Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Classic Rebellion

The type of cool portrayed in Easy Rider last week was a very stereotypical idea that most people can probably relate to. Wyatt and Billy were rebellious, wore leather, rode motorcycles, and just had the laid-back, tough guy attitudes that are often associated with the word “cool” in America. So while watching this movie, of course it was the stereotypical characters that came to my mind.

I’m sure most people know who I’m talking about when I mention “The Fonz.” This iconic television character from the 70s could have been the poster-child for cool. The show Happy Days was set in the 50s and 60s, and Henry Winkler played the cool, rebellious kid in town. Just like Billy and Wyatt, he rode into town on a motorcycle, and that alone established his reputation for cool. His overall attitude on the show furthered this idea of cool. He walked with confidence with his leather jacket slung over his shoulder and his hair slicked back, he could get girls to come running at his beckoning call, and every guy in town wanted to be just like him. The scene in Easy Rider when the guys walked into the small town restaurant to try to eat reminded me a lot of Happy Days. On the show the parents and adults were much like the police were in the diner— they wanted their children to stay away from Fonzie and his motorcycle because he was a bad influence. Similarly, the teenage girls in the movie thought Wyatt and Billy were amazing, much like all the kids on the show idolized The Fonz and wanted to be just like him. Fonzie had that stereotypical cool that seemed to become predominant in the 50s and 60s, but much like the characters in Easy Rider, his cool appealed mainly to the younger generations and was feared by the adults.

This weekend I got bored and decided to watch one of my favorite 80s teen movies, Dirty Dancing. As I was watching it, I realized that Patrick Swayze’s character was a lot like Peter Fonda’s role as Wyatt. Swayze played a male dancer named Johnny Castle in this movie, and Johnny was as cool as could be. Once again, he played the stereotypical cool-guy role of the 60s. He drove a tough car, had amazing dancing skills, had a detached attitude towards most of the world, and everyone idolized him. By everyone, I once again mean that the younger generation all looked up to him and most of the parents were afraid he’d run off with their daughters. Swayze portrayed a lot of rebellious cool guys like Johnny in his career, for example his roles in Road House as Dalton and The Outsiders as Darrel Curtis. Swayze was just one of those actors that had a strong persona and was easily capable of pulling off the tough rebellious role very well. I could easily see him as one of the guys in Easy Rider.


  1. Oh, Swayze... what an interesting parallel.

    Do you ever wonder what happens to these characters after the movies? In Easy Rider the answer is obvious, but are Swayze and The Fonz able to stay cool very long after the movie?

  2. I think Swayze and Winkler will forever be cool in people's minds because of their roles. In real life they may be totally uncool, but in people's mind I think they are more remembered for their characters than anything else, so they can retain their cool status in that way.