It seems as though I am dealt some sort of awful experience whenever I abandon Internet retail in favour of its physical equivalent, with real people and shops and things. These usually revolve around being made to feel unjustly embarrassed over my own, frankly impeccable, tastes. Months ago, when buying a Laurel & Hardy DVD from a charity shop, I found myself so overcome by the impotent desire to prove that I wasn’t some old-before-my-time, bus-stop-bound, blue-carrier-bag-carrying dork-in-an-anorak, who’s so dead inside that the only thing capable of eliciting a smile from me is the sight of a fat man and a man of average weight pushing each other while sporting clothes of an ill fit, that I vowed never again to browse the sales racks of the real world.
Subsequent relapses have justified my idealistic abstinence, and it was with a mixture of delight and horror that I found myself in HMV weeks ago, growing increasingly irritated and confused by something that wasn’t purely of my own invention. While examining a ‘special edition’ copy of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, I found that a promotional sticker proudly exclaiming “One for the lads” adorned it.
It was not long before I came to realise that my inner lad is a pig-headed, reactionary scumbag, and that he really has no place dipping into Scorsese’s oeuvre, so bound is he to misinterpret it to suit his own wretched agenda of thinly veiled, sexually frustrated misogyny and irony-free Saturday night thuggery.
I’d guess that the film’s claim to lad-friendly status lies in its iconic, frequently quoted “You talkin’ to me?” line. It’s common knowledge, after all, that wazzock’s are obsessed with catch phrases and general familiarity, whatever deplorable guise it assumes. Still, it’s troubling to consider that there are lads who watch the film, triumphantly raising their glasses in approval of scenes besides this one; like the wretches who play Jeremy Kyle Show drinking games, downing shots each time a snarling ex-convict is seen head-butting an estranged, heavily pregnant wife.
Sam Peckinpah claimed that Straw Dogs’ audiences weren’t supposed to approve of Dustin Hoffman’s adoption of appallingly brutal behaviour, but rather pity his character and lament the circumstances that necessitated his course of action. Surely the same applies to Travis Bickle, and the film’s bloody, pimp-splattering conclusion is just as muddled, unromantic and futile as the events that led to it, stretching back as far as the Vietnam war.
Ah yes, lads: they love beer, sports, fatty foods, those nylon jogging bottom things, vegetarian-baiting and explorations of deep-seated psychological trauma against the backdrop of a morally bankrupt society. Glancing around the shop, I notice that copies of Easy Rider bear the exact same sticker. I leave immediately, safe in the knowledge that though Dennis Hopper’s burnt-out, death of the sixties vision is being marketed by completely unfit hands, some day a real rain will come and wash all these stickers off the streets.