The official analysis of Taxi Driver

Is everyone super happy with the official Dramatica analysis of Taxi Driver?

I saw the film for the first time last night (I know), and was excited to finally take a look at the analysis. But like the original Reservoir Dogs analysis, something about it seems off to me. A lot of the Story Encoding seems focused on bits and pieces that really aren’t a part of the meaning of the narrative.

Does anyone familiar with the film and the analysis feel the same? If so, would you be interested in going through it again and seeing if we could come up with something stronger and more accurate?

I’m interested, if you still are. I went ahead and watched it (also for the first time) and looked at the analysis. I definitely had different initial assessment of the story than what the analysis claims, not that that necessarily means much. In particular I thought the encoding for the influence character was all over the place and was based more on the screenplay than the movie that actually got made. Of course, that’s fine if it’s an analysis of the sccreenplay, but in my opinion the analysis needs to pick one. Referring to Betsy’s throughline as “Star-fucker,” besides being gross and misogynistic, is an interpretation largely absent from the film.

Similarly, part of the encoding given for Change is the line “I sleep more…” But that line is absent from the film. In fact the movie goes a step further by having the final shot of Travis be of him aggressively glancing into and adjusting the rear view, presumably to get a look at Betsy, which I think calls the whole Resolve into question.

I’m actually having quite a bit of difficulty pinning down the IC. Maybe this part of what you’re feeling, I don’t know, but according to the official analysis, the third Signpost for both IC and RS happen less than halfway through the story. That seems really off to me. Maybe there’s actually a hand off to Iris?

Either I’m misunderstanding you, or one of us missed something in the movie. Are you talking about Iris (Jodie Foster)? She went back home to her parents as far as I could tell.

So glad you brought this up, because when I was reading the analysis I didn’t remember those parts at all. Usually it’s marked as being an analysis based on the screenplay, not the actual film - but I think in this case, it’s important to do a narrative on the film, not the screenplay itself.

I’m of two minds about the look into the mirror. To me, it reads Bad judgment more than Good. As if he hasn’t gotten over that angst of what other people think of him and is ready to do it all over again.

(And apparently Scorcese agrees with this)

The other thing was this: I thought for sure that whole ending was a dream sequence, and that that shot after he “shoots” himself in the head, the one where were looking down on everyone, was him leaving the scene in an ethereal sense.

Everything that comes after seems so out of place and incongruent with the rest of the film.

But after watching this video explanation it’s clear that the filmmakers meant it to be a reality. And I think that’s important in the context of a storyform analysis - as you’re capturing the intent of the narrative - of the Author.

We can get into Influence Character eventually, but what I want to talk about first is the Overall Story. The analysis casts it in Universe and I’m not so sure that’s right.

ok, I misunderstood and will delete the previous comment.

Edit: Sorry. I didn’t realize I’d gone on for so long until after I posted.

I’ve written a few drafts of this reply now because the more I think about it the more the OS jumps around on me. Now, when watching the movie, I was thinking Universe. But I’ll admit my reasons for doing so are bad and somewhat embarrassing. I tend to have a hard time recognizing Universe OSes, so I sort of automatically stick the OS there as a starting place if nothing jumps out at me. And this OS feels pretty softly defined. The reasoning given in the official analysis seems pretty decent: the characters are stuck in this city that is overrun with crime.

But as I’ve thought about it more, I don’t think that’s true. The city being this inherently awful, dangerous place seems to be a creation of Travis’ mind. There is some talk between the cabbies about dangerous neighborhoods and a story about a cabbie getting attacked, but we don’t see people afraid to walk the streets, and I don’t think the political campaign part of the story is actually much worried about this at all. When we see Betsy and Tom dealing with campaign stuff, it’s always something totally banal or logistical: typos on pins or needing more flyers or how to set up the microphone. It’s never about policy and certainly nothing so specific as crime. Betsy even says they need to sell the man first, then worry about his politics. Palantine’s own dialogue, in his scene with Travis and a couple bits of speeches, is just the most generic campaign-speak imaginable.

I’m going to look at just the campaign for a moment because it’s the part of the story most removed from whatever Travis’ throughline is and most clearly in the OS. To me a campaign is a process. Maybe somewhere down the road if they get elected, they’ll have some stuck Universe type thing to deal with, but during the campaign it’s about the steps needed to get elected. And in this case it’s even further removed from solving Universe level problems because Palantine is just trying to win the nomination at this point.

In terms of winning the nomination, Activity is pretty easy to argue, so I’m not going to focus on it. Instead, I’m going to look at an argument for Psychology. The very first thing we see in the campaign office is Tom on the phone with the people who made their pins. The pins have a typo. The wrong word is underlined, and Tom is trying to get the person on the phone to conceive that there is a difference between “We Are The People” and “We Are The People.” Then he goes over to Betsy’s desk, and they have a light disagreement about what they should be doing. Betsy tells Tom they need to push the man first then the issues, and she lists all of the great qualities she’d like the voters to conceive Palantine possesses. Then she points out the Taxi Driver outside and manipulates Tom into conceiving she’d like him to go run the guy off. Tom even has a little Playing a Role beat, “I’ll tell you what; I’ll play the male in this relationship and–”

In the next campaign hq scene, Betsy and Tom play the game with the match, which requires him to conceive or maybe conceptualize how to light a match with serious physical limitations. Then he talks about the mafia putting dead canaries on people they’ve assassinated and wonders why not pigeons until he conceives that it’s because it’s easier to buy a canary than to catch a pigeon. I realize that’s not much to go on, but there’s not much to this thread in the OS.

The next time we see these guys is just before Travis’ first encounter with the secret service guy (who appears to be about eight feet tall btw). Betsy is telling some grunts they’ll have to go back to hq to get more flyers and Tom is dealing with the guy who’s never set up a microphone before. And that’s it; those characters don’t do anything else that isn’t more likely to be in service of another throughline.

Even some of this the official analysis argues is part of IC Psychology, but I wanted to point out that those first two scenes with Betsy have examples of Tom involved in Psychology on his own, separate from Betsy manipulating him.

Speaking of manipulation, there’s the scene late in the story between Sport and Iris. I don’t see how this scene could be described as anything but Psychology. Iris says she doesn’t like what she’s doing, and Sport totally manipulates her back into complacency. Unless this scene is just some weird outlier, it pretty much has to belong to OS Psychology or IC Psychology, if Iris is an IC.

Something else I was thinking about is that this would put the RS in Activity. Throughout the story Travis goes to the adult theater, and while there’s this sense of weirdness about it, as if he’s sort of treating it like a regular movie theater, the only time it creates real conflict is when he takes Betsy there on their date. Now, is this the relationship engaging in a problematic Activity? It strikes me as a Learning Signpost for the RS, but it could also be Conceiving. I’m not quite sure how to tell the difference. Learning seems more concrete and definitive, and learning about this huge gap between them puts a definitive end to their brief romance.

Obviously, this is far from a complete argument. I’m just throwing out some observations.

Yeah, I thought the same, but I was kind of waffling on it. If he’s likely to repeat this cycle again, which is the interpretation I agree with, doesn’t that also imply Steadfast? It’s pretty murky, but to me it seemed like he was changed, as if his outburst of violence had relieved the pressure building up within him, but after that short ride with Betsy, he was back to square one.

This always seems like a tricky spot with Dramatica. Normally, I’m of the opinion that authorial intent doesn’t matter much compared to what is actually there. I think Dramatica supports this at times, and I’m sure I’ve heard it said on the DUG podcast that if the storyform is there, then the message is there whether or not the author intended it. But in a case like this, where it’s unclear exactly what’s going on or there’s this really valid symbolic interpretation, I agree it’s best to defer to the author.

Do you agree with the official analysis that Travis is a Do-er? I’m not sure I do. I got the impression that he has all these problems with the world and he just internalizes them for a long time and then transforms himself (he even cuts his hair) so that he can go out and take care of them. He seems like a Be-er in the same way that Bruce Wayne is a Be-er in Batman Begins.

I think I remember from your podcast you said it took you a long time to figure out the storyform for Batman Begins. Iirc, it was because you thought that the OS was in Situation because Gotham is just stuck as this cesspool of crime. That’s the same interpretation made by the official analysis of Taxi Driver. There are some similarities between these two stories, so maybe that’s a clue that there really is something wrong with the official analysis. The big difference is that Batman Begins has clearly defined villains with a master plan that must be stopped. I’m not sure what that means with regards to Taxi Driver. Food for thought.

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I just watched this. There may be several storyforms depending on where you focus, but I saw a lot of TEMPTATION at the root of the MC/Travis’ problems throughout the movie. That crumpled $20 bill weighed him down for most of the movie. I saw his thought processes change when he prepared the envelope with the money and reconciling to the reality that he will be dead by the time she gets the note. At that point, he moved forward to accept any and all negative consequences of his action. Also, as a possible hint of the solution the MC was seeking, the movie starts out with MC/Travis describing his driving record as, “Real clean. Like my CONSCIENCE.”

As far as story judgement, I agree he seems like he would go and do it all over again, but he seems content and reconciled to me, so it feels like he is in a good place.

Another possibility: DOING could be his benchmark.