Hippies working for The Man
This week, George Clooney comedy 'The Men who Stare at Goats' illustrates how the influence of the hippy movement spread into all areas of human endeavour, including the US military. We look back at six memorable onscreen heroes who fought the system from within, struggling towards universal love 'n' peace in the service of The Man...
Kelly's Heroes (1970)The movie ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ serves up a supreme example of Beatnik Blitzkrieg as a freaky-deaky cast of acid-fried crazies half-track their way through Europe in search of nothing more than shits, giggles and Nazi gold.The Man There hardly exists a corporation more unwieldy and authoritarian in its attitude toward spiritual growth and personal gain than the US Army. The message Clint Eastwood’s Kelly looks like he’s spent the majority of the war in the hairdresser, Telly Savalas acts like a guy nursing a major hangover and Donald Sutherland’s ‘Oddball’ is constantly complaining about the ‘negative waves’ that the greatest conflict of the twentieth century has instilled in his fellow grunts. All of this plus the most inappropriately jaunty theme song of all time – ‘Burning Bridges’ by the Mike Curb Congregation – make for a timeless document of intransigence, greed and idiocy that will hopefully make The Man think long and hard about starting World War Three.
The Lord of the Rings (2000-2003)The movie Rustic short-arses save the world.The Man Okay, so he’s not exactly working for any specific ‘Man’ (except possibly the Big Man in the Sky), but let’s check the facts regarding self-styled ‘wandering wizard’ Gandalf. Long hair, even longer beard, wears a dress, no fixed abode, mysterious background (probably in ‘the arts’), hangs out with circus folk, smokes mysterious ‘pipe weed’, resists authority, fears modernization, investigates conspiracy theories, carries a stick, talks to trees, eagles, horses and moths… the list goes on. His death-and-resurrection sequence is a mini acid trip all on it’s own, not to mention those nutso fireworks. The message Never, ever mess with Ian McKellen. Oh, and, if possible, love one another.
Serpico (1973)The movie: Decked out like a West Coast rock god/Guatemalan bean farmer, NYPD cop Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) is happy to be getting on with precisely what The Man has charged him with doing, namely protecting and serving the good burghers of Brooklyn.
The Man Serpico’s straight-arrow approach to law enforcement doesn’t sit well with his fellow flatfoots, who are all as bent as a sack of corkscrews. The message The Man, ultimately, could care less about such niceties as ethical conduct or doing a good job; keeping your head down and going with the flow are the orders of the day. But our Frank just ain’t down with those orders.
Goin' South (1978)The movie In this garrulous, self-directed comedy Western, Jack Nicholson finds himself sentenced to work not for The Man, but The Woman after being saved from the gallows by a Civil War ordinance declaring that a man sentenced to hang for anything short of murder can be claimed for a husband by any single woman.
The (wo)Man The spinster in question is hard-faced Mormon Mary Steenburgen, who is dead set on righting Jack’s wrongs, ironing out his innate rambunctiousness and working him into the ground. Wolfman Jack, however, is cut from far funkier cloth…The message Marry at gunpoint, repent at leisure.
Silent Running (1972)The movie Bruce Dern’s oh-so-subtly monickered ’70s spaceman Freeman Lowell – the last ecologist left in a dying solar system – drifts into the dark armed only with a trio of increasingly anthropomorphic robots and a seemingly endless supply of Joan Baez tapes.The Man The bigwigs back on Earth, who unilaterally decide to cut funding for Lowell's eco-crusade. But when his Biodome forest begins to wither, Freeman freaks out Major Tom style, jettisons the payload and blows himself to kingdom come. Take that, corporate fascists!The message Just proves that, from ‘Forbidden Planet’s ominous space cadet Dr. Morbius through Zaphod Beeblebrox and Obi-Wan Kenobi right up to techno-tree-hugger ‘Wall-E’, hippies have a pretty solid track record when it comes to colonising the outer limits.
The Electric Horseman (1979)The movie Director Sidney Pollack’s sly iconoclasm meets Robert Redford’s gauche liberalism in a bizarre confection that nobody would think to invent if it didn’t already exist. It sees broke-ass rodeo has-been Redford journeying from eight-second hero to Vegas stooge.
The Man The mysterious and all powerful AMPCO corporation and their ultra-generic down-home cereal Ranch Breakfast – which has more than a whiff of the 'Soylent Green's about it.The message Subtly photographed by Owen Roizman and featuring some fine, mournful songs from Willie Nelson, the movie is actually a staggeringly heavy-handed metaphor for self-actualisation, hippy-dippery and god knows what else. Despite the films many and obvious shortcomings, it remains such sterling entertainment that not even the intrusion of Jane Fonda can keep it out of the winner’s paddock.
Che (2008)The movie(s) That guy from those posters gets jungle fever fighting colonial forces in sunny South America.The Man Freaky Fidel Castro thinks he’s The Man, but lurking in the background are the true architects of this popular revolution: spoiler alert, it’s those dratted commies again.
The message Man’s most righteous dreams of liberty and equality are inevitably corrupted by power and greed. Also, jungles are a bit boring.
Author: Adam Lee Davies & Tom Huddleston
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