In breaking away from my previous posts on Super heroes, I decided to do a short deconstruction on some of the recurring themes and motifs in the cult classic Taxi Driver. Some of Travis Bickle’s behaviour is unusual and recurring, though hardly seems relevant to his story. He frequently visits adult films in theaters, he also seems to follow a habit of becoming obsessed with blonde women. Another thing is that he seems to have no outside interests, aside from two women in particular and wiping the “scum” from the streets.
Throughout the film we see that Bickle is very socially awkward most of the time and he failed in pursuing Betsy, the recurring theme of his attending adult films could be to cater to his lack of sexual interaction and probably to compensate with his lack of social etiquette in most conversations. The theater is way for Bickle to make up for his appearant lack of humanity.
Bickle knows that he is quite socially inept and may have been pursuing these two blonde women in order to improve himself. He saw Betsy, the sophisticated civil servant and began to dress better himself, to engage in music and politics to feel more whole and in the process, making advances on Betsy. However, Iris, the 12 year old prostitute is in definite contrast to Betsy. But Bickle saw his opportunity to make a difference, believing that the police would do nothing. He then follows this strict new exercise regime and diet in order to be prepared to intervene in Iris’s predicament. After killing Iris’s pimp, land lord and current client, Bickle had become a hero to the young girl, to many in the newspapers and especially Iris’s parents who then write to him.
Travis obsesses with the notion of the scum being wiped from the street. The assumption is that when he was a marine in Vietnam, the war had traumatized him, in his PTSD, Travis had taken the war back with him. As a marine preparing for Vietnam he would have totally dehumanized the enemy and only associated them with the most evil and degenerate acts. Upon his return, Travis then begins to see the crime and corruption in New York and a rage like that of war over came him. He could barely look at people in the night because “That’s when the animals all come out.”
When all is said, though some scenes in Taxi Driver may not feel directly relevant to the plot, they are quite possibly the crux of Travis Bickle’s character. There’s always a reason to what we’ve been shown about Travis and his unusual journey.