Features and Columns · Movies

The Ballad of Howard Beale: Why We Keep Misreading ‘Network’

“Good morning, Mr. Beale. They tell me you’re a madman.”
Network Monologue
By  · Published on July 26th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores why the 1976 film Network is extremely prescient about the modern news cycle (and not in the way you think).

In case you haven’t seen it for a while, or everNetwork tells the story of the Union Broadcasting System, a formerly popular news network headed by Howard Beale (Peter Finch, who won a posthumous Oscar for the role). The film details Beale’s mental breakdown in anticipation of his forced retirement — a mental decay that is unequivocally a direct consequence of his line of work — while the powers that be delight in exploiting his distressing mental state, which is good for ratings.

As the video essay below describes at length, Sidney Lumet‘s 1976 film is a foundational text when it comes to understanding what has happened to American News media over the last 70-some-odd years. While it’s hard to pin down what Network is exactly (a black comedy, a critique, a warning, all of the above …), what’s clear is that we took the wrong lessons to heart. The circus has only purchased more elephants and a bigger tent. Great.

The following video essay is, indeed, feature-length. But in exchange, it offers a remarkably wide-reaching and nuanced breakdown of how pieces of media can mutate to have a life of their own, often counter to the wishes of their creator. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.

Watch “Network: Thoughts on Being Mad As Hell”

Who made this?

This video essay on the meaning and legacy of Network is by Kyle Kallgren, who creates video essay content on the literary and philosophical edge of cinema … as well as the mucky business of making video essays itself. You can subscribe to Kyle over on YouTube here. And you can follow Kyle on Twitter here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.