Thursday, May 15, 2008


This 2007 TV documentary from the History Channel has many flaws, the greatest of which is allowing overarching, borderline ridiculous right-wing condemnations of hippie culture to remain unchallenged, but still it fascinates as a glimpse at the drug-fueled, youth-driven counterculture of the late 1960s.

Too much time, unfortunately, is wasted on sensationalist, irrelevant side-stories and not enough is spent on the substantive contributions of the hippie aesthetic to the culture at large. There are also a few glaring historical accuracies; for example, one could easily conclude from the film that the Vietnam War ended after 1969 -- which would certainly come as a surprise to the soldiers who served there from 1970-1973.

It's particularly revealing that the original plan was to use Barry Miles' popular coffee table book, Hippie to act as the base for the 90-minute documentary. Miles' book is filled with visual images of hippie culture including the music, fashion and art of the time. But as writer Kleinman says, the History Channel didn't want to focus on a purely positive view of the hippie culture. "I said the big thing was music. They told me the audience wasn't into music. The audience doesn't like hippies very much," said Kleinman.

Hmm... "The audience"? Of whom, exactly, was the History Channel speaking? Is this "the audience" that, even as the film admits, has supported hippie-related music, books, clothing and films for 40+ years now? Or maybe by "the audience" the History Channel means "our right-wing corporate sponsors"? You make the call.

But for all its shortcomings, at least the film, at its end, correctly, if only briefly, touches upon some of the many lasting contributions of the hippie ethos to the culture at large; these include the consciousness movement, the environmental movement, and the computer/technological revolution which led to the democratization of information by the Internet. The History of "Hippies" Discussion Boards: The Hippie Legacy

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