Prostitution or big elephant?

In the movie Taxi Driver, 1970’s New York is portrayed as a totally different city than what we see it as today in 2013. The city is filled with “filth, scum, dirt” and mainly – prostitutes. Girls at the age 0f 12 are being sold and treated with absolutely no respect and it is completely accepted in the society. The short dresses, half naked bodies, flirtatious looks are all just to get some money and make some business. Girls are being drugged and end up “stoned” in random taxis which they have to be escorted out from in a very suspicious way. Our main character, Travis, was completely conscious of what went on in his taxi when a pimp – Sport- took out Iris, yet after a 20 was throw down, Travis kept his mouth shut. The big difference between modern New York and 1970’s New York is the mentality of people.

You would believe that the prostitutes hated the way they got treated, yet when Travis kills the main people in the pimp business, Iris, the 12 year old prostitute, cried over the blood bath. Does that tell us that she enjoyed it? She wanted to stay out of school, dress slutty and make money the un-orthodox way? The movie clearly seems to hint so. In 1970’s prostitutes were easily identifiable on the streets, especially New York streets. Not to say there are no prostitutes on the streets now a days, but they are not as widely seen. Iris, seemed to even enjoy her job. She was not very reluctant to run away with Travis, go back home and go back to school. What the 1970’s society missed is that she enjoyed her job. Travis was rewarded as a hero who saved a poor 12 year old from big scary men, yet in Iris’s eyes, Sport was the hero. The New York society was clearly aware of who the pimps were, where their houses were and although they tried to crack down, Sport could easily try to brush the police off and joke around with them. This wouldn’t fly in today. Prostitution was a subject nobody talked about, yet it was widely used – like that big elephant in the room. We all know its there, we just won’t acknowledge it.

Overall, the streets of New York have changed. They are cleaner. They are more friendly. Less suspicious. But mainly, they are more safe (granted, some parts still might not be, but for the most part New York is a safe city). And girls like Iris, at 12 years old, will be in school, with parents or guardians, and mainly – not openly allowed in the prostitution business.

Jourdon Anderson, Letter to My Old Master (1865)

“Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be my advantage to move back again.”¬†


It is pretty clear from the passage “Letter to My Old Master” by Jourdon Anderson, that slaves never liked to be under the control of the white master. And who could blame them; they were constantly beat, threatened, and even killed. There was no mutual trust established, thus that is why Jourdon asks for some money for his past service, as a sign of trust and appreciation. Plantation owners previously, would never pay a slave a cent, making it even harder for them to do it now. Never did it before, why start now? Thus money, would be a great sign of mutual trust.

Now, many would argue that the freed slaves were acting “too brave”, as if they were in control when it came to whites. But in reality, the newly freed were acting with much diplomacy. With the anger they had build up against their old masters, who treated them with little to no respect, who could blame them for being extra cautious. If anything, a rebellion or even a conspiracy against the master would be surely expected. ¬†Instead, Jourdon understands that his safety, family’s well being and financial means are suffering, thus he makes a beneficial proposition for both parties, to his previous plantation owner. Although the proposition might’ve been a bit risky, it was worth a try. At this point, nobody could bring him and his family back to his “Old Master”, so a bargain would not hurt. Everywhere was dangerous for the newly freed and finding a place they could trust and stay at was the hardest part. Jourdon’s diplomatic skills came to light as he ensures his loyalty to his master, “Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear at your being hurt”, and then goes on to ask about a possible opportunity at the old plantation.

The newly freed did not have a choice but to be “brave”; they had to survive in a world that was turned against them. The smarter ones, the more diplomatic ones, survived, understanding that they have to give in order to get. Although slavery was abolished, the idea of free labor was firmly stuck inside some white’s heads, making it harder for the freed slaves to survive on their own.