In the film, broadcasters capitalise on a disturbed man's ingenious rantings and ravings, which quickly become the nation's slice of 'must-see' weekly TV.
Both on and off the air, Network features some of the greatest speeches ever to grace the silver screen, many of which deconstruct and dissect the mechanics of the modern media, the dark heart of corporate capitalism, or even the inherent pain of a doomed human existence - all 'articulating the popular rage' in the manner of a modern-day politician, or even a super-hip vlogger.
Network is quite rightly often credited with predicting the direction of the modern media, and even the rise of reality TV. But there's so much more in this prescient picture that'll leave viewers thinking Sybil the Soothsayer should've been granted a screenwriting credit.
Our story begins near the end of Howard Beale's downward spiral. He is a man at his wit's end, he's mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. Beale has worked most of his life in the "boredom-killing industry" and has normalized negativity to the masses. Ratings rule all and stories are treated as commodities, far removed from the people affected within them. Howard spares no expense sharing his dismal outlook with the viewers of his show when he declares his intent to commit suicide on live television the following week. This moment marks the point of no return on the journey into this new age of profit over people. The initial response to his announcement is chaotic until the network-savvy Faye Dunaway's Diane Christensen sees a silver lining. The obscure announcement by Beale garnered unheard of attention and ratings soared as a result. Not one to miss a good opportunity, Christensen convinces the powers that be to provide Beale his own re-occurring show with free reign to rant and rave. The freedom provided to Howard is a true hallmark of times passed. Nobody in today's day and age would be given this type of opportunity on live television; only after a period of sophisticated and respected journalism leading up to this point could anybody even fathom such a regretful decision.
Dunaway's character is the epitome of the greed we see within corporate media. She seethes emptiness and lacks genuine emotion. She will do anything to anyone to achieve her shallow agenda and further her career. Her lack of humanity is contagious and we are given a glimpse of the consequences to being associated with her - both on a personal scale; through her relationship with Max Schumacher and by extension, the effect it has on his wife, but also on a social scale; through the actions of Howard Beale and by extension, the effect it has on the masses. For the first-time Howard is given the opportunity to break free from his script and speak truth to his viewers. The more he removes himself from the corporate stronghold, the more human he feels yet the more isolated he becomes. It begs the question; is he crazy, or is everyone else?
-Fans of "The Newsroom"
-People who preach about "fake news"
All I really know about the 1960s and 1970s was that I grew up one generation later than they happened. While everyone was meeting some truly cantankerous characters in the likes of The Graduate (which perfectly embodied the conflict and attraction between two generations of Americans) and the artificial intelligence of HAL, the soulless but suffering computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I still believe that Howard Beale and UBS were among the truly great screen villains, and not because they were particularly evil, but because they were heartless-and a definitive prophesy (written very tongue in cheek by Paddy Chayefsky) of what the modern American would become in the 2000 era, should artificial TV values continue to dominate the culture. The insane and dying Howard Beale helped to spawn the modern atheist evangelist, disillusioned with everything holy in society, while Diana Christensen foretold the emergence of the secular-opportunist. The only supposedly decent and ethical man in the film, Max Schumacher, was shown to be weak, immoral and irrational in his personal life. Yet, only the sinner was able to point at the greater evil and pronounce the tragedy of humanity. Max's final deconstruction of villainy (his mistress, whose heart he breaks) serves, not as a self-righteous condemnation of what is to come, but a final farewell and fuck-you to a world that had progressed far beyond what was sensible good taste. The offspring of Network, the Mad as Hell generation, not only permeates entertainment today-but modern society who continues to scream outside of Windows and litter Facebook walls.
Smart, funny, and well acted, Network gives a story that's rarely been captured on film.