Roger Ebert calls Easy Rider one of the “rallying-points of the 1960s” but, like S&H Green Stamps and go go boots, seen through today’s eyes it seems a bit dated. The stoner dialogue is littered with hippie axioms—an intense and very drunken drinking game could be played by taking a swig every time Hopper says “man”—but one enigmatic three word sentence in particular still resonates forty years later.
Following the film’s Mardi Gras / LSD sequence Billy (Hopper) and Wyatt (Fonda) hit the road, continuing their trip (double entendre intended) to Florida.
“We did it, man. We did it, we did it. We’re rich, man,” says Billy, referring to the drug money hidden inside the Stars & Stripes- festooned fuel tank of Wyatt’s Hydra-Glide chopper. “We’re retirin’ in Florida now, mister.”
Instead of reveling in the moment Wyatt answers cryptically, “You know Billy. We blew it.”
The meaning of the line has been the source of great debate. Some critics felt it was a comment on the futility of their life on the road; that Wyatt feels by leaving the commune he’s blown his chance at happiness. Others suggest the “it” represents everything from the American Dream, to the failure of the Woodstock Nation to really change the world, to freedom and self discovery.
Hopper has a simpler, more straightforward explanation. He claims the line refers to the corrupting power of their stashed drug money, how it stripped away some of their innocence.
“When Peter says, ‘We blew it’, he’s talking about easy money, that we should have used our energies to make it.”
Fonda is more tight-lipped on the meaning. He wants each viewer to bring their own perception to the line, but in 2010 he told The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell, “Is it still relevant? Look out the window and tell me that we haven’t blown it.
“We’re at war about religion (in Iraq and Afghanistan). We kill each other for racial and bigoted reasons, too, and sometimes just because we’re in the wrong gang. We do all these things today and we do them with much more gusto than we did in 1968 when we made that film.”