Thursday, March 12, 2009

Being Free is Cool

Easy Rider was perhaps the best summary of the sixties that I’ve ever seen or heard. It showed little slices of everything that was going on in America at the time, the urban and farm lives of everyday Americans, the prejudices of the South, and of course the communes going up all over the west. Most of the movie was laid-back and even comical, but if you look past the surface you see that it really spoke wonders about the state America was in at the time. A lot of the older generation today complain about the state of the nation’s youth today, but really I think they should all just watch this movie to reflect on the times they came from as well. It wasn’t much better then, and in some ways it might have been worse— the drugs, the racism, and the whole counterculture movement had everything in turmoil.

Despite all of those negative things the movie portrayed about America, though, Easy Rider was the most quintessentially “cool” movie we have watched in class thus far. From the motorcycles and long hair to the freedom the main characters seemed to have, this movie embodied the stereotypical ideas of cool. Freedom was probably the biggest cool factor for me though, because while the people around them seemed to think Billy and Wyatt were free and therefore the ultimate in cool, I’m not sure they were at all. Both men were tied down in ways that they didn’t seem to realize. Wyatt was removed from the world around him, but he was still a prisoner to the drugs and the money and the prejudices around him as well as falling prey to his own ideas of freedom. We saw this in the end when he told Billy that they had failed— he had done everything he thought he was supposed to do once he got rich, but he still wasn’t satisfied or happy. Billy was the true free-spirited hippie of the pair, but even he wasn’t as free as he seemed to be. He was always the victim of his own worry mind, constantly afraid he was going to miss something or not get to where he needed to be. So while the girls in the small southern diner thought this dynamic duo was so cool and free, really they just hadn’t looked deep enough to see all the ties holding these men in place.

The character that I thought was really, truly cool was Jack Nicholson as George Hanson. George had his problems— alcohol more than anything— but he actually seemed to be more free, happy, unaffected by the world’s problems that the others. If nothing else, at least he realized the state that they and the country were in. He summarized it all while he was sitting around the fire with Billy one night. He said, “I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace” and then went on to explain how true freedom scares people and makes them crazy and violent. In the end he was killed by people just like those he was referring to, proving how right he really was. Above all the others, I think George was the coolest because he realized what was wrong with America’s idea of freedom, and therefore he came closer to finding that freedom than any of the others ever had the chance to do.


  1. You make a great argument for George. How could Billy and Wyatt become more free like George?

  2. Billy and Wyatt would have to learn to let go of their inhibitions that were holding them back. Billy was constantly worried about every little thing that was going on around them even though he tried to seem laid back, and Wyatt was just too concerned with everything he saw going on around him, especially the drugs and money. What made George so cool was that he genuinely was not concerned with the world around him, so for them to be just as cool they would have to learn to live and let go.

  3. I agree with you on this post! Wyatt and Billy do have worries, which holds them down from ultimate freedom. Do you think it is possible to become free of worries?