Features and Columns · Movies

Let’s Talk About Travis Bickle’s Bread and Brandy Cereal

A way to a young man’s self-destructive rage is through his stomach.
Travis Bickle Food
By  · Published on June 5th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores what food tells us about the lead character of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

There are plenty of ways to deepen a character without dialogue. You can learn a lot about someone by they way they dress, how they decorate their home, and the company they keep. The same, naturally, is true for food.

Eating is a very personal thing. And attentive filmmakers go out of their way to use food as vessel to deepen our understanding of on-screen characters. In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Barry Keoghan’s Martin scarfs spaghetti with a grotesque intimacy that telegraphs his uncanny ingratiation into the Murphy family. Max Renn casually dunks cold pizza crust into his milky coffee at the beginning of Videodrome, succinctly telling us everything we need to know about James Woods’ smut-slinging TV programmer.

Which brings us to Taxi Driver, and the alimentary habits of its self-destructive protagonist, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). As the video essay below points out, Travis’ meal plan consists of a hollow, craving-satiating diet. Lonely and lacking in the comfort of family, lovers, or community, Travis’ turns to food: to fast food, beer, candy, and brandy-soaked white bread.

The essay does a bang-up job of showcasing the intentionality behind Travis’ meals. It’s a good reminder that food-on-film is much more than set-dressing; that at it’s best, it’s an invaluable building block of a larger story.

Watch “Food in Taxi Driver”

Who made this?

This video essay on how food is an illuminating way into understanding the thematic and character beats of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is by Eyebrow Cinema. The YouTube channel is run by Canadian creator Daniel Simpson. You can subscribe to Eyebrow Cinema on YouTube here. And you can follow Simpson on Twitter here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.