Taxi Driver: When Doing The Right Thing Was Wrong.

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I won’t lie, I’m feeling a little uneasy about uploading this latest analysis. Why, you might ask? Well, anytime you discuss something that’s dark or unpleasant, you tend to get negative back-lash, and if there are any two words in the English language that perfectly summarize Taxi Driver, the classic psychological thriller starring Robert De Niro, they are “dark” and “unpleasant.” The movie explores some of the most unflattering aspects of American society–racism, gun violence, drug abuse, child prostitution and pornography to name a few–in great detail. When it hit the theaters in 1976, it sickened audiences with its graphic depictions of violence, and then in 1981 became a lightning rod for controversy when John Hinckley Junior cited it as his inspiration for shooting President Reagan. But the truth is, I’m nervous about uploading this analysis for more reasons than simply the unpleasant nature of the film’s content. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m not the sort to shy away from controversial subjects. What truly gives me pause about uploading this analysis is the fact that the film I’m discussing is so well known, and has been analyzed by so many people, that I’m afraid that if someoneĀ  reads it, he or she will either say, “I’ve heard all this before,” or “No! This guy’s got it all wrong!” See, we like to say that there’s no such thing as an incorrect interpretation when it comes to works of art, but that’s not true. If, for example, one knows what the artist’s intentions were when he or she produced the piece, then one might be able to say that one knows the true meaning of the work. Similarly, works that have been around for a long time tend to acquire “correct interpretations” and “accepted meanings.” For example, The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be F Scott Fitzgerald’s literary condemnation of the selfish, hedonistic and ostentatious lifestyle practiced by the newly rich during the Jazz Age. If, however, someone were to assert that Gatsby was also a commentary on the racism, xenophobia and anti-semitism present in America during the ’20s–citing the character Tom’s reading of The Rise of the Colored Empires and the inclusion of a Jewish gambler, Wolfshime, as his or her proof–that individual would likely be met with laughter or incredulously arched eyebrows. Similarly, Taxi Driver has some widely accepted interpretations, particularly surrounding the protagonist, Travis, and it is these widely accepted readings that I will be challenging today. See, I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I think I might finally have found out who this character is. I’ll probably get crucified by other film critics, but I don’t care. Taxi Driver is an incredibly important film to me, as it is to a lot of people, and I feel like if I didn’t share ALL my thoughts on it, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a true admirer. So, keeping all that in mind, let’s begin this dissection of the delightful, the despicable, and the dangerous, Taxi Driver. Continue reading