The Real Meaning:
It's pretty clear that this line isn't about Luke failing to understand what is expected of him, since what is expected of him is to be savagely beaten in a desolate Florida prison camp. (Believe it or not, that understanding comes pretty quick.) The line comes from a sadistic authority figure, insane with power, giving a Kafkaesque framing of his violent corruption. It is itself a very unreasonable thing to say; it is not meant to imply that somebody won't listen to reason.
Unless they meet the business end of a listenin' stick.
People use it to imply that some diplomacy could help a situation. What they're truly saying is that they will viciously abuse you if you don't fall into line.
"You Talkin' To Me?" (Taxi Driver)
This line is universal shorthand for being a tough guy. It's something a badass says to a smart-mouth who's trying some lip. Everyone knows it means "If you don't watch your tone, you're going down harder than DeNiro's respectability in the early 2000s."
Scene from the film Meet The Paycheck.
The Real Meaning:
In Taxi Driver, this line is the centerpiece of a scene illuminating Travis Bickle's self-delusion and narcissism. It makes it painfully clear that he's not a tough guy. He's rehearsing a "tough" speech, like a deranged child playing G.I. Joe.
"I don't see anyone else here, Destro."
Travis is defined by isolation. As he puts it, he's "God's lonely man." So he's talking himself through a violent narrative that he's created in his own mind, which only reveals his weird, pathetic nature. That's according to the writer of the film, Paul Schrader. He notes that the script called for Travis to play like a cowboy and talk to himself in the mirror. It's not cool; it's a stunted man-child trying to act cool. So the people using this line to pretend to be tough guys are ... no wait, they're doing it right. This one's accurate.
Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs.
Also check out 23 Famous Quotes You Know By Heart (That Are Totally Wrong) and 6 Famous Literary Quotes Everyone Uses Exactly Wrong.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Iconic Pop Culture Moments You Remember Wrong, and other videos you won't see on the site!
Follow us on Facebook, and we'll follow you everywhere.