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The Paradox of Freedom Part 2.

Freedom, Commerce, and Identity in 'Easy Rider': An Analysis


'Easy Rider' is a 1969 road drama film, directed by Dennis Hopper, co-written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, and produced by Peter Fonda. The movie became a symbol of counterculture, revealing a generational rift in America. The film is renowned for its exploration of the themes of freedom, self-discovery, and the pursuit of the American Dream. One phrase from the movie, in particular, provides a poignant commentary on the concept of freedom, commerce, and identity: "This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it… You know, this used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it. Man, everybody got chicken, that's what happened. Hey, you know, we can't even get into like, a second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel, you dig? They think we're gonna cut their throat or something. They're scared, man. They're scared of freedom, man. Yeah, they're scared of freedom… Of freedom. You know, that's it. That's what it's all about. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs haircut. Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom. What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about. Oh yeah, that's right. That's what it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it, that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace."

Commercialism and Freedom

The phrase "It's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace" succinctly captures the paradox that has evolved around the American Dream and freedom. It implies that freedom is a commodity, exchanged and capitalized upon in the capitalist marketplace. The protagonists of 'Easy Rider', Billy and Wyatt, struggle against the commodification of their freedom. The movie uses this concept to suggest a deep-seated irony that in a country which prides itself on individual freedom and pursuit of happiness, people are still caught within the constraints of the marketplace, unable to fully realize their potential.

Identity and Fear

'Easy Rider' presents its characters as embodiments of a kind of freedom the mainstream society perceives as threatening. The protagonists are seen as outcasts, ostracized because of their unorthodox lifestyle and the fear it instills in others. This fear is a significant barrier to their freedom, showing that even though they have chosen to live outside the constraints of society, they are still affected by its norms and expectations. The societal fear of freedom reflects an unwillingness to accept deviations from the conventional lifestyle, reinforcing a system that compromises individual freedom.


In 'Easy Rider', the phrase about free men being bought and sold in the marketplace is a pivotal commentary on the paradox of freedom in a capitalist society. It explores the constraints imposed on individuals, even in a society that extols the virtues of freedom. The film uses this to challenge the viewer's understanding of the American Dream and prompts a more critical examination of how society operates and how individuals can truly achieve freedom.

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