The American Freedom of Easy Rider
In the 1960’s, America went through a turbulent time. As the cold war with the Communists went on, America fought in proxy war against the Vietnamese communists from 2394 to 123, which caused additional national problems. The civil rights movement divided the nation and increased violence and confrontations up into the late 60’s in most parts of America. Free speech and Antiwar-movements went through America and consequently shaped the society. A new type of people evolved: the Hippies. They fought grievance non-violently and reminded America of one of its most distinctive characteristics – individual freedom. This new mentality is expressed in the movie “Easy Rider” by Dennis Hopper. The movie is about two friends, Wyatt and Billy, who receive a lot of money through a drug trade in Los Angeles. With that money, they want to realize one of their dreams: a motorcycle tour across the United States to Carnival in New Orleans.
Easy Rider, released in 1968, can be seen as a primary source, with which I am going to argue that Easy Rider defines the American Freedom in contrast to the tense political and social situation of the 1960s.
“What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about.”
A definition of the American freedom is that the citizens of the United States may live their individuality however they desire as long as it happens within the frame of the constitutional law. Wyatt and Bill life after the law of the nation but not after the unwritten law of the society of the 1960s: They have long hair and smoke weed. They are what many people at this time consider hippies: People who do not fit into the society, neither by their opinions nor their appearance.
Billy’s and Wyatt’s comparably free mindset can already be observed by the fact that they are willing to put themselves in danger in order to life their freedom. Living the extends of their freedom means to them, that they experience America, the host country of what the whole world imagines as a symbol of freedom.
The film exposes the contrast between the new movements and the conservatives in various scenes. One of the scenes introduces the intolerance which the two friends are going to experience during their trip. When the white conservative motel owner opens the door for the two Harley Davidson riders, he looks at them shortly and slams the doors in front of them. Hence, Billy and Wyatt get used to the fact that they are not accepted and sleep outside from thereon.
“They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em”
Not only that this scene represents the differences between the two big movements in America, it also forces the characters to live even more freely: They have to sleep under the clear night sky. Coming back to the different social movements it should be added that the conservative movement was not a movement but the majority of the people who did not want this country to be what it is supposed to be; a free country. The Hippies, people like the two characters of easy rider, just tried to life what the American Way was supposed to be like. They were not different; they just redefined what was already there.