"Travis gave punks a hair of aggression." The Toronto Star 12 Feb. 2005: H02
This article discusses one of Taxi Driver’s momentous scenes: the unveiling of Travis Bickle’s famous Mohawk. According to the director Martin Scorsese, the camera was to track rightward through a crowd of people attending a political rally. After observing a few anonymous midriffs, the camera was to stop at what, at this point in Taxi Driver, would be a familiar figure: the army jacket-wearing cab driver Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, viewed only from chest to thigh, his hands pouring pills into his palm. As Travis lifts the tablets to his mouth, the camera was to follow the hand upward to reveal the character's face. For the first time in the movie, we’d be seeing the Mohawk. The camera work had to be executed with perfection because the appearance of the Mohawk symbolized Travis’ moment of truth. This was when the audience was to realize that Travis had crossed the point of no return into insanity. Bickle’s Mohawk signified a special situation and that he was ready to get to the work of purification.
Bickle’s Mohawk had a huge impact on culture in America as it became a symbol of punk aggression influencing art, music, and the whole post-Vietnam war “punk” movement. The Mohawk was seen everywhere from Joe Strummer of The Clash to Mr. T when he entered the ring to fight Rocky Balboa.
The article also talks about the inspiration for Travis Bickle’s character, which the screenwriter, Paul Schrader, primarily based on two sources. The first one being Arthur Bremer, a paranoid schizophrenic who took a crippling shot at presidential candidate George Wallace. The second source of inspiration for Travis Bickle was Schrader himself. Right before writing the script, Schrader was in a lonely and alienated position much like the character he based upon himself was. Schrader lost his girlfriend and the apartment he was sleeping in, and he spent a few weeks living alone, desperate, depressed, and drunk in his car. Schrader made Travis a Vietnam veteran because the national trauma of the war seemed to blend perfectly with Bickle’s paranoid psychosis.
This article is important and relevant to Taxi Driver because it gives one a sense of where a unique character such as Travis Bickle can be conjured up from and where the inspiration for his personality came from.
"Dispelling myths about Vietnam veterans." USA Today 16 November 2000: A1
Like the title suggests, this article concentrates on going over and dispelling some of the myths that are associated with the Vietnam veteran. For generations, the American public has been bombarded by Hollywood and the media with the same image of the demoralized Vietnam War veteran; much like Travis Bickle is in Taxi Driver. The negative stereotypes surrounding the Vietnam War veteran have been ingrained into the minds of the masses, and usually portray a social outcast who has been physically and psychologically damaged in the war. The article points out that many of the Vietnam soldiers Americans have come to know through movies such as The Deer Hunter, Coming Home and Taxi Driver perpetuate the suicidal, anarchist, angry, and depressed depiction of the veteran. On the contrary, the article suggests that these stereotypes are myths and most veterans are happy, stable, and successful. Some other myths the article dismisses are that 100,000 Vietnam vets committed suicide and that up to 50% have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although this article does not discuss Taxi Driver whatsoever, it’s relevant to the film because it stresses the negative stereotypes, which have been so deeply embedded into the consciousness of the public, associated with Vietnam veterans, such as Travis Bickle is in Taxi Driver. Travis Bickle is exactly the type of character which perpetuates the myths corresponding to veterans into the psyche of the American people and the type of person this article attempts to dispel as being untrue. He is angry, suicidal, lonely, and alienated from urban society. Whether we can hypothesize that all of Travis’ problems are a direct result of the Vietnam War is not clear, however him being a veteran is pertinent to the film. As the article asserts that most stereotypical Vietnam veterans oppose their country and its leaders, which is another myth, Travis directs his frustrated anger at a promising presidential candidate in an apparent assassination attempt.
Many of Travis’ emotions in Taxi Driver, such as feelings of rejection, resentment for society, and cynicism towards politicians, are reflective of the fictitious stereotypes of the veteran’s talked about in this article. This article places a character such as Travis Bickle into the realm of fiction, away from society and reality, which is exactly where he belongs.