Network

Jenni and I watched an awesome movie tonight. Network, a 1976 movie about a TV newsman who loses his shit on the air and America likes his brand of crazy. The network packages him up and puts him on the air as a prophet for the modern age. You can’t script prophecy, however:

Howard Beale wasn’t my favorite part of the movie though. My favorite part gives away part of the plot though, so I’ll put it on the other side of the break…

There’s an aging newspaperman who has an affair with an up and coming young TV producer. At one point she decides to throw him out and, as she is attempting to do so, he lays into her. He loves her and he tries to wound her as deeply as she has wounded him. He does so, in that special way only lovers can, by telling her a truth that leaves her in desperation.

I really like Max’s character. I think he is trying to hurt Diana, but I don’t think he is lying to her. He touches on how her devotion to her job has cost her a piece of her ability to be human. She doesn’t see the people around her as real anymore — they’re just roles in a drama. She’s learned to think in terms of scripts and roles so thoroughly she has forgotten that, in real life, no one knows what’s going to happen next.

Her greatest loss isn’t the depth of her personal relationships though. Diane sees every life as a role, including her own. This is what I think Max means when he says, “there’s nothing left in you I can live with.” She’s lost something vital in forgetting life is not scripted and she’s got no set role to play.

Max blames TV, which I think is short sighted. People play roles because they’re seeking some assurance their actions are correct. As children we learn the importance of being good boys or girls, and most people spend the rest of their lives trying to find and fit that mold. TV didn’t create the problem, it is just a really good tool for communicating the characters for various parts.

Everyone knows the cast of characters — the good boy or bad girl or mother or teacher or criminal… We all have to deal with sometimes basing our understanding of a situation on those roles rather than the living breathing people that fill them. It’s surprisingly difficult to remember we’re constantly part of a moment which has never existed before. We’re creating a future yet unwritten. We’re alive.

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