[miptheme_quote author=”Scoutingnyc.com” style=”text-left”]The character of Travis Bickle is utterly co-dependent with the New York of 1976, a spawn of all that New York had become at the time. Without the tough, dangerous, smut-filled, immoral, seedy, dank, sweaty, filthy, gritty streets of that world, Bickle could not exist[/miptheme_quote]
If there was any personification of fatherlessness it would be Travis Bickle, the city-slicking whacko, prototype amok runner and main character of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
Lacking any sense of direction as a recent war returnee from Vietnam – you can tell that by the “King Kong Brigade” patch on his jacket – Travis drifts away in a downward spiral of pornography addiction, passive-aggressiveness and pedestalizing women. Once he gets to see that all authority figures, or rather those people he takes for authority figures, are corrupted to no end he decides to take action which in his case means: being that one rain which, as he puts it, will ‘wipe the scum off the streets’.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Credit: Columbia Pictures
…New York City must have been quite rough around the edges.
It is “pimps, pushers and prostitutes” that make up for a daily sight in the life of Travis Bickle working his nightshift as a NYC taxi cab driver.
Life in the mean streets
Living with a steady lack of perspective as a left-behind vet (the movies does not openly mention he is one) Travis does carry values, which turns out to become his ‘problem’: was he to put away with them he could just look for his ‘niche’ in the then seedy streets of New York City. Yet he refuses, making him a very unique version of an Anti-Hero as Martin Scorsese once put it.
Had he been living in continental Europe, Travis would most likely have joined a right-winger’s movement or any other organisation promising to go down hard on petty crime, moral indecency and so forth, finding a sense of belonging by dissolving himself into a mass movement. But as this is America, Travis does it the individual way.
Seeing the deadly shoot-out at the end of the movie as the culmination of tragedy in Taxi Driver falls short.
Even though it can be argued that the blood-loaded ending was not caused by a unfortunate series of outside-induced events, but in reality was the subconscious agenda of a self-sabotaging character, as screenwriter Paul Schrader has pointed out – and indeed, the aspect of self-sabotage seems to be in full bloom when Travis on the one hand does have the courage to cold-approach the office clerk and get her out on a date, but then on the other hand, almost knowingly, ruins everything by taking her to a porn cinema – the real tragedy in Taxi Driver takes place elsewhere.
The most painful scene in the movie is actually when Travis turns to one of his fellow cab drivers for help. Telling him with Mr De Niros unique and semi-psycho sparkle in his eyes that he has “some really bad ideas” inside his head Travis gets a generic rambling about life’s hardship as a response, basically telling him to suck it up and move on. Travis is not disappointed or appalled by the weakness of his colleague whom he had looked up to in the past, but tells it how it is: “This must be about thedumbest thing I ever heard”.
What is missing here is the strength to bear, accept and discuss whatever bad thing your nearest wants to get off his chest. Had Travis’ colleague had that strength, had he looked looked him in the eye and told him to tell it all thus providing for an accepting and non-shaming surrounding it is obvious that Travis would have never ‘exploded’.
Moral of the story:
From here it is only a stone’s throw to the subtle signals actual men in real life send out when their thoughts – or even: plans – are wandering around topics that are just to shaming to express. The best way of social hygiene is to become more sensitive to these signals and develop the ability to pick them up, take them seriously and work them out, instead of telling your friend who how “everybody feels down some time” next time he tries to tell you something that he cannot really put into words.