Taxi Driver Essay, Research Paper
The Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver represents a “descent into hell” through society’s acceptance of pornography, violence and loneliness. The characters of Travis, Betsy, Senator Palantine and Iris are all typical of real people, either surrounded by or living in a world of lies.
After the passenger (or viewer) gets into the cab, the driver begins with a blurred tour of the grungy, dark and dismal streets of New York and the faceless people that walk them. Though the streets are crowded, everyone is alone. Many wander to the sleaze strips to see the X-rated films that are now socially accepted by most of New York’s inhabitants. As Travis says to Betsy when she mentions that she doesn’t like that kind of film: “No, no. This is a movie a lot of couples come to”. This shows the acceptance of society towards perversion, as if Betsy should enjoy that particular kind of film just because other people do. Even if the majority of people do something, it does not necessarily make it all right.
As well, society has begun to accept violence. As Travis walks towards Wizard to get some advice, the camera looks down the block to a couple of prostitutes being harassed and assaulted by some young troublemakers with chains. This behavior is ignored by all that see it. Travis looks the other way, as if to say: “Hey, it happens all the time, so that makes it all right”, subconsciously feeding his disgust with the scum of the world.
Later, as Travis follows Iris and her friend from his cab, a large, furious black man storms down the street screaming “I’m gonna kill him!” which also goes unnoticed. Violence appears to be the solution to all problems in this film.
The lonely cab driver represents the isolated people that walk the streets of New York. Although many of the people walk with others, they are still alone. As Travis says in the scene where Betsy is introduced, “She is alone. No one can touch her”. He is attracted to her because he sees himself in her; they are two very lonely people, untouched by the other humans around them.
The cab driver sits in his driver’s seat with a stony wall built up around him, deflecting the scum thrown in his direction. His ears are numb from the many lies he has heard and the lies he himself has come to believe. Travis sees himself as a guardian angel sent down from Heaven to save the good from Hell. Travis is best described by the line “He’s a prophet and a pusher, partly truth and partly fiction”. This line foreshadows that Travis wants to be the ‘rain’ that will wash the filth away, and that he will do something bad in the name of goodness.
Betsy works in the campaign office of Senator Palantine. Like most politicians, Palantine always knows the right thing to say to get the votes, even though he doesn’t mean any of it. Betsy surrounds herself with these lies, as does Iris who believes that Sport (her pimp) really cares for her. She lives in a hell of drugs and prostitution, where she is losing the innocence of her youth far ahead of her time. It all ends with a burst of blood and violence, as the ‘rain’ comes down to wash the scum away.