We hear a lot about how guys are supposed to be these big badasses who never cry and know how to get shit done. The image we have of men is of a strong dude who doesn't take any shit from anyone. But the truth is, that guy is very likely a gigantic pussy. That's why he can't take anyone's shit. He can't afford to. The tiniest nudge will throw him into a spiraling abyss of emotional insecurity. If men were really that tough, there'd be no need for misogyny.
Paris, Texas is not about some figure of exaggerated masculinity, but rather just an everyday Joe. This guy, Travis, looks appealingly dirty and rough, yet gentle and intelligent, much like a non-gay cowboy. And like that cinematic archetype he's a man of few words and fewer affectations. He is also a massive coward.
See, Travis has this thing where whenever things get a little too rough, he just quits and starts walking in a random direction. When he was five years old and he got an Evil-Lyn toy instead of the Skeletor he wanted, he quietly got up, walked out of Chucky Cheese, and hoofed it all the way to the bad part of town, where he was beaten up, which just made him want to walk even more. They eventually found him in a field two states away.
Once, when a girl he liked refused to go with him to prom, Travis shut down and started walking to get away from her, too. But they were inside a room, and he missed the door. So for twenty minutes, Travis kept banging into the wall repeatedly like a broken robot until someone stopped laughing long enough to call a teacher. Familiar with Travis' history, the teacher knew she could not scold Travis, but wrapped him in a blanket and fed him warm milk from a bottle instead.
When we first meet Travis, he is a grown man walking through the desert. Upon entering a convenience store, he falls over from dehydration, malnourishment, exposure, and a deeply uncomfortable case of The Hobbit Hoof.
The guy at the convenience store has no idea who this near-dead asshole is. So he calls the sheriff, who doesn't know either. So they check for the guy on the FBI's Most Grizzled Missing Americans list. Identified by his timeless, yet deceivingly accidental business suit/baseball cap combo, they find him pretty quickly and contact his closest next of kin, his brother Dean Stockwell.
Despite having an actual job, Dean Stockwell stops everything to rescue his brother from walking. We learn he's been missing for four years. By examining the sand in his hair, they ascertain that he walked all the way to Australia. And going by his collection of tribal tattoos, it appears he also somehow made it to the Amazon.
You might think a guy who confronts all of his life's issues with walking probably doesn't have a kid. But if he did, chances are high the kid would be abandoned almost immediately. You would be right. Travis has a kid named Hunter who he hasn't seen in almost half a decade.
So just to add all this up: Travis abandoned both his life and his child for four years of walking and he refuses to speak, robbing his brother of the ability to understand why he not only had to take a week off work to drive his ass back home, but had to call in sick on his own life so he could raise Travis' child.
Luckily, Travis loosens up a bit when he finally meets Hunter. The two get along pretty well since they are both children. It doesn't take long for Travis to start talking. He won't answer any question he doesn't like. And he can only say three or four words per sentence. But he becomes a regular motormouth when you try to take his special blanket away.
Eventually, Travis thinks he can try to be Hunter's real father again. So he steals his brother's car and kidnaps the boy and heads out to find Hunter's mother. Dean Stockwell watches as he peels out of his driveway, crushing his wife's flowerbed on the way and just flips him off with every finger he has.
Travis hunts Hunter's mom to a place in Texas where horny guys go. For the first time ever, he thinks like a dad and leaves Hunter in a hotel room while he enters this wretches hive of scum and villainy alone. He doesn't know that the channels on the hotel's TV broadcast only pornography, though. Baby steps.
Hunter's mom, Jane, is now a sex worker. Here's how all that works: If you're a girl who just loves to have sex all the time, you would probably make a great prostitute. If you like sex but don't want to do it, like, every day, then you might have more fun being a high class call girl. You get paid more for each go, so you don't have to do it as often.
Now, if you're a girl who likes sex but doesn't want to do it with strangers, you can be a stripper. If you're an introvert, you might prefer stripping in front of a two-way mirror, so you don't even see the man masturbating to you. As you can see, the sex industry is one filled with an abundance of options.
Jane is an introvert, so Travis finds her waiting to strip for strangers she can't see. Instead of talking straight to her about his situation, he romantically retells the story of how he ruined their life together.
It goes like this: They were in love and they had a kid, but Travis was really lazy and didn't want to work, and Travis was really jealous and didn't want to believe she wasn't cheating on him. So she set him on fire. This whole speech is over ten minutes long. The whole time you're like, "Who the fuck is this guy talking about?" Well, this could be considered a spoiler, but he's actually talking about himself.
So now we know why he was walking so long. Before he leaves, Travis tells Jane where she can find Hunter, and she's like "I knew all along, you dumbass." But then he tells her Hunter is no longer at his brother's house but actually in some fleabag hotel in the bad part of Fuck Town. This bit of news forces her to either damn her child forever or immediately quit her job to go save him.
Thinking he did a good thing by reuniting a mother and her child, Travis once again takes to walking. He is his own man, man. Beholden to no one but God, himself, and the open road. The sun goes down on his guilt and his discontent and his fear of the past.
Then a massive bird of prey mistakes him for a King-Sized strip of beef jerky and plucks him from the earth forever.