“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Ah, the line that spawned a thousand memes. Network is one of those movies chiefly known for one or two stand-out lines, and this of course is one of them.
The ratings for news station UBS have been steadily falling, and they must let go of one of their anchors, Howard Beale. Beale becomes unhinged by the news and behaves in an increasingly erratic manner, first threatening suicide on air, then going on a deranged rant. When the ratings spike, the news station begins to exploit Beale’s mental illness. It only gets worse when Diana Christensen, already in talks with a terrorist organization about their own show, comes on board and turns Beale into an evening sideshow.
His friend Schumacher tries to stop the madness, but becomes obsessed with the intense Diana. Meanwhile the drive for ratings starts affecting everyone involved until it devolves into violence.
I would call this movie a dark parody. It’s certainly a little over the top (the ending line is the kicker, as well as the credits playing over the last, tragic scene), but not to the point that you relax. The humor is the type that makes you laugh more from discomfort than because it’s funny. The audience, along with Schumacher, is invited to sit and watch the tragedy play out, with only a slight, disbelieving smile.
The themes in the movie are just as relevant today. Schumacher calls Diana “TV incarnate”-so wrapped up in this technology that she cannot maintain human relationships. This has been a concern brought up again and again about social media and how connected the younger generations are to their phones. It’s also just as relevant to TV today-the controversy surrounding mainstream media (on both sides of the aisle) have the same flavor of saying just the thing that helps ratings, and not reporting the facts.
So, if you want a very weird movie that makes you think, here it is. Just have something light and fluffy ready at hand.
Well-played, Harrison Ford. Well-played.