal reasons against these people because they did drugs, because at that point in time many drugs were legal. It is hard for me to understand the allure that drugs hold from the glorified period of “sex, drugs & rock’n’roll”, because I have no desire to subject myself to that. I guess that is what stoner movies are meant for, to transfer the ignorant viewers into a world of twisted perceptions.

In the movie Easy Rider, two friends set out on a journey for completely different reasons. Billy plans on getting rich and retiring in Florida, intent on enjoying every aspect of “sex, drugs & rock’n’roll” along the way. His partner, Wyatt, is searching for a deeper meaning to life, intent on finding the true America that he can be happy existing in. In my opinion Wyatt is the cooler of the two friends, although Billy was a necessary character to add humor. Wyatt has a sense of removal from the crazy lifestyle that is attached to drug use. He almost seems to stand above it all, denying some cocaine when it is offered to him in the beginning of the movie. He still takes a part in the lifestyle, consistently smoking pot and embracing a day-by-day attitude. His chillness sharply contrasts with Billy’s energy and paranoia. Billy is constantly on the go, ready to leave, worried about the hitchhiker finding the tube of money shoved into Wyatt’s motorcycle gas tank. The two characters nicely balance out each other.

Another sharp contrast could be seen between other characters’ attitudes toward the counter-cultural movement. When Wyatt and Billy start out on the West Coast, they are accepted for whom they are. They stop at a small farm to fix a flat tire, and the farmer openly welcomes them in, even feeding them a meal. Even as they travel the open road, people on the sides of the street wave welcomingly. Once Wyatt and Billy cross into the South, however, attitudes completely change. They can no longer be as free-spirited as they were in Cali. They even get arrested for riding in a local parade because they were “parading without a permit.” The police officers make it obvious they do not respect the two motorcyclists, one even refusing Billy a cigarette because it was unsafe to let Billy play with fire. In a Louisiana diner, the town sheriff and a male friend are sitting at a booth. Their reactions when Wyatt, Billy and George arrive are full of nothing but hate and prejudice. This prejudice increases the further South they travel, most apparent in the reactions of the men driving in the pickup, when they shoot Wyatt and Billy simply because of their appearances. This bothered me, because they had no justification in shooting the two friends; these truck drivers were not the classiest of all people themselves. Then again, people prejudiced in any way can hardly call themselves classy.


  1. Remember in Core I when FJohn asked us if we lived together because our posts were always so similar? Well, I think he may ask again, and this time we can't say no, ha. We did approach it from different angles though. Since you are talking about contrast, what about the contrasts between the Wyatt and Billy and the people at the commune? How severe do you think that contrast was?

  2. All of that about the movie is good and all, but I want to know why sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll don't appeal to you?

    And when I see that you guys have similar ideas I hope that it is because you two have been talking about it after class on the way back to your dorm room.

  3. Emileigh: I though Billy fit in more with the commune than Wyatt. Especially with the theater players...just like Billy they were sporatic and loud.

    FJohn: The only part of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll that appeals to me is the rock'n'roll. Quite honestly I don't see what is so attractive about getting high or sleeping around. I guess my parents raised me strictly AGAINST those kinds of things.

    And we DO live together we can talk about class on the way back to our dorm room AND when we are in it!

  4. DO you still think prejudice in general is worse in the South?