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The Bicycle As Metaphor In twentieth Century American Cinema And Shit – Bike Snob NYC


Clearly all people is aware of the 1988 movie “Humorous Farm,” probably the most revered and iconic cinematographic works of the twentieth century:

However do you know the man who directed it additionally directed one other obscure movie referred to as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Child?” Properly, it’s true. It was launched in 1969, it’s about a few outlaws within the Wild West, and it stars that man from the salad dressing:

And likewise that different man from the GIF:

So what does a campy Western flick that includes two B-list actors who by no means actually amounted to something must do with bikes? Properly, as you recognize, no person has written as extensively or as insightfully as I’ve with regards to biking and cinema:

And in watching this Hopalong Cassidy factor over the weekend I famous that the filmmaker employs the bicycle as an emblem to nice and profound impact–and he does so virtually as adeptly as he makes use of a taxidermy squirrel as a poignant metaphor for Chevy Chase’s insecurity and concern of failure in his masterpiece “Humorous Farm:”

So I figured what might be extra related than an in-depth evaluation of the bicycle-as-symbol on this 54 year-old movie?

The bicycle makes its first look because the sheriff makes an attempt to spherical up a posse to search out Salad Dressing Man and GIF Man, just for a bicycle-peddling (pun supposed) huckster to hijack the proceedings:

I apologize for the poor high quality of the clip, however the film is so obscure I couldn’t even discover this scene on the YouTubes, so I used to be pressured to report it off my laptop with my cellphone:

Whereas this is likely to be construed as piracy, I’ve consulted with my authorized staff they usually guarantee me that as I’m utilizing it for the needs of cultural criticism I preserve it falls beneath the doctrine of honest use. So in your face.

Anyway, the huckster declares the bicycle to be “the longer term mode of transportation for this weary western world,” and intimates that it’ll “change your life for the higher.” He even goes as far as to declare the horse “lifeless”–an audacious proclamation certainly once we contemplate that on the time within the standard creativeness the horse is the very embodiment of the American West, if not America itself:

So what are we to make of this in a movie that got here out in 1969, the yr well-known for countercultural touchstones similar to “Straightforward Rider,” the Woodstock music pageant, and naturally the debut of the wildly subversive “Brady Bunch” tv sequence?

[Feminist icon Alice the Housekeeper galvanized the American working class during this tumultuous era.]

Properly, contemplate that the sheriff (who represents the institution) is making an attempt to rally the individuals (who signify the American public) to seize and tame Salad and GIF (who signify freedom). Nevertheless, the persons are shallow, fickle, and distracted, and so the huckster (who represents the American id) is ready to simply steal their consideration with the bicycle–which in fact represents consumerism, fatuousness, and frivolity.

Nevertheless, what makes a movie really compelling is when the filmmaker challenges our assumptions, eschews simple solutions, and undermines our most deeply-held convictions. Take into account for instance the highly effective scene in “Humorous Farm” when Chevy Chase is delighting in a hearty repast, solely to find that he’s consuming lamb testicles:

Hilarious.

Not solely does it flip the trope of the city sophisticate and the agricultural rube on its head, however it additionally cuts to the very essence of the human situation, and the helplessness we really feel when circumstances rob us of our defenses and the superficial trappings of our successes and we discover ourselves laid naked and on the mercy of others and our surroundings.

Equally, simply as we’re about to dismiss the bicycle as mere whimsy, it reappears as an emblem of not solely freedom, but in addition of affection:

In surrendering to this pleasant sequence a viewer in 1969 would have needed to grapple with the concept that maybe the horse is lifeless, and in forcing us to confront this prospect the filmmakers successfully undermine your entire Western filmic oeuvre–the bicycle usurps the horse! Not solely that, however in 2023 we are able to additionally marvel at the truth that this movie not solely predicted the gravel craze but in addition prefigured progressive mountain bike geometry:

And that’s saying nothing of the supertuck:

Salad Dressing Man seems to be doing a lot of the stunt-riding too, apart from this half the place he goes crashing backwards right into a corral and it’s clearly another person:

Not solely does the stunt rider have darker hair, however he additionally seems to be sporting a moustache, and actually it appears suspiciously like one Tom Ritchey:

After all Tom Ritchey was solely round 13 years previous when this film got here out, so it’s unlikely he did the stunts in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Child,” however there are those that say he was born with that moustache, so we are able to’t rule it out solely.

Furthermore, after crashing by means of the fence, Thousand Island Dressing finds himself face-to-face with an offended bull, which solely a whole fool wouldn’t instantly notice is a metaphor for American automobile dependence and the Automotive Industrial Complicated:

Puckishly, Dressing Man taunts it:

Although he’s pressured to flee, and in so doing executes an impressively easy cyclocross bike portage, other than the truth that he’s on the incorrect aspect of the bike:

And whereas the bicycle helmet had not but been invented when the movie is meant to happen, we are able to safely assume that riders of the day would have benefitted from the protecting properties of their derby hats, or elaborate millinery designs within the case of the women:

By this level nothing lower than the hopes and desires of not solely the movie’s unlikely protagonists however all of society are using upon the wheels of this bicycle–till about three-quarters of the way in which by means of the film when he ghost-rides it right into a mud puddle during which it finally ends up mendacity tragically with an anachronistic ticking freewheel sound, a picture as highly effective because the (spoiler alert) lifeless bikers on the finish of “Straightforward Rider:”

The which means of that is clear: “Fuck it, I’m leasing a Hyundai.”

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