Happy anniversary to one of the greatest screenplays in film history – Paddy Chayefsky’s scathing media and capitalism critique, and prophetic vision of the future, Network
It’s a film that utilizes the multinational Ecumenical Liberation Army, a scathing lunatic turned prophet in Howard Beale as the nightly news anchor, the concerning power grab of Saudi conglomerates buying up US news media and the implications, and finally, an idealistic version of capitalism with the greatest monologue arguably of all-time.
You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it!! Is that clear?! You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance!
Ned Beatty plays Arthur Jensen, the head of UBS broadcasting, and he meets with his star prophet, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), to probe him and introduce him to corporate cosmology. He predispose the idea of globalization, not controlled by nations or governments, but by massive, faceless conglomerates. In the case of Network, it’s CCA, the parent companty to UBS, selling to Saudi conglomerate and Jensen’s idea is to package his ideas through Beale’s preacher sermons, teaching a new sort of religion.
We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.
Funny enough, Jensen forcing Beale to speak his gospel on aggressive nationalization leads to his eventual assassination. The sermons lead to dropping ratings and a loss of revenue, which angers Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall), while the content division isn’t allowed to explore the terrorism of communist parties, and Diana (Faye Dunaway) needs to find a way to get rid of Howard Beale. The only sensible option being assassination at the hands of the same terrorist group she’s trying to sell to the public. It’s a brilliant and fitting end to Howard Beale’s character.
You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet.
That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!