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Christina Johnston – “Easy Rider?

Easy Rider successfully characterizes the counterculture movement, in that, it left me thinking “Uhhhhh…...? throughout the film and once it completed. I personally didn’t care for the lack of dialogue and real direction of Easy Rider, however, the lack of organization in the film represents the lack of predictability and organization within the counterculture movement. Miller’s identification of love, nonviolence, and antimaterialism as the main themes of the hippie counter-movement were shown, and then contradicted all throughout this movie.

We see “Captain America,? who is relatively calmly tempered (maybe because of all the pot) and doesn’t seem to have a problem with anybody he comes across, which is consistent with the nonviolence ideal. However Billy becomes violent easily on many occasions, like in the prison cell, as Jack Nicholson woke him up and he continued to threaten Jack until he realized that he was dealing with a man of influence who could get him a cigarette. This is doubly hypocritical of the counterculture ideal: 1. Billy isn’t a mellow-hippie, he is instead inclined towards violence; 2. Billy shows respect and reverence for the corporate and political “man? when he instantly respects Nicholson more once he finds out he has money and power. In doing this, Billy goes directly against the alleged “antimaterialism? value. Captain America is always well coiffed and obviously cares more about his image than his cohort Billy, his vanity also works against the notion that the new left devalued material possessions.

Free love is shown in the end of Easy Rider when they are all tripping on acid and “getting to know one another? in the graveyard/park scene. But Captain America contradicts this notion when he doesn’t give into the initial seduction of Mary, and instead wants to buy her a drink. He goes even farther to show remorse for Mary’s indifferent view towards making love. The term “free love? is even contradicted in this scene, in that Mary and her friend’s “love? were actually purchased for Billy and Captain America’s enjoyment.

Easy Rider showed the confusion, lack of organization, and unsustainability of the hippie counterculture movement in America. By showing constant contradiction of the alleged “doctrines? of the counterculture, the director exposed the reality which led to the decline of the hippies in American society: they failed because they only questioned life, and failed to provide any unique solutions.