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    I had to drive over to my Grandson's apartment last evening and when I arrived I was somewhat taken aback by the fact that he had trimmed his hair in a "mohican" style like DeNiro in Taxi Driver.

    So when I got home I pulled it out and watched it for the first time in a good while and was once again blown away by, what I consider, to be Scorsese's finest film and certainly one of DeNiro's best performances.

    My question is this, and I never really attached that much significance to the fact that DeNiro's character, Travis, was a Viet Nam veteran until I watched it this last time. The movie certainly chronicles a man's descent into apparent insanity, with the twist being that he emerges a hero!

    How much importance did Scorsese "really" attach to the fact that DeNiro's character was a Viet Nam veteran, most probably suffering the effects of PTSD, that contributed to this downward spiral?

    Although there is no specific reference to his service, except when applying for the job at the Cab Company, we are constantly reminded of it later... as Travis is almost always attired in an Army Field jacket?

    I guess what I'm really saying is if you subtracted the Viet Nam Vet aspect from Travis's background, would his non-veteran counterpart been less believable?

    Just curious as to what others think?

  • #2
    I think the importance of Travis Bickle being a veteran has to do with what his character would've seen during combat and the experience so many vets had when they returned home.

    The same thing was done for the Post-WWII films, primarily film noir. It took the feelings vets had, again, based on what they've seen and felt, and the tone was set.

    THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, while not a film noir, shows you the dark experience a vet can go through when coming back home.

    Basically: War is hell.

    This is edited to add that I just remembered that TAXI DRIVER also borrows from THE SEARCHERS, another story about a veteran and how he handles post-war life.


    • #3
      look at his back...

      If you look at Deniro's back in the scene where he's doing push ups, you'll notice that he's been shot in the back.

      Big symbolism.

      I feel that that wound is part of his feeling of betrayal by society, which feeds into his anger and his "need to do something". If he were a non-vet, I don't feel it would be as powerful. Also, when this movie was made, the wounds of Nam were still very new and visceral for almost all segments of society.

      Remember, he doesn't just want to kill for killing's sake. He wants to make a difference. A statement. He wants to (in his mind) save it all from going to hell in a handbasket.

      I don't think that would've played as well if he were, say... a maytag repairman.


      • #4

        It makes no difference at all whether he's a vet or not. His actions did not result directly from his experience in Nom.

        His past isn't even brought up other than that one moment when applying for a job. This differs from The Deer Hunter or other movies like that where the Vietnam background plays an obvious role in what happens to these characters.

        What we see on screen is a disillusioned character who becomes even more jaded when he takes up a job as a taxi driver. He sees the worst part of our society, the drugs, the hookers, etc and coupled with his own problem with living in a vacuum, decided he wants to do something about it. By taking action, he kills two birds with one stone. He wants to "clean things up" and be noticed by society at the same time.


        • #5

          You think his being a Nam vet has nothing to do with the movie???

          wow. Um, there was a character named travis bickle before the movie starts, you know.


          • #6

            This certainly wasn't Queen Latifah's best movie, but Jimmy Fallon was meh...


            • #7

              When Dave's in the midst of another post flurry, his posts have been known to descend into the utterly nonsensical.

              I'll take it one step further: how about Taxi Driving Miss Daisy?


              • #8

                You chauffering me? YOU CHAUFFERING ME?!?!?



                • #9

                  You think his being a Nam vet has nothing to do with the movie???

                  wow. Um, there was a character named travis bickle before the movie starts, you know.
                  I understand your point. But take out that one line where he says he's a vet and tell me how that changes his future actions.


                  • #10
                    are you arguing with me

                    so, tell me. why, specifically, does it matter that the deniro char was in nam? to put it another way: are you suggesting the story would not make sense if the nam thing is taken out?

                    okay, i'll put it another way: couldn't someone who did not serve in vietnam act exactly the same way?



                    • #11
                      Re: are you arguing with me

                      Could you put it another way? :lol


                      • #12

                        I'm not suggesting anything like that. That would make no sense now, would it?

                        Sure, a regular guy could act the same way, but it wouldn't be Taxi Driver. It does make a difference in his character if you take out that one line, too.

                        He's trained to kill. He knows guns. When that dork tries to push him out the door, he's ready to defend his life, just like he did IN THE JUNGLE.

                        If he hadn't been a soldier, then he would've picked up that jacket in a Goodwill store. He'd be just an angry, psychotic guy.

                        But he's not just that. Part of his anger stems from his experiences in the jungle, and at his feeling of betrayal by his government. I think it informs many of his actions.

                        I just think that it's VERY tied up with the film, and the fact that he IS a vet brings the movie to a much deeper level, especially given the time in which it was made.


                        • #13
                          I don't know about Scorsese, but what about the screenwriter who *invented* Bickle? That would be Paul Schrader, by the way, who also wrote ROLLING THUNDER about a Viet Nam POW who finds homelife more treacherous than his military service. Check it out.

                          - Bill


                          • #14
                            Sounds a lot like First Blood, too.


                            • #15
                              Noh1, you make some good points and on some small scale, you're right about it being a contributing factor to his actions. But since his past is not referenced in the story to show WHY he's acting this way, I see him as a different character than you.

                              What I see is someone who is disgusted with the ugliness of people, distrusting, lonely, horny, jaded, and feels unimportant to this society he hates.

                              The only thing that would directly relate to his service in Nom is his distrust of other people.

                              Now, if he had wanted to be a hero in Nom but wasn't, than maybe I could relate his backstory in Nom more to his actions in the film of wanting to save the hooker and have a second chance at being a hero.

                              I will agree though that a character's backstory contributes to that person's future actions but in this story it is indirectly, IMO.