When it comes to depictions of the female motorcyclist in cinema, there's usually two options: either the portrait of a female biker as the tag-along with her arms wrapped around the alpha male who's actually holding the reigns, or alternatively the female biker gang as sex-crazed succubi hellbent on annihilating all men who stand in their way (with titles like She-Devils on Wheels, Naked Angels and The Mini-Skirt Mob). Which is to say, there hasn't been much room in the pop culture discourse for honest portrayals of a lifestyle choice made by women the world over to whom riding is a non-gendered form of empowerment, knowing no thrill greater than the wind in their face and miles to ride ahead of them. Documentarian Michelle Bauer Carpenter aims to remedy that with her short film Driven to Ride (airing @ 10 p.m. on MPTV Saturday, March 15), an informative and entertaining look at some of the personalities involved in modern female motorcycling.
Carpenter does an admirable job tracing the historical antecedents for female riding, showing that ever since we've discovered the thrill of two-wheel driving, strong women have been there embracing the freedom inherent in the ride. From there, she introduces to a wide array of women whose personalities are as different as the bikes they've chosen to blaze a path with – from the outspoken Harley-riding Masyn Moyer and Betsy Huelskamp to the off-roading and long-distance traversing BMW owners Janice Ferrante and Debra Conroy, the film shows that while these riders may take divergent paths once seated on their rides of choice they're all united through their love of the open road.
It's a tribute to the work Carpenter does here that I found myself wishing we got to spend more time around these personalities getting to know the stories they've accumulated over the years – Erin Doherty-Ratay's harrowing retelling of a brief run-in with an inattentive truck driver is vivid and horrifying and I'm certain there were plenty of likewise fascinating or off-color stories that found their way to the cutting room floor. Whether you're a Harley enthusiast or motorcycle-averse documentary enthusiast (I'll leave it to you to determine which side of the spectrum I fall in there), Driven to Ride provides an all-too-brief glimpse into a free-wheeling lifestyle that knows no gender bounds.