The Life and Death of the Hippie: A Dance with the Devil and the Media

By Sarah E. Forman
2016, Vol. 8 No. 02 | pg. 2/2 |

The hippie ideal was a loving, passionate and serious one, but as a community they lacked the structural foundation that enables societies to function for extended periods of time. The Diggers, a group that prepared and distributed food to people who were hungry, namely hippies, were no longer seen in Haight-Ashbury or Golden Gate Park.24 Howard quotes one of the Diggers as saying,

Well, man, it took a lot of organization to get that done. We had to scuffle to get food. Then the chicks or somebody had to prepare it. Then we got to serve it. A lot of people got to do a lot of things at the right time or it doesn’t come off. Well, it got so that people weren’t doing it. I mean a cat wouldn’t let us have his truck when we needed it or some chick is grooving somewhere and can’t help out. Now you hate to get into a bag and start telling people what to do but without that, man, well.25

What made the hippie “movement” such a wonderful one was exactly what made it unsustainable. Without the structure and commitment of the “straight” world, these free-loving spirits were free to choose not to participate. Howard says himself,

The hippies assumed that volunteerism…was compatible with satisfying essential group and individual needs and with the maintenance of a social system…[26]

which proved not to be true. Thus, the hippie lifestyle began to fall apart.

The marketing and “re-packaging”27 of the festival experience brought an influx of “plastic hippies,”28 and the corporatization of the music destroyed another important aspect of the hippie . “The musicians were bought off,”29 and the music industry’s actions, “ma(de) the counterculture accessible to anyone willing to grow his hair long and take drugs.”30 The hippie had become a national commodity, and understandably so.

The hippie had become a national commodity, and understandably so.

The emphasis on music, love and drugs was nothing short of sellable, and businesses began to capitalize on their image. Hundred dollar leather jackets and pants could be bought in Haight-Ashbury, and paraphernalia such as love beads and “Benjamin Franklin glasses” were easily accessible, and popular. 31

In 1971, a classified ad was placed in the Oklahoma Daily: for $10 an hour, you could rent a hippie, “add(ing) that little aesthetic flavor”32 to your party or event. The hippie image was successfully used in advertisements, and much like the music industry, repackaged and sold to the masses33. Hippiedom no longer represented a “shift in consciousness” but had become “merely a change in superficial values,” “more a matter of fashion than a statement of any revolutionary attitudes.”34

Hippiedom no longer represented a “shift in consciousness” but had become “merely a change in superficial values,” “more a matter of fashion than a statement of any revolutionary attitudes.”

The definitive moment that marked the death of the hippie was a televised funeral held in Golden Gate Park. In a glorious spectacle of flowers, furs, beads and orange peels, the 15-foot coffin for the “Summer of Love” was set aflame, met by cries proclaiming, “Hippies are dead: now the Free Men will come through!”36 The procession included a “hirsute ‘corpse’” with a zinna upon its chest, a “symbol of the death of the flower children.”37 Literally and figuratively, the televised funeral for the “Summer of Love” marked the death of the hippie and the hippie ideology: a counter-culture that fought to escape consumerism and mass media.

Though the media was not solely responsible for the life and death of the hippie “movement,” the active role it played is unquestionable. Through , magazine publications like TIME, other forms of literature and changes made by the music industry, these media were crucial in the commoditization and structural changes of the hippie “movement,” accelerating the decline of an unsustainable counter-culture. Only through the power of hindsight can we realize the greater impact of the media on our lives, as an active voice in public opinion, and as an instigator of social change.


References

Ann Charters, The Portable Beat Reader (Penguin Classics, 1992), 62.

Anthony Ashbolt, “Go Ask Alice: Remembering the Summer of Love Forty Years On,” Australasian Journal of American Studies, 26 (2007): http://www.jstor.org/stable/41054075

Fred Davis and Laura Munoz, “Heads and Freaks: Patterns and Meanings of Drug Use Among Hippies,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 9 (1968) http://www.jstor.org/stable/2948334.

“Hippies: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Time Magazine, October 13, 1967.

Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics, 1957).

John Robert Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 438 (1969): http://www.jstor.org/stable/1037113.

“San Francisco: Wilting Flowers,” TIME Magazine, May 10, 1968.

“The Nation: Rent A Hippie,” Time Magazine, April 5, 1971.

Timothy Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” Time Magazine, February 22, 1971.

Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1968) 43-55.

“Youth: The Hippies,” TIME Magazine, July 7, 1967.


Endnotes

I I chose to include substantial information about Beat culture because not only do I think it is important to establish the origins of the hippie ideology, I also think it crucial to understand that at the heart of the hippie movement was a rejection of consumerism and mass media. From its seedling in the Beats, through to the “Summer of Love” this idea of a mass culture was what drove the movement into and out of existence. It truly emphasizes that even in an open rejection of the media, it is such an integral part of the world we live in, that its effects are inescapable.

II Though On The Road: The Original Scroll is not directly cited in the paper, reading the novel helped me to understand the “experience” ideology of the Beat generation and this concept of wanderlust, aiding in my understanding of the hippie ideal and its origins. This need to travel instilled by the Beats, is partially what I believe helped to bring people from New York to San Francisco, increasingly the size of the hippie culture in northern California.

1.) In Howard’s 1969 journal article, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” he discusses what he believes to be the etymology of the name “hippie” as deriving from the Beat “hipster” which though it had multiple definitions, meant someone who is familiar with the beat scene, rejects “straight” society and participates in drug use, alcohol consumption and casual sex. TIME previously agrees with this etymology in “Youth: The Hippies”(1967).

2.) Ashbolt, ‘”GO ASK ALICE’: Remembering the Summer of Love Forty Years On,” 36.

3.) Charters, The Portable Beat Reader, 62.

4.) A group of people known for preparing and distributing food, providing shelter and other resources for hippies in Golden Gate Park, Berkeley, Los Angeles, The West Village and Boston (“Youth: The Hippies,” TIME Magazine, July 7, 1967,10).

5.) Ashbolt, “‘GO ASK ALICE’: Remembering the Summer of Love Forty Years On,” 36.

6.) Ashbolt, ‘”Go Ask Alice: Remembering the Summer of Love Forty Years On,” 36.

7.) Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” 45.

8.) Howard notes on page 45 that the anti-intellectualism of the hippie thinking prevented them from ever explicitly stating or coming up with an official social outlook, such as one that would be given at a press release, hence, part of the reason for the discrepancies on how to characterize and explain the “movement.” However, after extensive primary and secondary research, from a sociological standpoint, I would agree that Howard accurately articulates the hippie mantra in an unbiased manner.

9.) Although the TIME Magazine digital archives give access to the articles as they appeared in their original print, many of the editions do not give the names of individual authors. When referencing those articles, I will do so via the publication, TIME. When citing the page number is not with regards to the original page numbers in the published magazine, but to the digital copy of the article.

10.) The article, “Youth: The Hippies,” was published on July 7th, 1967, and was featured as the cover story in their first in-depth address of the social “movement.”

11.) “Youth: The Hippies,” TIME Magazine, July 7, 1967, 1.

12.) By “awesome,” I mean awe-inspiring, not the slang term.

13.) “Youth: The Hippies,” TIME Magazine, July 7, 1967, 2.

14.) Distort comes from the Latin roots dis- “completely” and torquere – “to twist,” literally, “completely twisted.” (“https://www.etymonline.com).

15.) With the influx of people to Haight-Ashbury, and the increase in demand for LSD and marijuana, people began to sell fake versions of both, eventually leading to the use of harder, more addictive drugs, like speed and heroine (Howard “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement”). (Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971).

16.) Although TIME gives the name of the author, Timothy Tyler, for consistency I will continue to refer to the voice of the text as TIME, the publication, and not the author.

17.) Published October 13, 1967.

18.) Published May 10, 1968.

19.) Also known as “speed.”

20.) Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971).

21.) “ Youth: The Hippies,” TIME Magazine, July 7, 1967, 8.

22.) A nickname for Haight-Ashbury that has arisen in multiple texts, including TIME.

23.) Meaning, fake acid. (Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” 49).

24.) The Diggers begged for the food that they distributed to help perpetuate the ant-consumerist ideal that was central to the hippie ideology. (Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” 46).

25.) Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” 47.

26.) Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement,” 47.

27.) The direct quote from John Sinclair, chairman of the White Panther Party, was “The music was adulterated and repackaged and sold to us like hamburgers,” when speaking of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. (Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971).

28.) Howard identifies the hippie in 4 categories, the “plastic hippie” being one who sees the movement merely in terms of style, drug use and music. It lacks the spiritual undertones essential to the hippie ideal and is indicative of mass culture’s role in the transition from a “movement” to a “fad.” (50).

29.) John Sinclair, (Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971).

30.) (Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971).

31.) Howard notes that the price people would pay for such a clothing item would cost more than a Brooks Brothers suit at the time. (Howard, “The Flowering of the Hippie Movement”).

32.) “The Nation: Rent A Hippie,” TIME Magazine, April 5, 1971.

33.) On page 46, Howard quotes author Paul Goodman, “a favored writer among the young estranged,” on advertising, “What I want to call to attention in this advertising is… the human problem that these are human beings working as clowns; and the writers and designers of it are human beings thinking like idiots…”

34.) Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971.

35.) Tyler, “The Cooling of America: Out of Tune and Lost in the Counterculture,” TIME Magazine, February 22, 1971.

36.) “Hippies: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” TIME Magazine, October 13, 1967.

37.) “Hippies: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” TIME Magazine, October 13, 1967.

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