God's Lonely Men

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Title: God's Lonely Men Violence in Service of Masculine Identity Construction in Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Worden, Cameron
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2009
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: Film
Scorsese, Martin
Taxi Driver
Raging Bull
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull each take the use of violence to construct masculine identity to be a major thematic concern. Both films' protagonists, Taxi Driver�s Travis Bickle and Raging Bull's Jake La Motta, each integrate violence into their lives as an extension of their identities. The violence in each film is performed in a very deliberate manner, and its performative status, as well as the performed masculine identities of each film's protagonist, is emphasized by Scorsese. Violence is also an outgrowth of the masculine body in each film and as such the bodies of both films' protagonists are up for scrutiny. Scorsese links the body to identity, with a masculine body shown to be more "effective" the better it is at perpetrating violence. The masculine is also viewed in correspondence to the feminine in both films. Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta each react to key feminine figures in their respective films either directly or indirectly through violent means, further making violence a key component to their masculine identities.
Statement of Responsibility: by Cameron Worden
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2009
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Cuomo, Glenn

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2009 W9
System ID: NCFE004201:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: God's Lonely Men Violence in Service of Masculine Identity Construction in Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Worden, Cameron
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2009
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: Film
Scorsese, Martin
Taxi Driver
Raging Bull
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull each take the use of violence to construct masculine identity to be a major thematic concern. Both films' protagonists, Taxi Driver�s Travis Bickle and Raging Bull's Jake La Motta, each integrate violence into their lives as an extension of their identities. The violence in each film is performed in a very deliberate manner, and its performative status, as well as the performed masculine identities of each film's protagonist, is emphasized by Scorsese. Violence is also an outgrowth of the masculine body in each film and as such the bodies of both films' protagonists are up for scrutiny. Scorsese links the body to identity, with a masculine body shown to be more "effective" the better it is at perpetrating violence. The masculine is also viewed in correspondence to the feminine in both films. Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta each react to key feminine figures in their respective films either directly or indirectly through violent means, further making violence a key component to their masculine identities.
Statement of Responsibility: by Cameron Worden
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2009
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Cuomo, Glenn

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2009 W9
System ID: NCFE004201:00001

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GOD'S LONELY MEN: VIOLENCE IN SERVICE OF MASCULINE IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION IN MARTIN SCORSESE'S TAXI DRIVER AND RAGING BULL BY CAMERON WORDEN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Literature Under the sponsorship of Dr. Glenn Cuomo Sarasota, Florida May 2009


ii Table of Contents Introduction Page 1 Chapter One: Travis Bickle and Taxi Driver Page 5 Chapter Two: Jake La Motta and Raging Bull Page 46 Conclusion Page 97 Bibliography Page 103


iii GOD' S LONELY MEN: VIOLENCE IN SERVICE OF MASCULINE IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION IN MARTIN SCORSESE'S TAXI DRIVER AND RAGING BULL Cameron Worden New College of Florida, 2009 Abstract Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull each take the use of violence to const ruct masculine identity to be a major thematic concern. Both films' protagonists, Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle and Raging Bull's Jake La Motta, each integrate violence into their lives as an extension of their identities. The violence in each film is perfor med in a very deliberate manner, and its performative status, as well as the performed masculine identities of each film's protagonist, is emphasized by Scorsese. Violence is also an outgrowth of the masculine body in each film and as such the bodies of bo th films' protagonists are up for scrutiny. Scorsese links the body to identity, with a masculine body shown to be more "effective" the better it is at perpetrating violence. The masculine is also viewed in correspondence to the feminine in both films. Tra vis Bickle and Jake La Motta each react to key feminine figures in their respective films either directly or indirectly through violent means, further making violence a key component to their masculine identities. Dr. Glenn Cuomo Division of Humanities


1 Introduction As one of the many American filmmakers who ascended in the decade after Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Martin Scorsese has produced a stylistically and thematically consistent body of work. Particularly notable is his highly person al run of films made throughout the 1970's, beginning with Mean Streets (1973) and ending with Raging Bull (1980) which was his first work of the following decade. As such, his filmography is well suited to be examined as the work of a singular auteur. Per tinent to all of the films that he made during this time period, and a great deal more made throughout his career, are the twin issu es of masculinity and violence; i n particular, the relationship between the two and how one serves the other. In all of thes e films, Scorsese works from both a personal history and especially a cinematic history to provide more complex approaches to masculinity and vio lence than American filmgoers a re typically accustomed to. Of this run, Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull s tand as the most enduring and critically lauded, becoming an intrinsic part of the American cinematic canon. Each film demonstrates a thematic and aesthetic rigor that has become the hallmark of Scorsese's career. The former earned him the Palme d'Or at th e Cannes Film Festival and the latter earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Beyond simply being the most successful iterations of his aesthetic and thematic concerns as a director, though, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull bear a strik ing resemblance to one another. Each finds its masculine protagonist struggling to define his masculine identity in an urban context.


2 Each of these protagonists then, in turn, uses or attempts to use violence in realms deemed both acceptable and unacceptab le. While each work exists distinctively as a work by Martin Scorsese, both films are also collaborations with the same screenwriter, Paul Schrader, and the same lead actor, Robert De Niro, further tying them together. Both Schrader and De Niro's contribu tions are recognizable when viewed alongside much of the other work done by each man. Schrader's obsession with urban decay found in Taxi Driver shows up again in his Los Angeles based porn saga Hardcore (1979). In the early stages of Taxi Driver De Niro' s Travis Bickle bears a striking resemblance to Jon Rubin, another alienated New Yorker, whom he played in Brian De Palma's Greetings (1968) and Hi, Mom! (1970). His portrayal of Jake La Motta also informs a great deal of his career after Raging Bull as he has in subsequent years often employed the same kind of thick New York accent and characteristically tough guy mannerisms. Thus, both Schrader and De Niro bring their own preoccupations with masculinity and violence to both films, allowing for Scorsese to frame Schrader's screenplays and De Niro's acting so as to bring out his specific thematic concerns. Most notable of these thematic concerns is the relationship between violence and the process of masculine identity construction. This struggle to define the masculine identity in each film emphasizes the inorganic quality of such an identity. What makes these identities even more problematic is the fact that violence is so often used in service of creating such an identity. With these two films, Scorsese i s observing how American masculine identity is often defined through the lens of American entertainment. For Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle exists as a perversion of the American Western film genre's masculine ethos. Raging Bull's Jake La


3 Motta locates his id entity via his place in the history of boxing in America. Scorsese concerns himself with making the processes by which these images of masculinity are constructed transparent so as to emphasize the artificiality at their centers. So in terms of engagement with cultural images of masculinity, Scorsese's films have almost exclusively revolved around male protagonists, with the notable exceptions of Boxcar Bertha (1972) and Alice Doesn't Live Her Anymore (1974), both made prior to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull By virtue of investing so much time within each of his films to almost exclusively masculine points of view, Scorsese investigates the processes that form the masculine identity. Characters like Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta, as well as Leonardo DiCapri o's Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004) and Willem Dafoe's Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), provide a singular masculine perspective through which Scorsese's films operate. The naked insight he brings to each character opens up identity for i nvestigation. While this preoccupation with at least partially revealing how cinematic masculine identity is constructed hasn't exactly irrevocably altered predominant masculine representations in film, Scorsese's films are at least interesting in how th ey problematize the concept of the masculine identity. Most notably, this is done through integrating violence into the masculine persona. In Taxi Driver and Raging Bull as well as almost every one of Scorsese's other films centered around a male protagon ist, violence is an intrinsic part of identity. This is easy to locate in his crime sagas like Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), and The Departed (2006), but it's also at the core of characters like Robert De Niro's Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy (198 2) who, while initially seeming relatively mild mannered, cultivates the perception that he is


4 capable of great violence to secure a spot to perform his comedy act on national television. Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta are perhaps Scorsese's most indelibl e characters because they are the two whose violent impulses are the most difficult to unpack. Where a character like Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas is pure, uncomplicated violent rage, Travis and Jake each integrate violence into their lives based on sets of unexpected desires and impulses. Scorsese eschews identification with either character, instead presenting them each as, respectively, a racist, alcoholic, self deluded, psychotic outcast and a paranoid, overweight wife batterer. So, in regard s to violence and the masculine identity in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to understand one, one must understand the other. They are interconnected and often equated in both films. The violence in these films is an outgrowth of masculinity and the masculine identities of Travis and Jake would not be possible without the violence they commit or wish to commit.


5 Chapter One : Travis Bickle and Taxi Driver Deviant masculinity and the fragility of the masculine identity are central to Taxi Driver The film is centered by Robert De Niro's performance as Travis Bickle, a character who for a large part of the film's runtime has difficulty defining his masculinity. What eventually become central to his character are his predilection and capaci ty for violen ce. Through Travis the film equates the masculine identity and violence. For the character, the only way to engineer a dominant masculine identity is to reach the greatest capacity for violence. What distinguishes the character and the film is the extreme and grotesque nature of Travis Bickle's masculine identity. He moves so far beyond what is acceptable for the masculine identity in any context that he becomes a deviant force. The film stays with Travis through its entirety and as such reveals the mechani cs of formulating this sort of persona. The mechanics revealed, the masculine is thus offered up as a fluid, ill defined concept. The image of the lone masculine figure is a popular one in the history of film. This concept of solitary masculinity as seen through the lens of film history informs the conception of the character of Travis Bickle and how his masculinity is conceived within the film. A popular reference point for Taxi Driver and for the character of Travis Bickle is the John Ford Western The Se archers (1956). As a popular piece of genre filmmaking, The Searchers is darker and more ambiguous than the typical "formula" Western. The film concerns confederate war veteran Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne. Early in the film, Edwards's niece is kidn apped by a tribe of Native Americans. Edwards, an unrepentant racist, makes it his life's work to track down the tribe that has kidnapped his


6 niece, rescue her, and get revenge for the grief that the tribe has inflicted upon him and his family. It takes Ed wards years to find the tribe that has kidnapped his niece and when he does find the tribe, his niece has grown into an adult and has become initiated as a member of the tribe. In the eyes of the tribe and Edwards, she has become a full fledged Native Amer ican, despite her white skin. Upon witnessing this, Edwards vows to not only kill her kidnappers, but also her because she has become what he hates so much. In the final moments of the film, Edwards is on the verge of killing his niece only to quickly chan ge his mind and embrace her as his niece once again. John Wayne's Ethan Edwards represents the same stoic masculinity that Wayne's characters almost always do. However, in the case of The Searchers the "John Wayne" conception of cinematic masculinity is te mpered with a degree of obsession not usually found in the characters played by the actor. Taxi Driver "remakes" The Searchers by transplanting the plot out of the post Civil War American West and putting it into a contemporary New York City ( Stern 33 ). Tr avis Bickle becomes obsessed with "freeing" the pre teen prostitute Iris from her pimp Sport just as Ethan Edwards obsessively sought out his niece in order to free her from the Native American chief Scar. One of the factors that distinguishes the two film s from one another is that Bickle's quest to violently liberate Iris has nothing to do with heroics. Ethan Edwards's racism is tempered with what seems to be a genuine desire to save his niece, keeping the character in line with what is expected from a Joh n Wayne performance. Where John Wayne's performance as Ethan Edwards works within the milieu of The Searchers Robert DeNiro's performance as Travis Bickle shows a markedly greater consciousness of the performative qualities of the character. In the diege sis of the film,


7 Travis is not granted a degree of self awareness. He is too far within his own mind and the film rarely grants any other character a viewpoint of Travis. Thus as viewers, we are only privy to Travis's view of Travis. So much of Travis's ma sculine identity is comprised of stylized affectations that it is Travis's general ineptness at executing these affectations and DeNiro's adeptness as an actor to fully immerse himself in the character that is at once multifaceted, but also transparent eno ugh so that the seams of identity are visible. In both the characters of Ethan Edwards, as well as the John Wayne persona at large, and Travis Bickle, there is a stylization of the masculine persona. In the former instance, the creation of the John Wayne m asculine identity is as much about creating a brand and a myth as it is about defining a "type" of masculinity. The Searchers is significant in how it merely takes this persona as a starting point and makes the Ethan Edwards character a darker variant of t he character that John Wayne typically plays and it relates to Taxi Driver in the way that Taxi Driver takes that perversion of John Wayne's very distinct "cowboy" masculinity even further. To get the most out of this point of comparison, however, one mus t first deconstruct the particularly stylized characteristics of the John Wayne persona. The most distinctive qualities of a John Wayne performance are his vocal inflections and the way he walks. The former is marked by a general degree of condescension. E very sentence is delivered as if it was an order given to a subordinate, and usually this subjugates every other character to a subordinating position. His walk emphasizes the breadth of his shoulders and constantly puts him in a standing position, as if h e could reach for his gun and enact violence at any moment. It is these and other, more subtle stylizations that John Wayne the actor consistently brought to John Wayne the screen persona. Such


8 stylizations present him as not just wholly masculine, but as a very specific "type" of masculinity based on very specific stylizations. While the context for this is most obviously the American Western film, gender and gendered personas, as defined by Judith Butler, are predicated on this sort of stylization: Gender ought not to be construed as a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts follow; rather, gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts The effect of gender i s produced through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and styles of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self. This formulation moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of gender as a constituted social temporality Significantly, if gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of s ubstance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. (Butler 140 1) So John Wayne's masculinity, then is stylized as masculinities are, but adapted for the specific milieu of both the diegetic world of the films that he is in, as well as the greater social world of America contemporaneous with the production of these films. The Searchers is notable as it demonstrates the destructive properties of this specific stylized form of masculinity. Beyond the specific conception of Taxi Driver as a loose remake of The Searchers Travis seeks to embody the same sort of cinematic masculine archetype by stylizing hi s persona as the righteous male who can enact righteous violence without consequence. Notably, he wears cowboy boots and Western style shirts for a significant portion of the film. Important to deconstructing Travis's specific brand of masculinity is a sce ne in which he talks to Harvey Keitel's character Sport about having sex with Jodie Foster's prepubescent prostitute Iris. Sport initially assumes Travis to be a cop. When


9 Travis corrects him and demonstrates that he isn't carrying any weapons, Sport repli es with, "Shit, you're a real cowboy?" Despite the fact that he is paying to have a sex with a preteen girl, Sport has pegged Travis with a kind of upstanding, mainstream masculinity. The kind of masculinity that Travis has stylized for himself has more in common with the heroes of pre Vietnam American Westerns than with any figure contemporary to the film. Thus, the identity he has fashioned for himself is outdated and doesn't conform to the tastes or values of his time and place. Throughout the scene, Spo rt continually refers to Travis as "cowboy" in a way that belies confusion, curiosity, and condescension. As a parting insult, Sport tells Travis, "Catch you later, copper." Travis turns around, recognizing the remark as an insult, asks Sport to repeat wha t he had just said, and then tells him, "I'm no cop, man," as if to preserve his dignity. When Travis tells Sport, "I'm hip," Sport, laughing, replies with "Buddy, you don't look hip." Indeed, for his time and place, Travis's "cowboy" image is not hip. The se minor details, alongside other details such as Travis's later obsession with guns, cue the viewer into the Travis cowboy connection; however, DeNiro's portrayal of Travis finds the glaring imperfections of trying to adapt the John Wayne persona to fit i nto a 1970's New York City. Whereas the earlier Midnight Cowboy attempted to transplant traditional Western film iconography into a contemporary New York City setting and subsist on the culture clash element, Taxi Driver works more to adapt to its setting a mode of masculinity that was not of the film's time or place. What is so important here, then, is that Travis fails at this sort of adaptation. Sport vocalizes this failure, but even prior to this scene, DeNiro has already crafted the Travis Bickle perso na to be wholly imperfect. He walks fast and without the stylized swagger of John Wayne.


10 His hands are in his pockets in a physically defensive mode and his back is arched down, all indicating a desire to be ignored. The first scene in the film finds him b eing interviewed for his job as a cab driver. During this sequence he cracks a few jokes and is generally engaged; however most of his other encounters throughout the film are marked with unresponsiveness indicative of this same desire to be ignored. Whene ver a passenger addresses him, he doesn't talk back with the exceptions of Palentine and, at the end of the film, Betsy, although his conversation with Palentine is based primarily on his interest in pursuing a relationship with Betsy. The reaction shots o f Travis demonstrate this, particularly as they tend to be expressionless, conveying only a vague confusion over the situations he finds himself in. These reactions are so often shown in the rearview mirror, with just DeNiro's eyes expressing both his dist ance from the subject, his passenger, and a general confusion with how to react to the interaction. When he is around the other cabbies, Travis is generally unresponsive. DeNiro accomplishes this by avoiding looking at the other cabbies and focusing on th ings outside of the conversations. One shot mirrors Travis's viewpoint, filming a group of black men who it is implied are pimps shot from below tracking back so as to make them look particularly menacing. The soundtrack of the cabbies talking continues to play during this shot, despite the fact that they are sitting on the other side of the room indicating that the scene is Travis's viewpoint, as the other cabbies are engaged enough in their own conversation to not let their eyes wander across the diner to the other patrons. This sequence conveys Travis's viewpoint because DeNiro performs Travis with the physicality of one not engaged in a conversation. At another point in the scene, Travis drops an antacid tablet into a glass of water and stares intently a t it. DeNiro performs the


11 scene with his shoulders hunched, eyes fixed on the glass. The film cuts to a shot, from Travis's viewpoint, of the glass of water, the antacid tablet dissolving. The camera zooms in on the tablet, the sound of it dissolving becom ing louder on the soundtrack and beginning to drown out the cabbies' conversation until one of the cabbies calls Travis back into the conversation by name. The scene immediately cuts back to Travis, and the sound of the antacid tablet is silenced. Until he is specifically called back into the conversation, Travis directs his attention away from other people and entirely towards the hissing antacid. When called back, DeNiro performs the scene as somebody who has just been startled awake. He is placed in the middle of a conversation despite having been present and awake the entire time. Beyond DeNiro's performing Travis Bickle as performing masculinity, the structuring of the film is designed to provide an examination of interiority as Travis conceives of it. Butler breaks down the idea of an "internal" gender: Gender is also a norm that can never be fully internalized; "the internal" is a surface signification, and gender norms are finally phantasmatic, impossible to embody. If the ground of gender identit y is stylized repetition of acts through time and not a seemingly seamless identity, then the spatial metaphor of a "ground" will be displaced and revealed as a stylized configuration, indeed, a gendered corporealization of time. The abiding gendered se lf will then be shown to be structured by repeated acts that seek to approximate the ideal of a substantial ground of identity, but which, in their occasional dis continuity, reveal temporal and contingent groundlessness of "ground." (Butler 141) Taxi D river is ultimately structured around Travis's diary entries. The presumption is that the diary demonstrates or grants interiority, but these entries still act as performance. Travis is writing his manifesto for his identity construction in these entries. They are intentioned, and the reading of them on the soundtrack of the film demonstrates that these entries are just as performed as any of Travis's other stylized gestures. Through


12 voiceover narration and scenes of Travis alone, Travis's social performanc e of gender is made relatively transparent and his constructed interiority is laid ba re. After almost hitting Iris with his cab, Travis begins one of his diary entries on the soundtrack of the film. The film cuts to the interior of the cab and a close up o f Travis's face in profile. He begins, "Loneliness has followed me my whole life." The film cuts to a slow motion shot of a couple walking holding hands, seen presumably out the window of Travis's cab. Travis continues, "Everywhere, in bars and cars, sidew alks, stores. Everywhere. There's no escape." The film cuts between Travis staring out the window of his cab, a moving shot of people moving along on the sidewalk, and once more back to Travis. He then says in the narration, "I'm God's lonely man." He gran ts himself an authority with the self imposed distinction of being "God's lonely man." He grants himself this role in a way to naturalize his actions. He performs as "God's lonely man" in his diaries to lend them an importance. The film then cuts to the i nterior of Travis's apartment as he sits at his table writing in his diary. He narrates what he is presumably writing on the film's soundtrack, first beginning with the date, "June, 8 th ." He continues, "My life has taken another turn again. The days move a long with regularity, over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous chain." The camera pans around him throughout the monologue, eventually resting on a profile shot. Two Palentine bumper stickers and a sign that Travis mentions when he has coffee with Betsy, which reads "One of these days I'm gonna get organizized!" can be seen on his wall. Travis reads, "Then suddenly, there is a change." The change he is referring to is the introduction of Easy Andy and Travis's subsequent fir earms purchase, as that is the scene that follows. The diary entry, however,


13 is an attempt on Travis's part to instate a degree of importance to his purchase. The film puts this scene sequentially before the scene with Easy Andy to allow Travis the final w ord on it. What is revealed through this diary entry, though, is how Travis orders events in his own mind so that he can thus perform his identity with greater ease. Along with the performance of masculinity comes the performance of violence. Ethan Edward s, alongside just about every other performance given by John Wayne, embodies a violent potential that is intrinsic to his masculine identity. His effectiveness at rescuing his niece is predicated on his effectiveness to give a strong perception of his vio lent potential. In her work Masculinities R.W. Connell brings up the politics of violence between both men and women and strictly between men: Two patterns of violence follow from this situation. First, many members of the privileged group use violence to sustain dominance. Intimidation of women ranges across the spectrum from wolf whistling in the street, to office harassment, to rape and domestic assault, to murder by a woman's patriarchal owner', such as a separated husband. Physical attacks are c ommonly accompanied by verbal abuse of women (whores and bitches in recent popular music that recommends beating women). Most men do not attack or harass women; but those who do are unlikely to think themselves deviant. On the contrary they usually feel they are entirely justified, that they are exercising a right. They are authorized by an ideology of supremacy. [] Second, violence becomes important in gender politics among men. Most episodes of major violence (counting military combat, homicide an d armed assault) are transactions among men. Terror is used as a means of drawing boundaries and making exclusions for example, in heterosexual violence against gay men. Violence can become a way of claiming or asserting masculinity in group struggles. This is an explosive process when an oppressed group gains the means of violence witness the levels of violence among black men in contemporary South America and the United States. The youth gang violence of inner city streets is a striking example of the assertion of marginalized masculinities against other men, continuous with the assertion of masculinity in sexual violence against women. (Connell 83) The threat of violence is a method by which the masculine maintains dominance. Ethan Edwards dem ands a degree of respect from the other characters in The Searchers based solely on the fact that he is a man with violent potential. On a broader level, the


14 John Wayne archetype sustains a dominant position with both men and women through intimidation of both groups. With women, there is a constant threat of sexual violence. His love interests tend to get talked down to and threatened in the same way as the villains or those men that he is trying to control in his films. For men, he is consistently trying to establish himself as the "most" masculine and thus a figure to be respected and feared. All that is known about Travis Bickle at the beginning of Taxi Driver is his military background, and the film takes care to not reveal any further details. This li ttle facet of Travis's character is important, regardless of how briefly it is mentioned in the film. Just like Ethan Edwards, a veteran of the confederate army, Travis's previous occupation is predicated on an inherent masculinity, tied to an inherent vio lence. It must be remembered that in neither 1976 nor any time before were women in combat roles in the military. In this sense, the military and the violence it engenders are equated with masculinity and vice versa. Not only does this military background help to equate violence and masculinity for the sake of Travis's identity construction, but it also sets up a realm in which violence is acceptable for Travis. Although he is no longer fighting in Vietnam, Travis's masculinity is what gives him license to bring violence to the streets of New York City. It is his masculinity that grants him this authority to enact violence. When removed from the context of fighting for a military, Travis still retains the tenuous authority granted to him by his job in the mi litary. He is taken out of a realm in which he is allowed to kill without repercussions, but he retains his masculine identity and as such enacts violence with a particular zeal that comes from his particular experience with the military. As stated in the documentary Making Taxi Driver,' Travis's signature Mohawk


15 which appears in the film's final act is an affectation taken from a regular practice by American combat soldier s, dating back to World War II Travis's Mohawk is revealed at the second Palentine rally he attends as a quick pan up from the rest of his body to include his head in the shot. The suddenness of the pan makes the revealing of Travis's new haircut that much more shocking. His choice to cut his hair in this way indicates his "going into ba ttle" with all of New York City. If Travis actually wanted to assassinate Palentine with any degree of competency, his new haircut would be an odd and conspicuous choice. But Travis is not particularly dedicated to killing Palentine, and so the Mohawk has the same function as the intended act of violence. It is an advance warning that he is a man who envisions himself at war with and apart from his surroundings. Between the attempted assassination of Palentine and the assault on Sport and his associates, Tr avis returns to his apartment where he paces back and forth, in and out of the frame, in his living room. He has his shirt off and the pacing with purpose indicates that this return is merely a regrouping or a supply run and not an end to his violence. Th is scene also effectively continues the momentum of the entire sequence in the film as it never shows Travis actually resting or halting in his purpose. Despite Travis's initial assertion of his military experience at the start of the film and the presenc e of Travis's Mohawk, critic Stephen Hunter posits that he is not actually a Vietnam veteran, but rather an individual who has taken up that persona for better assimilation into society ( Hunter 216 ). The detail of the Mohawk and the general authority that Travis finds in violence, however, demonstrate that there is no real reason to doubt Travis's military service. In addition, in an early pan Travis's apartment, a soiled Vietcong flag is seen hanging next to a well worn military duffel bag The flag is a w ar


16 souvenir as its wear indicates, and provides material proof of Travis's military record. The mentality that he is going into battle when he leaves to assassinate Palentine and to murder Sport is left over from his time in the Marines. The relationshi p that Taxi Driver has to the spate of "vigilante" films made in the 70's sheds light on how Travis is able to take violence out of the "acceptable" realm of war and transport it to an urban environment. Films like the 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle Death Wi sh position New York as a kind of urban war zone, in which traditional authorities such as police are ineffective and where the lone masculine figure must take charge so as to make up for the short comings of society at large. This thread can also been see n in The Searchers and in the American Western genre as a whole. Examining The Searchers one sees the central character Ethan Edwards operating outside of any structured system in order to rescue his niece who has been kidnapped by a tribe of Native Ameri cans. The way in which Edwards goes about dispatching his niece's captors or anybody else who stands in his way demonstrates an authority bred by the capacity for violence. This lone masculine authority, locating his authority in the violent act, finds its legacy, at least in America, in vigilantes and assassins. It is these two roles that Travis takes on in the later half of Taxi Driver For Travis, the vigilante and the assassin become inseparable. Both roles enact violence that is in one form or another ideological. The vigilante enacts violence for the sake of retaining a degree of order, while the assassin enacts violence as a form of dissatisfaction with the current social order. For Travis, however, there is no distinction between these two roles. Bot h are simply excuses to enact violence in order to assert a masculine authority. Taken from the outside, Travis's violent acts have an ideological bent. For his rescue of Iris, he's taken as a hero in an


17 almost tragic ending to the film. Rather than being feared or respected for his violent potential, Travis is lauded for bringing order and enforcing social justice, despite the fact that he is obviously looking to exist outside of the societal order that he ends up reinforcing. For Travis, as much as for E than Edwards and Charles Bronson in Death Wish the capacity for violence is tied to the tools by which violence is enacted, most specifically the gun. The simplified explanation for the importance placed on the gun in Taxi Driver is that the gun is repres entative of the phallus and magnifies Travis's masculinity through his use of it. While the gun phallus connection is not unfounded, it also ignores the complexity of both Travis's relationship with violence as well as his relationship with his guns. The i mpetus for Travis's gun purchase is his rejection by Cybil Sheppard's Betsy. This emasculating experience leads to the need to construct a new masculine identity, a Travis that is stronger and more capable of asserting his masculinity than when he was reje cted by Betsy. Prior to that rejection, one of Travis's fellow cabbies asks him if carries a gun. Here he shrugs off the necessity of carrying a firearm. It's interesting, then, that the events that cause him to buy not just one gun, but several, are not t hat he is threatened or faced with any sort of mortal danger, but that he is rejected by a woman and then encounters another man who was also spurned by a woman who found consolation in his firearm. In this sequence, Scorsese himself plays the passenger in Travis's cab who delivers a violent monologue about his wife's infidelities and the violence that comes with it. First, Travis's passenger invites him to look upon his wife, or at least the apartment window through which his wife can be seen. Once Travis has located the


18 window, after much hectoring from the passenger, Scorsese's character says, "You know who lives there? A nigger lives there." The racial invective is not out of place in the film, as Travis has continually used slurs throughout, although wi th a greater degree of casualness. Often the African American inhabitants of the city are filmed as they are seen by Travis. These sequences portray their subjects with substantial menace, as Travis sees them. Almost all of the African Americans that appea r onscreen are male. A notable exception is the counter attendant at the pornographic theater that Travis frequents early in the film. Travis begins to hit on her, but she is quick to cut him off. Travis recognizes her femininity and despite the fact that he is an unrepentant racist throughout the film, the racial does not, for him, correlate with the feminine. In another sequence, tables full of African American men who are taken, by the way that they are dressed, to be pimps are filmed from below to empha size the substantial threat that Travis takes them to be. Sequences such as these demonstrate how Travis constructs his masculin ity not only in relation to the feminine, but also to the racial. Even before he goes about reconstructing his masculine identi ty, Travis locates the "racial" as the "other." The racial is as much a threat to his masculinity as being overwhelmed by the feminine. This sets up another parallel between Travis and John Wayne in The Searchers The Ethan Edwards character finds his anta gonist in Scar, the Native American warlord, just as racialized as any of the African Americans in Taxi Driver For Edwards, he is a threat almost exclusively predicated on the fact that he is a racial "other." When Edwards finds out that his niece has ass imilated into the culture of the tribe that has captured her, Edwards insists on the need to kill her as she has been corrupted by the racial "other." The threat of "corruption" by the racial "other" is on


19 display when Scorsese's character has Travis drive him to the apartment of the man his wife is staying wit h. The African American man who is with his wife is emasculating him, making him into a cuckold. Travis's passenger fears that the black man with his wife is fulfilling his masculine role because he, the passenger, is not man enough to. The racial "other" is threatening because in his mind, this "other" forces his masculinity into obsolescence. But despite the obvious hatred behind the use of the invective "nigger," the man is not the one subject to Tr avis's passenger's violent rage, but rather the passenger's wife. According to Making Taxi Driver," i n Paul Schrader's original screenplay for Taxi Driver the character of Sport, the pimp, was ini tially written as a black man. Scorsese changed the charac ter to a white man because he saw the inclusion of a black pimp character like Sport as giving the film a racist subtext. That Sport was written as an African American man puts Travis's masculine identity even more in line with Ethan Edwards. He is fightin g against the same sort of racial other that he sees as working to make a young white girl impure. The moment with Scorsese as the passenger in Travis's car is the moment that Travis is introduced to the gun and its role as a tool with which he can reclaim hi s masculinity. In this sequence the gun assumes the role of the phallus in the basest analysis. Travis's passenger asks Travis if he's ever seen what a .44 Magnum can do to a woman's face and Travis remains silent. He follows this up with the question, "Have you seen what a .44 Magnum can do to a woman's pussy?" With this question comes the implication that Travis's passenger intends to insert his gun inside his wife and to shoot. The gun is becoming a penis in this situation with bullets as ejaculate. I n this specific part of the film, the role of the gun can be seen as a surrogate penis with which Travis's


20 passenger seeks to reclaim his masculinity by making it "more potent," i.e. he ejaculates so hard that he kills his wife. He is literally destroying his wife with the intensity of his masculinity. More importantly, in the context of the film, it is the moment after h is emasculation by Betsy that Travis equates violence with masculinity. This encounter with his passenger proves revelatory for Travis as it gives him the specific tool to latch onto as he undergoes his transformation into a more fully realized specimen of masculinity: the gun. Initially, it's the .44 Magnum that draws Travis in. Most striking about this specific firearm is the ludicrous siz e and power of the gun. The .44 Magnum is impractical as a defensive weapon for these very reason s. Easy Andy emphasizes this point by telling Travis, "The Magnum, they use that in Africa for killing elephants The impracticality of the weapon, however, d oes not hinder Travis in any real way, since most of the time that he is seen onscreen with it he is toying with it or shooting it at a gun range. The potential of the weapon matches the kind of potential that Travis seeks for himself. He is so often model ing himself and his body on the loaded gun. He wants, if nothing else, the potential to do violence, something the Magnum represents in an extreme way. Travis connects the violent potential of the gun with the fact that it is not organic, thus formulating that for him to become masculine through his use of the gun, he must craft a masculinity that is inorganic. His initial purchasing of the guns from Easy Andy, the travelling salesman, is filmed in a way that fetishizes the firearms. The guns are lovingly f ilmed in a slow panning shot so as to echo Travis's apparent awe when faced with the guns. The shot echoes the introductory shot of Betsy in which her body is surveyed with the same possessive, inquisitive stare. The scene is considerably longer


21 than the p lot of the film necessitates, as every possible purchase is outlined in detail by Andy with Travis testing each one out before he finally decides to take all of them. It is here, however, that the relatively simple motivations of Travis's passenger from ea rlier in the film give way to a more complex concern on the part of Travis. Travis doesn't want a simple phallic extension to emphasize his masculinity. Rather, he wants to recast masculinity as something more akin to a machine. The purchase of a gun is th e first step in this process as it provides a way to demonstrate his violent capacities and position him further away from the more organic "filth" that he rails against for a good part of the film. On the subject of Travis's obsession with guns, Lesley S tern, in her book The Scorsese Connection finds importance in one sequence in which Travis takes aim with his finger in a porn theater, the last time in the film that he is shown frequenting such a theater: Travis takes aim and points his finger at the sc reen, a highly stylized gesture enacted with all the deadly efficiency of a real' shooting. What is significant here is not the substitution of finger for gun (and/or penis) but the evocation of a continuous surface linking machine and body. In his des perate attempt to organize, to redraw the boundary lines, Travis reduces the distinction between machine and body. The ritualistic performance of the gesture, emphasizing the looking and taking aim (a continuity too between cinephilia and killing), con firms the deadly coherence of his delusional world. On one level pointing the finger' is an act of accusation and projection it locates the blame somewhere else, on an other body. It is also an act of mimicry, a miming of killing, a performative phat ic act. But for Travis, as his obsessive transforming of the body progresses, the phatic becomes invested with deadly effect. (Stern 56) Rather than performing masculinity in the John Wayne mode which resembles children playing as cowboys, Travis is aff ecting gestures and tendencies that speak to his desire to become a literal "killing machine." He makes a gesture of a gun with his hand, not because he wants to be holding a gun and pointing it at that moment, but because he wants his hand to actually be a gun.


22 When he is in his apartment, Travis is most often seen holding one or more of his guns, in particular when he is watching television and has human targets to point at. Two scenes have Travis interacting both with his gun and television at the same time and both operate incredibly similar ly in demonstrating how Travis regards his relationship with his television and his firearms. The first of these two scenes has Travis holding a gun while watching a dancing show akin to Soul Train as Jackson Browne' s "Late for the Sky" plays. The scene begins with Travis pointing a gun at the camera with a cut to the television set, implying that it's the television Travis is pointing his gun at. On the screen of the television, two African Americans dance. Travis is targeting the racial here, asserting his mechanized masculinity. The rest of the scene just consists of crosscuts between Travis and his television playing the same program. Travis is maintaining a relationship with his television as there is an absence o f any sort of real human relationships in his life. By providing a human representation, his television acts a surrogate relation to him, although he still feels the need to assert his masculinity in this relationship. He continually holds his gun, and eve n when he isn't pointing it and pulling the trigger, its presence is still felt. He wields it with a degree of menace, but also a casualness that attests to how ingrained in his existence his gun has become. The second scene has Travis watching a soap ope ra on TV, while he points his gun, cocks it, and pulls the trigger over and over again. His foot rests on the box that his television sits on, and as he continues to watch TV and play with his gun he rocks the box back and forth on it edge until the televi sion set slides off the crate and breaks. The destruction of the television set doesn't appear to be intentional, as Travis expresses regret over having severed his connection with the outside world. This destruction seems


23 inevitable, though, as Travis's i ntent to destroy his television, or the humanity that it displays, is demonstrated through Travis's insistent taking aim. Pointing his gun is more literal than pointing his finger, but it still represents the same desire to destroy. Even when Travis isn't explicitly looking to destroy, he seeks to, as it is implicitly encoded into the masculinity he constructs for himself. Becoming a machine encompasses maintaining a relationship with his machine, the television. Being a masculine machine, or at least as Tr avis conceives it, encompasses an urge to destroy, in particular his relationships. The gun is the beginning of Travis's greater transformation to a masculine machine. As Stern sees it, from there begins a series of scenes in which Travis goes about tran sforming himself to machine. First his buying guns, then his working out, practicing shooting, seeing a pornographic film, and rehearsing for a violent encounter. Immediately following up Travis's purchase of guns with his working out eases the cognitive l eap to Travis turning himself into a machine. Having to craft his body as machine, Travis is moving towards a conception of masculinity that surpasses the John Wayne archetype to an extreme degree. While he adores the guns, they are just one part of his ne w masculine vestige. It is not just to own the gun, but to become the gun that Travis seeks. All the same, Travis is stuck with the body he has. What becomes important here is the potential, as well as the limitations, of the masculine body and more specif ically Travis's masculine body. No matter how hard he tries, Travis will never become a machine on any level other than metaphorical. Travis, however, can push himself to perfect his masculine body. It is not the end result that matters in this case, but t he motivation behind Travis's physical regiments.


24 Connell points out how bodily function becomes a function of gender definition using the example of sports: At the same time, the bodily performances are called into existence by these structures. Running throwing, jumping or hitting outside these structures is not sport at all. The performance is symbolic and kinetic, social and bodily, at one and the same time, and these aspects depend on each other The constitution of masculinity through bodily per formance means that gender is vulnerable when the performance cannot be sustained for instance, as a result of physical disability. (Connell 54) For Travis to rebuild his masculinity, he must rebuild his masculine body. He finds his definition of his self located in his masculine body and continuing habits that are unhealthy for this body means further loosing his masculine identity. According to Connell, sport is one of the realms in which masculinity is tested through the effectiveness of the masculi ne body. So the sequence in which Travis begins training his body resembles the training montage that has become requisite in sports films. Each of his exercises is filmed out of context, and they are strung back to back to emphasize the effort and time th at go into such an endeavor. The difference here is that Travis is not working towards any particular goal. He eventually goes on to attempt to assassinate Palentine and to successfully take out several criminals, but there is a marked disconnect between t hese two goals, and this disconnect demonstrates a lack of commitment to either one. With respect to an ultimate goal, Travis doesn't seem particularly preoccupied with either the assassination or the vigilante crusade. There is no final product of the mon tage as there is in the sports film. The effort of masculine construction in the montage is evident. Travis suffers for his body. He does push ups, lifts weights and performs a whole host of other actions in service of perfecting the masculine body. These actions are performed shirtless, which


25 emphasizes the masculine body on display here. If one tries to locate an actual concrete motivation in Travis's bodily reconstruction, it's difficult to find. Whereas Travis is inspired to buy the guns by his psychot ic passenger, it seems as though the guns are what inspire Travis to build up his body. Masculinity and machine are equated, then, as Travis seeks to become more like the gun but can only become more masculine. Klaus Theweleit brings up the concept of "bo dy armor" in the second volume of his Male Fantasies : Libidinal investment in one or the other form of mass organization is not necessarily total; cathexis of both can exist in the same person, group, or party. In the soldier male, however, the two appea r strictly antithetical. His unconscious is organized in ways consistent with the organization of his body; his bodily interior (the molar arrangement of domination), and the two are irreconcilably opposed, one subjected to the other. The "man of superi or race" needs to dominate in order to retain his body intact. He prevents himself from being "torn apart," and his bodily interior from emerging into the open, by adopting a position of absolute domination. (Theweleit vol. 2 75) The physical body is m ade to resemble a machine to protect any sort of interiority. But then, if the masculine is defined by the masculine body, the masculine is conceived as a way of protecting an interior that is inherently non masculine. So Travis is mechanizing himself. He is building up his body armor to protect his interiority in the same way that the German proto fascists in Theweleit's book built up theirs. Whereas Theweleit posits the proto fascists as protecting themselves from the impurity of the racial other, Travis is protecting himself from everything and everyone including, but not exclusively, the racial other. Of course the racial still applies, as Travis has already demonstrated his fear and disdain for the racial other. But it's not just the racial, but any and all things that fall into the "filth" category designated by Travis that Travis is protecting himself against.


26 Race, it just so happens, is an easy enough category for Travis to distinguish based on obvious external differences. The only non white man ki lled by Travis in the film, however, is also Travis's only victim outside of the final raid. He is also the only person that Travis expresses any degree of regret over killing, although it is more tied to the fact that he is afraid of being arrested for no t having a permit for his gun rather than any crushing moral weight tied to taking a life. The killing itself is also very spur of the moment and doesn't have the planned weight of his final stand against "filth." Within the film, race is not expressly ti ed to moral decay. Despite there being a considerable number of black criminals, there are also black characters that are not criminals such as Charlie T, one of Travis's fellow cabbies. Charlie T, however, is still filmed in such a manner that Travis's d istrust of him is evident, despite the fact that there is nothing inherently untrustworthy about him and he is also one of the only cabbies that isn't implicated in illegal or otherwise shady activities. In one sequence, as Travis is leaving the diner with several other cabbies, Charlie T, filmed in a tracking back shot, calls Travis "killer," puts his fingers in the formation of a gun, as Travis has been shown doing earlier in the film, and makes the noise and motion of a gunshot. The sequence is filmed as if from Travis's perspective so the character of Charlie T is especially menacing as his actions are acted out in a fairly slow and deliberate way. The tracking backwards of the camera mimics the movement of a body actually shot by a gun, providing a more literal visual analogue of the act of Charlie T's shot. The "filth" designation also includes a large number of white people, including all of Travis's targets at the end of the film. The noticeable lack of black targets during the climatic shoot out is intentional on the part of Scorsese in an attempt to eliminate a racist


27 subtext, but it also works to break down Travis's racist mindset, which although definitely present throughout the film, isn't exactly made explicit. He is only destroying white "filth here. This representational shift from black "filth" to white "filth" doesn't have any noticeably conscious effect on Travis but still works within the milieu of the film as a marked shift in how the perceived threat of the racial other affects Travis's masculinity. Travis, despite being shot repeatedly, has no problem dominating several white men and accomplishes this with absolutely no remorse. There is also an inorganic quality to Travis's body armor beyond the metaphorical implications and the purely physical practicality of it. This signifies masculine identity construction, or at least masculine identity construction as it applies to Travis, as an equally inorganic process. The body armor is meant to be an external signifier of an internal and inher ent masculinity, but it functions to protect any inherent non masculinity. This expands the definition of body armor from having just a physical and metaphorical function, to operating in an illusory manner, protecting the fragility of the masculine throug h the illusion of masculinity. For Travis, it is this illusion of masculinity that is initially shattered and must be reinstated that precedes his violent acting out. He begins focusing on his potential for violence and honing it. The purchase of the guns is significant in part because he purchases so many guns. That he buys so many guns points to the fact that he wants to give the impression of violence at least as much as he wants to commit actual violence. As he hones his potential for violence, his abi lity to do violence becomes his identity. Above all, he wants to be recognized for his violent potential, hence the need for body armor. During the training sequence, the film picks up with voice over narration from Travis's diary. As


28 Travis begins deliver ing a third person account of his intention to do away with "filth", he stumbles. This stumble reveals imperfection. Travis's diary isn't to allow Travis an outlet for him to give voice to his interiority, but rather a place for him to formulate his exteri or persona. When the voiceover begins, it is Travis giving an ultimatum to an imaginary audience. When he stumbles, he ruins the illusion of perfection and precision that he is trying to put forth. With his verbal stumble, the film also stumbles. When he s tarts up again at the beginning, the film does too, replaying the same images it had already played, matching the same words to the same images as it had before. The film provides a visual analogue for Travis's speech. The stutter in the film alongside Tra vis's stumble in his speech reveal in an instant how this persona that Travis has taken on is one of his own conscientious construction. The role of the diary is subverted as Travis's diary finds itself on display for the audience, the entries read aloud b y Travis himself throughout the entire film. Travis is giving himself his own identity in these entries. He is repositioning facts and expositions so that he can write himself into his own history as he sees fit. In this sense, Travis is an unreliable narr ator, but through details like his stumble in narration the methods of Travis's construction are revealed. The physicality of the body armor cannot be overlooked, though, in favor of purely metaphorical functionality. Travis has recognized the limitations of his physical masculine body and as such finds purpose in changing his body so as to eliminate or at least cov er up these limitations. Stern describes the nature of this change: Travis's attempt to make his body whole, to impose total organization, c an be seen as a way of making the body impregnable, untouchable (untouched by the pain of the flame burning), and water (or fluid) tight. Every muscle must be tight; there can be no softness or liquid oozing, no possibility of pollution are made manife st, and if body orifices and the skin itself (a thin membrane separating inside from outside) are particularly dangerous because they introduce anomaly,


29 then the anomalous must be eradicated, and separations clearly defined. ( Stern 55) After he begins his physical training regiment, Travis does not find use in the physical body that he has created for himself in terms of the violence he eventually perpetuates. It is the external implements such as the gun that Travis uses, rather than his muscles. Since at no point he is given an opportunity to show how he has expanded the potential of the body, his body armor can only be used to avoid penetration, his goal in the first place. There are two instances, then, in which Travis uses his new found potential for the outwardly offensive rather than the defensive. The first is his intended assassination of Charles Palentine. No political stance for Palentine is articulated within the film, keeping him as far from ideology as possible. This also has the effect of removing Travis's assassination attempt from the realm of ideology. This brings Travis out of the realm typically inhabited by political assassins. Part of the reason that the viewer is ignorant of Palentine's ideology is that Travis is also ignorant of i t. At one point, Betsy actually asks Travis what he thinks about Palentine's views on a certain issue and Travis admits to not knowing. By b ringing Travis out of the realm of actual political assassinations, imbued as they tend to be with an ideological co ncern, Travis is found to be more at odds with his own masculinity being threatened by another male figure. If the connecting element between Travis and Palentine is not actual politics, than it can be assumed that it is Betsy, the nexus of Travis's emascu lation. It is conceivable that Travis would only be vaguely aware or possibly even completely unaware of whom Charles Palentine even was if it were not for the fact that Betsy works for him. Travis's lack of political awareness distances him from a backgro und of political awareness so important to even formulating a stance on a political figure. The projected end result of Travis's


30 actions in this instance is nothing more than the death of Charles Palentine. The death itself is the end, rather than the mean s for some greater political end. This is where Travis really breaks from the tradition of American political assassinations. It is telling that the American assassination attempt that most resembles Travis's in terms of ideology is John Hinckley's attempt on Ronald Reagan's life, an assassination attempt in part inspired by Taxi Driver ( "John Hinckley.") The second instance in which Travis puts himself on the offensive is his final raid on Sport and his associates. Sport, for Travis, is a more accessible t arget than Palentine. He also stands as the closest male associate to the other main female figure in the film, Iris. An analogy can be set up here: Sport is to Palentine what Iris is to Betsy. Thus, Travis's attack on Sport sheds light on what he has inte nded to accomplish with his assassination of Palentine. His vigilante action is divergent from what is typically construed as vigilante action, just as his assassination attempt breaks from the typical ideology infused assassination. If the typical vigilan te seeks to bring order based on a sense of dissatisfaction with how the law is being carried out, Travis is seeking to find a system into which to plug his violent tendencies. At one point he informs fellow cabbie Wizard that he's having "some really bad thoughts" and expresses his more destructive intent. Based on this, then, Travis's vigilante crusade is less about saving Iris than it is about destroying everything in his path and ultimately himself. He turns his gun on himself in a telling gesture. Whil e not necessarily motivated by the prospect of becoming a hero to a greater public, vigilantes are motivated by preserving a greater moral order. Travis's morality, however, is askew from any greater sense of public morality found within the film. Travis d oes not want to bring order, but rather act out his violent rage.


31 When the role of assassin fails Travis, he needs to order his violent impulses in a certain manner. In both the assassination attempt and the final raid, Travis intends to die after wreaking havoc and killing at least one person. Travis's willingness to sacrifice himself in this manner would give the violence a redemptive quality, but there is no actual motivation for this sacrifice. Travis doesn't particularly want to become a hero, which ma kes his first target, Palentine, the more obvious one. At the end of the raid, Travis turns the gun on himself, not to become a martyr, but rather because beginning at some point before he decided to assassinate Palentine his intent was to die. The violent blowout of either the intended assassination or the vigilante raid would grant Travis an end and thus a purpose to the time he has spent throughout the film sculpting his body and honing his combat skills. After being shot in the neck and shoulder and hav ing killed the other men in the hotel, Travis slumps onto the couch and attempts to unload the rest of his magazine into his head. The gun, however, is out of bullets and Travis is forced to wait for the police to rescue him, despite the fact that he wants the opposite. Upon their arrival, Travis replicates the gun gesture which he so often makes throughout the film, calling back the scene in the movie theater and the scenes of him in front of his television with his guns. This is the final merging of flesh with firearm that Travis has so consistently been trying to accomplish throughout the film. The shot begins with a close up of Travis's bloody hand. The camera follows as he brings his fingers into the shape of a gun and places his forefinger at his templ e. He "cocks" his thumb three times, each simulating a shot. Travis accompanies each "shot" with a verbal noise simulating a gun firing. The pantomime suicide is done in the presence of the police officers that appear


32 after Travis has finished his violent rampage. Because he is lacking bullets, the mimed suicide is necessary for Travis to complete the whole task. The violence has taken on a performative connotation. Travis needs the violence to end in the manner in which he planned it to end, so when an aud ience arrives for him, he acts the remainder out. The shot is slowed down so as to stylize the act in the manner that Travis himself intends for it to be stylized. This stylization of violence matches up with how Travis stylizes his masculine persona throu ghout the film. The actual violence in the film is often clumsy and blunt, making it especially shocking. However, when Travis has the opportunity to control the situation, the film switches to a more stylized depiction. Travis is acting out violence, even if there aren't the same results as the actual violence. The assassination attempt and the stand off in the hotel can both be tied to, then, Travis's drive to assert a masculine identity thus defined by an external femininity. The adult and fully formed femininity of Betsy becomes inaccessible to Travis. Even his attempt to disrupt Betsy's relationship with what Travis views as the dominant masculine figure in her life, Palentine, fails. Iris is much more accessible to Travis for a few reasons. First of a ll, she is a prostitute, giving Travis a clear and easy way to access her, money. While money only guarantees physical access, it is still more access than Travis has been previously allotted with Betsy. Secondly, she is an adolescent, giving her considera bly less experience than Betsy has and thus lowers her guard to people like Travis. Similarly, Sport is a more accessible figure for Travis to destroy than Palentine. Where Palentine has secret service agents and only appears in public on limited occasions Sport, being considerably less famous, does not have the luxury of constantly being surrounded by guards. By the nature of his occupation as a street hustler, he must be readily accessible.


33 This makes it much easier for Travis to assert his masculinity t hrough both Iris and Sport. Beyond just an assertion, Travis wants to self destruct. He plans on getting killed during his assassination of Palentine; however, when it becomes clear that he won't be able to kill Palentine, nor be killed himself in the proc ess, he runs away. When he shoots Sport, though, Travis finds himself at a loss. Having only actually spoken to each other once before, Sport doesn't recognize Travis with his new haircut as he walks up. After exchanging a few hostile words, Travis pulls a gun, sticks it in Sport's abdomen, and says, "Suck on this." Rather than shooting Sport in a location where the shot would be fatal, Travis shoots him right above the groin. The location of the shot and the preceding "Suck on this" sexualize the shooting, indicating Travis's sexual frustration over Iris. He leaves Sport bleeding and dying in the doorway not having actually killed him. There is a pause, then, between when he shoots Sport and when he enters the hotel, as if he is expecting Sport, who is not dead, to attack and kill him. When that moment doesn't come, he enters the hotel to further confront the organization involved in keeping Iris a prostitute. Both with Sport and Palentine, Travis asserts his masculine body as a destructive mechanism. In su ch instances, Travis defines his masculinity by his masculine body so for him to fashion a dominating form of masculinity, he must fashion a dominant masculine body, one that fulfills any and all potential at being destructive. It is jarring, then, when du ring the training sequence emphasizing the potential of Travis's masculine body, Scorsese cuts to a shot looking down on him as he doing push ups. Across Travis/De Niro's back is an enormous scar. The emphasis on this scar demonstrates that, despite Travis 's wish for the perfect masculine body, he is woefully ill equipped to


3 4 actually achieve it. The scar is a blemish that Scorsese emphasizes in his photographin g of it. The shot that is most e ffective in this sense is the top down shot in which Travis's enti re body is in the frame. The scar is shown clearly, in its entirety, with the scale of Travis's entire body used in such a way that the viewer is able to see just how large the scar looms on the otherwise clean surface of Travis's back. It is a point of pe netration on a man who has obsessed over becoming impenetrable. The ragged quality of the scar indicates that the scar is likely from a combat wound rather than a surgical wound. In Schrader's original screenplay for the film, Travis talks with Easy Andy a bout his stint in Vietnam. He refers to having spent a great deal of time in military hospitals, further indicating that the wound on his back was likely incurred in combat. When Travis's "body armor" is taken into account, the scar appears as a chink in t his armor. No matter how hard Travis pushes himself to achieve the perfect, seemingly invincible body, he will always be vulnerable. He takes this into account in both of the offensive sequences, assuming death at the end of each. However, these are the on ly two sequences in which Travis openly recognizes the possibility of his bodily harm. He is putting himself in a position where he is not able to fully deflect all harm. Otherwise, though, he assumes invulnerability. His masculinity and his masculine body deflect any external threats. The concept of the body as machine that comes up in Taxi Driver is one that is common to the body horror film genre. In these films, the limits of the human body are shown through bodily transformations. The horror aspect of these films is the fear of disassociation from one's body as it transforms into an unrecognizable form. Two films in particular, David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983) and Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) make explicit Taxi Driver's equating t he body with a machine.


35 Cronenburg's film follows James Woods as he stumbles upon a television program in which a signal is embedded that transforms his body into an amalgamation of flesh and machine. While the plot of the film gets complicated by various conspiracy plots concerning the ethics of censorship and the possibilities of controlling the public through television, central to Videodrome is Woods's transformation to "the new flesh." Initially, Woods transformation takes the form of a vagina like cav ity appearing on his abdomen. During this initial appearance of this cavity, Woods inserts a handgun into the cavity. Upon waking the next morning, however, he discovers that the cavity has disappeared. A short while later in the film, Woods meets up with one of those involved in the Videodrome television show in which the signal that has transformed Woods's body is embedded. Here, the cavity reappears and a pulsing video cassette is inserted. From here on out, anything inserted or removed from Woods's vagi nal cavity becomes flesh like. A video cassette is inserted at one point that no longer appears as a normal video cassette, but rather looks like a lump of flesh in the shape of a video cassette. Woods's pistol reappears when he sticks his own hand into th e cavity to retrieve it. However, when he removes his hand from the cavity, it has fused with the gun that he had previously inserted into the cavity. At another point, a man inserts his hand into Woods's cavity to insert something when Woods clamps the ma n's hand inside the cavity. When he finally allows the man to remove his hand, it has fused with a grenade which proceeds to explode and kill the man to whom it is attached. These later two instances in particular provide a literal illustration of what Tra vis is attempting to do when he purchases his arsenal and begins training his body. The positioning of his fingers in the shape of a gun demonstrates his urge to transform himself into a weapon in the way that Woods has. As


36 Woods gets deeper into the consp iracy plot of Videodrome he's faced with the inevitability of transformation to "the new flesh." His body's increased ability to defend itself appears to be the endpoint for Woods's transformation to "the new flesh" before he becomes an entity that exists beyond physicality. Travis is attempting to achieve super humanity in his exercise routines and his weapons purchases. Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man also incorporates a protagonist whose body is moving towards being mechanized. Much like Videodrome Te tsuo equates sexuality with machines. In Videodrome it comes in the form of James Woods kissing and stroking his television set and growing a distinctly vaginal opening in his chest. In Tetsuo the bodily transformation is triggered by a sexual incident of an ambiguous nature committed by the protagonist, referred to simply as "the man." After this incident, frequently referenced in a grainy video of the man having sex with his girlfriend (referred to as "the woman,") the man begins a transformation to a ma chine. His skin begins to grow metal protrusions, until it is all covered. But rather than becoming simply a metal human, he also begins to grow antennas and his penis is replaced with a drill that spins when he becomes aroused. Eventually, after inadverte ntly killing the woman with his drill penis, the man is required to use the new found violent potential of his body to fight a man that the film implies the man has accidently killed with his car at the beginning of the film. The dead man, referred to in t he film as "the metal fetishist" based on his penchant for inserting metal under his skin for implied sexual purposes, chooses to fight the man seemingly out of revenge for his murder, although the film isn't forthcoming with motivations or even simple plo t details. Important in the film, however, is the motif of bodily transformation and it is in this way that the film connects to Taxi Driver Travis is wielding his


37 masculine body as a weapon just as Tetsuo's man is wielding his body as a weapon (whether o n purpose or on accident, as in the case of the death of the woman.) The transformation of the man's marker of his masculinity, his penis, in to a literal weapon demonstrates the measure of a masculine body by its potential to commit violence. It literalize s the body weapon connection that Taxi Driver makes since the man in Tetsuo is literally turning into a weapon. Also, in the same way that Travis seeks to build up his "body armor," the man in Tetsuo is actually growing an inorganic metallic shield that ac ts as armor in the same way that Travis is hoping his muscles will. Another parallel between the films is found in Tetsuo 's final moments. After "the man" and "the metal fetishist" have concluded their final battle and merged bodies into one large metalli c lump with two heads, one head declares, "Our love can put an end to this fucking world" which the other head says "sounds like fun." While there is a very obvious homoerotic connotation to the statement, the singular body that remains in the film combine s the identities of the two men, rendering their "love" wholly narcissistic and centered within the context of the body. This self obsession with and cultivating of the body with eventual destructive intent is in fact very reminiscent of Taxi Driver The b ody at the end of Tetsuo is no longer even recognizable as masculine. Rather, it has transcended humanity and has become an amalgamation of flesh and machine, each unrecognizable from each other. This is exactly what Travis is seeking to become, a destruct ive machine. Travis is not operating within the world of science fiction or horror, however, and must retain his humanity. Thus, his only option to become as destructive as possible is to build his masculine body to resemble a machine as much as he can.


38 F rom the very beginning of the film, Travis's chosen profession encases him in a machine for most of his waking hours. The taxicab becomes an extension of Travis and Travis an extension of the cab. Lesley Stern elaborates on the cab Travis connection: The i nvocation of cab as body alerts us to the process of embodiment that Travis will be involved in, and to a relationship between the two bodies (of man and machine) that will be developed in a fairly complex series of mutations. [] The transposition of t he Western into a contemporary urban genre implies more than simply a replacement of the horse by the car; it involves the violence of collision. The car, rather curiously it might seem at first, also signals a concern with the body, particularly with t he notion of machine body. So though The Searchers prefigures Taxi Driver in many ways the concept of the machine body is new. (Stern 51 2) Neither the cab nor the machine body relationship the cab calls attention to are initially linked with violence a t the outset of the film. It does, however, draw Travis away from establishing actual human relationships. Beyond Betsy, the people that Travis appears closest with are his fellow cabbies, men that have similar relationships with machines as him, but also men that he is required at least to see based on his professional relationship with them. During the training sequence, Travis is seen fashioning arm extensions out of a desk drawer roller and a curtain rod. When looking at how Travis modifies and context ualizes his bod y to appear more as machine, this significant and bizarre detail is important. The masculine body, even at its peak, is not enough for Travis. The mechanized is preferable because it extends the capabilities of the body. The purpose of the c urtain rod extensions, so it appears is to decrease the amount of time it takes for Travis to draw his guns. He attaches a gun to the curtain rod and conceals it in his sleeve until the moment he needs his weapon, at which time he slides the curtain rod w ith a flick of his elbow and the gun slides into his hand. Travis recognizes that there is a limit on


39 how fast he as a human can physically pull a gun and thus fashions the curtain rod extension to give him a mechanical upper edge. This brings Taxi Driver back to the Western conceit, in which the fastest draw is a measure of masculine worth. Travis is augmenting his masculinity in a way that it surpasses "normal" masculinity and becomes more perfect than the ideal could possibly be. So, the common ground Ta xi Driver Tetsuo and Videodrome have is that in all of them, the masculine body transforms to better facilitate violence. Tetsuo has its masculine machines morphing, fighting, and eventually merging with a mission to destroy the world. In Videodrome Jam es Woods begins his transformation weakened. The resemblance of the orifice in his chest to a vagina positions his body as inherently feminine, and he is subject to frequent bouts of nausea. Once he learns how to use his new body, the orifice becomes the l ess emphasized bodily mutation and the flesh gun that appears in place of his hand becomes a more important symbol. The phallic nature of the gun and Woods's retained masculine body gender this transformation as masculine. That the potential of Woods's ne w body revolves around violence ties Videodrome to Tetsuo and Taxi Driver While Travis's bodily transformation isn't framed in the fantastic manner that the transformations in Tetsuo and Videodrome are, it still gets at the same core as those films. Travi s is attempting to make himself more masculine and able to do more violence, which are for him, one in the same. Important in the conception of the masculine of Taxi Driver is the conception of the feminine. There are two female characters that stand at t he center of the film. Cybill Shepherd's Betsy occupies Travis's attention for the first half of the film. Betsy represents a pure virginal blonde ideal that attracts Travis because it stands apart from the


40 "filth" he sees around him and she stands as a ki nd of "pure" femininity. Prior to the introduction of Betsy in the film, Travis struggles to identify himself amidst the landscape of New York City. The moment she enters the film, she becomes the single minded obsession of Travis's and he begins working to create an appealing masculine visage. Travis, however, misinterprets the sort of masculine figure that would attract Betsy and ends up creating a masculine persona for himself that is perverted, and she ends up rebuffing his advances. As she is represen ted in the film, Betsy demonstrates the typical form of femininity that is so often represented in film. Her initial representation easily fits into the mode of analysis presented in Laura Mulvey's article "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema": In a worl d ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women a re simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to be looked at ness (Mulvey 62 3) The first glimpse of Betsy is certainly "styled" based on Travis's male ga ze. He views her with an unflinching adoration. To him, she is the perfect, virginal blonde. The scene begins with a few cuts of people walking up and down New York City sidewalks, the city's skyscrapers always in sight. Before Betsy is even seen on screen Travis, in a voiceover, describes her, mentioning specifically her white dress. As he announces the line "She appeared like an angel," Betsy walks into the frame in a medium shot, in slow motion, wearing the white dress Travis had mentioned. Scorsese cho reographs the scene so that the only layer of the image that is fully in focus is the one in which Cybill Shepherd passes through. In the shot, people walk closer to the camera in front of her in the frame and away from the camera behind her in the frame, but all of these figures


41 come and go rather quickly, as the camera follows Betsy from her entrance into the frame to her entering the building she works at. "Out of this filthy mass, she is alone," Travis says on the soundtrack. The image serves as a visua l analogue to this statement, as what the viewer is seeing is obviously Travis's point of view. The importance of Travis's voiceover here is that it calls attention to the fact that this idealized representation of Betsy is just that, idealized. Scorsese s tylizes the scene in such a way that the male gaze cannot be ignored. As she enters the building, Travis concludes his narration with "They cannot touch her." He verbally emphasizes each word by pausing after each one. The film dissolves to an extreme clos e up of Travis's diary as the words he has just spoken scroll across the screen, each underlined. The deliberate nature of this final statement enforces the possessive quality of Travis's masculine gaze. He views possessing Betsy as a form of self validati on. Unlike other idealized cinematic feminine representations that Mulvey breaks down, the way Scorsese represents Betsy in the film subverts prior filmic conventions of how the feminine is represented. Cinematically, she is consistently subject to the mal e gaze, but in such a way that this male gaze is, itself, constantly being observed and opened up. Similarly, Scorsese and Schrader completely disassemble the narrative role Betsy's archetype, the attractive female lead character, would have in a film. Bet sy is initially presented as Travis's love interest; however in every scene with Betsy, she is represented from the perspective of Travis, idealized as she is through his gaze. When Travis takes Betsy to a pornographic film on a date, she rebuffs him and r efuses to continue any sort of relationship with him. Betsy is afforded a degree of agency that feminine romantic leads rarely are. She leaves Travis, the closest thing there is to a


42 "hero" in Taxi Driver without becoming a villain in the film. Beyond ano ther glimpse in the Palentine campaign headquarters and her return at the end of the film, Betsy is not actually seen in the film after she leaves Travis on their date. Instead, she becomes represented through Travis's reactions to her. She, in fact, becom es the dominating force, despite her silence and inaction. The only time immediately following the date that Travis manages to talk to her is a phone call in which the audience is only privy to Travis's side of the conversation. Travis is in a medium shot using a public telephone in an unidentified hallway. He begins the conversation offering vague apologies and continues to try to secure another date with Betsy. It is abundantly clear to the viewer, just from hearing Travis's side of the conversation, that his advances are being rebuffed and eventually the camera moves down the hallway in a tracking shot before resting at the end with a shot of an empty hallway that opens out the street. Travis is left at the phone and has eventually lost even the authority to command his own shot anymore. His conversation continues on the soundtrack, despite the fact that he is no longer in the frame, as he becomes more pathetic and desperate. Despite that there is no real witness to his humiliation within the diegesis, the camera movement enforces that Travis has in fact been humiliated, first by lingering on him in a still shot that never cuts to anything, observing him as he uncomfortably squirms while he is on the phone and then dismissively tracking away, while he remai ns in the same place, casting him aside in the manner that, at least in his mind, Betsy has cast him aside. This particular shot is perhaps the one that is most evocative of emasculation. By only supplying Travis's side of the co nversation, the film forces the viewer to consider Travis's role and only Travis's role in his own humiliation. Betsy's absence after this point alleviates her of any "cause" in


43 Travis's reassessment of his masculinity, so only Travis can be held accountable for his actions in the f ilm. Then there is Iris, Jodie Foster's preteen prostitute character. When Travis is unable to possess Betsy, Iris is presented as an option for a femininity that he is able to possess, based on her age and her occupation. The monetary exchange ensures tha t Travis, like anybody with money, is able to possess Iris. The ease of this sort of exchange is not what initially attracts Travis to Iris. Rather, he sees a way in which he can win her, not through money, but through rescuing her from Sport. The film mak es Travis's sexual attraction to Iris implicit rather than explicit, as it is with Betsy. Travis's morals are ill defined, and the notion that he would spend a significant amount of time attempting to save Iris from Sport seems off. Iris, like Betsy, is su bject to Travis's male gaze. Before he actually talks to her, he stalks her around the city. In these sequences, the camera follows Iris obviously through a car window. It's easy to figure out, then, that this is Travis's point of view, through his cab win dow. Though not as cinematic and stylized as the depictions of Betsy, the camera that slowly follows Iris moves at a slow creep behind her, evoking a lurid sexual stalking. The idealized, virginal portrayal of femininity found in Betsy is gone and has been replaced with Travis's desire to possess in the basest sexual manner. Eventually Travis decides to pay for a session with Iris. The motivation for this action is left oblique. Even Travis himself is not sure what he seeks to get out of it, but it is in no doubt propelled by a degree of sexual curiosity. Each time Iris propositions him when the two are in the hotel room together, Travis refuses any sexual contact, but the pause before the eventual refusal becomes greater and greater with each pass Iris make s


44 at Travis. The final one, before Travis physically pushes Iris away and asks her to go to breakfast with him, seems almost fully to cross over to a sex act before Travis pulls away at the final second. Travis's sexual interest in Iris is evident, even if he will not let himself have sex with her. Instead, he must find a method of possessing Iris that isn't sexual and based around a monetary exchange. In The Scorsese Connection Stern explains how Travis comes to the decision to murder Sport: [T]here is an ominously mordant undercurrent, an eddy of perversion when Travis chokes on the word sucking He is the lowest kind of person in the world. Somebody's gotta do something to him, he's the scum of the earth. He is the worst ssss ucking scum I have evere ver seen.' Inscribed in the paternal is sexual jealousy and abhorrence, and in the abhorrence a perverse desire. The perversion is not in the element of homosexual desire, or desire of the same, but in the way that this is mediated by repression into a particularly violent acting out. [] Sport is the figure onto whom Travis projects all the desires and fears that he disavows, and so Sport himself has to be disavowed, wiped out, erased. Like Scar, Sport has what the hero lacks, not just the girl, but perceived sexual power. In a lethally castrating gesture, Travis, like Ethan, can take his place and take possession of his woman. (Stern 60 1) The possessive sexual jealousy Travis feels provides a motivation for killing Sport even though the subsequen t murders are essentially without motive. Here, it is Travis reclaiming his masculinity, murdering to possess the feminine after he had been rebuffed earlier in the film. The killings following the initial attack on Sport are violent, performative assertio ns of Travis's killing prowess and thus the capability of his masculine body, but the murder of Sport is meant to be, like the attack on Scar in The Searchers an assertion of his possessive masculine prowess. He is claiming Iris as his own through this ac tion, an external marker of his masculinity. Thus, the film closes on an oddly tragic note. Travis becomes a hero with a degree of reluctance. After the realization that Travis has become vindicated by the public, the film's final scene begins an indeterm inate amount of time later. It has been long enough


45 for Travis's hair to grow back and for his life to resume a degree of normalcy. While he is on a break, one of Travis's fellow cabbies points out that he has a fare and he goes over to his car to do his j ob. The film cuts to the inside of Travis's cab with just Travis driving visible. Betsy's voice is heard saying, "Hello, Travis." She then begins to tell Travis that she read about him in the paper, and asks about his condition. The reappearance of Betsy i ndicates a public complicity with the actions of the obviously unstable Travis. The designation of "hero" that has been bestowed upon Travis, as seen in the newspaper clippings that adorn his wall at the end of the film, was not part of what he was initial ly setting out to accomplish. The attempted assassination of Palentine and Travis's ever present death wish seem to go against this. Thus, the film ends with the knowledge that Travis has not achieved what he set out to achieve in his final, bloody crusade By deeming this violence "acceptable," the film just defers any sort of cathartic violent cl imax for Travis, and the viewer is left with the knowledge that further violent acts from Travis are not only possible, but likely.


46 Chapter Two: Jake La Motta and Raging Bull Any discussion of the dynamics of masculinity within Raging Bull must tackle the role of the masculine body in the film. Like Travis Bickle in the later half of Taxi Driver Jake La Motta in Raging Bull puts a great deal of value in constructing the perfect masculine body. For him, the construction of such a masculine body works to define his masculine identity and the issue of the body emasculating the self through its failure is consistently at play. Jake is at his prime when his b ody is at its prime. In keeping with Connell's assessment that a key component to the dominant masculine identity is the potential for violence (Connell 83), Jake is at his "most" masculine when his body is most fit to do violence in a boxing match. Where Travis Bickle affects the stylized masculine gestures of John Wayne, the initial representation of Jake La Motta is marked by the necessity with the form that his body takes. Jake's life and identity are tied up in his body. La Motta boxes as a profession and for him to succeed in that profession, he must build up his masculine body to be as violent it possibly can be. Victor J. Seidler points out the relationship between work and the masculine identity in his book Rediscovering Masculinity : For heterosexua l men, the issues of independence and autonomy have barely been posed. [] Our inherited sense of independence as men exists as a sense of separateness from others. [] Our gender is not anything we can be relaxed and easy about. It is something we hav e constantly to prove and assert. This was part of the deeper importance of work in men's lives, since it was through doing a man's job' that men could feel secure in their identity. (Seidler 151) Jake's job as a boxer in his division is a job that req uires a specific masculine body He derives his independence from it as well as a sense of masculine validation that is, in a sense, exclusive to the arena of professional sports. The issue of career as identity is


47 touched on in Taxi Driver when Travis has a conversation with the older cabbie Wizard. Wizard tells Travis that a man defines his identity by his career, an idea that Travis rejects. Jake La Motta, however, is fully interred in the world of boxing. He never at any point questions his line of work or its relation to his identity. To be a successful boxer, Jake must cultivate his masculinity, specifically his masculine body. Boxing as a career, then, works to grant Jake independence, which further validates Jake's masculinity. Where as Travis Bickle is reluctant to define himself by his role as a cabbie, Jake La Motta seems proud of his role as a boxer. Throughout, he continually works to become the best boxer he can be in his weight class and laments his inability to be truly great because of the siz e of his hands. He defines his identity by his career and takes pride in his job. Beyond the capacity for actually doing damage, the effectiveness of the masculine body in Raging Bull is judged by its ability to take damage. In every single fight sequence in Raging Bull Jake is shown as being horribly battered by his opponent, only usually he remains the more resilient of the two and thus is so often the winner of the fight. The first fight scene is also chronologically the beginning of the film. The text at the bottom of the frame, "Jake La Motta 1941 alerts the audience to this, as well as the image of a noticeably younger and leaner looking La Motta from the previous scene which tak es place in 1964. Jake is shot with his upper torso and head in the fr ame, appearing pensive. With the text at the bottom, the image appears static. There is no action until a fist enters the frame from the left side and hits La Motta in the face as he does nothing to block it and then a second fist comes from the right sid e of the frame and hits him again, once again, without him guarding himself. The film cuts to behind Jake's


48 ear as his opponent Jimmy Reeves throws a few more punches that Jake demonstrates no attempt at blocking. The film cuts back to the first shot of Ja ke as he steps forward and out of the frame and then the film cuts back again to the second shot of Jimmy Reeves punching Jake. The impression here is that Jake is actually stepping into Reeves's punch, emphasizing his ability and willingness to experience violence in the boxing ring. Reeves throws a few more punches, all going unguarded, bef ore the film cuts to a below shot of Jake. He winds up to throw a punch but the bell that signifies the end of the round rings and Jake is forced to put his fist down and go to his corner. So the first boxing round in the film is over and Jake has yet to throw or even block a punch. As he is s itting in his corner, the camera zooms in from a long shot to a medium shot in which only his upper torso and head are in the fra me alongside his brother and another trainer. His brother and his trainer begin to chastise him for loosing the fight. It has already been stated in the scene's narration by an unseen announcer that Jake is behind on points, so between this and the comment s of Joey and the trainer, it can be assumed that the previous series of punches that Jake has incurred is the norm for this fight. As the two continue to coach Jake into beating Jimmy Reeves on the film's soundtrack, the scene cuts to a long shot of Reeve s's corner that slowly zooms in on the considerably more confident looking Reeves. This scene is operating from Jake's perspective, as the voices of those coaching him remain on the soundtrack, but his emphasis isn't on them, as demonstrated by how the voi ces layer and overlap and become relatively unintelligible. The differences between La Motta and Reeves's demeanor in their corners and the method in which the film zooms in on them (fast and shaky for La Motta, slow and deliberate for Reeves) highlights t he unique quality of how Jake operates as a fighter, assuming Reeves is taken


49 as a norm. Jake's fighting style is predicated on his ability to take a punch and remain unaffected. His stamina is considerably greater than the majority of his opponents. Jake is a shambling mess as far as fighters go, he has a knack for outlasting his opponents. This works to inform his character later in the film, as he frequently uses the violence of the ring as a method for redemption. The film then cuts back to a close up of a battered Jake incoherently yelling back before the film cuts to a quick pan of a man jumping over a seat and fighting another man as a woman screams beside them. This conflict is never returned to in the course of the scene. Its placement in the scen e mirrors the fight and the displacement of violence from the boxing ring during a lull is similar to the way in which the violence from Jake's career as a boxer finds its way into his everyday life. The film cuts back to a long shot of Jake in his corner from behind Reeves's head with Reeves in focus in the foreground and Jake out of focus in the background. The camera moves around to Reeves's face, looking considerably less confident. The scene then cuts to a shot of Jake's face, looking more ready to ta ke on Reeves, his prior cuts from the fight stitched up and no longer bleeding. The balance of the fight has shifted in favor of Jake and the outburst from the crowd seems to be a source of power for him as a fighter. Once the fight starts up again, Reeve s continues to land blows on Jake, with Jake not punching back and not guarding his face just as before, only now the two continue moving in circles with the camera cutting back forth between covering each man from behind his back. Then, with a considerabl e degree of ease, Jake blocks one of Reeves's punches and punches back in quick succession, taking Reeves by shock since it is such a break from everything before in the fight. Reeves falls out of the frame and the film cuts


50 to him falling onto his back wi th the camera filming him from above and zooming out. As the referee pulls La Motta away from the fallen Reeves, the film cuts to the crowd who cheer for Jake. Jake derives his violent prowess from the crowd and he in turn empowers them to do violence. The film makes a few very quick cuts between Jake being held back in the ring and journalists in the crowd snapping photos, then a longer shot of Jake in a long shot, zooming in on his upper body. The camera rests here for a second, as La Motta rests, waiting for Reeves to get up. The camera then begins moving again as Jake approaches Reeves and ducks a punch he throws. The film cuts to a close up of Reeve's stomach, as Jake punches him there. The shot itself only lasts long enough for the punch to register. C utting here provides emphasis on this blow and only this blow. Jake's punches are filmed with greater care to the damage they deal in this respect. In a given shot, there is no time between blows as there is with Reeves's punches. Where Reeves's punches ap pear to do little damage to La Motta, La Motta's punches do a considerable amount to Reeves. This is further emphasized in the next sequence of shots. The film makes a few more quick cuts that are each a fraction of a second. Each one cuts between Jake's f ace and Reeves's face as Jake throws a series of punches and each one lands on Reeves's face. Then the film cuts to a ground level shot with the two fighters in the frame. Jimmy Reeves falls backwards and the camera follows him, resting on his upper torso which lies on the ground. The quickness of the cuts and the emphasis of how each affects Reeves is a considerable shift in how the power of violence registers in the film. The blows on Jake aren't really even felt, while those on Reeves are emphasized to a considerable degree.


51 The film then cuts back to Jake in a medium shot. He is still standing with both fists raised. He watches Reeves, who is out of the frame. As it registers with Jake that Reeves has gone down, he lowers his fists and walks back to his corner. The physical stress of the fight doesn't appear to register with Jake as it had at the end of the prior round. The film lingers on him for a few more seconds as he watches Reeves struggle off camera. The film then cuts to the struggling Reeves, fi lmed at ground level, his body filling the frame. As he gets up, the camera remains at ground level so that now only his legs appear in the frame. Then the film cuts again to Jake in a medium shot The camera moves up as he throws a punch and Reeves enters the frame simultaneously. The punch lands and the film cuts again to a medium shot of Reeves stumbling against the ropes of the boxing ring. Then there is another quick cut to Reeves's perspective as La Motta charges at him at throws another punch. Anoth er cut to a close up of La Motta's face, once again from Reeves's perspective as revealed in the next cut. In an above medium shot, La Motta has Reeves against the ropes of the ring and is repeatedly punching Reeves, while Reeves remains unable to defend h imself. This is the first time in which Jake's punches don't register in their own cut. By this point, though, Jake's punching has grown so frenzied that it would be impossible to retain the actual speed of the fight and cut for every blow. The film cuts t o a close up of Jake's face filmed from underneath as he continues his punching frenzy. The violence has no longer become about Reeves, but is purely about how it registers to Jake. There is a quick cut back to Reeves as each blow lands and then another cu t back to Jake as he continues punching, both Reeves's body and Jake's fists off camera. Reeves goes down again and the camera follows him before cutting back to Jake looking down at Reeves's fallen body.


52 La Motta is now pulled out of frame and there is another cut to a ground level shot of Reeves's body in profile as a referee comes over to begin counting down for a knockout. The film cuts to a close up of Jake as he continues to watch Reeves on the ground with the referee continuing to count on the soun dtrack. The camera moves up and down but always keeps Jake's face at the center of the frame. The announcer is heard on the soundtrack saying "Time is running out," as the referee gets to nine in the countdown. Then, the bell that ends the round is heard o n the soundtrack as the film cuts quickly to an image of a bell ringing and then quickly back to Jake's face as it registers with him that the bell to end the round has rung. He turns around to raise his arms victoriously to the crowd and the film cuts to Reeves being hauled away, unconscious. The film cuts to a low angle shot of La Motta stalking around the ring victoriously as his brother chases him, trying to rein him in. Then there is another cut to Reeves in medium shot, nearly catatonic in his corner while his trainers try to shake him awake. There is another cut to a close up of Jake's face as the crowd yells at him about how he waited too long to knock out Reeves. Jake yells back at the crowd incoherently. The film cuts to an above shot of an announc er speaking into a microphone, addressing the crowd. The camera circles the announcer and then cuts back to the close up of Jake as the announcer continues his speech. Here, the camera stays, registering the doubt Jake has as to whether or not Reeves had b een counted out before the bell rang to signify the end of the round. If not, the match is to be determined on points alone and, as it was stated initially in the scene, La Motta is behind on points. The film cuts back to the announcer as he points to Reev es as the winner. The camera begins to pan towards Reeves, but before it can get there, the film


53 cuts back to the close up of Jake's face and the weight of his first defeat, as is announced off screen, registers with him. The scene ends with La Motta decl aring himself victorious, despite the judge's ruling, and the crowd rioting on Jake's behalf. The significance of the scene is that it works from Jake's perspective to place value in the ability to withstand violence. Jake is repeatedly pounded throughout the fight sequence, but the film doesn't emphasize these hits. Jake doesn't appear to even feel these hits. In the final round, when the fight shifts to favor Jake, Jake's punches repeatedly land very hard. Reeves is considerably more susceptible to violen ce than Jake and at the end of the fight is nearly knocked out. He is, however, declared the winner. While La Motta finishes the fight ahead, he has fought with little strategy and just operates under the assumption that the man who leaves the ring in bett er shape is the winner. From this very early point, Raging Bull has already established its main character as being one who invites damage onto himself. Within a second of being introduced to him at what is the beginning of the film's timeline, he is pumme led in the face. What is most striking about the image is how passive Jake remains. He is still at first and then when Reeves's fist comes from off screen to hit him in the face, Jake does nothing. He doesn't lift his arms to block or duck to move out of t he way of the incoming blow. There isn't even a perceptible wince. He just stands there and waits to be hit. When Jake reverses the direction of the damage in the final round of the fight, the boxing match becomes, for Jake, a contest of who can take the m ost damage rather than, as the scoring dictates, who can deal the most damage. Jake doles out fewer punches in the course of the fight, as the judges' decision to award the fight to Reeves goes to show, but at the end of the fight, Jake is still standing. He has been battered, but


54 he still has a noticeable amount of strength and stamina. Reeves, on the other hand, can no longer even stand without assistance. He has been knocked over multiple times by Jake, whereas Jake has not been shown falling at any mome nt. Jake's body holds up better in the end, and his assumed victory, despite what the judges in the film have to say, is a testament to what he values in this body. Jake La Motta's body in Raging Bull is tested at its fullest in the film's final fight sc ene which is also Jake's final fight with longtime adversary Sugar Ray Robinson. The most significant part of the fight in terms of testing Jake's body comes in what is announced as round thirteen. Jake and Sugar Ray each emerge from their corners in slow motion with all of the diegetic noise cut off the film's soundtrack. Immediately, the camera becomes mobile and follows Sugar Ray from a torso level shot as he punches Jake in the face a few times. Jake, as in the earlier fight, does nothing to avoid getti ng hit. He doesn't block or duck or step away from the punches. He just keeps his eyes locked on Sugar Ray. As Sugar Ray's punches grow more frenzied, the camera begins to slowly zoom in on Jake's face, becoming increasingly more b attered by Sugar Ray's bl ows. At the height of Sugar Ray's frenzy, the film cuts to a shot of Sugar Ray's face as he is dispensing the blows and then cuts back again to Jake. Jake at this point is looking more damaged than ever, still keeping his arms up but just barely. His head bobs up and down with each hit, showing more damage, but also a greater passivity. Sugar Ray's punches begin to come at a slower clip while Jake just stands in one spot, waggling his head and doing nothing to avoid punches that aren't coming particularly f ast. He's no longer even moving, but rather just standing there, with his arms down, waiting to be punched. In a cut back to Jake, he stands there, his head shaking, and he begins to yell "C'mon!" as he


55 backs against the ropes, not allowing himself an out. The film then cuts to a side shot of the interior of the boxing ring, with both Jake La Motta and Sugar Ray Robinson's full bodies visible in the shot. The shot reveals that Jake has backed up all the way against the ropes and that Sugar Ray is keeping a distance with a puzzled look on his face. Sugar Ray shakes his head in confusion and settles into his spot, waiting for Jake to move. Jake, on the other hand, leans back against the rope and continues his cries of "C'mon!" attempting to goad Sugar Ray into continuing to punch him again. While the fight initially appears as very similar to the first fight, with Jake taking punch after punch without really attempting to block or avoid as proof of his body's ability to stand such pain, this final fight become s a bizarre test of his body's ability to take damage. If Jake's strategy in this initial scene seemed strange and counter intuitive, this final fight becomes no longer about strategy and is entirely focused on the evaluation of the masculine body through how it handles damage. Prior to this round of this fight, Jake has demonstrated an ability to actually fight back against Sugar Ray and when Sugar Ray stops hitting him, Sugar Ray actually looks more weathered by the fight than Jake does. Jake is given an opportunity to reverse the fight as he does in the first fight of the film, but instead of taking that opportunity, he insists that Sugar Ray continue his beating for the sake of proving Jake's body is capable. So Sugar Ray approaches and begins to pummel Jake, shown in quick cuts between Jake's face, Sugar Ray's fists, the audience, and journalists' cameras flashing photos. Jake places his arms back against the rope so as to give Sugar Ray full access to his body, demonstrating for all just how well his bo dy stands up to this constant assault. The rush of blood out of Jake's body is emphasized through shots focusing on specific parts of Jake's body soaked with the fluid. While the


56 damage to Jake's body is wholly apparent, Jake also demonstrates an unflinchi ng dedication to withstanding every one of Sugar Ray's punches. He falls and stumbles a few times, but even as his body withers under the blows of Sugar Ray, he manages to still remain standing. A few final blows are emphasized in slow motion. Their impac t is felt more than any of the prior ones because of how the extended shot of the fist and Jake's reaction to the impending punch build up the suspense for the impact of the blow and because the camera lingers on the damage of the punch on Jake's face. The fight is finally ended by a judge. Jake, bruised and bloodied more heavily than in any previous fight in the film, stalks over to Sugar Ray's corner to boast, "You never got me down." Rather than winning the fight and being proud of that accomplishment, J ake is proud that he was able to withstand each and every blow without being utterly destroye d. He may b ear a significant amount of damage on his body, but at the end of the fight he is still standing and Jake sees that as a testament to the strength of hi s body. By the standards that the film has established that Jake judges his own body's masculine ability, Jake has had his greatest success in this final fight. His masculine body has withstood more violence than at any other point in the film and with th is final "success," he has nothing left to prove to himself or anybody else. It is not surprising that he retires soon after. In his article "Ethnicity and the Erotics of Violence," Michael S. Kimmel finds homoerotic and pornographic connotations in the f ight scenes in Raging Bull : The body, simultaneously a powerful weapon and a mask of powerlessness, cannot sustain all the blows that land in the actual bout. Raging Bull thus comes to resemble no cinematic genre more than it does pornography. Closeups of the hardest punches, those that "penetrate," are arranged in slow motion, decontextualized, intercut with narrative scenes at regular speed. (Kimmel 88)


57 The masculine body, then, is being measured by its ability to be penetrated. That the nature of t his penetration is inherently homoerotic comes from the filming of the masculine bodies on display during the fight sequences in the film. Here, the masculine body is parsed into images that remove each part from a greater whole, so the masculine is visual ly reduced to the masculine body and this masculine body is further reduced to a collection of masculine parts, each emphasized for function, but also meant to tap into the viewers' scopophilia. Filming these scenes as pornography achieves a certain metap horical value for the film. By emphasizing the masculine body in this manner, the film removes any semblance of interior representations for the fighters. La Motta ends up being the only character that boxes in the film that has any degree of humanity in h ow he is represented. This is because none of the other fighters are given any life out of the ring, so their presence in the ring is purely as bodies. Passing references are made to both Sugar Ray Robinson and Tony Janiro as fighters by Jake and the peopl e who surround him. These characters are never given any dialogue in the film but each one has a symbolic role in the film and for Jake La Motta in the film. In the film, Jake only has one fight with Janiro, but the fight itself develops a significant amo unt of weight for Jake in his personal life and provides the film with a degree of thematic heft. For Jake, Janiro is perceived as a threat to his masculine identity because of the point in the film at which he is introduced. Jake has already established h imself to be a very serious middle weight boxing contender; however the extent of his reputation has put him out of commission since he has found nobody willing to fight him. In the meantime, he has let his body fall out of shape. After marrying Vickie, Ja ke has lost what is in Raging Bull perhaps the most important marker of masculinity: his


58 masculine body. Because Jake defines his masculinity by his masculine body and its ability to perform, he has lost a part of masculinity by becoming out of shape and n o longer being able to perform. As Connell states, "The constitution of masculinity through bodily performance means that gender is vulnerable when performance cannot be sustained for instance, as a result of physical disability." (Connell 54) While this loss of masculinity through loss of body plays out later in the film to a greater extreme, here it is important because there is a catalyst to get Jake back into shape. The fight is initially introduced when Jake is at home by his brother Joey while Vick ie is in the room. When Vickie tries to convince Jake to fight Janiro, Jake zeroes in on her mention that he's "good looking." Here, Janiro becomes the figure onto which Jake ascribes all of his fears of being cuckolded by Vickie. Despite that the actual J aniro doesn't make any appearances in Jake or Vickie's lives before or after the fight, Jake is still incredibly jealous of Janiro. After Vickie mentions that Janiro is "good looking," Jake berates her about it, to which she contends that the remark was en tirely innocuous and that he has no reason to feel insecure about the remark. This situation plays out several times throughout the film, with Jake making the assumption that every single man in Vickie's life is sleeping with her. Later on when Jake runs i nto the mobster Salvy at a club, Salvy confronts Jake with Janiro's good looks. Jake jokes that he doesn't know whether he wants to "fuck him or fight him." While this remark is presented as a joke to this small group of men, the remark also works as an at tempt to feminize Janiro. Jake wants to break down Janiro's masculinity to preempt his insecurities about being cuckolded by his wife and by stating that he wants to "fuck him," Jake insinuates that a desire to penetrate Janiro, feminizing him. This statem ent, however, also has the effect of


59 highlighting the latent homoeroticism found in both Jake's boxing career and his chronic fear that his wife is sleeping with other men. As Scorsese films Jake's fight with Janiro, Jake is no longer faced with the decisi on of fucking him or fighting him since they are presented as being one and the same. The scene with Janiro has Jake at his most ferocious in the boxing ring. At no point during the fight, or at least the portion of the fight that appears in the film, doe s Janiro land a blow on Jake. Jake, for his part, looks relatively unscathed by the fight. He is continually throwing punches against Janiro, all of them landing. Janiro keeps backing away, but Jake pursues. Janiro puts up his fists to block, but these att empts to avoid getting hit are futile. Janiro actually throws a few punches, but Jake actually ducks them, an unusual response for him. It is all in a bid to "fuck" Janiro, rather than "be fucked" by him. Of particular note in the fight sequence is the amo unt of damage that Jake causes to Janiro and the manner in which he relishes permanently scarring Janiro. This is vocalized by one of the judges of the boxing match with the line "He ain't pretty no more," the exact response Jake is aiming for. The last fe w blows of the fight are filmed in slow motion so that the audience can be privy to the exact amount of damage Jake is inflicting upon Janiro. When Jake's punch breaks Janiro's nose, the camera focuses on the blunt impact of the fist against face. Then, in another shot, on the blood streaming out of the wound. The sheer force of Jake's blows against Janiro demonstrates Jake's desire to actually penetrate Janiro and the fact that these blows are, like so many other punches in other fight scenes in Raging Bul l filmed in slow motion and in close up finds further similarities to pornography. Scorsese choreographs the scene so that the violence is


60 shown as clearly as possible and drawn out so that the audience can relish it as much as possible, similar to the wa y that sex is choreographed in pornography. Here, Jake is demonstrating a degree of agency over something to which he feels he has no control over, the marital indiscretions of his wife. The film makes it obvious that Vickie and Janiro do not have any sor t of relationship, let alone a sexual one. Jake, instead, invents a hypothetical sexual relationship between the two which he also perceives that he has no control over. Part of the insecurity that stems from his wife calling Janiro "good looking" stems fr om his own loss of masculinity through letting his body fall out of peak condition. Once again, the masculine identity is reduced to the masculine body. With Janiro's body in better condition and Jake spending months letting his fall out of peak condition, Jake suffers from a degree of emasculation based solely on the fact that another man has entered his o rbit who is "more" masculine based solely on the fact that his body is more built for doing damage. There is no question as to whether or not Jake needs to box again for more money. Rather, it is the title that he is after, at least superficially The greatest motivator, however, for Jake is the reclamation of his masculinity through proof that his body is still up for the stresses that come with fighting professionally. Proof of the masculine body's resilience is proof of the masculine identity's resilience. Particularly telling in this respect is when Joey initially posits the fight as a win win situation, stating that if Jake loses the fight with Janiro, other fighters will no longer be afraid to fight Jake and he will get more shots at fighting and a title. Jake, however, is noticeably put off by this agreement. The very prospect of failure is emasculating for Jake and any possibility of Janiro winning t he prospective fight is perturbing to Jake. There is no training sequence between the revelation that Jake is not


61 fit for his fight with Janiro and the fight itself. This lack of any sort of onscreen transformation, as audiences have become accustomed to s eeing in sports films usually in the form of the training montage, positions Jake's victory not as physical feat, but rather as an act of sheer will on Jake's part. Jake is so put off by Janiro's challenge and so terrified of being emasculated that he is e asily able to destroy Janiro in the boxing ring out of sheer masculine rage. Jake's symbolic relationship with Sugar Ray Robinson is more difficult to unpack. Sugar Ray is the only boxer that Jake fights multiple times throughout Raging Bull and so often these fights are choreographed to reflect a tumultuous symbolic relationship between Sugar Ray and Jake. Particularly noteworthy is a fight scene between Jake and Sugar Ray subtitled "La Motta vs. Robinson Detroit 1943." What is immediately striking about the scene is the smokiness of it. The general haze surrounding the ring and the audience eliminates any clarity in how the fight is portrayed. It is markedly different than so many other scenes in the film, where the fight is filmed in such a way to give i mpossible detail to every aspect. Each trades blows as an announcer describes how nobody will fight either one of them anymore because each is so far ahead of every other fighter in their weight class. The distortion that the haze and the heat bring to the fight echoes Sugar Ray and Jake's relationship as fighters. The two are permanent adversaries, with Sugar Ray set up as an oppositional force for Jake. The distortion of the sounds on the soundtrack adds to the generally distorted view of the fight afford ed to the audience. Sugar Ray is declared the winner of the fight, but there is no clarity in the fight and so the manner in which the judges arrived at that decision is difficult to parse for the audience. This fight is the point in which Sugar Ray and Ja ke's relationship is


62 concretized. Sugar Ray, throughout the film, is a consistent threat to Jake's masculine identity. He continually has to fight Sugar Ray, with the very real possibility of lo sing, to prove that his masculine body, and thus his masculine identity, is a capable entity. Important in the relationship between Jake and Sugar Ray are their respective ethnicities. As an Italian, Jake remains somewhat of an ethnic "other" and is thus relegated to an outsider status. His ethnic identity positions him as an outsider in basically everything except his own Italian American community and in the boxing ring. As Kimmel says, sports become a testing ground for the general masculinity of various ethnic groups: That Jake La Motta is white and Italian is not incidental to the story of his life. His legendary bouts against Sugar Ray Robinson were larger than life tableaux in which black men and Italian Americans jousted for supremacy as the most virile of American men, just as they do in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and as they do in Howard Beach. Boxing simply places that contest for virility inside the ropes demarcating athletic spectacle. But what is at issue is the entire group's virility. [] Boxing has always been one of the chief mechanisms for a newly arrived group of immigrants to stake a claim for American manhood. At the turn of the century, America went sports crazy in part as a hedge against creeping fears of cultural feminization, and in part as a way to integrate the waves of immigra nts streaming into the nation's cities. (Kimmel 85) There is no overt racism found in Jake La Motta as can be found in Taxi Driver 's Travis Bickle. There is, however, a threat from an ethnic other that Jake sees in Sugar Ray. Each man is fighting to prove his masculinity through violence in the boxing match and the diametrically opposed ethnicities of Jake and Sugar Ray bring up some inherent racial tensions. Sugar Ray's life is never contextualized in the film. It can be assumed, th ough, that he is livin g in less favorable social circumstances than Jake if we tak e into account the social position of African Americans in the film's time period. Other than his status as a relatively successful middle weight fighter, Sugar Ray lacks almost any


63 characterizat ion, so everything about him takes on a symbolic weight for Jake. His race is a threat to Jake just by virtue of the fact that he is an ethnic other in the film. He is, in fact, the only African American represented at length in the film, so is status as a n Other is threatening in and of itself to Jake. Going back to the final fight between Sugar Ray and Jake, we see that this scene is where the relationship of the two fighters comes to a head and where the violence in the film is at its most homoerotic an d metaphorical. The way the scene begins is in Jake's corner with his trainer sponging him down. The film moves in slow motion across Jake's body as the sponge rubs up and down over Jake's torso. When the film cuts to Jake's face, he i s sitting back passiv e J ake's body is emphasized here as an object. While the other pornographic, objectifying scenes emphasized the utility of the masculine body, the body here is an entirely passive object, offering no reaction to what is acting upon it, in this case the sp onge. From here, the fight continues. The most nota ble momen t of the scene is when Jake is pinned against the ropes in the boxing ring with Sugar Ray repeatedly pounding his face while Jake stands passive. As Jake backs himself against the ropes, the film begins to crosscut between Jake and Sugar Ray, each shot a mirror of the other. Jake pleads with Sugar Ray to punch him as Sugar Ray stands there, ready to strike. When the film gets back to the shot of Sugar Ray, the camera simultaneously zooms in and ba cks up, keeping Sugar Ray at the center of the frame but making the background of the shot get farther away. The sound cuts off the soundtrack, building tension for the ensuing frenzy of punches from Sugar Ray. The camera rests for a second as Sugar Ray re mains central to the frame, the entire ring behind him and his exhaustion apparent. This brief


64 stasis is the transition point for the fight, as its represents the point where the representation shifts from relatively clear to abstracted, with a focus on wh at the fight does to the body. After a crosscut to Jake's face, Sugar Ray begins to move in, the camera zooming in slightly and then a few quick cuts between Sugar Ray's body and his punches landing on Jake's face. The framing in these shots eschews any cl ear framing of the body and thus focuses on individual parts. Sugar Ray's body is filmed for its capacity for physical activity, while Jake's is filmed with an attention to the way in which Sugar Ray's punches "penetrate" him. The quickness of the motion in each shot and the quickness of the cuts between shots cause the fight to become abstracted. Actual representations of violence are no longer important. What is important, however, is the impression of violence. Multiple shots of what could be Jake's per spective are used in the montage that makes up this part of the fight. After Sugar Ray's fist makes impact with Jake's face, the film cuts to an incr edibly brief shot from the camera's perspective tumbling downwards in the ring and then to a shot of Sugar Ray punching incredibly quickly, his body framed so that only his face and the motion of his upper arms is seen. Then, the film cuts quickly again to a shot of Jake's fist struggling to hold onto the rope. There is no violence seen in this shot, from eithe r Sugar Ray enacting this violence or Jake receiving it. Rather, it is simply a part of Jake's body that is decontextualized in this shot. Another flash of Sugar Ray's face and the film cuts to one of his punches landing on Jake's face. Notable is how Jak e's eyes are closed. Jake is no longer an active participant, but rather a body being objectified. His closed eyes give the impression of a lack of cognitive recognition of what is being enacted upon his body and thus makes him a body and just a body. This particular shot is


65 done in slow motion, as blood spurts out from his brow. The film here is lingering on the violence in the same way that a pornographic film lingers on sex. The film cuts back to a slow motion shot of Sugar Ray punching, once again empha sizing the functionality of his body. The difference is that here, he is the one "penetrating." The quick cut to Jake's face being punched after demonstrates the effects of this "penetration." The cut to Vickie's face amidst a crowd of cheering men is jar ring because it is a shot of a person who at that second is not alienated from her body. The shot of Jake's gloved fist against the rope, struggling to hold on is repeated for the same effect. The film then cuts to a close up shot of Sugar Ray's face, fram ed in a way that his face is not entirely within the frame. He wears the same grimace he wears for most of the fight and his fists can be seen jutting in and out of the foreground. Then there is another eschew frame, with just Jake's arm and head leaning a gainst the rope as he falls slightly into the frame. Quickly, the film cuts to a pan that begins with a close up of Jake's torso and goes quickly down to his legs. Blood streams down from his torso down to his legs. The external exposure of blood, like the shots of the shirtless, sweating fighters, provides emphasis for how the body functions in a way that makes the body an object and solely an object. Both the shots of bloodied Jake La Motta and the sweating, punching Sugar Ray Robinson act for the benefit of the audience. These shots linger in a way that puts an emphasis on the work that the body does to give the audience a glimpse it is rarely afforded. The film then cuts again to Jake being punched in slow motion, and once again the body releases some bl ood. This lingering view of the violence is ind i c a tive of the pornographic approach that Raging Bull takes to its boxing scenes. Sugar Ray's


66 penetration of Jake is shown in extreme close up. The slow motion of the shot affords the audience the extended vie w so as to soak up the penetration as fully as possible and the extreme close up gives all of the details that wouldn't be possible outside of cinema. The scene crosscuts a few times between Sugar Ray punching and Jake getting punched while the lights of camera flashes wash across the frame. The sound of these photographers snapping pictures is heard on the film's soundtrack. Scorsese, in this respect, is making the film's audience aware of the presence of spectatorship within the diegesis of the film. The boxing match is a spectacle and the violence is on display for an audience. Thus, the audience craves this viewpoint that the film affords, as close and as detailed as possible. After a few complete washouts because of the light, the film cuts once more t o the shot of blood streaming down Jake's legs. The audience is once again reminded of how Jake is incurring damage. The "penetration" shots are repeated a few more times to hammer home the effects of violence on Jake's body. The shots themselves become in creasingly more abstract, with the angle of the shot displacing Jake's face in the frame. He becomes increasingly less recognizable as Jake or even as human not only because of the significant amount of damage done to his face, but also in how his face app ears within the frame. It is repeated over and over again, with the camera swooping in for an extreme close up from a few different angles, his face almost never right side up. The quick cuts back and forth between Sugar Ray throwing punches and the punche s landing on Jake's face create the impression of Sugar Ray doling out a significant amount of violence in a few very brief bursts. Jake is seen staggering again and again to demonstrate just how much he is feeling these punches.


67 Finally, there is a break in Sugar Ray's frenzy as Jake stumbles back against the ropes. The camera lingers on his face and pans down to focus on the dread of what will be the final few moments of the fight. The film cuts back to Sugar Ray, filmed from underneath and backlit to ma ke him appear especially ominous. He raises his fist to deal a blow in slow motion. The film slowly zooms in on his fist in anticipation of the punch and then cuts back to a close up of Jake's face, being filmed at normal speed as he watches Sugar Ray. The film destabilizes time in this regard. It takes Jake as much time to watch Sugar Ray hit him at normal speed as it takes Sugar Ray to hit him in slow motion. After the camera crosscut s a few times between the zoom on Sugar Ray's fist and a zoom on Jake's face, the blow comes and Jake's face releases a tremendous amount of blood. The blood splatters all over the faces of unidentified, well dressed men sitting close to the ring. Jake's body crumbles under the impact and Sugar Ray continues punching, with all of the diegetic sound returned to the soundtrack with the film operating once again at normal speed until a referee comes over and ends the bout. After the fight is ended and Jake brags to Sugar Ray about never going down, the film cuts to a slow pan arou nd the ring with Jake returning to his corner, Sugar Ray's team celebrating in his and the judge entering the ring to declare a winner. As the camera pans around the ring, it doesn't linger on any of the individuals in the ring, allowing them to enter and exit the frame as their movements within the ring dictate. It begins a slow zoom in conjunction with the pan once it reaches the far end of the boxing ring, focusing on the rope. The pan and zoom slow simultaneously and ultimately halt once a section of t he rope soaked with blood is revealed. The blood on the rope drips slowly off, indicating the rope has been saturated with an extraordinary amount of blood. Even if his body is


68 not shown the amount of violence that Jake has endured is indicated here in th is shot. Enough blood has left his body and made it onto the rope that the rope is no longer able to contain the blood. This scene, alongside the Janiro fight scene, is perhaps the most aggressively pornographic, although here it is Jake being penetrated i nstead of penetrating. Kimmel draws a comparison between the appearance of blood in the boxing matches in Raging Bull and ejaculation shots in pornography: Like pornography, the boxing event requires verification by independent observing eyes. Each depend s on a specific representation to demonstrate its authenticity. For the boxing match, it is that first drawing of blood. A collective gasp from the crowd often accompanies that moment when the boxer's pain is registered as authentic by a visible marking (In Raging Bull this shot is made more horrible by the splattering of blood on the white shirts and white faces of the fans in the front rows.) In pornography, the "wet shot" or the "cum shot" provides a narrative climax to the proceedings, simultane ously concluding that sexual episode for the man and providing the validation that the sex was authentic. That is why, in pornography, male ejaculation almost invariably occurs outside the woman, and often on her, as if to show that this is not a staged simulated sexual encounter designed solely for the pleasure of the viewer, but real sex, in which the man had a real orgasm. (Of course, since external ejaculation is not presented as a form of birth control but rather as a stamp of authentication, th e cum shot also reveals that even these "real" sex scenes are fully staged, and as constructed an artifice as the wrestling match.) (Kimmel 91) To further draw out Kimmel's argument of the role of blood in a boxing match as being analogous to semen in p ornography, the manner in which the blood is presented in Jake's final bout with Sugar Ray presents the blood in a remarkably similar manner to the "cum shot," appearing on the faces of the audience. To be sure, the boxing audience's noticeable revulsion t o being splattered with blood is a break from the typical pornographic representation of being splattered with a sexual fluid. But the climatic quality to the blood splatter in the cinematic representation, with the fight ending right after, as well as the appearance of the blood specifically on the faces of the audience in a


69 particularly revolting and humiliating gesture finds not only a metaphorical, but also a visual parallel to the equivalent shot in pornography. A great deal of significance here is th at Jake is allowing himself to be repeatedly pummeled, or "penetrated", by Sugar Ray, and while this fight scene isn't the first time in the film that another fighter has drawn blood from Jake, it is the fight in which Jake suffers the most damage. Jake de rives an odd degree of pleasure from being beaten by Sugar Ray, as evidenced by his complete passivity during the fight, as well the general congeniality he demonstrates post fight. Part of this comes from the victory he feels at never having been knocked down by Sugar Ray, but Jake actually seems to be enjoying the beating he's being given by Sugar Ray. Jake brags, "You never got me down" mustering as much a smile as his face is physically capable of giving after such an intense beating. The fight is actua lly a spiritual and emotional victory for Jake, despite being a loss. Beyond being simply erotic, though, the violence here is also given a redemptive quality, evidenced by Jake's Christ pose against the ropes. Notable is that this fight comes right after Jake calls his brother to apologize, only to hang up on him without saying anything. The remorse that Jake feels for beating his brother is manifested in how he approaches the fight. The crosscutting between the actual fight and Joey watching the fight on his television set at home demonstrates that Jake is allowing himself to be beaten for the sake of his brother. He is attempting to be redeemed in his brother's eyes in the only way he feels capable of being redeemed. Beyond simply just putting his arms up in the pose of crucifixion, Jake also puts his head down, as Christ is usually depicted in the


70 passion scene. Sugar Ray's blows almost always land on Jake's brow, which spurts blood as a result. This wound mirrors the wound incurred from the crown of thor ns. For the character of Jake, though, this redemption seems to be affected, as he has no way of really securing any true redemption from any of the relationships in his life that he has irreparably damaged. Rather, for Jake it is any easy out. He manages to take the Christ pose and asserts his masculinity in this sequence by taking a series of punches without being toppled. What is being redeemed here is not the quality of character that Jake La Motta possesses, but rather the quality of Jake's masculinity Prior to this point, Jake has had his masculinity assaulted by his fears of being cuckolded by his wife and being asked by the mafia to take a dive in a fight. Jake prides himself on his ability to take a punch and taking a dive would not only publicly emasculate him, but would also emasculate him in the eyes of the mafia, several members of which Jake suspects his wife is sleeping with. By letting Sugar Ray beat him, Jake has proven that he is completely capable of taking punches and is thus a man in th e eyes of his wife, the mafia, and the public at large. This required validation of his masculinity through personal sacrifice makes Jake deemphasize his martyrdom for masculinity and instead emphasizes the lengths to which he will go to prove it. Morris D ickstein explores the spiritual dimensions of the boxing film genre and Raging Bull in particular in his article "Stations of the Cross: Raging Bull Revisited": The spiritual dimension of boxing movies shows not so much in the seedy life, the shady moral atmosphere, but in the physical trials themselves the masochism, the gladiatorial spectacle, the intimacy and exposure filmed at such close quarters that we ourselves are in the ring. [] For Scorsese, La Motta's trials take another form, with no facile triumph at the end. [] [H]e prides himself on being able to take a terrible beating. (In real life this brute endurance was La Motta's trademark.) [] [H]e is also proud of refusing to take a dive. He gets suspended for the one fight he does throw, bu t only after he makes the fix obvious by


71 refusing to go down. Beaten to a pulp by Sugar Ray Robinson in their sixth and last meeting, covered with blood after losing the title, he still taunts his victorious black rival: "I never went down." Scorsese th e Italian Catholic turns a boxer's story into a stations of the cross movie. We cringe at every bit of crass stupidity and blind stubbornness, every self inflicted wound everything but what happens in the ring. (Dickstein 79 80) Jake goes along with th e decision to throw the fight, but he doesn't go down as he is supposed to. He takes his punches in stride and with a bizarre degree of pleasure. In his view, there is an honor in the ability to withstand this sort of violence without crumpling or complain ing. Jake strikes a very explicit Christ pose against the ropes of the boxing ring. His tortures at the hands of Sugar Ray are meant to mirror those of Christ. It is his atonement, not for the sins of others, but for his own. It also acts as a validation o f his masculine pride, as he is not forced to actually confront any of the issues in his life. Instead, he can find redemption in violence, not as a perpetrator but rather on the receiving end of Sugar Ray's punches. The arena of sports is perhaps the ide al realm in which to observe Jack La Motta's masculine identity at work. Sports in general are predicated on having bodily traits that are particularly important in the ideal masculine body that Jake La Motta's masculine identity is predicated upon. Becaus e he is a professional athlete, then, Jake is reliant on this body for his living and his body then becomes an intrinsic part of his identity. In Masculinities Connell has to say: The embodiment of masculinity in sport involves a whole pattern of body d evelopment and use, not just one organ. Highly specific skills are of course involved. For instance, bowling a googly in cricket [] must be among the most exotic physical performances in the entire human repertoire. But players who can do only one thin g are regarded as freaks. It is the integrated performance of the whole body, the capacity to do a range of things wonderfully well, that is admired in the greatest exemplars of competitive sport figures such as Babe Ruth in baseball, Garfield Sobers in cricket or Muhammad Ali in boxing. [] The institutional organization of sport embeds definite social relations: competition


72 and hierarchy among men, exclusion or domination of women. These social relations of gender are both realized and symbolized in the bodily performances. Thus men's greater sporting prowess has become a theme of backlash against feminism. It serves as symbolic proof of men's superiority right to rule. [] At the same time, the bodily performances are called into existence by t hese structures. Running, throwing, jumping or hitting outside of these structures is not sport at all. The performance is symbolic and kinetic, social and bodily, at one and the same time, and these aspects depend on each other (Connell 54) Sport is a system structured for the proof of masculinity, professional sport being the highest level at which the masculine body is tested. It also at this level that the masculine body becomes most equated with a masculine identity, so Jake's very participation i n the world of professional sports should be enough of a validation of this body identity. Jake, however, continually feels that his identity is being threatened, even when he is at his physical peak in the film. Jake continually responds to external threa ts and fears in the ring, as the example of Janiro proves. Here Jake is using the violent potential of his body to prove his masculinity in a situation which only tangentially relates to his insecurities over being emasculated. Since he is a seriously comp etitive athlete, violence becomes the only solution to the threat of being emasculated for Jake. The adeptness at sport is still present here, but because the sport is boxing and because Jake is so eager to prove his superiority over other men, this adeptn ess is filtered through the physical capacity for violence. As demonstrated in the first fight scene in the film, there is no real respect for the rules of boxing. Jake doesn't secure a knockout until late into the last round of the match, but at that poin t, the knockout is useless because the round is declared over before his opponent is counted out. Jake has fewer points, so he loses the match. Rather than employing any sort of effective strategy throughout the match, Jake approaches the match in the mind set that if damages his opponent enough, he can win.


73 Jake, on the other hand, while visibly battered, is faring much better than his opponent. From the outside, it would seem rather obvious that Jake is the winner of the fight; however, it is the challenge r that is declared the winner of the fight due to the technical rules of the boxing match. The general confusion that follows is predicated on the general assumption that the function of boxing is to do as much damage to an opponent as possible strictly th rough punches. This is the methodology that Jake is using when he enters the boxing ring. There is only respect for the rules of the sport in the sense that they provide him the specific set guidelines in which he proves his ability to physically injure an other man. In addition to this, he also demonstrates himself capable of being on the receiving end of a punch while taking minimal damage. This provides another clue as to why Jake appears to be the clear winner of this first fight when is opponent is vict orious. Jake has proven himself in the capacity that he can do and take more damage than his opponent, but while this is superficially the function of boxing, the fighters are operating under more strict guidelines than this. In this respect, Jake complete ly disregards the rules of boxing, ignoring the point system. As a professional, he should understand why he has lost this particular fight. Jake, however, takes his role as a boxer as further "proof" of his masculinity and as such strives to bring every a spect of his masculine identity into the ring with him. So, Jake's role as boxer is complicated by his inability to position his violence within a system. Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle faces a similar issue, though his dilemma is that he wants to enact viole nce within a system and is faced with how he will manage to do that. While Travis manages to narrow it down to vigilantism and assassination, Jake is given an outlet, boxing. This difference in the systematic decision to do violence by


74 Travis and the defer ence to violence by Jake is the distinguishing factor in how each film treats violence. Every violent act in the film committed outside the ring is committed on impulse. Even in the boxing sequences there is no talk of strategy as there often is in other f ilms, such as Rocky (1976). For Jake, the violence in these matches is just as unordered as when he attacks his wife or his brother. Travis plans out his attack on Sport and his prostitution ring and the unsuccessful assassination of Palentine. Even when h e shoots the robber at the bodega, he is shown making a deliberate and conscious decision to shoot somebody. The impulsive, unordered violence of Jake's personal life is manifest in the difference in how this violence is filmed in relation to t he film's bo xing sequences. Whil e the boxing sequences are heavily stylized and carefully choreographed, Jake's violent outbursts outside the ring are quick and shocking. When Jake asks Vickie if she slept with his brother, she doesn't supply him with the affirmative answer he's looking for. He changes his question to "Why'd you fuck my brother?" assuming that she had slept with Joey despite the fact that she had previously stated that she had not, in fact, slept with Joey. Vickie struggles to get away from Jake once his violent intentions become apparent. She runs to the bathroom and locks herself in. The camera, however, mirrors Jake's slow and deliberate movements. This makes the shot in which Jake kicks in the bathroom door all the more shocking as this unexpected display of physical power is less suited to the domestic environment and more to the boxing ring, where Jake's violence is typically relegated. When Jake enters the bathroom and slaps Vickie, it is filmed in a single shot with both figures at the center of the frame. There is no cross cutting or close ups to isolate certain body parts to alienate the viewer from either the perpetrator or the


75 victim of this violence. Instead, this representation of domestic violence is displayed as acutely as possible, makin g it more disturbing than the more extreme violence of the boxing matches. This break in how violence is represented provides a symbolic analogue for the break between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" realms of violence. In the boxing realm, it is a given that somebody will be hit or injured. This is violence for spectators, after all. Each of the fight scenes is incredibly complex in terms of camera placement, editing, and the choreography of the fighters. The violence here is often disturbing, but it is c ontextualized in such an elaborate theatrical way that it when it comes, it is expected. The scene with Vickie, however, is blunt, clear, and simple. It comes quickly enough that the audience is as caught off guard as Vickie is by Jake's violent outburst. Since it is shown so clearly and the filming is so simple, the scene feels more voyeuristic and Jake's blows feel more real. The realistic quality to this violence emphasizes how disturbing it is and thus how out of place Jake's violence seems when taken out of the context of the boxing ring. Jake La Motta, the actual boxer, is considerably different than the cinematic Jake La Motta found in Raging Bull Reading La Motta's autobiography Raging Bull: My Story highlights the extent to which Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader altered La Motta's story and specifically the text of his autobiography to provide thematic weight to his life. The film does away with the biopic conventions of providing an "origin" as the book does. The first half of the b ook, in fact, has been excised for the film. La Motta's general opinion of himself, it seems, is particularly high, so the film does not retain the general tone of the book. Instead, the film emphasizes La Motta's crudity,


76 playing up his domestic violence, his fear of being cuckolded, and all of the generally negative character traits that the book tends to gloss over. Jake La Motta, the central character of Raging Bull the film, is a considerably different character than Jake La Motta, the author of the a utobiography Raging Bull: My Life the book. This, then, calls attention to the changes that Scorsese and Schrader to La Motta's book so as to derive a cinematic Jake La Motta that is a wholly different character than his literary equivalent and even the a ctual cultural and historical Jake La Motta. The later turns in Jake's life in the film emphasize the performative qualities of his chosen profession and of his identity in general. While professional sports are predicated on tests of the body, particula rly the masculine body, the presence of an audience means that professional athletes are consistently put in the role of performer. Audiences expect to derive a degree of entertainment from watching sports which is the reason why professional athletes are required to be in peak physical condition. The expectation is that athletes will be using the full potential of their bodies. Athletes, then, are called on to take on their competition to the greatest of their ability and those whose effort or ability is insufficient are considered bad athletes and tend to not make it very far professionally. The presence of the audience also has a similar effect for athletes as it does for any other sort of performer. There is as much pressure to satiate an audience in t he realm of sport as there is in any dramatic performance. Jake performs masculinity in a particularly notable way both in and out of the ring and Scorsese emphasizes so many of these qualities in the manner in how he constructs the film. The opening cre dits of the film give a first glimpse of Jake running around the ring and boxing in a pantomime. The camera remains static as the credits roll


77 and Jake bounces around the frame. The perspective shows the entire ring and a significant portion of the portion of the arena outside of the ring. There is nobody else present in the frame. The scene is never contextualized within the film, although it is obvious that it is happening in the chronology of the film before Jake retires from boxing since De Niro's body is still in the shape that it is in the earlier sections of the film. Jake is performing violence in a very literal sense here. He is faking a boxing match, going through all the maneuvers he would if he had a live opponent in the ring with him, highlighti ng the performative essence of his role as a boxer. The lack of an audience ties the performance to an intrinsic part of his identity. Jake is performing masculinity and performing figurative violence in this context because it is the context in which he t ypically performs real violence. Taking away an opponent and everybody else who would typically be present in a boxing match just emphasizes this. The presence of the audience is unnecessary because the film's audience acts as a spectator in this instance. Jake is not performing his identity for the camera, but rather for himself, a kind of reinforcing process. By boxing by himself, Jake is honing the stylistics of the violence that he intends to perform. It is a kind of performance that would not look out of place in front of a bedroom mirror. By placing this action in a boxing ring, Scorsese has put the performance in a context in which it fits but still feels vaguely alien. At the outset, Jake's performative identity it set up. The next scene that the fi lm cuts to is a later day Jake La Motta performing a monologue in front of his mirror and then the film cuts back to the young boxer Jake La Motta fighting in the boxing ring. These three scenes in quick succession bring the audience into Jake's life from the perspective that Jake is, at his core, a performer. These


78 scenes, ordered as they are, make the argument for Jake as boxer as performer. They also set up a progression in Jake's life in which the performative aspect would eventually take over his iden tity. He moves from being an unconscious performer, simply an athlete, to performing identity in front of people in a very overt manner for a living. There is a sense of devolution at play here. The quality of Jake's "performances" degrades when he shifts his career path from boxer to entertainer. His body eventually fails him but he has no qualifications and is interred in the world of performance. For him, it is a natural progression for him to eventually shift into a realm of being an entertainer even if he doesn't exactly meet the qualifications to be successful in the la t ter role As an athletic performer, though, Jake is unparalleled in the film. When he opens his club and attempts to break into the world of entertaining, it isn't surprising. The audie nce has already had a glimpse of Jake the entertainer and the film has followed through with frequent representations of Jake performing athletically. Beyond just juxtaposing Jake's performance with boxing to bring out comple mentary elements between the two, certain boxing scenes in the film are choreographed in a way that emphasizes the role of boxer as performer. While not often seen, the presence of an audience at these boxing matches is kept up front in the mind of the viewer. There is an incredibly s tark contrast between what is and what isn't performance space, demonstrated not only by the physical boundary of the rope around the boxing ring, but also by the use of lighting in the boxing scenes. The boxing ring is consistently awash with light. Both fighters and anybody else who may be present in the boxing ring, such as referees or personal trainers, are clearly seen by both the film's audience and the match's audience. This type of lighting is certainly a necessity within


79 the diegesis of the film bu t it is helpful in drawing distinction between performer and audience for the audience of the film. The fighters are emphasized here visually, but the audience is where most of the sound during these scenes comes from. The power of the audience's represent ation here comes from their visual near absence when the film focuses on the action in its boxing matches. Rather than being a collection of individual people, the audience is, instead, abstracted, becoming an unseen entity from the perspective of both the film's viewer and the participants in the boxing match. Thematically, the eventual transformation of Jake from boxer to entertainer isn't a surprising one and it highlights the performative aspects of his identity that are so apparent throughout the enti re course of the film. In his life outside the ring as a boxer, Jake performs his masculinity in a rather overt manner. In an early scene, Jake sits with Joey in his kitchen. In between arguments with his wife, Jake instructs Joey to punch him in the face repeatedly, first with a rag around his hand and then bare fisted. When Joey is initially reluctant to punch Jake, Jake eggs him on, insulting his masculinity and repeatedly hurling invectives at him. Once Jake has convinced Joey to begin hitting him, the film begins crosscutting between Joey throwing punches over the kitchen table and Jake's face as Joey's blows land. Each one is greeted with a cry of "Harder!" from Jake until he convinces Joey to take the towel off of his hand that he is using to protect Jake's face from the full impact of Joey's punches. The pleasure Jake takes in being repeatedly punched in the face is evident. Jake has integrated his masculine boxer persona into his life outside of boxing. This scene has Jake performing his masculinity for himself as a manner of reinforcing this persona. Just as he takes pride in being able to take a punch in a boxing match, Jake takes pride in taking as much pain as his brother is able to dole out.


80 Joey eventually stops punching Jake proclaiming that th e entire exercise proves nothing. For Jake, however, being able to take all of his brother's punches does prove, at least in his own mind, that his masculinity remains intact. With this scene coming so close to the film's first fight, Jake's humiliating fi rst loss to Jimmy Reeves, Jake needs to find validation for his masculine identity. He equates the violence of the boxing match with a measure of masculinity and for him to be able to connect with this masculine identity that he strives to perpetuate is to perform this violence outside the boxing ring. From here forward, the violence that the audience is privy to in Jake's life appears as a performative action through which Jake further defines his masculinity. In her article "Constructing Machismo in Mean Streets and Raging Bull ," Carol Siri Johnson finds a meeting point between Jake's persona in the home and his persona in the boxing room: Thus, through fighting, Jake is able to recapture his masculinity. The differentiation between fighting in the ring and fighting in the homeplace is spurious; scenes flow from domestic dispute to professional battle and back again. Fighting and sex are fused; La Motta knocks down sugar Ray Robinson and then, suddenly, is in bed with his wife, Vickie, interrupting th eir lovemaking in order to save his strength for the next fight. Indeed, when La Motta and Vickie first meet, he shows her a picture of him and Joey "fooling around" with boxing gloves, and the camera stays on the photo as the lovers sink down on the be d. Fighting is a means of expressing compulsion; it is a central image, a pivotal point in Jake's search for his masculine self. (Johnson 102) For all of the validation that Jake gets in the ring as a boxer, he receives so little outside of the ring. Ja ke needs something to filter the performance of his masculine identity through. He picks up on violence, although the film never makes it clear whether he becomes violent in his home life because his career has become an intrinsic part of his identity or i f he has chosen his profession because of his inherent predilection for violence. In either instance, Jake has spent enough time as a boxer that the violence of his


81 boxing career becomes a serious part of his life outside of the ring. It is in this manner, then, that Jake becomes a performer of masculinity and of violence. Illustrative of this integration of the violence of the boxing match into a domestic home life is a montage after Jake and Vickie get married that juxtaposes still black and white images of Jake boxing with 8mm color home movies of Jake and Vickie's life together. While the sequence is meant as a bridge between Jake's early days as a boxer and the point at which his and Vickie's lives become entrenched in suburbia, it also positions Jake' s life as a boxer as being at odds with the generally mundane domesticity found in the suburbs. The color of the home movies is shocking as, beyond the lettering in the opening credits, it is the only color in the film. This break from th e black and white milieu in which the film has already entrenched the viewer is a jolt to the viewer and forces a critical examination of these scenes of what appears as fairly normal suburban living. These sequences, however, are staged just as any prototypical home movie would be staged. They are wholly artificial and unrepresentative because they are meant to be an idealized version of the lives that Jake and Vickie are living with their children. Boxing, however, is still a very real part of their lives, as it is the mec hanism through which Jake makes a living. As such, their lives are, and will continue to be, entrenched in violence. The violent imagery of boxing matches that accompanies the home movies provides the counter point of reality to the idealized. For the home movie camera, Jake is performing domesticity. For the patrons of the boxing match, he is performing violence. Because the two are not separable, it is inevitable that Jake will bring his experience as a boxer into his life with Vickie, and as demonstrated by how he decimates Janiro, his home life into the boxing ring.


82 From the very beginning, Raging Bull establishes Jake as a performer through a performance of his monologue in his mirror that is chronologically towards the end of the time period the film covers. It is only in the film's final act that it returns to this Jake La Motta, fat and disgraced, working as an entertainer in the nightclub that he owns. Here, Jake has made the logical leap of veiled performing masculinity as a boxer to just being an entertainer, performing monologues on a stage in front of an audience. While the events of the film mirror those of La Motta's book Raging Bull Schrader and Scorsese change the details of La Motta's life, providing significantly less context for Jake's ju mp from boxer to entertainer. The significance here is that the connection of Jake as a masculine performer and Jake as a performer in a broader context is made more overt. In his dressing room, Jake performs in front of a mirror. This performance in front of the mirror is repeated at the end of the film. The self consciousness of each performance and the practiced gestures that Jake goes through in front of the mirror point to the cultivation of his identity as a performer. What is striking about De Niro's interpretation of Jake as an entertainer is how completely inept he is in this role. Jake has made the transition to entertainer because he is physically no longer able to box. He has become too old and too out of shape to do so. Jake has spent so much ti me and effort performing one role that when he is called on to perform another, he is generally bad at it. Throughout these later stages of his life, De Niro performs Jake as generally speaking in a monotone that doesn't change despite context. His voice h as the same tone when he's telling jokes in his nightclub as it does when he's performing Shakespeare and when he tries to win back his wife Vickie when she informs him that she has filed for divorce. The only instance that De Niro performs


83 fat Jake La Mot ta in any other manner is when he is imprisoned and he begins punching the walls of his prison cell. It is here that Jake, for the first time since he has retired from boxing, manages to externalize any emotion. The reason here is that he has slipped back into the role he had previously been performing in the film. He returns to his role as boxer and it immediately seems more natural, despite the change in his body. This is not to say that this is an inherently "natural" state for Jake, but rather it is a p ersona that he has spent most of his life cultivating and thus is one that he has had more experience performing. His final performance of Marlon Brando's most famous monologue from On the Waterfront in the film is notable because it sets up the film in r elation to another film about a disgraced boxer. Marlon Brando's Terry Mal l oy character also experiences a moment of redemption through violence when he is beaten by the corrupt dock boss Johnny Friendly. Mal l oy's violent beating served the ideological pur pose of showing solidarity for his fellow dock workers and is thus removed from Jake's assumption of violence for the purpose of absolving himself of all of the wrongs he has committed over the course of the film. Beyond commenting on the meta filmic paral lels between the two films, the inclusion of this final monologue in Raging Bull finds Jake trying to superficially establish his legacy. Jake La Motta the boxer in the film Raging Bull is washed up and disgraced in the same way that Terry Mal l oy is in On the Waterfront Terry Mal l oy, however, is the hero of On the Waterfront and the audience's sympathies are ultimately with him. There is really nothing heroic about Jake La Motta and there is a perverse quality to watching him fail at winning the audience 's sympathy through trying to assume the role of an iconic character that already has the audience's sympathy.


84 Equally perverse is Jake's reading of the monologue. By this point in time it has been h eavily quoted and become iconic to a w ild degree Jake is trading on the easy recognition of this monologue. What makes this sequence so striking, however, is the utter disconnect between the original monologue and Jake's reading of it. While the original is famous for Brando's outpouring of emotion amidst a rol e marked by a relatively low key method actor subtlety, Jake's reading is done in a mechanical monotone way. He doesn't allow for pauses to assist in building the effect of the monologue and instead reads straight through it as if he weren't actually doing a dramatic reading of the piece. Instead of imbuing it with the dramatic heft that Brando so famously did, Jake instead robs it of any emotion. The words remain recognizable but Jake is performing it in such a different manner that he makes it seem alien even to those familiar with On the Waterfront or the scene in which the monologue is taken from. The use of this monologue in Raging Bull thus works to highlight the lack of any sort of redemption for Jake. He tries to perform as a sympathetic boxer who, i n On the Waterfront is in a remarkably similar position to his own. His performance, however, is transparent and incredibly unconvincing. He is still Jake La Motta and he is still performing as Jake La Motta performing theatrical pieces. As a compl e ment ary figure to Jake, Joey La Motta in the film is actually a composite of real life Jake La Motta's manager Pete Petrella and his brother Joey La Motta. In La Motta's autobiography Raging Bull Joey has a relatively minor role and most of his actions in the film are attributed to Petrella. By transplanting so much of the relationship between La Motta and Petrella onto Jake and Joey in the film, Scorsese and Schrader mine the fraternal relationship to give perspective on Jake's conception of


85 masculinity. With in La Motta's book, there is no homoerotic subtext with either Petrella or his brother. The innate homoeroticism in Jake and Joey's relationship is, instead, invented by Scorsese and Schrader. What is seen in the film, then, can't be chocked up to simply a dapting the text, but must be observed within the exclusive context of the film. So often in the film, Joey becomes an intrinsic part of Jake's sexual relationships, particularly with Vickie. The scene in which Jake is repeatedly punched in the face by his brother mimics the sexualized quality of the film's boxing scenes, with Jake taking pleasure in being "penetrated" by his brother. Soon after, when the two go out to a nightclub together, Jake's first wife yells after them, "You're going to suck each othe r off, suck em, suck em baby." Jake's wife is jealous of Joey, not of any potential women that Jake may go home with. Jake and Joey's relationship is further tied to sex when Vickie enters the film. Immediately, Jake wants to know if she and Joey have a sexual relationship. It is here that Jake's general sexual unease with Vickie and his need to invent a sexual relationship between her and Joey begins. Joey senses this unease but also feels a fraternal duty to protect his brother, so when he encounters V ickie out at a nightclub with the mobster Salvy and a few of his associates, Joey violently beats Salvy in front of Vickie as a warning and the rest of the club as a way of redeeming Jake's masculinity in his absence. Jake, however, invents a sexual relat ionship between Joey and Vickie that is given no credibility in the film. David Friedkin, in his article "Blind Rage and Brotherly Love': The Male Psyche at War with Itself in Raging Bull which explores the relationship between Jake and Joey in the film, explains the methodology behind Jake's utter conviction to constructing a fictional sexual relationship between Joey and Vickie:


86 Breaking down their bathroom door, Jake repeatedly asks Vickie: "Why'd you fuck Joey? Why'd you do it?" When Vickie tells him what he needs to hear ("I sucked your brother's cock, what do you want me to say?"), Jake, in a perverse effort to make his "wish" come true, ignores the obvious irony of Vickie's "confession" and proceeds to beat his brother mercilessly. In this conte xt, Jake's emotionally charged, cathartic pounding of his brother can be viewed as a climatic sublimation of the sexual act, the physical consummation of his own unresolved feelings for Joey. (Friedkin 128 9) Joey is the closest masculine figure in Jak e's life and their closeness becomes a threat to Jake. The violence in their relationship is just as sexualized as the violence in the boxing ring is. He wants Joey to have had sex with Vickie so that he can find a sexual link in his relationship with his brother. Once Vickie admits, however falsely, to having slept with Joey, Jake is able to remove that intermediary in his sexual relationship with Joey and "consummate" their relationship, as Friedkin has it, through beating him up. The beating that Jake gi ves Joey is considerably worse than the one he initially gives Vickie. Joey is eating with his family when Jake barges into his house and knocks him on the ground. Jake proceeds to punch, choke, and kick Joey, eventually driving his head through a glass do or. The scene alternates between focusing on Jake acting out the violence and the two figures struggling on the ground, filmed in the same blunt manner as the previous sequence in the bathroom. There is a voyeuristic quality to the creeping camera as it fo llows Joey's sliding body glimpsed underneath the dining room table. This is hammered home when the scene ends with a shot of Joey 's children just standing, the implication being that they have witnessed the entire fight. Their faces register no emotion. R ather, as children, they have no capacity to act in this situation and thus are forced to watch as complicit viewers just as the film's audience must watch complicitly. When Vickie and Joey's wife finally pull Jake off of Joey, Jake punches Vickie in the f ace, knocking her out. Despite the fact that Jake knocks out Vickie, there is still a


87 discrepancy in the amount of violence pointed at Joey and at Vickie. When he does punch Vickie, there is the added weight of frustration over her preventing him from furt her hurting Joey. The issue of who he does more violence to isn't predicated on gender, but on which individual he desires to beat more. It is obvious that Jake is holding nothing back when he initially slaps Vickie. He desires to hurt her, but more so, he desires for her to give him the information he is looking for. Jake's beating of his brother is framed superficially as a punishment for sleeping with Vickie. It, however, works to eliminate the intermediary that Jake perceives in their theoretical sex tr iangle. Thus their relationship from the introduction of Vickie becomes fraught with sexual tension. It begins as they relish the same sex object, Vickie as she lies by the pool. Joey points her out to Jake as a method of encouraging him to take her out. Joey's introduction of Vickie to Jake sets up the intermediary necessary for the two to have a sexualized relationship but still maintain heterosexuality. In this respect, Joey retains as much control over Vickie as Jake does. Despite her attempts to buck the domineering control that Jake and Joey alike try to assert over her, Vickie is the object of sublimation in Jake and Joey's relationship. When Joey takes her out of the club away from Salvy, he says he is looking out for Jake, but he is looking out as much for himself. When Vickie states in the film that Jake has lost his sexual drive, it appears more clearly that Jake's sublimation mechanism no longer works for him. He pushes for the more violent encounter because the physical quality of the violence against his brother is more overtly sexual. Scorsese doesn't film it in this manner, but rather imbues it with the same disturbing documentary realism that he grants Jake's violence against Vickie. Thus, the sexual nature of this violence isn't conveyed th rough sexualizing the body and actual


88 physical act as the film does with the boxing violence. Because it is filmed as the other scenes outside the boxing ring are in the film, Jake's attack is emphasized because it doesn't feel natural standing alongside t he representations of suburban life that the film has already established. Jake's act here, then, is an "unorganized" bubbling to the surface of his latent desires. He can find no other way of expressing himself other than violence and so the subconscious bursts forth in this scene, feeling very out of place in the world of the conscious that Jake has constructed for himself. His frustration with impending emasculation is apparent in the sequence in which he requests his brother to punch him repeatedly in t he face. The request comes after a lengthy discussion over his "little girl hands." Between the loss to Jimmy Reeves as witnessed prior and the realization that his hands are too small, Jake is struggling with masculine validation. He, thus, has to bring v iolence into his life at that exact moment to feel validated. His request for his brother to punch him in the face and then the escalating violence of the scene demonstrate the effort that Jake is willing to put into maintaining his masculine persona under any circumstances. Building on the relationship between Jake and Vickie set up in La Motta's autobiography Raging Bull Scorsese imbues their courtship and subsequent marriage with a degree of weight absent from La Motta's real life account. Vickie is an oppositional force to Jake. He is intrinsically drawn to her, but he finds himself consistently needing her to define his masculinity through a possession of her femininity. Jake, however, finds no end point to this definition. He is in constant need of va lidation. His attraction to Vickie begins when he's married to another woman and he seeks to have an extramarital affair.


89 Moriarty, in the manner she is filmed in Raging Bull resembles Cybill Shepherd's Betsy in Taxi Driver Both films' central character s are drawn to Moriarty and Shepherd because of each woman's perceived "purity." A quality that both Betsy and Vickie share is hair color. Both are blondes. This shared detail acts as a signifier in both cases to the innate, perceived purity of each woman. The actual light hair color gives the appearance of being unsoiled. Any impurities would show, so it is a case of a perceived externalizing of an internal trait, i.e. Betsy and Vickie are both "spiritually" pure and it shows up in their appearance of bein g physically pure. Where Travis Bickle attests to a hatred of "filth" and says of Shepherd "They can't touch her," with "they" referring to the impure masses of New York City, Jake is considerably less overt about his attraction to this quality in Vickie. This is due, in part, to the lack of a direct window into Jake's psyche, like Travis's diary entries. Jake's attraction is thus conveyed in the leering eye of the camera as it passes over Vickie for the first time. The scene begins with an establishing sh ot of Jake at the community pool ordering a soda when something off camera catches his eye and becomes focused on something else. Then comes a slow motion shot of Joey talking with Vickie panning around her. Over the soundtrack, a conversation between Jake and Joey starts up. The film cuts to them and Jake begins a line of questioning about Vickie. Jake begins asking about Vickie's sexual history, if she's slept with Salvy and his friends or with Joey. While Joey pleads ignorance concerning Salvy, he admits to not ever having sex with Vickie. Jake repeatedly asks his brother i f he had had sex with Vickie and Joey replies each time denying that he had. For Jake, it is important that Vickie is "pure" for him. The film cuts back to Vickie with Jake still talki ng on the soundtrack. The camera continues


90 to move around her face, capturing her from as many angles as possible so as to expose as much of Vickie as can possibly be seen. It then cuts to Salvy and one of his associates sitting next to her with Jake criti cizing them on the soundtrack and then once more to Vickie. The shots of Vickie are obviously from Jake's perspective, or rather are what Jake hopes to be seeing of Vickie. He continually watches in hopes of getting as total a glimpse of her as he possibly can. The film cuts back to him to establish his perspective once more, and then back to Vickie as she gets out of her chair and moves towards the pool. Once again, the camera moves around her, trying to take in as much of her body as it possibly can. Anot her cut is made is made to Jake and then back to Vickie as the camera moves in slowly on her face, taking in as much detail as it possibly can. It cuts back to Jake and then to Vickie's legs kicking in slow motion in the pool. The shots of Vickie in this sequence operate in the same way that the initial shot of Betsy operates in Taxi Driver It is an idealized representation of Vickie. As Mulvey outlines in her article "Narrative Cinema as Visual Pleasure," these shots of Vickie are all about Jake's fantas y of her. She is not being seen as Jake sees her, but rather as Jake wants to see her. The camera investigates her face and her body in a manner that it would be impossible for Jake to actually view her from the perspective that the film establishes. Rathe r, he wishes to take in as much of her as he visually can. The camera mimics this through the slow motion shots, the zooms on her face, and the pans around her. Possession of Vickie, as demonstrated in these sequences, is defined through sexual possession Eventually, however, Jake marries Vickie. The monogamous pairing makes her his exclusive sexual partner and the person she should consistently defer to. This is the ultimate possession that Jake is looking for, but he can't recognize an end or a


91 goal in the situation. Prior to their marriage even, Jake has moved beyond treating his relationship with Vickie as one in which she is a purely sexual possession and is instead possessed by him in a broader sense as validation of his masculinity. This is demonstr ated by a pre fight sex scene between Jake and Vickie, the most graphic one in the film. The scene begins with Vickie kissing Jake up and down his torso, but as the two are on the verge of consummation, Jake cuts Vickie off and moves to the sink to pour ic e water on his erection. Notably, this is the final time in the film that Jake and Vickie are represented being this intimate. By not having sex before a fight, Jake is following a well established rule for boxers ( Friedkin 126 ), but this sexual encounter also marks the point in Jake and Vickie's relationship in the film when Jake begins to really ignore her except when he jealously covets her. The termination of sex before it really even begins is less a rule for Jake as a boxer and more the beginning of a trend in Jake and Vickie's relationship. Eventually Jake and Vickie get married and have children, which is as concrete as Jake can possibly make his possessive bond with Vickie. This, for Jake, is not enough. Part of his masculinity is wrapped up in how good he is at keeping Vickie in the domestic setting he has interred her in. Even in her passivity, though, Jake views her as a threat to his masculinity. The kitchen scene in which Jake and Joey discuss the Janiro fight is a good example of this. Jake fin ds an affront to his masculinity in a comment made by Vickie that is not meant as a take down to Jake. Jake, instead, reads insurrection into every action and comment Vickie makes. He is terrified of being subverted and possessed by the feminine and thus h ave his masculinity obliterated.


92 There is no evidence in the film that Vickie is cheating on Jake. La Motta's book makes the case that Vickie was cheating on Jake, although Jake is never really supplied with concrete evidence of it. Scorsese and Schrader, however, do not stand by this point and instead eliminate any details that could actually point to Vickie having an affair. Instead, the director and writer mine Jake's anxiety over being cuckolded to tease out the relationship it has with Jake's destructi ve masculinity. For Jake, infidelity is the ultimate threat as it points to both Vickie's possession of him and her ability to shuck off his possessive bond and thus undermine his masculinity. Initially, the most obvious individual for Jake to feel threate ned by is the mobster Salvy. Vickie and Salvy have a pre established relationship predating her relationship with Jake. The film also makes it ambiguous whether or not Vickie slept with Salvy before she met Jake. This creates a degree of tension in Jake an d Salvy's relationship, as Jake is equally uncertain about Vickie and Salvy's prior relationship as the audience. It makes sense, then, that the moment in the film in which the tension Jake is feeling about Vickie spills over is when Joey witnesses her at the Copacabana with Salvy. Important here is how Joey takes on Jake's anxiety over the threat infidelity as his own. It's not that Joey himself feels emasculated by Vickie's actions, but rather his bond with his brother necessitates that he take action in the situation. Noteworthy, though, is how Joey treats Vickie as his possession in this sequence and not as his brother's. When he first sees her, he goes over to her and grabs her arm to physically take possession of her. The manner in which he talks to he r is dehumanizing, yelling at her to "Just shut up!" He is protecting his brother's masculinity by repossessing Vickie for him so that he can give her back to him. She has become a commodity, then, to Joey, Jake, and Salvy.


93 Even though he is taking possess ion of Vickie for the sake of Jake, Jake is put off by his brother's attempts to protect his masculinity. Because Joey has taken possession of Vickie from Salvy, Jake feels an inherent jealousy towards Joey based on the fact that he has won Vickie back fro m Salvy. With this comes the humiliation of needing his brother to fight for him. It is at this point that Jake transfers his jealousy from Salvy to Joey. Jake expands the manner in which Joey is possessive of Vickie to have sexual connotations in his mind Over and over again, Jake repeats the refrain "Did you fuck my wife?" to Joey. Famously, Scorsese couldn't get the proper amount of revulsion from Joe Pesci in response to this question, so De Niro changed the line to "Did you fuck your mother?" without alerting Pesci. Pesci's reaction to this unexpected question was used in the final edit of the film (Adams 115.) That Scorsese needed a properly confused and repulsed reaction from Joey speaks to the amount of delusion apparent in Jake's logic behind reaso ning that his wife and his brother are having an affair. Equally confused is Vickie when Jake confronts her about the affair. She repeatedly denies having an affair and when Jake attacks her in the bathroom, she gives him the answer he wants, "I fucked em all!" Her ironic tone and her follow up of "What do you want me to say?" invalidate this confession despite the fact that Jake chooses to ignore any irony in the statement. It is apparent that Vickie hasn't cheated on Jake, least of all with Joey. Jake in terprets Joey's possession of her in the scene where he beats up Salvy, however, as indicative of infidelity and thus distorts the relationship between Joey and Vickie in his head until it becomes a sexual one. Cathy Moriarty was nineteen at the time Ragin g Bull was filmed (Adams 116.) The film covers such a time span that the character she plays begins in her mid teens and


94 ends the film decades later. Throughout the decades that the film spans, however, Vickie's appearance doesn't change at all. She looks the same at age fifteen as she does in her mid thirties, which is to say, as she gets older, she maintains the appearance of a teenager since Moriarty the actress is still a teenager. This is made all the more striking when she's paired with Jake whose app earance is constantly shifting and who, at the end of the film, wears his age and physical deterioration very openly. Her femininity becomes more threatening to Jake here because it doesn't shift. She retains it throughout and when is fat and weakened in t he final stages of the film, she leaves him. This is significant because Vickie becomes symbolic of Jake's desperate fear of unflinching femininity. He seeks to break her because she presents him with a femininity that is threatening to his masculinity. Sh e remains beautiful and wholly idealized while he becomes fat and old. Barry H. Leeds describes Jake and Vickie's relationship and the violence impeded in it: La Motta, by contrast, chooses violence (admittedly his profession, his route to success) over s exual love, as exemplified in the scene when he extinguishes his lust for Vickie while training for a fight by pouring ice water over his erection. Yet, even in the film's later scenes, the retired and overweight La Motta is characterized by the barely concealed threat of imminent violence coupled with predatory sexuality that surrounds him like an aura, as in the scene in which he takes marginally unacceptable liberties with the wife (Laura James) of State's Attorney Bronson (D.J. Blair), to whom he is introduced in his nightclub. (Leeds 134) La Motta's sexual frustration, particularly with Vickie, manifests itself violently. While he brings it into the film's many fight scenes, it also comes across in the frequent threats of violence and the sequen ce in which he actually beats Vickie and later Joey. Carol J. Adams locates Jake's violent relationship with Vickie in a broader realm of domestic violence:


95 The answer to "Why does he batter?" is simple: because he chooses to, and he could choose otherw ise. Indeed, at times we see him choose otherwise. While many people may think they are helping a battered woman by explaining (away) the violent man's behavior, Joey takes this nonintervening and abetting role one step further: he colludes with Jake in controlling his wife monitoring her behavior in his absence, encouraging his attitude, so that he becomes the societal mirror to the batterer's self perception. He becomes as well the surrogate keeper, the enforcer of Vickie's captivity. Indeed, the mo ment at which the brother acts loyally in exerting Jake's control of his wife, ordering her to leave the bar and attacking Salvy, becomes much later the moment that Jake interprets, filtered through his misunderstanding of what transpired, as the brothe r's disloyalty. (Adams 114) When Jake hits Vickie, it is most certainly a case of domestic violence. That the violence itself doesn't resemble the boxing matches from earlier in the film forces the viewer to take stock of what has been represented of Jak e La Motta up to this point and what leads to the decision on his part to hit Vickie. While the film doesn't go back far enough chronologically to indicate anything formative for Jake in learning violence, it does, in its course, indicate a cultivation of the violent masculine persona. Jake chooses to batter because, as indicated in the film, it gives him the results that he wants. Jake wants his wife to have slept with Joey because it validates his thinking up to that point. Despite the fact that there is no evidence within the film to prove that Vickie has been adulterous, Jake believes it to be true, so much so that he is willing to berate Vickie and confront her with enough physical and emotional violence that she admits it, in an albeit sarcastic tone. Jake, however, doesn't want to recognize the obvious insincerity in Vickie's remark and takes it to be true. Jake receives validation through violence, both actual and threatened, and he takes Vickie's confession to be true so as to twist it into a stateme nt that validates both him and the violence he has used to get his way. So, Jake La Motta is continually faced with a masculine identity in crisis. Beginning the film as a boxer and ending it as an entertainer isn't an enormous


96 progression for Jake. Rathe r, he is staying in the realm of a performer in both instances and extends that role outside of either profession. He integrates violence in this role of masculine performance because it provides external validation of his masculine persona. At the end of the film, there is no redemption for Jake, nor is there any understanding on his part. He is ending the film a masculine performer just as he begins the film.

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97 Conclusion Taxi Driver and Raging Bull endure as perhaps Scorsese's most criti cally successful films. This is due, in part, to the fact that each film presents a break in traditional cinematic representations of violence and masculinity. While both the issues of violence and gender are still often problematic in each film, the compl ex approach to each at least presents the issues of cinematic masculinity and cinematic violence as more complicated than most films contemporary to both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull Pertinent to how each film handles the construction of the masculine id entity and violence is situating each film in a genre and then noting the divergent characteristics between Scorsese's films and the genre with which they align themselves closest to. For Raging Bull this is relatively easy. There is a long cinematic trad ition of boxing films, which exists as a subset of the even broader genre of the sports film. The sports film genre has consistently aligned itself with male protagonists as the genre is predicated on the strength and ability of the body. As has been obser ved in the last two chapters, one of the key components to the construction of a masculine identity is the perfection of the masculine body. The success of a protagonist in a sports film is usually built around the effectiveness of his masculine body and f or the protagonist to achieve any sort of success he is usually put through a series of physically rigorous challenges. One of the films in the genre that Raging Bull most resembles is the Robert Rossen film The Hustler (1961), in which Paul Newman plays a renowned pool shark. Like Jake La Motta in Raging Bull Newman's character "Fast" Eddie Felson is at the height of his talent as the film begins. The rigors that he goes through in the film are only

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9 8 tangential to his success as a pool player. Pool become s for Eddie what boxing is for Jake, an arena to work his masculine identity. The lives of each character outside of the realm of sports are explored at length in each film. Unlike other examples of the sports film genre, however, their lives outside of sp orts influence their performances within the realm of sports. Jake uses the boxing ring as a method of reinforcing his masculine identity outside of the realm of boxing, proving his capability to do violence and the effectiveness of his masculine body in t erms of being dealt violence. Unlike most sports films and particularly most boxing films, his triumphs in the boxing ring do not always signal personal triumphs. Rather, they are simply an affirmation of his ability to effectively do violence. Locating T axi Driver within a film genre is a bit more difficult since it doesn't conform to any specific genre characteristics. There are, however, a few currents in American film that Taxi Driver can be connected to. Particularly notable is its perversions of the American Western genre and the urban crime film genre. As previously stated, the film owes a strong debt to John Ford's The Searchers but by relocating that film's basic plot structure to 1970's New York City, Scorsese brings out a rotten core in the cowb oy archetype using Travis Bickle. The disconnect between how Travis views his position as "God's lonely man," the man who has taken it upon himself to clean up society, and his actual position as a deviant fringe dweller is made apparent throughout the fil m. When viewed alongside Death Wish (1974) and The French Connection (1971), two other films that focused on crime in 1970's New York City, Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle seems more like a violent sociopath than a crime fighter

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99 along the lines of Charles B ronson and Gene Hackman's respective characters from those films. In this respect, violence is an outgrowth of both Jake La Motta and Travis Bickle's constructed masculine identities. The violence that each man brings into his life validates his masculini ty. For Travis Bickle, it is manifested in the overwhelming need to find an outlet for his violent impulses. He first buys a few guns and prepares his body and mind for any sort of violent encounter. Eventually, the desire to commit an act of violence reac hes the point where he must go out of his way to bring violence into his life, first through an assassination attempt and then through vigilante action. The preparation of the body to do violence is the first indication that his masculinity is tied to his violent desires. Through this search for the perfect body through which to enact violence, the process of Travis's masculine identity construction is revealed. Jake La Motta's career as a boxer already grants him a realm in which violence and masculinity are equated. The masculine body must be in peak condition when operating here so that it can both enact violence and hold up against violence. Violence also becomes his method of reinforcing his masculinity in his own mind outside of the realm of boxing. I t is how he deals with the invented indiscretions of his wife and his brother. By violently lashing out at both of them, he is able to quell any sense of emasculation he may feel. The affair that he invents between his brother and his wife offers him an ex cuse to enact violence, affirming his masculinity which he views as being in distress. Watching Taxi Driver and Raging Bull we see that the images of masculinity seen are informed by previous experiences with cinematic masculinity. Cinematic

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100 masculinity is reduced, so often, to an unquestioned, shallow set of stylized characteristics. The specific characters Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta, however, remain transparent enough to viewers so that the process of each man's identity construction is open for an alysis. In both films, the main character performs at some point in front of a mirror, demonstrating a practiced identity performance. For Travis, it is pulling out his guns in front of his mirror over and over again, with minor variations each time. He pr actices so that when he is faced with violence, the stylized motions he goes through will appear natural. Jake, on the other hand, practices his monologues for his night club act in front of his mirror. While serving a more practical purpose than Travis's performances, Jake's monologues emphasize his role as a performer. His career as an entertainer, despite his relative incompetence, is shown as a natural progression from his career as a boxer. Furthermore, his performance of Marlon Brando's most famous mo nologue from On the Waterfront ties Jake to a history of cinematic performances of masculinity. By practicing it in his mirror, Jake reveals Brando's performance, as well as De Niro's performance as Jake La Motta, to be a stylized, practiced performance of masculinity. Finally, at the core of each film is the violence enacted by and upon Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta. Each film finds a unique manner in which to both represent and situate the violence around each character. In the case of Taxi Driver muc h of the film is spent in anticipation of Travis Bickle's breaking point. With the exception of the shooting of the robber in the convenience store, there are no graphic representations of violence in Taxi Driver preceding the final slayings of Sport and h is associates. Since Travis has tied violence to his masculine persona so thoroughly throughout the film, these final killings

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101 act as a narrative climax and as the ultimate validation of his identity. According to Making Taxi Driver,' t he killings themsel ves are notoriously graphic, so much so that the film's distributer, Columbia Pictures, forced Scorsese to desaturate the color in the climatic sequence so that the blood would appear less realistic and thus earn the film an R rating inst ead of an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America By holding off on the violence for so much of the film's runtime, Scorsese emphasizes Travis's violent potential and how it ties into his identity as opposed to the actual violence he commits. By making the violence so graphic and lingering on the violence using slow motion (when the man about to have sex with Iris is shot in the face) and shots that put the violence front and center (particularly when the doorman has his hand shot off,) Scorsese foregrounds the violence in the minds of the viewers in the final moments of the film, showing in disturbing detail the implications of Travis's unchecked psyche. Raging Bull presents two realms of violence in which the cinematic representations differ for each. The boxing scenes are the most graphically violent, with numerous slow motion close ups of the wounds that each fighter inflicts upon his opponent's body. These scenes are the most cinematic in the film, conveying a multitude of perspectives, compressing and expanding cinematic time through speeding up and slowing down the film speed, and granting the film's audience perspectives of each boxing match that would be impossible to witness outside of the boxing ring. When compared to the boxing matches, the violen ce that Jake enacts against Vickie and Joey is startling. It is shot in a sort of documentary realism that lends it a greater weight, especially when viewed in conjunction with the incredibly cinematic and thus noticeably artificial violence of the boxing scenes.

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102 Taxi Driver and Raging Bull 's placement within an established cinematic canon can be attributed to their unique cinematic approaches to masculine identity construction and how violence works in service of these constructions. Scorsese has carved a niche out for himself dealing with this theme and his most popular films tend to address it. The reason that Taxi Driver and Raging Bull have become the most critically popular is that their approaches are inherently rife for analysis.

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103 Bi bliography Adams, Carol J. "Raging Batterer." Perspectives on Raging Bull Ed. Steven G. Kellman. New York: Hall & Co., 1994. 107 21. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity New York: Routledge, 1990. Connell, R. W. Masculinities 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California P, 2005. Dickstein, Morris. "Stattions of the Cross: Raging Bull Revisited." Perspectives on Raging Bull Ed. Steven G. Kellman. New York: Hall & Co., 1994. 77 83. Friedkin, David. "Blind Rage an d "Brotherly Love": The Male Psyche at War with Itself in Raging Bull ." Perspectives on Raging Bull Ed. Steven G. Kellman. New York: Hall & Co., 1994. 122 30. Hunter, Stephen. Violent Screen: A Critic's 13 Years on the Front Line of Movie Mayhem New York: Dell, 1995. The Hustler Dir. Robert Rossen. Perf. Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott. 1961. DVD. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2002. Johnson, Carol Siri. "Constructing Machismo in Mean Streets and Raging Bull ." Perspectives on Raging Bull Ed. Steven G. Kellman. New York: Hall & Co., 1994. 95 106. Kimmel, Michael S. "Ethnicity and the Erotics of Violence." Perspectives on Raging Bull Ed. Steven G. Kellman. New York: Hall & Co., 1994. 84 94. La Motta, Jake. Raging Bull: My Story Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1970. Leeds, Barry H. "Scorsese vs. Mailer: Boxing as Redemption in Raging Bull and An American Dream ." Perspectives on Raging Bull Ed. Steven G. Kellman. New York: Hall & Co., 1994. 131 35 Making 'Taxi Driver' Dir. Laurent Bouzereau. 1999. DVD. Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2007. Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Feminist Film Theory Ed. Sue Thornham. New York: New York UP, 1999. 58 69. 1975. On the Waterfront D ir. Elia Kazan. Perf. Marlon Brandon. 1954. DVD. Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2002.

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104 Raging Bull Dir. Martin Scorsese. Perf. Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci. 1980. DVD. MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 2005. Rocky Dir. John G. Avildson. Perf. Syl vester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young. 1976. DVD. MGM Home Entertainment, 2001. The Searchers Dir. John Ford. Perf. John Wayne. 1956. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2007. Seidler, Victor J. Rediscovering Masculinity: Reason, Language and Sexuality New York: Routledge, 1989. Stern, Lesley. The Scorsese Connection Bloomington: British Film Institute, 1995. Taxi Driver Dir. Martin Scorsese. Perf. Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel. 1976. DVD. Sony Video, 2007. "Taxi Driver: Its Influence on John Hinckley, Jr." UMKC School of Law UMKC School of Law. 28 Apr. 2009 . Tetsuo Dir. Shinya Tsukamotot. Perf. Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara. 1989. DVD. Tartan Video USA, 2005 Theweleit, Klaus. Male Fantasies Vol. 2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota P, 1989. Videodrome Dir. David Cronenberg. Perf. James Woods. 1983. DVD. The Criterion Collection, 2004.