A friend has formulated a theory about a possible common impetus or motive shared by Martin Scorsese, 80, and William Friedkin, who was 87 when he passed on 8.7.23.

The idea is that both men, known throughout their decades-long careers for investing in headstrong, tough-nut stories about edgy characters, abandoned their traditional approaches by sanding the edges off and generating compassionate moods and social improvement vibes.

Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is obviously an outlier in his oeuvre — a tragic tale that emphasizes compassion for the Osage victims (personified by Lily Gladstone) and condemnation for the white-guy murderers (chiefly Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaporio).

Scorsese chose to ignore the dramatically compelling “birth of the FBI” saga that David Grann used in his 2017 same-titled book, and went instead for a dramatically unsatisfying (not to mention bizarre) embrace of a woke Native American perspective that basically leads nowhere until Jesse Plemons‘ Tom White character shows up at the two-thirds mark, and even then it doesn’t really pay off.

Scorsese’s goal, it seemed, was to earn social approval and atonement points from the guardians of (woke) morality. Rather than focus on anti-social criminals and rebellious oddballs, which he’d done his whole life, Scorsese seemed to be saying “okay, this time I’m going to hold the hands of the victims….instead of my usual identification with rogue sociopaths, I’m now showing what I have in my heart for the unfortunate good guys.”

Friedkin also switched up in a sense with his inexplicable removal of an N-word scene between Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider in a 2021 “director’s cut” of The French Connection. Eliminating an offensive racial slur made no dramatic sense in terms of portraying narcotics detective Popeye Doyle, a brutish racist who had no subtle or gentle sides, and it represented a betrayal of the coarse tone and hard-edged realism that led to Friedkin’s 1971 film winning the Best Picture Oscar.

And yet Friedkin approved the bizarre edit in question. Why? He may have been seized by the same impulse that led Scorsese to deliver a sympathetic or compassionate version of a murder saga. Friedkin may have thought to himself, “okay, this time I’m going to ease up on the rough-and-tumble Friedkin aesthetic….enough with identifying with tough cops and bold criminals…I’ve decided at this late stage of life to convey an understanding of the pain and harm that the N-word can generate, and so I’ve decided to accept the here-and-now and show the wokesters that even Hurricane Billy has a heart…I want to show that I understand that it’s better at this stage in our country’s social development to eliminate a painful word rather than hold on to the ethos of the gritty ’70s.”

In short, two 80something, white-haired, nearing-the-end-of-the-road directors decided to open the proverbial door and invite a little kindness and compassion into their lives and motion pictures.

What do you think my friend’s theory?