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Celebrating the Life

[Longhorn Review] Why Motorcyclists are dangerous

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: 1950s, brando, counter culture, Motorcycle — Posted on November 30, 2010, 3:31 pm

By: Laslo Benedek

Laslo Benedek’s The Wild One set the stage for rebel films and the motorcycle
culture that has been projected throughout history. It is the first movie of its
kind, based on real events, and even claims in the opening credits that “it is a
public challenge not to let it happen again.” The challenge may egg on rebels more
but also sets the stage for the heavy stigma and intolerance of biker gangs. Without
this opening statement the film is actually geared for sympathy with the individuals
in the motorcycle counter culture.

Johnny, played by Marlon Brando, leads a gang of
bikers to a motorcycle race where they bombard the scene, simply to display their
general attitude of anti-authoritarianism, crossing the track as a critical mass,
regardless of motorcycles racing, and taking over the pit lane with their bikes. One
of the gang-members snags a trophy for Johnny, and it becomes a symbol of power that
he holds with a loose yet meaningful grip.

The gang rolls on to a small town where
they find themselves to be a dominant force over a compassionate deputy. Here the
wild biker ethos takes off, drag racing for beer and doing stunts like donuts and
wheelies while the town’s people stare in awe. The owner of Bleeker’s Café and bar
gladly brings them in knowing they want to drink, but everyone else seems slightly
taken aback. The personal feel of the bar is a great place for the rebel character
to be displayed in conversation and action. When Johnny walks into the café alone
there are stools orderly lined up and he pokes each one swiveling them to chaos for
no reason. He asks for a beer on the café side needs to go to the bar to get it, and
brings it right back; a blatant breaking of norms. The boys mess with the old bar
tender for their own entertainment with young slang and gibberish.

The plot thickens
when a rival group shows up and there is a somewhat friendly brawl between the
leaders. They display aggression even toward those they are amiable with. The deputy
starts to put his foot down after this. At this point the Biker ethos is displayed
simply as, rule breakers, thieves, womanizers, and promoters of chaos and violence.
Late in the night these themes are pushed to extremes and it turns into quite an
episode.

I cannot be sure if the films purpose is to idolize and promote the biker
culture (regardless of its consequences throughout), promote harsh treatment to
bikers, or reach an understanding of both groups and live with tolerance of
lifestyles. These are questions it seems the writer wants to ask the viewer as he
sets the stage for public awareness and opinion of the motorcycle counter
culture.

Reviewer: Martín La Rocca

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