By Peggy Nelson
Easy Rider – 1969 – dir. Dennis Hopper
Easy Rider (dir. Dennis Hopper, 1969), like it’s lesser-known sibling, Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), poses the question, where are you going when all the roads are mapped? In their constant motion, Wyatt/Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are seeking unmapped territory, but the only unmapped territory is within. By refusing to settle in one place, by being nomads, they are refusing the predetermined categories of social role and occupation.
Freedom has been synonymous with freedom of the open road since before this country was founded: freedom to wander around in space, to break free of the boundaries of town, city, job, habits, and self, and simply go, to wander in space and see what and who you might find. The hippies in Easy Rider are icons now, and were icons then. But they’re on a journey much older than hippies – the Beats, too, had their road, the hobos theirs, the frontiersmen and pioneers their roads, stolen from and grafted on top of the Native Americans’ trajectories in space.
FIVE EASY PIECES
By Peggy Nelson
Five Easy Pieces – 1970 – dir. Bob Rafelson
In Five Easy Pieces (dir. Bob Rafaelson, 1970) Robert Eroica Dupea, played by a young-ish Jack Nicholson, has “dropped out” by dropping down a couple of levels in the class structure. Frustrated by the constraints of a serious classical music career, when we first meet him he is working on an oil rig, hanging out with his working class buddies at the bowling alley, and dating a diner waitress (Karen Black), in a thorough rejection of his upper class background and ideals.