Friday, December 3, 2010

We can only march to the beat of our own drum if we listen for it

Well, I'm back. It's been a number of days since I've updated this blog. I'll blame it upon the Thanksgiving break and its interruption to our schedule. I pray all of you out there enjoyed a safe and pleasant Thanksgiving and spent it with those whom you love.

I'm concerned about the image of cycling in the United States. This concern is prompted by a movie I recently watched. In The 40 Year Old Virgin,

the protagonist,  for whom the title is derived, is ridiculed by his co-workers for riding his bike. If the protagonist wishes to forever altar his status as a virgin, i.e. engage in sexual intercourse, his friends inform him, he must do a few things differently; like improve his wardrobe, eliminate his chest hair, and stop riding his bike. He defends his choice by pointing out that lots of people ride their bikes. His detractors respond sarcastically with, "Yeah, when they're six!"

The point we as viewers are to infer, and the awkward protagonist infers, is that cycling, riding a bike, is a recreational activity and a mode of transportation reserved for children. If you wish to be "cool" and enter into adulthood, you must abandon the childish affinity for bikes and get a vehicle.

I wonder how many "popular" viewers who identify more with the protagonists' "hip" co-workers, than with the individualized protagonist, are reinforced in their view of the bicycle as a toy. In this film, Hollywood celebrates conformity; not only in the aspect of cycling. However, since this is The Midwest Bicycle Commuter, I'm focusing on this issue alone.

I thought the movie was pretty entertaining. I get their humor. And, as with all comedians and works of comedy, eventually they will choose something dear to you as a target, and your feelings will get hurt. Well, I'm a big boy (physiologically), and I can take it (sob). However, I'd like for cycling to enjoy a better reputation than that. I would like for the perception of cycling to change in the public's eye.

It's probably easier and popular to engage in promiscuous sex, than to remain a virgin. It's probably easier and popular to simply buy a car and drive it where you need to go. It's an act of will power and individualism to stay true to yourself and continue on collecting childhood toys, just because you want to. It's an act of will power and individualism to choose to ride your bike to work, and to places you need to go.

Unfortunately, simple little comedic moments like that one, full of sarcasm, will be the sum total of research and opinion a great number of viewers will conduct upon commuting by bicycle. It's a shame how such a small scene can continue the negative perception bicycles and riders alike suffer. I know it's not reality, it's Hollywood. However, the great masses of sheep who identify themselves with Hollywood, and subscribe to their conformity message, yet bleat about their desire to be an individual, will use this one minor scene to reinforce and  rationalize their decision to marginalize and discount bicycles and bicycle riders.

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I welcome your positive, relevant comments and questions. Also, I welcome the opportunity to form a network of like minded individuals by sharing information, links, etc.