Fear in His Eyes: Travis Bickle as the Voice of an Uneasy Conscience in ‘Taxi Driver’

Columbia Pictures The moral ambiguity of human psychology, where all kinds of fears are crystallized, especially at night, is found in Martin Scorsese’s seminal, groundbreaking Taxi Driver. “I can’t sleep at night” is the pivotal snatch of dialogue and it is the basis of protagonist Travis Bickle’s internal world: just as the moonlight or city […]

Fear in His Eyes: Travis Bickle as the Voice of an Uneasy Conscience in ‘Taxi Driver’

My feature essay on the pathbreaking 1978 film TAXI DRIVER has been published by SCREEN QUEENS. It addresses its socio-political grounding in reality and human psychology.

Read it and share your thoughts.

6 thoughts on “Fear in His Eyes: Travis Bickle as the Voice of an Uneasy Conscience in ‘Taxi Driver’

  1. Hi PJ:

    I read your review of TAXI DRIVER, and it’s just another fantastic read. When I write film reviews, I have a “blast” doing it and I guess I hope others will be drawn in to see the film I’m reviewing if they haven’t or it’s been a while since they’ve seen it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen TAXI DRIVER, but I definitely want to see it again after reading your review. The word, “narcissism,” kept coming up for me reading the film review. It’s interesting your take on Travis Bickle and the reference to him as “everyman,” because what came up for me with this is the character of Arthur Fleck in JOKER. Both of these characters are the true “everyman” because they are real and truthful about what they see in the world and what they want to change about that. Some want to call someone like Tom Hanks the “everyman,” but there is no everyman in an actor who plays “safe and mostly contained” roles. I’m not saying Hanks is a bad actor; it’s just that he’s not realistically embodied as a representative of the “everyman” who, in my opinion, is someone who is BOTH joy and pain, acceptance and rigorous rebellion, love and hate, “I am who I am” and “I have no idea who I am.” I’m not a fan of Martin Scorsese per se because I find his films too violent and the language too difficult for my sensitive ears to want to hear, but Scorsese is clearly a brilliant director when it comes to exposing the underbelly of those whose insides are rotten from the rottenness of a fallen and mean-spirited and angry world but there lurks true beauty because they are real that way. Just as a side note, Scorsese has come out to say he is an Ingmar Bergman fan. I can see that. Both directors are may more interested in the insides (underbellies) of their characters than any outside “I’m fine” posturing. Once again, a brilliant writeup on a film I will see again hopefully soon.

    Love and blessings,


  2. Hi PC: I watched TAXI DRIVER the other day, and it was hopelessly impossible not to compare the film with JOKER (2019). Do you see the similarities? Two frustrated men wanting beauty in the world (and desperate for approval) and yet the world is COMPLETELY unbeautiful and often enough brutal! Artists have this struggle, as well. We want beauty in the world (and desperate for approval), but the only way we can possibly bring this about is by going into our pain and creating from it to bring beauty into the world. The beauty we are bringing into the world is our truth, our uniqueness, our need to expose and dissect ourselves so that others might desire to accept their truth, their uniqueness, their need to expose and dissect themselves. While I typically do not like violent films (I think both of us practice nonviolence), TAXI DRIVER and JOKER transcend the violence by transcending to a place of beauty and love and approval. While the world wants the “everyman” to be soft and quiet and easy to take, Travis Bickle and Arthur Fleck are the REAL “everymen,” because they are hard and loud and uneasy to take. They are the honest voices for when we are afraid to raise our own honest voices. We settle for softness and quiet and “the easier and softer way,” but life just ain’t like that, is it? Anyone walking the earth right now who tells me they are NOT afraid, NOT trembling, NOT angry, is anyone telling me a lie. I don’t care how optimistic anyone is or how positive anyone is because I just don’t do “Pollyanna.” I spot inauthenticity and denial from miles away. And if this anyone is TRULY optimistic and TRULY positive, then I’m probably TRULY jealous. Haha! That said, I always create for the BOTH: Beauty AND pain, hope AND despair, joy AND despair. I honestly don’t know any other way to create but from this BOTH. Thanks for the review and allowing me to watch TAXI DRIVER again. It’s a brutal film but a necessary one, especially NOW! Bickle gives us the real vision of the real world and doesn’t sugarcoat ANYTHING! Real IS being BOTH! Blessings, Timothy (“Mr. T”)


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