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The first few minutes of the film, Easy Rider, serve as an introduction to 60’s hippie culture as it was at its very core. When we first meet the film’s two protagonists, Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt (Peter Fonda), they’re making a drug deal for a few kilos of cocaine which they then promptly turn around and sell for profit. Soon after, as they prepare to take their new found nest egg and hit the open road, Wyatt takes one last look at his watch, takes it off and throws it into the dirt. This symbolic disregard for time and structure is representative of the mindset of a whole generation of young Americans, and one of Easy Rider’s defining moments.
Easy Rider is, more than anything else, a film about freedom. It seems that young Americans had spent a few years trying to achieve freedom at any cost and now, as ‘67’s summer of love was fading into memory, many were wondering exactly what it meant to be free and if it were even possible to ever attain true freedom. These are the same questions asked by Easy Rider, posed by characters who each in their own way are representative of one part of the youth culture. Peter Fonda’s character, Wyatt, is the introspective seeker who still believes that freedom is attainable and that the future as a whole can still be bright. Billy, played by Dennis Hopper, is a little more jaded, a little more cynical and, to quote Jim Morrison, just wants to “get his kicks before the whole shit house goes up in flames”. Jack Nicholson’s, George, is the conflicted college boy, who knows what he’s supposed to think, but can’t shake the nagging feeling that everything he’s been taught is a load of crap. As a result of their angst, these three sensitive souls feed (or self-medicate) their brains with marijuana, hallucinogens, and alcohol, as they ponder the questions of life.