Intro by Maria
Trigger warning: The next episode of Peculiar Picture Show talks about trauma, war, rape, and PTSD. If these topics are sensitive to you, then feel free to skip this episode.
You talkin’ to me? Are you talkin’ to me? I’m the only one here. Who else would you be talkin’ to?
Chances are this monologue is terribly familiar to you—whether you’ve seen the 1976 Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver or not. It’s these famous movie lines that come to define Travis Bickle, a young Vietnam War vet who has insomnia, so he starts driving New York City cabs at night to pass the time.
We tag along with Travis as he drives around the city, picking up various characters and just trying to pass the time. During these outings, we learn that Travis likes to visit porn theaters. He also stalks a woman who really isn’t interested in him, and it’s this rejection that seems to cause Travis to snap, deciding to assassinate a presidential candidate. At the same time, he comes across Iris, a 12-year-old prostitute, played by Jodie Foster, and feels a connection to her—almost like a fatherly one, which eventually leads to bloodshed.
Travis Bickle is essentially an unredeemable character. No one wants him to kill a politician just because a woman who supports that politician rejected him—even if the politician is scum.
Spoilers, though. He doesn’t succeed. So he decides to kill the next best thing: Iris’s pimp and all the other men taking advantage of her. The movie climaxes in a blaze of bullets and blood, and Iris watches the slaughter. Travis is injured, but he survives, and he becomes a hero—a taxi driver who rose above the scum and addressed injustice by saving a 12-year-old from garbage people. The woman who rejects him earlier in the film also comes back to pay her respects to the newly found hero, and the movie ends with this commentary about the thin line between heroism and villainy.
Brandon and I also believe this movie comments on post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD—even though it’s not explicit in the film—so a good amount of our time is focused on the history of PTSD and its symptoms. I also discuss my personal experience with trauma.
So sit back, hail yourself a cab, and put on your seatbelt because you’re about to speed through to this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show.
General: A great 70s film that inspired a real killer
Brandon: Love 1970s film because there’s not as many “Hollywood” happy endings; Joker seems to want to have been this movie because they were afraid for the Joker to be an awful person
Maria: Robert De Niro became Jodie Foster’s mentor for this movie; movie inspired John Hinckley Jr to become obsessed with Foster and also to try to assassinate Reagan
Like: Great characters and performances, and surprisingly socially aware
Brandon: Initially liked this because thought it was complex, but upon re-watching, didn’t seem like it was a positive view of mental illness; film did have awareness of issues, as seen in changes to the original script; doesn’t condone Travis’s actions (feminist?); original perhaps would have commented upon toxic masculinity more than mental illness/PTSD; the ending; character portrait
Maria: Character-driven; interesting and kept my attention; classic film; interesting for its time; performances
Dislike: Female abuse stemming from male trauma
Brandon: First 45 minutes extremely slow, boring; jazz soundtrack, particularly the first time
Maria: Jazz soundtrack (when Brandon brought this up); fatigued by the way women are treated in some movies; slightly uncomfortable with the abuse
Mental Health: The history of PTSD, and personal experiences with it
Brandon: History of PTSD; “official” in 1980, so wasn’t really a term when this movie came out, but has existed for quite some time; in 1980 it was controversial because it emphasized external factors, rather than internal
Maria: Personal experiences with trauma; symptoms of PTSD
Inglourious Basterds (2009) vs. Rachel Getting Married (2008) vs. 500 Days of Summer (2009)