The Silent Majority

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Buried deep in the back of every movie nerd’s head is the voice of Howard Beale, howling those immortal words; “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” A phrase that has worked its way into the cultural lexicon, somewhere between “Say hello to my little friend!” and “I drink your milkshake!” in terms of memorability and loss of context. In the world of cinema, if a crazy man shouts something loud enough, it will be heard for decades.

But how many savvy movie goers remember who Mr. Beale was yelling at?

Network passes a test that so few movies that deal with social critique and cultural malignancy do. It manages to be incredibly topical of its time, yet universal of all times. It touches on subjects that were very specific to the mid-1970s, yet feel chillingly familiar for those of us living in the modern age of news on demand. Things like integrity, democracy, and the real truth. Things that no generation ever likes to see ignored or threatened.

Network is a story about a man fed up with how he sees the world and the people who abuse his charisma and rallying power for profit. In the films own words, Howard Beale is “an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our times”, and the network that carries him is more than happy to let him preach his evangel, so long as his ratings keep going up. In Networks world, the guy telling you to turn off your TV gets more ratings than the guy who doesn’t.

At Networks heart are characters so finely tuned that they are practically bulletproof. Beale (Peter Finch) is the last angry man in a world that loves to watch him testify, Monday through Friday. His producer is the heartless media shark Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), a woman who defines her value as a human being by her nightly ratings share. Beale’s former boss and oldest friend Max Schumacher (William Holden), stands as the only competent man in a world seemingly full of overblown ego and unchecked delusions. Rounding out the pack is Frank Hacket (Robert Duvall), the chairman of a television network he would rather see run as a whorehouse than as a reputable news source. These top four are all fine and good for the first two thirds of the film, but then, we are introduced to CEO Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty), an often forgotten character who delivers perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping and beautifully worded rants on our species ever put on film.

These characters live in a world so unreal that their delusions are more reliable than the facts. People lose their humanity and accept the illusions to be the truth. This is the world Howard Beale sees. And this is the world to whom those thirteen immortal words were spoken to.

Network is bold enough to say there is something very wrong. Not with democracy, not with television, but with us. Howard Beale was mad as hell at us, and shame on those who will ever let his words fall on deaf ears.

– – J.D. Renaud

J.D. Renaud has no formal education in film, but that is more than evident upon meeting and/or seeing him. A purveyor of all things eccentric, he prides himself on being a guinea pig test subject for any new form of media he is given. He currently lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with his go-go dancer roommate.


Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 7, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Posted in political

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