By William Sheton
Network is a 1976 film about the exploitation of the fictional newscaster Howard Beale by the new heads of his network CCA (Communications Corporation of America). As the film starts Beale has been fired due to low ratings. When Beale announces that he is leaving to his audience he states, live on television, that he plans on killing himself on camera in the coming weeks because he’s “run out of bullshit”. When the corporate heads and FCC might have an issue with this, the fans did not and the next day his ratings showed a noticeable increase. The stations new head of programming decides to keep Beale on, exploiting this new found maddens and turning Beale into “The Mad Profit of the Airwaves”. From there the movie is a look into how little the Capitalist class care about not only those who work for them, but how little they care about those effected by their work as well.
While the ubiquitousness of the “I’m mad as hell” monologue might lead unsuspecting views into thinking Beale is the main focus of the film, he is in fact rarely in it. The real star of the show is Faye Dunaway’s “Diana Christensen”. She starts the film as a no nonsense “do gooder” caplitalist using their position to bring a desperately need counter point to mainstream news. She says early on she wants “counterculture” and enlists communist revolutionary to bring her shows. But as the film progresses it’s clear that Christensen not only doesn’t care about the message she’s bringing to the people, she makes it clear that so long as her needs are meet everyone else is expendable. At the end of the film she not only comes up with the plan to kill Beale and rid the station of his low ratings, she decieds to make sure it’s caught on film so the station can use it in another show.
Christensen journey throughout the film was not have been one of personal change, but instead a focal point of the films thesis. There’s a brilliant scene in the film where Beale goes on a rant telling his viewers not to trust cable news and repeatedly pleading with them too turn off their tv’s. This is then cut to a bored meeting were the corporate heads of the studio are talking about how high the viewer count is and how the station is expecting to profit for the first time in years. It is made clear that CCA, just like every other capitalist and for profit business, will tell you what every you want too hear, so long as you’re willing to buy their product.
As time has gone on, Network has only become more meaningful. Few news outlets provide meaningful information to their viewers and corporation are still selling people products under the guise of “caring” while not doing anything to aid the people they are advertising too. So much so that, upon viewing this film it’s hard not too think of the short lived HBO show “The Newsroom” were a group of news casters take a stand against “for the sake of viewership” news and starts reporting stories of importance. While the show is not as darkly comedic as Network was, it’s hard not to think it wasn’t inspired by the films message. And if a movie is still inspiring imitators nearly 40 years after release, it’s hard to say it hasn’t held up.
My Grade 20/20