One of Martin Scorsese most acclaimed picture, Taxi Driver (1976), is on the surface very different from the Searchers (1956) by John Ford, but in many ways the movie is actually The Searchers revisited. Simply because Scorsese and Paul Schrader never hid the fact that they were fans of John Ford's movie. So this paper will demonstrate that Martin Scorsese drew upon The Searchers for inspiration for Taxi Driver, therefore containing certain characteristics of the Western genre. To prove my thesis, I will show the similarities that both films share by analyzing the characters, themes and the socio-historical background of the two movies. .
First of all, when analyzing Travis Bickle and Ethan Edwards, you can see that they are both very similar. Both are war veterans from the defeated side, loners with a quest who have potential for violence and most importantly they are both alienated and "misunderstood by others" (Ben Famiglietti, 1995). This alienation and misunderstanding of characters by others is a general feature in the Western genre of the hero or anti-hero type in these cases. Also, both characters carry a profound hatred towards certain people that according to them are corrupting the American society. For Ethan it is the Native Americans and for Travis it is the "scum" of New York. They both think that their missions are moral and that they are keeping and uplifting the American values, which is another characteristic of the Western genre. However their hatred for the "corruptors" is ambiguous and hypocritical. For example, Travis during the crack of dawn walks through the porno district and spends his free time in an X-rated porno film house, and even though he is disgusted by this environment, he is still attracted to it during the day and rides through the same scenes of degradation at night. Whereas Ethan, he is very knowledgeable of the Comanche rituals, culture and language, as shown when he argues with Scar, and he commits a uniquely Indian act when scalping Scar.