February 5, 2008

Looking For America

At one point in Easy Riders, there is "a series of gorgeous desert evening shots...with the hitchhiker on Wyatt's bike pointing to the landscape and describing it. Though we never hear his words, we can presume he is helping Wyatt to rediscover America's beauty" (Laderman 71).

I think that in Easy Rider, America is defined by the people and society. Nature, and the actual earth that makes up America represents the "outside" of the culture. Wyatt and Billy find their freedom and their America in the land itself. They mostly only find hatred and misunderstanding with other people. The only thing that really accepts them is the land and those living strictly off of the land (hippie commune). When the man in the hotel closes his doors on the two pals, they stay outside.

However, as the movie rolls along, nature and society begin to mix. Their friend George is killed when some city men come into their camp and bludgeon them with bats. It is at that point when things begin to go really downhill for Billy and Wyatt. They have a horrible trip on acid with their prostitute buddies and then get shot when they are on the road. America for them is the open road and nature, but when society and nature collide, is when the problems show up. George warns them that “[Society] is scared of what you represent to them.? He goes on to say that “talking about [freedom] and being in it are two different things.? I think that that was what was confusing Wyatt and Billy. They were looking for freedom and found it in nature and on the road, but then they didn't know when to just stay put. They didn't know how to fit into society. They never knew what their place was, so they kept moving and kept going until they were forced to stop.

This is America.

". . .Easy Rider and other movies of the 1960's carried a certain message about America during a time when the nation's identity was contested. . ." (Klinger 181)

In Easy Rider, they seemed to be on a trip to find freedom, love, acceptance, happiness, and to escape from the authorities and straight-laced people who did not accept them. The scene when both characters were in the graveyard with the two girls was a perfect example of what America represents- freedom, faith, sadness and loss, and respect for the past and those who are no longer with us. In the other scene when both Hopper and Fonda were waiting for prostitues to come into their room, this represented being able to do whatever you want whenever you want and unofficially, this is what America is all about- REAL freedom. I believe the thing that is not there is happiness no matter how free they actually were, which leads us to believe that they weren't really looking for freedom very much in the first place. Their happiness is not there in the end because they were still not accepted by the majority of society around them. And I suppose they were shot down by narrow-minded people. Now when it comes to how this film was framed by white masculinities, well, I don't know what to say. I see very little "white male dominance" in this movie. As a matter of fact I think that if America was still like that today, we would be a better place. Hopper and Fonda's characters rarely talked down to females or minorities, they treated them like their equal, as if they were one of the guys. I see no "bad" behavior regarding the treatment of others in this movie so I guess I cannot answer the question of how this movie is framed by "white masculinities".

February 4, 2008

Easy Rider & A Search for America

"The scene sketches how their bikes are a part of the two riders (they never get off their bikes, their motors still running), but also how the bikes symbolize something "different" and threatening for mainstream America." (Driving Visions p. 69)

Easy Rider advertises "A man went looking for America but couldn't find it anywhere," which was made prominent in several scenes during the film. The film even opens in Mexico, where Wyatt and Billy buy the drugs that fuel an American drug culture. Right away, this shows an example of some roots of the "American culture" that aren't even cultivated in the United States.

The quest these men set out for had to do with making the most of their freedom. And they found out in their journey that the freedom that mainstream America sought is much more talk than action. These men were about exercising their rights freely, and though they weren't causing any harm, they were rejected for simply living a free life. Wyatt and Billy were denied vacancy at a motel, and the likely reason they were turned away was because they were on motorcycles. The motorcycles, like Wyatt and Billy, were unconventional - and therefore frowned upon.

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White Males on the Road

"Sexism and racism serve as an access point to conservatinve ideological framework, because these views reinforce and derive from its other inperialist/capitalist values, which can be summarized as freedom to roam for the priviledged white male; mobility and opportunism; and gloried individuality and conquest" (43, Laderman). Being white and male, both Captian American and Billy took the road very easily. They left in search of something beyond the conservative society that surrounded them back home. They road which took them away from it all became very rural and showed little to no signs of human interaction. The little human interaction they got was from a mixed white and indian family and a pack of hippies. They family that they ran into had a wonderfully stable farm and were settled in the rural area. Captian America kept commenting on what a nice situation they had...away from it all...from all other people. The people that they meet along the way are very symbolic of the American views of the time. The mixed white and Idian family were settled, they weren't on the road, showing that the road primarily a masculine place and dominated by white culture. The two men also run into many women on the way. They way they treat the women is sybolic as well. They take out their sexual frustrations and they end up becoming ditractions for the men on the road. They two men set out in search of an alternative lifestyle but end up supporting many American ideologies instead.

A Created America

On one level, for Wyatt and Billy the acid adventure is a complementary extension of their travels. But given the narrative context preceding the acid trip (George's murder, the inescapable oppression of society), and the trip's overall dark tone (it is a bummer), I see the sequence more as a displacement than a development of their mobility. (Laderman, 77)

The film Easy Rider is a film created on the ideals and disposition of counter cultural America. The film took the viewer on a trip on the conditions of seeing a relationship between what is considered abnormal and what is "normal," which it created by showing an overtly negative reaction from "mainstream" culture and a vying plea for acceptance from the counter cultural folks.

Billy and Wyatt (and subsequently their friends) set out on a journey to explore and understand the strange and uneasy relationship counter culture has with mainstream America, which became the idea of finding the true America. The trip is created on the idea of mobility and of being free and able to travel without constraints. In it's initial form, the trip did in fact help Billy and Wyatt discover the true America, it just happened they didn't appreciate what they found. With that said, their trip became a displacement, every town they left became a running away sequence rather than a moving on sequence. They were no longer enjoying mobility, but using for necessity.

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America the Ugly

Two men went out searching for America and couldn't find it anywhere. America the beautiful, the land of the free and home of the brave. This is not what these two men found on their journey. They found an ugly America, where they experienced violence, discrimination and what seemed like no freedom at all. These are not the things we want to/or think to attribute to a "free country."
"The 'search for America' not geographical, it is literally a quest to find out where America's head is at. The people and places represented in that quest are evocative of different states of conciousness co-existing unpeacefully in this country and all over the world. Each stop on the road is an encounter with a different awareness of what is real and what is of value" (Klinger 181).
This movie depicted "where America's head was at" in the late 1960's. When Wyatt and Billy were in the southern town, they were highly discriminated by the "dominant culture" because they were part of the counter-culture. They had long hair and dressed differently, and for that reason they were not served at a local diner, and experienced extreme violence which lead to the death of George. These men were not experiencing the American Dream, they were having a difficult time surviving because of their treatment by other groups of people who did not share their same exact views on life. They did nothing to deserve this treatment and this type of discrimination was happening to many different races, ethnic groups, religious groups etc, at this time. They did not find America, because America was not what they had imagined it would be. America's cultures were not all beautiful, and they were not free.

Easy Rider Quest

“Easy Rider establishes the quest as its basic plot structure.? (Laderman 66) Both characters throughout the film Wyatt and Billy are riding around America trying to experience America and live “freewheeling mobility? where they can have and look for a full appreciation for the beauty of America. In the scene where Wyatt picks up a hitchhiker and they are both riding on the road Wyatt is discovering America. As the scene shows the hitchhiker is pointing around the untouched landscape showing Wyatt the beauty of America and he seems to be admiring the scenery. Another scene where the characters: Wyatt, Billy, and George seem to be experiencing and discovering themselves by releasing their inner child by imagining that they are flying.
Another scene where the men are pushed outside of society unwillingly when a motel receptionist sees them as also trouble makers and kicks them outside so they are forced to camp outside. This seem like a time where the guys would sit and contemplate on their day and what they accomplished as in finding what they were looking for.
In the end it seems like Wyatt and Billy were unsatisfied with their quest, so they make it out on the road again. I thought it seem like the idea of finding America was inside the two characters all a long. They both were different from society and that can cause judgment in society. One scene that goes along with this idea is when the two characters were at the diner with the encounter of a group of guys who assume that they are trouble makers. These guys were rude and made the most outrages racist remarks. Then there were a group of females that seem to be very amazed and flirtatious towards them. This shows how different society can be. Basically that society can have two sides.

America the Free?

"As [Easy Rider] rewrites the landscape according to the youth and Civil Rights movements of the time, it seems only to document and embrace a transitional nationalism that attacks the presuppositions of a formerly stable Americanism." (Klinger 182)

Along their quest to find America and the freedom that is inherently associated with it, Billy and Wyatt find that this presupposed notion of America is undergoing substantial changes. Not only is the freedom of America and one's ability to safely take to the road diminishing, Billy and Wyatt--the new face of white masculinity-- clash with the old and outgoing stereotypical white American male. It seems that the only place where they are actually freed from societal constrictions is while they are riding, especially through wilderness, places that are still wild and free from man themselves. They are more at ease and at home while on the road and camping and cannot find their place in society. Although they are the "new" masculine male, society at large has not come to grips with this image, and in places like the diner, the women have more quickly grasped this image, but the Southern men defend their position as most masculine, poking fun at these long-haired hippies. Wyatt and Billy can't quite find their niche within the new upheaval of American masculinity. Are they cowboys, outlaws, hippies? One could call them the new cowboy/outlaw, as they are juxtaposed with the cowboys of the West, such as when they are changing a tire and the cowboys are changing a horseshoe. It seems that throughout the entire movie, these dualities of masculinity come into conflict and cannot coexist, ultimately leading to Billy and Wyatt's death.

Easy Rider and Disillusionment

It is as though the oppressive conventions of stable society are ultimately inescapable, contaminating their easy riding on a variety of levels. (Laderman, 76)

Through their journey to find an America worth discovering, the riders, Fonda and Hopper, are disillusioned by the image they find. "We blew it", the reflection on the achievement of their goals, describes how not only did they fail to find America on their trip, but they themselves have also misrepresented America or at the very least have missed the point. The journey to find America and the freedom and persuit of happiness that it claims to represent, disillusioned the men and forced the to realize the captivity that they were in. Even though they were on the road, traveling easy, the road got more difficult and and threatening.

Easy Rider

"The spectacle of their mobility can provoke fear and rage for some specators within the film; yet it often seems to elict admiration from those they pass by or fleetingly meet." (Laderman, pg 72).
As this quote suggests, Wyatt and Billy are far from the norm in American culture at the time. As outsiders and wanderers, they "provoke fear" or "admiration" from those they pass because they have rejected the standard American life to take to the road. This fear can be seen throughout the movie, such as in the beginning with the inn keeper turning them away, or the small town men who shoot them at the end. It is because of this alienation from society that they are not able to "find America" as they set out to do. Since those who are considered normal in the traditional American sense reject them, they are left to spend time with the outcasts of society. In being with these people, they discover an America which is without the traditional people and ideas which would be expected. White masculinities certainly play a part in the film, particularly in their portrayal of women. These women are shown to be only interested in being with the men, and have no true character development of their own.

Looking for America

It [the film] is critical of a certain America, but it can also be read as merely enacting the fundamental principle of capitalist America-the freedom of the market, which is in some respects metaphorized as the freedom of the open road. The primary cmoplaint against America in the film is that it is not American enough.
When Billy and Wyatt set out on the road looking for America, I think that what they are looking for is the America where they would fit in. They are clearly not what society would have considered normal at the time. They were everything that the people of that time feared. The two guys had long hair, rode motorcycles, and sold and did drugs. We can see in the movie that as they travel to their destination of New Orleans, they are shunned by many different people. They get pushed away from the hotel when the hotel manager sees what they look like and makes judgements based on that even though they had the money to pay for a room. As they drive farther south towards New Orleans we begin to see that their lifestyle is even more out of place here than it would have been in Los Angeles. Nobody appreciates that they are around except for the young girls because they view Billy and Wyatt's ways as attractive because they are so wild. I think that the only time throughout the entire movie that Wyatt could have found a little of what he was looking for is when they take their hitchhiker friend back home. Here they meet a group of individuals who were similar to Wyatt that had found their own refuge in building their own little community. I think that Wyatt contemplated whether or not he could have been happy in this place but Billy was eager to get back on the road. Overall they just wanted to be able to to be free and be whomever they wanted. After all that is what America is supposed to be all about; freedom. They never found that America because they met their end. However had they continued back to LA I don't think they would have ever found that freedom. They were happiest on the road, just the two of them, where they were free from everything.

Futility and Masculinity

"Along with its more affirmative cultural commentary on the sate of the nation Easy Rider also partakes of apocalyptic, disaster-filled predictions on the future of the country" (Klinger 193).

I think this is an important distinction to make when considering the film. Although there is a positive aspect in parts of the plot, there is definitely also a foreboding end-of-the-world/end of culture type of subtext to the movie. Maybe it is not even a subtext, but an obvious textual reading. I think the quest for a new masculinity is shown in this light as both something needed, but something also very dangerous. We see in scenes like the farm sequence and when Billy and Wyatt have to patch their tire a sense of an old masculinity via western cowboys. Coupled with this, there is definitely a new masculine approach as well, in the vein of Rebel Without a Cause and On the Waterfront. We see this in the scene where they are tripping and allows for Wyatt's emotions to come through. Although this is a drug induced weakening of the masculine, it still shows the inner representations of these characters. I think the fact that there is such tension between the two masculine entities and what ends up happening to our easy riders, shows that there is something very futile and terminal in these actions.

"A man went looking for America and couldn't find it anywhere"

" The automobile- and of course the Harley Davidson- serves both as an extension of male potency and an intoxicant. In continually moving forward, and presenting a moving target, one escapes the boredom and the demands of that other life, at the same time as movement itself offers a sense of change as well as of nothingness."
-Eyerman & Lofgren, 65

Building off this quotation, Wyatt and Billy set out to defy culture, to find a better America, and to find themselves. They are looking for societal as well as individual rejuvination and redemption, a blast from the past so to speak, when times weren't as crazy as they were in the sixties. They begin by taking to the road, finding the purity and simplicity in American wilderness. Two particular scenes illustrate the various sides of America at the time and ways in which Wyatt and Billy search for this better America: the ranchers and family, as well as the hippie compound. The scene with the ranchers correlates and compares traditional static society, living off the land, with the subservient wife and children, compared to the counterculture that Wyatt and Billy represent. Although Billy remains aloof, Wyatt seems considerate of the ideals they hold. Secondly the hippie commune illustrates the opposite, left winged, free spirited rebellious society. Nevertheless they are not without their problems. Wyatt and Billy must keep moving, they haven't found the perfect balance, and only mobility holds promise. Yet after they pick up George the mood drastically changes and Wyatt begins to see that stability will eventually trump mobility.
This film is male dominated. The only reference of women include the subservient ranchers wife, the hippie women, and the prostitutes who serve only as objects of desire for men. White masculinity climaxes when the white rednecks, representing oppressive society, kill Wyatt and Billy, solidifying that oppression and conservative ways of society cannot be escaped from simply by taking to the road.

america, woo.

"As it rewrites the landscape according to the youth and civil rights movements of the time, it seems only to document and embrace a transitional nationalism that attacks the presuppositions of a formerly stable Americanism" (Klinger 182).

Wyatt and Billy's search was not only for America, but it was also for themselves. A search for their identity through what was a life changing journey. I actually feel like they found America in many ways. One way was through the people that they met. They met a family who worked hard to live off of the land. They met young adults who weren't satisfied with their lives in the cities, so they moved together to start a new life. They met social outcasts, and women who were selling their bodies to survive. I feel like all of those things are what make up America. Maybe not the traditional America with our thought on freedom and individuality, maybe not the side of America that they were hoping to find, but a definite part of our society. What they didn't find on this journey was self-worth, their identities. They were still the same people through everything and failed to find that mobility on the open road empowered them. Wyatt and Billy started off as outcasts, and they ended up dead because they were outcasts.

Quest for America

"[...]The scene sketches how their bikes are a part of the two riders (they never get off their bikes, their motors still running), but also how the bikes symbolize something "different" and threatening for mainstream America" (p. 69, Driving Visions).

While the tag line of the film states, "A man went looking for America and couldn't find it anywhere," I think Wyatt and Billy found America, but it wasn't quite the America that they expected to find.

Beginning with Wyatt himself, he symbolized the duality of his quest: a yearning for a degree of mobility while having a degree of acceptance of the primacy of the mainstream lifestyle. With his American flag bike and jacket, Wyatt is decked out as 'Captain America' -- symbolizing both a certain acceptance of the free Capitalist market (having just made lots of money through a drug deal & the money being stored in the tank painted like the flag) and the freedom of rebellion against the more conservative facets of society (being able to take to an open road and not be held down by the clock -- shown by the tossing of Wyatt's watch).

The scene at the motel, where Billy and Wyatt are rejected and forced to camp out instead of getting a room depicts the conservative America's unwillingness to accept anyone or anything that does not conform -- their money is just as good as anyone else's, but it is refused because they are 'too different'. This rejection due to difference is a long-standing American tradition that is still present today (see the treatment of anyone of middle-eastern background).

In the sequence at the farm, Wyatt appears to be appreciative of the lifestyle of the farmer, who, while stationary (verse roaming like Wyatt), lives off the land and does his own thing at his own pace (symbolizing a certain harmony with both life and the land). However, even in this seemingly idyllic lifestyle, there is yearning -- the farmer wishes for mobility and more money.

Jumping forward to the camp scene with the ill-fated and prophetic George, he states how America used to be a good country and that people are scared of what Wyatt and Billy represent (freedom), but that people don't realize that they aren't really free and will kill to preserve their illusion of freedom. This sums up the quest for America in just a few sentences -- a people who are seemingly free, but who are also slaves to the capitalist and mainstream system; who yearn for difference and mobility, but are static and complacent. So, George is both complimentary and critical of America -- that we have the potential and possibility to be free, but we are too caught up in the mainstream lifestyle to fully embrace what that for which we yearn.
This view, however, is framed by white masculinities, as the ability to shrug off the mainstream capitalist view and embrace the freedom of difference and mobility was a luxury that could only be afforded to the members of the dominant culture. At this point in American history, neither racial minorities nor women (en masse) could have afforded to turn their backs on mainstream culture, as they had yet to be embraced by mainstream culture to begin with -- one cannot make a conscious effort to turn one's back on something if one wasn't accepted in the first place. Therefore, for the era in which the film was made, the film's overall message (embracing of true freedom) could only have come from the perspective of a white male.

On the Road Again

Thus, the plot pretext invokes more of a quest for spiritual and cultural identity...Easy Rider constitutes a certain On the Road, an explicit attempt to rediscover America.
(Laderman 46,47).

In the most simplistic terms I think Wyatt and Billy turned to the road in search for the America that first began and is founded on exploration, escape, and discovering a place where one has freedom. I think they specifically take to the road to find what they are looking for because they feel the most comfortable in the transition from one place to the other. The long sequences of landscape shots accompanied by music demonstrates how the road and nature does not judge them or discriminate, it is tolerant and treats everyone they same.

Unfortunately not all the people that Wyatt and Billy encounter on their trip are like the road. Instead of finding an America that is excepting of who they are and embraces individual differences they find and America that won't let them sleep in hotels, eat in restaurants, or even ride their motorcycles down their inhabited streets.

(Re)discovering America

"...[S]uch appreciation of the environment [as we see in Easy Rider] becomes a way to rediscover one's self" (Laderman 71). Easy Rider's latter-day cowboy heroes, Wyatt and Billy, spend their time on the road traveling east not just "looking for America," as the ad copy reads, but in search of a version of America that fit with (and accepted) their modern version of masculinity. The scene in which our protagonists stop to patch a tire juxtaposes the traditional and new versions of the western hero--the cowboy versus the long-haired biker--but Wyatt and Billy look out of place with their motorcycle, since they haven't found their America yet. Everywhere they go, they encounter opposition to their way of life and their new take on the American lifestyle, from the motel owner who refused to give them a room to the gun-toting rednecks who ultimately destroy the heroes, but the criticism intensifies as they move from the Southwest into the South proper, as Klinger notes, saying,

"In the Southwest, the protagonists enjoy the freedom of the road, the hospitality of those they encounter, and the beauty and mystery of the region's wilderness. Conversely, the South, the small-town South in particular, is demonized in Easy Rider as the region most identified in the 1960s with militant racism, ignorance, and violence" (183)
Though most of the characters, sympathetic or no, are white men, Dennis Hopper's directorial choices encourage us to identify with the motorcyclists by putting the viewers on the road with Wyatt and Billy, as though we are taking the same trip and searching for the same things. In the driving montages, we get frequent point-of-view shots that let us see what the characters see as they move across the country, as well as shots of the men themselves, as though we are on a third bike, looking over at our companions, watching them bring the new masculine into new territory. The efforts to make us connect with Wyatt and Billy make the abrupt and violent end to their journey that much more disappointing and tragic--the long-haird, drug-dealing bikers never got the chance to find their America.

Searching for Freedom

"Typically one passes through the landscape, as a means, toward destination; but in Easy Rider movement through the landscape becomes an end in itself..." (Laderman 71). Billy and Wyatt search for freedom while on their way from Los Angeles to New Orleans. But what happens is that we realize that their road to freedom is really a road to the end. On their way to Mardi Gras, Wyatt and Billy take a few detours, first at the ranch to fix Wyatt's tire, then at the commune, they are put in jail, and then their final stop is at the brothel in New Orleans. In these scenes, Billy and Wyatt face discrimination because of their search for freedom. They are shunned from the motel, and they are put in jail because they are so "free." They are punished because they are not what white males are "supposed" be.

In the end Wyatt gives his infamous speech of "we blew it." I took it to mean that they were not able to find their freedom because wherever they went, there were means to tie them down, whether it was women, or discrimination from the norm.

Quest for Freedom

“Once again they are camped out, forced out of society…George makes his infamous speech - perhaps the film’s message, if it has one - about how America used to be a great country, but that people have become scared of people.? (Laderman 74). In the movie Easy Rider; Wyatt and Billy set out on a journey to look for “America? and “freedom?. After leaving their chaotic lives in Los Angeles they set out on the road on a quest for a new beginning. What they begin to realize is that the freedom they are seeking is not an easy find, if it possible to exist at all. Despite attempts at finding freedom and a “new America? they have not escaped the hardships and stress of everyday life. Wyatt and Billy are not your typical looking characters, they are considered “outlaws? which enables much discrimination and ultimately being outcasts in the societies they passed through. Easy Rider was framed in a very white masculinities view point- Wyatt and Billy chose to be different and in turn were “outcasts? but it displayed women and those of different minorities as outcasts already (without trying). They are treated poorly because they are not considered to be the norm like white males are. This movie although based in the 1960’s portrays many difficulties that we here in America are still dealing with, such as; finding ourselves in this crazy world, racism, sexism, and much more…

Purple Mountain Majesty

Thus Easy Rider moves beyond Bonnie and Clyde and is a more explicit rebel road film; it celebrates road travel aesthetically as much as narratively...

I was really struck with the amount of scenery the camera shows us while the men are traveling. This focus on the outdoors and the land implies that this is a big part of what America is. The diversity of the landscapes exceeds what a pair traveling from LA to New Orleans would find, as they travel through desert, forest, mountains, and what looks like the Badlands. This tie to the land was commented on earlier by someone as well, bringing up comments like "there's not many men that can do that [live off the land]".

We are even shown a success story of living off the land in the beginning of the film, when Captain America gets a flat and they stop off at the ranch. He comments that the farmer has a really nice life there, he seems to envy it but understands he wouldn't survive there. I think they couldn't find America because they couldn't settle down. Their constant need to be on the move led them to believe they hadn't found America yet, but as the camera shows, it's actually all around them.

An Easy Rider's Ultimate Fate

"Around the campfire, George makes his famous speech-perhaps the film's mesage, if it has one-about how America used to be a great country, but that people have become scared of freedom." (Laderman, 74)

When discussing scenes in which Wyatt and Billy go looking for something, the sequence that sticks out to me the most is towards the very end at the brothel and in the cemetary. I find it to be fascinating that these men look for women and a certain sense of closure from the female form in their last contact with urban civilization before they are both murdered. There is a scene in which Wyatt is using heavy profanity and crying while he clings to a female staue in the gravemyard (I've read the Peter Fonda was actually triping on acid and allowed the cameras to roll as he wept while thinking about his own relationship with his real mother who had committed suicide). This shows both a sadness and lack of affection he feels within towards females. In the larger context of the whole film, what they went looking for (an Idea of America) turns out to actually be a fraud as they are unable to find a place where freedom is accepted rather than feared. The diner scene in the south is an interesting study as the two different tables of men and younger girls look upon Wyatt, Billy, and George with the same curiousity but that curiosity leads to two different emotions in each table. The road is really the one place they are able to be themselves, but it is still restricting as it has already been paved and wherever it leads them, they are not creating their own path, but rather following the path that others have already be on. As with the journey of life where a human beings destiny is death, so too are the destiny's of Wyatt, Billy, and George as the road that was at once their bridge to metaphoric utopia ends up being a place where the restricting hands end their quest.

-Matt Morosky

Uneasy Rider

"The film immediately follows its credit sequence glorifying road travel with a brief dramatic episode emphasizing society’s rejection of their alternative values and mobile lifestyle" (Laderman 69). This quest is framed by white masculinities in the fact that the movie opens with Billy and Wyatt speaking Spanish, selling cocaine to Mexicans. This deal allows Billy and Wyatt to set out on their journey to find freedom. This transaction between white and non white allows the whites to be mobile, to move easily throughout America. They are searching for freedom through the exact things they are trying to escape. They are trying to get away from conformity and the comfort of everyday life. They (two white men) take off on motorcycles, carrying everything they need, which happens to be very little. This mobile lifestyle alone shows the privilege yet mobility of a male in America.

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February 3, 2008

Where Is Freedom?

It is as though the oppressive conventions of stable society are ultimately inescapable, contaminating their easy riding on a variety of levels (Laderman, 76)

Wyatt and Billy flee across the country on their motorcycles in search of freedom on their way to Mardi Gras. Along their trip they encounter people living in different environments. The people living in the commune appear to be free from mainstream society, but they have not escaped stress and hardship. They struggle to have enough food to eat and to find privacy in their open community. George seems to flee society and find freedom, but discrimination and hatred are part of society that cannot be escaped. His death exemplifies the fact that the discriminatory beliefs that society has bestowed upon ignorant people will follow you, even on your freedom quest. Wyatt and Billy finally made it to Mardi Gras. They had women and drugs and the good time they set out for. Yet Wyatt still felt unsettled afterward.

I think the problem with setting out on a journey for freedom, to find America, is assuming that you will approach a destination with the answer. Americans are diverse. Freedom in this country is the ability to be whomever you wish to be. If you want to farm and live off your land you can do so. If you want to work and live in the city you can. I think you find freedom when you figure out what it is that you love and will make you happy and you work until you get it. I think freedom can be a state of mind. It can be the feeling that you have accomplished what you wanted and have few regrets.

Looking for....America?

"The primary complaint against America in the film is that it is not American enough"
(Laderman 81).

In the film Easy Rider, Wyatt, Billy, and George seem to be searching for an old version of America. I would venture to say that what they are searching for is a pre-industrialization America, that still retains the freedoms and values of the frontier. This is exemplified by Wyatt's line "It's not every man who can live off the land." "Living off the land," or the agrarian lifestyle has become less common. The American sense of individualism and ambition seems to have been lost amid the industiralization of the country. Though the men find refuge in the counterculture of the West and perhaps a vestige of the "old America," they continue on, embodying this sense of individualism and ambition they are searching for, as dictated by Wyatt's statements of "I never wanted to be anybody else," and "I just gotta go."

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Spiritual Quest

On page 66 of Driving Visions David Laderman writes "The quest as spiritual and cultural in Easy Rider, however, appears explicitly on the surface of the film's narrative. [...] the film attempts like that novel to integrate the search for self with a rediscovery of America by traveling across (and into) it." Wyatt and Bill begin their journey with a destination in mind but this destination is less the physical place, New Orleans, than an event and date for their arrival, Mardi Gras. The fact that the journey's destination is a period of days during a festival makes the entire quest to get there less of a literal journey through America. This highlights a subtext of the movie that America is not a place but a people and a movement. While camping out one night Billy and Wyatt discuss their destination saying "It's a long way to Mardi Gras man." "It won't take a week to get there...We have a week." If the destination was the point of the journey then the sooner they arrive the better and all the stops along the way would be shorter and less meaningful. In the same way the America that Wyatt and Billy (or the "one man" as the ad cover states) is looking for is not a physical place but a period of time and a collection of people. This means that every moment of the journey is part of the discovery of America because America is a time, a setting, and a space enclosed by the beginning and ending and Billy and Wyatt's journey.

America The Beautiful

"Typically one passes through the landscape, as a means, toward destination; but in Easy Rider movement through the landscape becomes an end in itself, specifically in terms of appreciating the landscape. Moreover, such appreciation of the environment becomes a way to rediscover one's self," (Laderman, 71). In the film, Easy Rider, it seems that both Wyatt and Billy were searching for the beauty that once was America. As the two men ride across the country on their motorcycles there are countless shots of the landscape that is America. It is interesting when examing the landscape at the beginning of the film to the landscape at the end. The first scene takes place in Los Angeles and it is dirty and busy, this is best shown at the airport. Whereas the last scene takes place in the middle of nowhere and the land is nothing but natural.
One of my favorite lines from the film is when Wyatt is talking at the lunch table to the owner of the house where he was able to fix his bike and he says to him, "No, I mean it, you've got a nice place. It's not every man that can live off the land, you know. You do your own thing in your own time. You should be proud." Along with finding the beauty in America's landscape, I think this line explains that Wyatt is also searching for a simplier life outside of the big city. He wants to enjoy the land and live off of it in the easiest way possible. Unfortunately, once he begins to understand himself and his desires his life is taken away from him in a flash and he never really does get to live that simple life.

Looking for America in America

“Placed within the visual discourses on nationhood of the time, Easy Rider emerges as a film of conflicted historical and ideological identity? (Klinger 181). In this road movie the sceneries that Wyatt and Billy pass represent the open lands of America. The land holds traces of the American history along with the identity of those that have lived and or passed by. Wyatt and Billy were on a quest for America but were not successful. They placed their money into their gas tanks and off they go on their journey from Las Vegas to New Orleans. They were looking for deeper meaning and how people lived in the other parts of this massive land called America. First they found a placed occupied by a farmer and his Mexican family; Wyatt was impressed by this farmer and saw how he could make use of the land he lived on. Even with the great land and the great way to live displayed by the farmer, it was not what Wyatt and Billy were looking for. They were looking for the meaning of America, where they could find a place for their differences. Billy wore buckskin representing the older days, compared to Wyatt’s leather representing the modernization of America. They eventually picked up a hitchhiker that led them to the hippie commune, where they enjoyed their stay but it still did not fit. What I found interesting was on their way to the hitchhikers place they were filling their tank at a gas station and a young girl was shown through the window the gas station very briefly; it sent a message of a woman’s place in the society was to be inside and not on the open road. I could see the curiosity in the girl’s eyes, the wanting to explore but was contained. The two men’s progress on the road just brought increasingly amount of hostility towards them. They met their next companion at a town where they were arrested and later on were ignored at a diner, all because of their different appearance (long hair) and rebel way of life. This to them was a disappointment because this was not what they were looking for but unfortunately what they ended up finding. I think this increased their drug use because they still wanted an optimistic outlook. The sceneries they passed also depicted the white masculinities because there were parts of the land that showed the African American poverty; they were not living in the same environment as the white Americans. Overall the movie had so many hidden realities of living during the late 1960s.

Easy Rider

"Most obviously, one could point to Easy Rider's concentration on hippie life and its twin social themes of freedom and repression."--Barbara Klinger

In Easy Rider, the quest for self-discovery is challenged by the overtly enforced social roles of white American males. The character Wyatt is symbolic of this conflict, or more aptly, this confusion between the internal and the external. There are three prominent American flag motifs that accompany Wyatt throughout the film: on his helmet, on the back of his leather jacket, and on the chassis of his motorcycle. These are highly suggestive of a unified theme of America that specifically riffs on the ideas of the mind, the body, and the journey. If Wyatt "went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere,? then this is because he metaphorically failed to examine himself. Likewise, if hippie culture represents a straying from traditional American values, then the congratulatory righteousness displayed by Wyatt's American flags represents a failure to understand that the American ethos is not something to physically search for, but is located within oneself. In several scenes, Wyatt's lack of comprehension in this matter is subtly hinted at by his helmet's position not on his head, but on the back of his motorcycle. The open road is a free place to roam, but despite Wyatt's, Billy's, and George's white masculinities, they are, for example, driven out of a local diner because of their perceived counter-American hippie status. Their ideals are repressed, and they continue their partially misguided outward journey. One of the film's most distinguishing features is the occasional use of rapid crosscutting between two scenes, serving as a bewildering form of transition. Is the previous scene being freed by the next, or is the next scene being held back by the previous? It seems to be both, and is therefore the paramount manifestation of Easy Rider's focus: the nature of the journey is to overcome contradiction itself. America is "found" within the mind, the body, and the journey. Without any of the three--the spirit, the flesh, and the road trip--Wyatt, and thus the film, must end.

Easy Rider

Wyatt and Billy are bike riders. They ride away from LA into all parts of other places in America. "...their bikes are a part of the two riders, but also how the bikes symbolize something different and threatening for mainstream America". We know this because when Billy, Wyatt, and their guest (lawyer) goes into a restaurant..all girls like them. however, the guys don't like them. The group is looked upon as a threat to the society. And the lawyer also explains this to them in one scene. America is what Billy and Wyatt represents. They don't care what others think about them. They are different from the rest. They don't follow laws- they ride without license. They make their own rules. Live on their own terms,etc. Basically, they are what true freedom represents and what true America- the land of freedom-should represent. Therefore, they are looking for America that truly represents the land of freedom and not the look-alike of freedom.

Easy Rider

"[T]hier journey, and its eventual lack of fulfillment, comes to mirror ironically the unfulfilled desires proffered by the consumer/materialist culture they take flight from." I believe that the scenes that aptly embody Easy Rider's tag line ("A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.") would be the scenes where the redneck townsfolk are featured and play a part. These people are the antithesis of some of the tenets of America (freedom for all people, specifically). America used to the be the place where people could escape oppression and bigotry when it was originally founded, and here are American citizens shunning, shaming, and even murdering their fellow citizens. These people are far removed from the America of the past and the America that Wyatt and Billy seem to be searching for.

It is evident that they fled LA because they were not satisfied with the America there, and set out and failed to find it. There was no more simplicity, friendliness, and freedom in civilized areas: the closest they found to these aspects were when they dined with the rancher and his family and while they were on their own on the road. To find what they were looking forward, they would have to be completely cut-off from "civilization".

"A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.?

"As if to drive a nail into the coffin of this confessed failure of counterculture," (Laderman 77) Billy and Wyatt are searching for something, but as Wyatt put's it they "blew it". This is left purposely vague for the audience to decide exactly what it is they blew but it seems apparent that these two men out on a quest have failed . In this movie they are not only looking for what America is but they are also hiding from what America seems to be. "This used to be a hell of a country," proclaims George, annoucing the downturn of America. They look all over for what America could mean, at a commune where they discover they are still not free of the same problems of America, they turn to drugs in hope of a new perspective, they even find themselves in a parade on their motorcycles- a strange attempt to find their place. Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma" casts even more light upon the subject, seeing to outline the whole film from the "shadow of the silver spoon" that seemed to affect Wyatt and Geoge to the talk of fear and hatred. While these boys search for America to mean something still, it seems that America- the crime, the hate and the contempt for all differences that was so prevelent during the 1960's- catches up with them and kills them, they have not found America, they have no found themselves, in short, Wyatt was right, they did blow it.

Theee Trip Through Ignorance, Racism and Violence

Billy and Wyatt cruising into the horizon, looking for a form of identity. Searching for a personal way to connect in this nation where apparently everyone is free, the two men cross paths with multiple kinds of people who have different ideals of what life should be. In truth, that's all they really do is cross paths. Because of the fact that Billy and Wyatt are constantly on the move, the audience gets the feeling that the farther they go and the more 'long-hair outcast' they become, the less willing they are to discover something-anything along the way. What started off as a quest for identity has now become a disconnected dazed trip. The viewer witnesses the way the original intent of the riders changes steadily throughout the film.

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Road Movies

"Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the World starts closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas." The scenes in "Easy Rider" that address the quest the men went on include the scenes when the men are shown driving cross country. Also when the men stop and various places along the way to their destination and meet people, talk to people, adapt to their surroundings and form relationships with the people they meet. The men are looking for an adventure in the movie. Their life in Los Angeles was complicated and chaotic which caused them to pick up, leave and hit the road, on a quest for adventure across America. The men didn't seem to find a satisfying sense of completion when they reached their destination. It felt like the men were still searching for every sense of freedom and adventure American has to offer. Their quest/adventure is framed by white masculinities such as; how white men interpret one another, how social geography affects interpretations of white men, what stereotypes men put on each other and more.

Billy and Wyatt are America

The driving force propelling most road movies [...] is an embrace of the journey as a means of cultural critique. (Laderman)
Billy and Wyatt seem to physically represent aspects of America. Billy, with his cowboy outfit, represents the past of America, while Wyatt is surrounded by the American flag, on his bike, on his jacket and helmet. The journey in road movies usually is accompanied by the characters growing and changing, learning about themselves, their friendship and their views of the world. Yet Billy and Wyatt are the same people throughout the movie, without changing clothes, or changing their habbits (they use drugs throughout, for example) and without forming any new permanent friendship bonds.

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" On a quest to find America"

"Revolution and liberation taste too sweet, the abyss beckons. suddenly the car speeds over the edge-into a glorious white light"Laderman). In the movie Easy rider Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), two friends leave the urban Los Angeles to look for "America"; an America they couldn`t relate to anymore. Like their new friend George (Jack Nicholson) said:"You know, this used to be a hell of a good country; I don`t know what`s going on..".
The other America they were looking for was supposed to be a land of FREEDOM and a leader-free world, where each man is his own leader and could have total control over his destiny. Their clothes, their hair, their way of life distinguished them from the majority, therefore they were considered outlaws. And because they did not live by doing the things people considered to be "normal', their lives were not secured. People were afraid of what they represent, and the best way of keeping themselves safe was to take the outlaws' lives away
It was almost surreal for them at that time to look for such an America. This world is ruled by ideas the majority of its people accept and live by. It is always difficult, quite impossible to reverse that possibility.

February 2, 2008

"A Many Went Looking For America and Couldn't Find it Anywhere"

"In the Reagan-Bush era, reference to Easy Rider instantly conjured up demonic images of the hippie counter-culture with its long hair, experimentation with drugs and sex, and violent social protests." (Klinger) In this movie Wyatt, aka Captain America, and Billy set out from Los Angeles in search of the American Ideal. They are looking for the ideal that we as Americans always picture our culture and society to be, but it rarely actually is. When they are sitting around the campfire with their new friend George, discussing UFO's and aliens, interbreeding with the human race they are discussing the inhabitility of the human race to met their expectations. The ideal of the American life, or the American society is something that is always trying to be found, not just by Wyatt and Billy, but by many others from many walks of life . This ideal is something that we can not seem to reach on our own, we need to breed with aliens in order to reach this ideal. One of the reasons that this ideal is so difficult to reach is that is different for each person. For the rednecks that see Wyatt and Billy traveling together, they are not part of the American ideal for them. Whereas Wyatt and Billy's American ideal involves merily being tolerated, or meeting a group of people that do not judge them for their outward apperience, or way of life.

Does freedom exist anywhere in our society?

"The film immediately follows its credit sequence glorifying road travel with a brief dramatic episode emphasizing society's rejection of their alternative values and mobile lifestyle," (Laderman 69). Billy and Captain America go out in search of a freedom and an America that they cannot find in Los Angeles. They think that if they go out on the road they will be able to find the freedom they were lacking, they were sorely mistaken. Billy and Captain America found out that the only way that they could ever truely be free was to not have any contact with the rest of society. They were treated poorly when they were driving through town and ran into a parade, they were treated poorly when they were in the diner being heckled, and they were treated poorly when they were ultimately killed because of their appearance. Billy and Captain America have no idea how truely lucky they really are. They are white males growing up in a white, male-dominated society. They chose to be who they were. They chose to grow out their hair and do things that were not "normal". Women and people of different races could not choose to be outcasts, they were outcasts. They were treated poorly because society deemed them and continues to deem them inferior to their white, male counterparts. This is unfortuante but true and continues to be true to this day.

Renegade Cowboys

After the final frontier had been discovered, there was no more west to be explored and discovered. Since this was over and done, there was nothing more for people to search for. In "Easy Rider", Wyatt and Billy are searching for something indescribable and they are not positive what it is. The feeling of emptiness lies within many people who are trapped within societal constraints looking for alternative form of expression. The new age cowboy, as represented by Wyatt and Billy, take off on their motorcycles, encountering people of all different ethnicities, backgrounds and ideals. But we learn that "no matter how regionally or individually distinct one's lifestyle may be, one is a citizen of the United States of America, an identity which transcends the particulars of regional and individual loyalties." (Klinger 184). This was discovered on their quest when they pick up the hitchhiker and return to his dwelling. Everyone was happy to meet new people and discover the way of life that others have. Also, one knows that people are all the same, despite differences in belief, when Wyatt's motorcycle breaks down and they ask the farmer if they can use his barn to fix it and in turn, the farmer asks them to join for dinner. However, it is difficult to look past that all of the main characters and people that the renegade cowboys come in contact with are white males. The other people in the movie, women, people of other races, are typically set in the back, not talking, and submissive to the men of the movie. In some way, this could be why Wyatt and Billy never found what they were looking for. They were trying to find something different from the normal constraints of the white male society and since everywhere they go was dominated by these same people, it would be unimaginable to find an America that they were looking for.

February 1, 2008

United States: Arrogance, Bigotry, and Conformist

"In 1988 George Bush proudly noted that the United States had made a successful recovery from the excesses of the "Easy Rider Society" of the 1960s. (The Road To Dystopia, Barbara Klinger) George Bush is obviously referring to the social innovation and unrelenting pursuit for social equality of that time era. The 1960's was a time era where people were willing to take risks and allow themselves to be the experimental guinea pigs for the noble cause of taking down the wall of arrogance, bigotry, and ignorance that made equality for all a statement of empty promise.

In the film, Easy Rider, the characters were searching for a form of spiritual freedom through rebellion against the societal norms by living their life as they saw fit. The people of the time were of conformist and corrupt ideals where those who dared to challenge the norms were met with paranoia and violence. The freedom of individual and self were not available in that sort of society. People were bothered into submission by the narrow minded old fashioned morons of the society. The way this quest was framed through white masculinity was through their rather unnecessary bad boy image of riding a motorcycle, typically chauvinist flirtation, and so on, not that it was particularly masculine as it was obnoxious.

Examples of this can be noted in these scenes:
1. The men are often stared at and whispered at when making any sort of contact with people, especially when entering the restaurant with the patrons.

2. The truck drivers are idiots in the manner they try to kill the men for being different.

This is a serious problem in this society. Note that I am not from this society as I am from another country. Try to guess. In America, often people who are different are stared at and bothered for being different. Anybody who looks a little bit different is more likely than not to be right in the eye of the storm of this conformist society. As a society, we should show each other mutual respect to one another and fight the ignorance and bigotry of the people who dare to treat any other human being as less than worthy of respect. How dare this bigoted society call itself a free country when people who strive for personal freedom are treated with less than respect. This society needs to learn what tolerance, coexistence, and respect is. We should all live in harmony.



January 31, 2008

America couldn't find the man...

In Easy Rider, references to stability come to signify the shackles of conservative society, problematizing the film's overt rebellion.
Rebelling against America is generally frowned upon today... after all, America is just such great place one should be thankful to live here. Because America has always been idealized, even before it became 'The United States of America,' as an historically unique place because it was a place where anyone could be free, people immigrated to the country in search of all different kinds of freedoms. Wyatt and Billy, already living in the country, I think they went out to "find America" meaning that they were looking to find the freedom that many others came here looking for.

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Freaks on Motorcycles and Rural Families with Horses

Bill and Wyatt were searching for a personal identity that is American. Being outcast everywhere else, a rural man tending his horses took the boys in so they could work on their motorcycles. Wyatt expresses his connection with the man's family saying, "Not every man can live off the land, do [his] own thing, in [his] own time." George similarly expresses his discontent with militarism and individual commodification, dreaming of an alien civilization where "every man is his own leader." This is also seen in the hippie commune's ideals of self-sustainment. In the opening scene, the sound of airplanes and industry take over all other sounds, much like the American economy has forced everyone to conform to a certain set of ideals. When Wyatt threw his watch down when they took off on their journey, he seemed to be freeing himself of the oppression that a 9-5 job and American ignorance brings. What it means to be American has come to mean being separate from society, be it a long-haired freak or a cowboy living off the land.