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Teen Road Movies:
The 1950s was the decade when the Interstate Highway system was developed, linking most of America together, and when the automobile became a symbol of freedom and rebellion for many Americans. One of the most influential aspects of Beat culture was the wanderlust that led many beats to live rootless lives. Traveling the roads of America became a part beat culture -- numerous films and television shows exploited this and revolved their plots around road trips and traveling. 

The 1960 CBS series Route ’66 adapted its plot from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, a book that chronicled a series of cross-country trips Kerouac and a friend took. Route ’66 was about two young men traveling the country, in search of a place where they fit -- a kind of niche for themselves. These men had beat-like characteristics and mannerisms, and made references to distinct aspects of beat culture. But what made their personalities truly beat was their general feelings of restlessness and dissatisfaction of mainstream society that led them to travel in the first place.

Movie poster for Easy Rider

On par with Route ’66, the 1969 film Easy Rider also captures the restlessness and wanderlust associated with the Beat Generation. This film was about two hippies and their journey across the roads of America. Their immediate purpose is to reach the Mardis Gras in New Orleans to complete a drug deal, but the film suggests that their ultimate goal is to find meaning in life -- to discover the true America.

A more recent film, Road Trip, is in the same genre of road movies, but is more of a teen comedy flick. In this film, a group of guys go on the road to get to one of their girlfriends before she receives a certain sex-filled videotape mistakenly mailed to her. The connections to beat culture can be made by recognizing that the group of boys in Road Trip acted spontaneously when they decided to take their trip. It can also be said that, without the Beat Generation, emphasis on wanderlust in films may not be as popular as it is now.

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Copyright 2000 MikeHarpring.