In the beginning of the film “Taxi Driver”, we meet the protagonist Travis Bickle. He is applying for a job as a taxi driver. As he is being interviewed, he cracks a sly little joke, and he is immediately reprimanded by “the Man”, in this case the interviewer. We see ourselves in that little interaction. We are the worker. We just want a job. Life is miserable and as soon as we try to lighten things up, some asshole is there to put us down. And we take it, because we need money to survive, and this person is the one who will allow us to get money. So we put aside our pride, suck it up, and eat whatever shit is given to us. That single interaction immediately endears us to Travis. He is us and we are him. The little guy versus the big guy. Travis had become our hero. Our martyr. Until that one scene. The one scene that changes everything.
We are introduced to the characters played by Albert Brooks and Cybill Shepherd about 20 minutes in to the film. By that time we are with Travis. We live his life, we see the filth that he sees, and we identify with his lonely misery (I did anyway). We are Travis. We see ourselves in him. Then, suddenly, the tone changes. It’s bright day. We see trees and green leaves. We see the inside of the campaign headquarters where Brooks and Shepherd work. They are clean and funny and bright. They also joke around, and we laugh with them. Yes, we are them as well. Nice. Funny. Clean. And then a change comes over Betsy’s (Cybill Shepherd) face as she mentions a creep that has been staring at her for some time. From his cab. And in that moment, the camera quick pans to Travis staring at Betsy in his cab like some kind of pervert. As fast as our mind processes what she says, we are shown that yes, it is Travis, he is a creep, and we’ve been duped into empathy for a character that appeared normal. That single moment flips the entire film around from a “Us vs. Them” type of blue collar treatise to something sinister. He got us. He got us all. Scorsese got us to sympathize with one of the monsters in a film full of them. Genius.
That’s what I tried to do with the character of Bruh. He is not a nice character. In the very first page, he believes that he has single handedly killed every human on the planet. And he jokes about it. And we find it funny. He keeps cracking jokes, even as he kills aco-worker he finds annoying. But it is presented as a funny comic strip. We are supposed to laugh. It helps that the timing is perfect and the jokes hit. It’s a joke, right? He has a clueless supervisor, and a workplace bully. We can see ourselves in Bruh. It’s just a joke, right? Well, I decided to change the tone of Bruh. I wanted you, the reader, to see him as the flawed, anti-hero that he really is.
We are with him. We are with him in panel one. He does suck. He shouldn’t be making advances to a female coworker during work. It was unwelcome and disruptive. Bruh is smart enough to see that, and he feels bad about himself. We’ve all been there. Social humiliation is part of growing up. And we are with Bruh in panel 2. That feeling of inadequacy when faced with rejection. We are losers and we should be lucky to find anyone to love us! That’s how I felt anyway. The hapless loser. But then Bruh’s anger comes out. Now it’s not his fault in his mind. She is just a wrong and stupid because he is great! But he is not great. He is petty and vindictive. He is not us. He is the worst of us personified by this genderless automaton. This was my ‘Scorsese’ moment. This is the strip where the tone changes. It changes into something darker. This stupid little robot comic was to become my “Taxi Driver”.