Netting a hefty profit from their latest drug deal, hippies Wyatt and Billy decide to outfit themselves with among other things motorbikes - Wyatt complete in what they call his Captain America gear and similar motif on the bike - and chucking any structure in their lives beyond the want to get there for the event, cycle from their home base of Los Angeles to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in just over a week. They don't plan to spend their proceeds on this trip - they saving that for a more carefree life in Florida after the fact - they sleeping in the great outdoors along the way. While Wyatt is more easy going, believing in the karmic nature and practicality of helping others when they can and in turn asking for help when they need it, Billy is a little more suspicious of the people they encounter, especially in hiding their wad of cash that is stuffed into the gas tank of Wyatt's bike, that money their future. They will find that not all counter-culturalists have the exact same ...Written by
I cannot overstate the importance of this movie in my personal development.
In 1969 I was eighteen and a freshman at Cambridge University. I was also a near-fundamentalist and a member of the Christian Union. Its officials decreed that Easy Rider was unsuitable for Christian viewing; I'd seen some enthusiastic reviews which made me curious. Moral and spiritual dilemma followed. To view or not to view? I prayed about it - look, this is a long time ago, right - and decided that if it had been OK for the Christian Union's leaders to see it, if only to realise it was morally dubious, then it was OK for me. They hadn't been corrupted, presumably; the Lord would see that I wasn't either.
So I went and it blew me away. I thought then and think now, that this is a magnificently perceptive commentary on hippie culture and one that only the medium of film can deliver. Naive idealism is weighed against the squalid reality of drugs (and indeed alcohol). Freedom is portrayed as often aimless, self-indulgent and downright boring. The underlying morality could be seen as puritanical: a celebration of the free-lovin' drop-out Sixties it ain't, more a weary end-of-decade critique thereof. I would have thought there was much to commend it to the Christian Union moralisers, yet as ever they couldn't see past the surface - drug abuse, loose women. Yet it has its high moments, in more ways than one, and is always a treat for the eyes.
My decision to defy the Christian Union by seeing the film was an early step out of my fundamentalist prison and I haven't stopped walking yet. No-one's ever going to tell me what I can and can't watch again: nor will I censor anyone else's viewing. I'm still a believer, but not of the kind that the Christian Union would have thought will ever go to heaven. Guess I'll have to live with that.
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