Easy Rider

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I remember the way the light from the TV glowed against the darkness of the room. The volume turned down as to not wake my sleeping family. The cold air causing me to hug myself for warmth. This was the first time I saw Easy Rider. I was 16 years old. The intimacy between myself, the room, and Peter Fonda is still vivid in my mind. Ever since, Easy Rider has been a piece of art that has shaped and influenced my character.

Rousseau said “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. This statement, however cynical it might sound, has its validity. In society man works for a better education so he can get a better job so he can have better pay so he can have a better house and a better family so that one day his children may work hard to have a better life and repeat the process. Although I value the importance of such things, I have always felt that this sort of mechanical state of living is counter productive to enjoying life.

Growing up as a child in the suburbs I was exposed to this popular idea that the only way to be happy was to work harder. I could always work to do better in school, I could always work to run faster in track, and I could always work longer to make more money. Before long I became swept up in working for the sake of being better. Although self improvement is important I didn't see the good in being exhausted all the time. With each day I felt I was losing myself. I had opinions, interests, and hobbies but because I was working for society's idea of success, these things had no place. I was losing identity

In Easy Rider, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) go against society and depart on a spiritual trip across America. They were, as I was at the time, frustrated by society's idea of constant work. They yearned for freedom. They were characters who did not hold the same idea of success as the rest of society. Success to them was to be able to live as yourself and escaping the idea of mono-culture. Their journey was an escape from all that society wanted them to be. Their long hair, motorcycles, and unemployment had been symbols of living how they wanted to live. Encapsulating a generation hungry for change and spiritual expansion, Easy Rider showed me the importance of self. Wyatt congratulates a hospital farmer saying “you do your own thing in your own time. You should be proud”. I may not intend to journey across America on a motorcycle, however, I feel a deep connection to the statement of independence made by the movie. At a time when I was ruled most by the pains of puberty and indecision, I saw this movie I realized that the most important thing in life is not necessarily monetary or occupational, but something intangible. Like love, the spiritual gain that is idealized in Easy Rider can lift the chains of society, and I no longer fear a life of poverty for an independence of spirit.

I carried the movie in my head for several days. Arguing with myself over what it meant. I could not escape the last scene: Prejudice and misunderstanding leading to the death of our anti-heroes in a climatic moment that screamed Rousseau's statement, the inescapable bondage of society. I kept playing back the explosion of Wyatt's bike and the slow lean of the camera to the sky. I felt a sadness and futility in that moment. Finally it hit me. Utilizing quick edits, sound effects, and over-exposed film with under a half-million non-studio dollars, first time director (and co-writer) Dennis Hopper introduced a novel stylistic approach that, financially and artistically, proved successful. These elements of production reflected the same sentiment as the plot: Going against popular culture. I saw Easy Rider as a staple to artistic expression. It presented new ideas of cinema while breaking away from the trite and cliché styles I had seen so many times before. It was not solely aesthetic, it had a strong meaning that coincided with where I was developmentally. Art has historically been a medium outside of the constraints of society, and after that night I've felt an immense need to create.

Ever since that cold night alone in front of the TV my character has evolved. I once wanted to be a lawyer. I was another person consumed by the idea of wealth and status. After seeing Easy Rider I have set my sights on film. I no longer see money as a goal, only a means to get to a greater good; creation. I now take pride in my individuality and strive to break the chains of mono-culture. Thanks to Easy Rider, I look to education to inform my individuality and, more importantly, I look to art as a means of expressing that self.





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