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Taxi Driver: A Modern Version of the Western Film

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There have been many genres of film that are included in American film history; one of which is the Western. In the mid 1900’s Western films were at their peak and Saturday afternoons would be spent watching cowboys and Indians battle until the end while watching comfortably from a movie theatre. Knowing this, it’s not hard to understand why film makers later on would base plots and characters off of these mystifying films. The Searchers, made in 1956 by John Ford, was a movie that followed the journey of Ethan Edwards, a cowboy on a mission to locate his niece, Debbie, who was kidnapped by Indians. Although this movie lacked a sense of reality, among other things, its cinematography and intriguing characters insured there would be more than a few true fans. One of which was Martin Scorsese who, when making the film Taxi Driver in 1976, based the character of Travis off of Ford’s character, Ethan. Ford’s influence can be seen not only in two main personality traits of Scorsese’s character, but also in the last scene of the movie where Scorsese pays homage to Ford in the form of symbolism.

The most obvious parallel of Taxi Driver to The Searchers is that of the main characters. In both films, the men are recent war veterans. Ethan, who has just returned from the Civil War and Travis, a recent veteran of the Vietnam War. Both men are still extremely bitter to the other side. Ethan, who fought in the South for the war, shows his disrespect to ethnicities by constantly assaulting Indians with racial slurs and violence. Travis, just like Ethan, believes that everyone around him is worthless. Blacks, Hispanics, even white prostitutes and pimps are completely disgusting to Travis and he will do anything to rid his life of them. Both men have no problem brutally killing those who are beneath them for whatever reason and commit acts of murder to these groups of people several times throughout each movie.

Another similarity between the two films is that there are young women in both of these men’s lives that they feel need to be rescued from the slums they have been trapped into. Soon after Ethan returns from war, his family has been savagely murdered by Indians. But the hope that Debbie has made it out alive remains. The next few years of Ethan’s life are spent searching aimlessly through the dessert for any sign of his niece. Finally, Debbie is found but feels little need to be rescued by Ethan. But with no regard to the way she feels, Ethan takes her out of the life she has become accustomed to and restores Debbie to her old society. Similarly enough, one night on the job, Travis sees a young girl named Iris, who is no older than fourteen, working the streets just as well as any other prostitute. Throughout the rest of the film, Travis does his best to save her from the pimp that has been running her life ever since she ran away from home. Quite like The Searchers, Iris never hints at wanting to stop the life she’s living. The sexual corruption she has faced has made it almost impossible for her to return to the life of a teenager with no force. Even so, Travis

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