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The August 16 death of actor Peter Fonda comes as a jolt to Baby Boomers, including this one. Most of us will always think of Fonda as the young and vigorous star of the 1969 film Easy Rider.
Perhaps Fonda, dying of lung cancer, willed himself to live long enough to see the golden anniversary of that movie, which earned him an Oscar nomination. Indeed, over the last half-century, Easy Rider has made an epochal transition, from counterculture-ish critique to time-burnished classic.
Movie - Decades - Assumptions - Film - Timeless
And yet to re-watch the movie after five decades is to see some time-specific assumptions that haven’t aged well—making the film more anachronistic than timeless. Such discordancies tell us a lot about how the nation has changed since the film’s release in the United States on July 14, 1969.
For instance, there’s the breezy assumption that drug use, including LSD, is not only a good thing for its mind-expanding (sic) properties but also, crucially, a marker of social superiority. Moreover, the lead characters, played by Fonda and Dennis Hopper, are actual drug dealers, trafficking in cocaine from Mexico. That’s a bit much, to be sure, even for progressives. And come to think of it, today’s audience will also notice that Fonda and Hopper are both white males—they’re not the least bit diverse.
Antique - Assumption - Exaltation - Joy - Road
Another antique assumption is the exaltation of the motorized joy of the open road, as best expressed by the soundtrack’s biker anthem “Born To Be Wild.” In 2019, not everyone agrees that zooming down the highway astride a big hog is a good thing. Can today’s green wokerati even bear to think about the carbon footprint?
Of course, some elements of Easy Rider aren’t so much anachronistic as eternally predictable: it’s a liberal Hollywood movie. Thus we get progressive sermons from a flawed but noble ACLU lawyer, portrayed by Jack Nicholson....
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