external image network1.jpg MOVIE ANALYSIS: Network

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" (Network, 1976)

Sidney Lumet’s Network is a classical political satire that capitalizes on the ideal of displaced anger. The film is a period piece that echoes the 1970s and addresses the issues of media forms and economic structure in relation to televising in American news programming. The new era of broadcasting introduced powerful networks that were all fighting for shares on television. Only three networks were available at the time and the film highlights the dramatic contention of trying to win networks and ratings. Howard Beale, the main protagonist in the film is an aging news anchorman for UBS and because of loosing significant ratings; Beale faces termination from the network company. In the fright of facing termination, Beale unexpectedly rears off script during his final news broadcast and proclaims, on national television, that he will commit suicide. Surprisingly, this divergence from traditional broadcasting heightens the network ratings, resulting in the decision to keep Beale on the air, thus cynically exploiting his honest expression for their own financial gain.
The film serves as a precedent in prediction for future televising. Although the film is historically grounded, it exercises many relevant lessons and themes that are still actively entertained in television media today. The underlying themes and lessons outline contemporary messages defined in television today. Subjective reporting is a prevalent theme throughout the film. Howard Beale has the ability to address viewers and instill his opinions and views onto them. This type of address is still predominant in today’s televising with a plethora of reality televising.

Subjective reporting maintains the ability to empower individuals and make them passionate about issues. It also has the ability to promote bias, misrepresentation, and to deface the quality of news reporting. In the film Network, Howard Beale promotes subjective reporting with his public display of address to audiences on the air. He articulates the public rage surrounding such controversial issues of the time such as the Vietnam War, and the economic depression in the 1970s. Beale becomes the voice of society which otherwise has been concealed by conformity. He is declared by audiences as the “ladder day prophet proclaiming the prophesies of the time” (Network) for his ability to speak what is on his mind. Howard asserts,

Every day, five days a week, for fifteen years, I've been sitting behind that desk, the dispassionate pundit, reporting with seemly detachment the daily parade of lunacies that constitute the news and just once I wanted to say what I really felt. (Dirks).

Ratings and the shares of the network increased substantially with his honest approach to reporting. This idea of deviance morphed into conformity into the society and was embraced by all. Audiences thrived on hearing Howard’s opinions, and found they were able to express themselves through his proclamations. In his ability to report and move audiences, Howard was responsible for creating news, not reporting it. The new vice president of programming Diana asserts, “Howard Beale…said what every American feels, that he's tired of all the bulls--t. He's articulating the popular rage. I want that show, Frank. I can turn that show into the biggest smash on television” (Dirks). The power Howard had over audience was apparent. He denied being mad, and felt he was inspired and imbued with clarity to speak his mind. The network capitalized on Beale’s mental problem by making the news division part of the entertainment schedule. In one instance of Howard’s reporting, he asked the audience to step up and speak their minds and scream out “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (Network). This shows the power Howard maintained in the broadcasting network. People began to do as he asked and scream out their windows. Another instance of his influence is apparent when he is criticizing the Arabs for their growing economic success in taking over power in the US. He asks audiences to send telegrams to the White House expressing their rage. This instance shows how Howard was able to displace his anger and rage on audiences through his subjective reporting and get them to write telegrams to the White House. Howard asked for a million letters, and in return there were over six million. His display on television turned Howard into a leading idol, with his own group of followers.

Nearly thirty years later the same theme of subjective reporting is still prevalent in mass broadcasting. Reality television is considered a form of subjective reporting and is still at the height of all television programming and ratings. Reality televising is a genre of programming which presents itself in a dramatic, unscripted manor and is considered a form of entertainment. Further, it is at the forefront garnering the highest ratings and reviews by audiences on television networks worldwide (Kelemen). Audiences thrive on the ability to watch real people enact in real situations. Presently the leading force of reality television is talk shows, which have been around for numerous years. Similarly to the Howard Beale show, televising which is opinionative, interactive and spontaneous attracts the highest volume of television viewers. “Television is a business whose purpose is gathering audience (Kelemen) thus, it is appropriate that networks would generate shows which appeal to audience interests and demands. News reporting today is still traditionally privileged; however they maintain the ability to sensationalize the news to make it appealing to audiences. Stories are attached with slogans and taglines to make more compelling and interesting to audiences. There are also visual and auditory signals creating a physical presence to the way that news is broadcasted. This captivates attention, and lures audiences in to continue to listen. This is similar to Howard’s intentions of capturing audience’s attention by speaking with conviction and boldly sending out the message saying things that were not of the norm. Television also has the ability to influence choice and preference. For example people turn to celebrities on television for the latest fads and fashions. Howard asserted that,

You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube. You even think like the tube. This is mass madness (Dirks).

Although news reporting can be subjective, there are instances in contemporary media today that can act as a positive influence. For example, U2’s lead singer Bono has launched his solo mission to end world famine. He is able to use his idolism to garner mass attention. Like Howard Beale, Bono has the ability to have mass influence in the society because he is respected in the mass industry.
One evident difference in the eras of televising is the ability to broadcast information without restriction. Howard Beale was able to speak his mind without censoring what he was saying. Today in media various genres of medias may be broadcasted, however, if they are of an explicit nature they require a public broadcast warning, otherwise called a TV parental guideline. This ensures that there is sufficient warnings on public televising and that information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs are provided (TV Guidelines).

“Television is a circus…you’re never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear. We lie like hell... We'll tell you any s--t you want to hear” (Dirks). Network serves as a precedent film. It was able to predict many relevant lessons and themes that are still actively entertained in television media today. Subjective reporting is a predominate theme in Network and still defined in television today. Howard Beale had the ability to address viewers because of the power he maintained in the broadcast industry. Further, this form of subjective address is still predominant in today’s televising with a plethora of reality televising and celebrity figures.

Dirks, Tim. “ Network 1976” Greatest Films. 1996-2006. May 25, 2006


Kelemen, Lawrence. “What They Don't Want You To Know About Television and
Videos”. May 25, 2006


Network. Dir. Sidney Lumet. 1976. Perf. Faye Dunaway, William Holden DVD.

“TV Parental Guidelines”. May 26, 2006 <http://www.tvguidelines.org/default.aspcite>

Information on the movie Network can be found by clicking here!