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What Joker Misses in Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy

Note: Following are spoilers for the movies Taxi Driver The King of Comedy and Joker .

The Only One Is All Concentrated Joker is a kind of remake of two films by Martin Scorsese: Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982) Which star is Robert De Niro? In Taxi Driver De Niro is a self-proclaimed delusion of Travis Bickle, a Vietnamese veterinarian and violent misanthrope who is first obsessed by a campaigner (Cybill Shepherd), then an underage prostitute (Jodie Foster) own dirty hero fantasies. In The King of Comedy De Niro is Rupert Pupkin, a lousy but ever-optimistic stand-up comedian, obsessed by Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), the night's comedy presenter, and about his prospects is fooled into performing in Langford's show. Pupkin and his equally obsessed girlfriend Masha (Sandra Bernhard) invent and kidnap her to make her dreams come true.

In these two films, De Niro plays two sides of the same coin: men who lose touch with reality and blur their own paranoid fantasies with real life. What is scary on both of them is that they are initially present as dedicated, polite, even brilliant men with a highly developed moral sense and a genuine interest in others as human beings. We will, like the women who are persecuting both of them, be tempted to make them ridiculous but harmless in the worst case scenario. Only when they are rejected, their true face begins to show.

De Niro also appears in Joker however, now as a secondary character. He is in the Jerry Lewis role as Murray Franklin, a late-night host whom the future joker Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) adores. Like Rupert Pupkin, Fleck spends hours in his house and imagines being in Franklin's show. When he finally gets his wish, he is humiliated by Franklin, who shows on national television a video of Fleck's catastrophic stand-up routine. And like Travis Bickle, Fleck becomes violent when pushed to the edge. (Pupkin is never violent ̵

1; the weapon he and Masha Langford are threatening with is not real – but the potential for it depends on all his actions, especially as they get more and more out of balance and that gives them power.) [19659006] Robert De Niro in taxi drivers. ” data-upload-width=”1800″ src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/506HvpHDlRSdC2d28CTCl01RVM4=/0x0:1800×1012/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:1800×1012):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19285324/taxi1.jpg”/>

Robert De Niro in taxi driver.
Columbia Pictures

All three types – Travis, Rupert and Arthur – have much in common and Joker knows it. All three films persuade us to see a guy break down, become violent, and then become a folk hero. And all three consider themselves to be existential heroes: men who stand alone against the pressure of the world around them and decide to go their own way.

Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin are very special kinds of existential heroes

Paul Schrader, who worked as a critic before writing the script for Taxi Driver told Film Comment in 1976 that he got it trying to "take the European existential hero … and place him in an American context". So he read Jean-Paul Sartre's novel Nausea one of those novels centered on an existential hero. and also thought of novels such as Albert Camus The Stranger and Fyodor Dostoevsky Notes from Underground while he created Travis Bickle's character.

"You find that he becomes more ignorant, ignorant of the nature of his problem":

Travis' problem is the same as that of the existential hero, that is, should I exist? But Travis does not understand that this is his problem, so he focuses it elsewhere: and I think that's a sign of the immaturity and youth of our country. We do not properly understand the nature of the problem, so the self-defeating impulse, rather than being directed inward, as in Japan, Europe, one of the older cultures, is directed outward. The man who believes the time has come to die will go out and kill other people instead of killing himself.

Elsewhere, Schrader said writing the script was "self-therapy": "I had the feeling I had to write to him, so I would not join him," he said, and you can feel it in the film, the Schrader opposite Film Comment as a fusion of himself, De Niro and Scorsese felt at once. All three men were in their early thirties, near Bickle's age, early in their careers, and the pathology that seethes beneath Bickle's surface seems to be due to something uncomfortable.

The King of Comedies has the same feeling of uncomfortable life -in knowledge, though written by another former film critic (Newsweek Paul D. Zimmerman), and Pupkin's destructive impulse seems more to glorious self-abasement in the garish limelight to be directed at television as hurting anyone. Again, a familiar territory for a director and actor who was a real star six years after Taxi Driver . (The pair had in the meantime made New York, New York and Raging Bull .) Pupkins line when he was handcuffed away by Langford's set – "Better, for one night king To be a jewel for a lifetime "- that sounds right, but in a sense has become more disturbing in recent years.

  Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) fantasizes at night about being with his heroes in Jerry Langford's show. <em> In <em> The King of the Comedy </em> fantasizes Rupert Pupkin at night from being in Jerry Langford's show with his heroes. </figcaption><cite>  20th Century Fox </cite></p>
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<p id= In both films, critics worried about how the audience would behave violently if they had seen how these characters transformed into folk heroes. That's why Taxi Driver was ambivalently recorded, even though he received numerous awards during his Cannes debut, in which Boos met the announcement of his victory, including the prestigious Palm d & # 39; Or , In 1982, the lawyers of John Hinckley Jr. claimed that Taxi Driver had partially inspired his attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan the year before [1965-90]. Shortly thereafter, some reviewers of the King of Comedy feared that this would cause similar copycat crime. (That was not the case.)

The underlying concern, however, was that not only did the audience feel sympathy for them, but they also identified with Pupkin and Bickle . Pupkin has not produced a rabid fanbase, though its influence is evident in today's comedy landscape. A loser who literally lives in his mother's cellar and dreams of meeting his favorite stars might be the prototype for "fan" in some people's minds, but you do not want a poster of him hanging on your wall.

Bickle, On the other hand, there is indeed a thriving fan base, probably composed of the same people who idolize Tyler Durden. On the internet, you can buy all kinds of fan merchandise with Bickle, from handmade posters to tapestries. (In contrast, the only Pupkin product on Etsy seems to be this insider joke T-shirt.) And most people who went to college after 1976 remember a man in their dorm with a photo of the infamous Mohawk was prominently displayed on the wall.

  Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in the taxi driver.

Bickle watches and plans a political rally.
Columbia Pictures

The contrast is enlightening. Bickle looks cool. Pupkin is a jerk. Both men end up as heroes of the people, but only Bickle really got away with murder.

And yet we can not help but feel a kind of compassion for Bickle and Pupkin, maybe even being related to them – lonely men who do not want to treat the world kindly. Both films draw their strength from how they play with us, whether we should feel it or not, and then, in the end, definitely show that the people who raise Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin to the status of heroes are fools.

That is, if we adore them, we are the fools.

Joker arouses a different audience reaction than his heroes.

This brings us back to Joker the film was expressly inspired by both. (Scorsese himself was allegedly bound to Joker as a producer and was even to direct it until he ended his engagement in 2017, leaving his longtime production partner Emma Tillinger Koskoff on board.) How does Arthur Fleck measure? up to Bickle or Pupkin?

It's complicated. The King of Comedy is not a story about the humiliation of a man, but a fuller story about the nihilistic dead ends of adoring fans and the culture that cultivates them. Taxi Driver is not about a hero, but about a madman pretending to be a hero. And both hang the people who idolize them to dry.

  Rupert Pupkin finally gets his wish.

Rupert Pupkin finally gets his wish.
20th Century Fox

But by putting the two together in one story – and removing most of the humor and irony of their films – we have a movie that does not really control its protagonist gets as the two films of Scorsese have done. This gets even more complicated when you wrap the Bickle / Pupkin avatar in the skin of the Joker, an icon of chaos that becomes a meme for the Elements of the Internet Furious and delivers a healthy dose of rancid anger. It's hard to do with Fleck what The King of Comedy did with Pupkin when the Joker's biggest fans came terribly close to a Pupkin guy with bickle-like ambitions.

Unfortunately for Fleck and his later Joker evolution The resulting character is just a miserable victim, and we know what we should feel for him: compassion. This is clearly signaled throughout the film. He is beaten up, abandoned, mocked and confused.

Unlike Bickle and Pupkin, Fleck finally reads through violence as a moment of self-realization. He did it, boys. He finally overcame his oppressors and came to his own. Sure, you can condemn his actions. But are not you the bad guy?

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