This week’s movie of the week is… Taxi Driver!
Sometimes I feel like doing something violent. Don’t you? When I hear about the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, a warlord raiding a village and killing and/or dismembering its innocent residents, families dying of starvation and preventable diseases while rich and greedy folks live right nextdoor. Sometimes I fantasize about a band of soldiers raiding some compound and rescuing the innocents there, and for some reason my thoughts drift to a picture of the aggressors being dealt with. And yeah, violently. Like anyone I believe they should be punished, and punished according to the crime they’ve committed. But should violence be part of that dream? Does it need to be?
Taxi Driver is a very good example of a multi-layered movie. (And should it surprise any of us that we find Scorcese once again at the center of our Movie of the Week?) Some may watch it with expectations of a kick-butt vigilante movie involving guns and Robert DeNiro. If so, we’re let down. Here we simply have someone who has been inflicted with mental pain and instability by the horrors of the Vietnam war in the middle of 70’s era New York City complete with its own horrors. As we watch him we’re not totally sure if we should be cheering him on or mourning a tragedy.
Sometimes I feel it can be therapeutic to sit with a fellow human being and talk about how evil people can be at times. I suppose it can help remind one’s own psyche how wrong theft, violence, murder, and self-absorption are. But I realize that the tension of good and evil are right there before me at all times. I think we all realize that these two realities know no bounds. I am as capable of evil as a terrorist is. I am as capable of good as a benedictine monk is. That tension and confusion we feel watching this movie is something we experience all the time in our own lives.
So those conversations can only go so far–the ones that talk about the evil in others. They most often lead to one of two rabbit trails: 1) We’re talking about it as a way to make us feel better about ourselves. We don’t need this. To feel better about ourselves we can do something good for someone, do something creative, or get outside and play a sport. The mental illness and unfortunate fates of others isn’t needed. 2) We talk about it emphasizing that somehow our world is going down the tubes. We just keep getting more and more evil. Some spiritualize it. Some use it as a reason to not have kids. But really, evil has always been with us. Homicide, genocide, wars, hate, rape, neglect–there is no era that we can point to and say that it wasn’t present. Maybe we should take a positive view of the world and our future. We can fight evil without gossip, violence, or despair. We can fight it with good. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Something I have always appreciated about my grandmother (my sole surviving grandparent right now) is her response to stories of evil. So often when someone’s told of a terrible act of evil they furrow their brow and shake their heads. Maybe even add a “tsk.” For my grandmother, she usually responded with a disappointed and heartbroken, “Ohhhh.” It was like she felt so bad for the person who suffered… and for the one who caused the suffering.
Congratulations Taxi Driver. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: I suppose that Diane Keaton deserves this one, but I just love Jodi Foster’s performance, and at such a young age. She’s definitely my pick this week.
Best Actor: John Cleese. One of the few comedians who gets me excited to watch him perform no matter what he’s in. And he’s awesome in Holy Grail.
Best quote: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?”
I will always hate evil. I will always be angered and enraged by terrible things in this world that are done against human beings (not to mention to animals, nature, etc.). I just hope I will always love good and let it win over.