Taxi Driver was released in 1976, two years after ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative cinema, Laura Mulvey’s seminal paper was published (Mulvey 1974). The gaze, in particular the ‘male gaze’ has been scrutinised from many angles over the three decades since (Bristow, 1993; Augsburg and Gutfreud 2011, Evans and Gamman 1995). And a ‘female gaze’ has been identified and championed by some, critiqued by others (Tams 2012).
The iconic scene in Scorsese’s film, where Robert De Niro’s character Travis Bickle stares at himself in the mirror/the camera, pointing a gun in his combat gear and asking nobody in particular ‘you talkin’ to me?’ is the starting point for this paper. Because I argue here that in 21st century culture, which is dominated by social media platforms such as tumblr, youtube and facebook, rather than looking at and ‘objectifying’ women, young men are far more interested in examining and displaying their own and each other’s bodies. The ‘tumblr’ generation (Tams 2012) (including people of all gender identities) seems intent on looking, in both figurative and real mirrors, at itself. And it invariably likes what it sees. This paper uses masculinity in social media as a focal point in this context, because it is the ‘man as object’ of the gaze, especially the gazes of heterosexually-identified men, that is not acknowledged adequately in the literature or in common parlance (Tams 2011). Thus looking at Taxi Driver using the ‘metrosexual gaze’ we see a much more ‘passive’ and self-admiring Travis than before, demanding to know, not if we’re talking to him, but if we’re looking at him. This scene marks the early stages of a revolution in masculinity and mediated gender identities as a whole.
This is an abstract for a conference paper I will be giving in the Spring.