Taxi Driver

Triggering the Reagan Assassination.


Taxi Driver (1976) features Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran working as a taxi driver at night in New York City. Travis is lonely and mentally unstable, suffers from insomnia, and has strong or extreme opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind.  He almost conducted a serious crime by attempting to assassinate a presidential candidate in order to prove himself of righteousness. What Travis attempted to do had actually stimulated the assassination of President Reagan by John Hinckley in 1981.  In the following paragraph, Oltmanns and Emery (2012) describe what happened with the assassination linking to Taxi Driver.

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley stood outside the Washington Hilton hotel, drew a revolver from his raincoat pocket, and fired six shots at President Ronald Reagan. The president and three other men were wounded. The president rapidly recovered from his potentially fatal wound, but the presidential press secretary, James Brady, was permanently crippled by a shot that struck him just above the left eye. Hinckley was charged with attempted assassination, but his trial resulted in a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity.” Hinckley, who came from a wealthy family, had never been convicted of a crime. He had a history of unusual behavior, however, and had expressed violent intentions. Hinckley had read several books on famous assassinations and had joined the American Nazi Party. In fact, he was expelled from the Nazi Party in 1979 because of his continual advocacy of violence. A particular oddity was Hinckley’s obsession with the actress Jodie Foster, whom he had seen play the role of a child prostitute in the movie Taxi Driver. In an attempt to win her favor, Hinckley adopted much of the style of Foster’s movie rescuer, Travis Bickle. This included acquiring weapons and stalking the president, much as the movie character had stalked a political candidate. Hinckley repeatedly tried to contact Foster in real life and succeeded a few times, but his approaches were consistently rejected. He came to believe that the only way to win her over was through dramatic action. Less than two hours before he shot the president, he completed a letter to Foster, which said: Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever. I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you. I’ve got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me. This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel. Jodie, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012, p. 475).

Reference

Oltmanns, T. F. & Emery, R. E. (2012). Abnormal psychology (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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