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Howard Beale, the first blogger
howard beale.jpg


I saw Network again a couple of days ago. It's one of my favorite all time movies, one of those movies I would bring to a deserted island, if the deserted island had electricity, a DVD player, and drinks. Anyway, I was watching the movie, amazed by it, because in a way it's so timeless, it could still work today. Also, I realized something: Howard Beale was the first blogger.

            Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, was in bad shape way before the film started. His wife died years before (in one monologue, he said she was shrieking misery) to make matters worse, he gets fired because he has low ratings. So he starts going on the air and just starts to go loose. He's decided to kill himself on air (writer Paddy Chavesky was inspired by the on-air suicide of Christina Chubluck in the screenplay) Of course they take him off, then he asks them to get back on. He then declares all life is bullshit, and he doesn't feel like dealing with it anymore. If Eckhart Tolle saw him, he would shake his head and think that wow, Howard has to deal with ego and his pain body.

            Anyway, Howard starts to do more monologues, becoming the "madman prophet." Then I heard again the monologue that we've all heard, again and again, the one that starts off with "I don't have to tell you things are bad, it's a depression" and then it ends with one of the most famous lines in film history: "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

            He tells people to get up, get up, open the windows, don't write your congressman, he doesn't know what to say, but first you have to get mad. You have to get pissed off. You have to yell "I'm Mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Then of course you hear a chorus of "I'm mad as hells, I'm not going to take it anymores" in the rainy night.

            I was watching it with my friend Lilly-Marie, and she said "You know, he was the first blogger."

            I thought, wow, she's right. He was the first blogger. Howard Beale would've been the ultimate blogger. I mean, he would try to do the dignified thing, to try and be one of the fellow statesmen of the news like Harry Reasoner and Walter Cronkite. But he would've gone on the UBS website and then just go off like crazy. He would've had engaging debates with people as well, although when he went off further the deep end some people might've started blogs saying "Howard is in deep trouble."

When I googled Howard Beale, I was a bit surprised that the character is mentioned in so many blogs. Then for fun, I went on YouTube and saw that under the name Howard Beale, there's 105 videos. For Network 1976, 305.

Then I remembered something I learned in my Craft of Young Adult class. Children and teenagers want to recognize themselves in literature and the media. Howard Beale, thanks to Chavesky's script and Peter Finch's performance, gives people someone to say for them "Look, I'm pissed off as well. I was pissed off thirty-two years ago. I probably would be pissed off today. But we need to get mad and do something about it." Maybe this is why history was made and the Democratic Party had a woman and an African American man fighting for the candidacy as president. Maybe this is why we have people who are blogging all the time, saying what they feel.  

It's not just Howard Beale. If you look at Diana Christensen played with brittle anger and sadness by Faye Dunaway, it is so easy to see Ann Coulter and other talking heads whom forget about people and, in William Holden's words, become "television incarnate, indifferent to people, insensitive to joy, all of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality."

Peter Finch died before he could get his Oscar for his performance of Howard Beale. William Holden died five years later, and Paddy Chavesky around the same time. Faye Dunaway is still alive, but let's face it; her career has never been the same since Mommie Dearest. What would've  Finch, Chavesky and Holden  thought of all this, that their movie, this cerebral smart movie that blasted television and the way we were then, and the way we are still now? No doubt, they wouldn't have been surprised. But they might have liked the fact that people watch the scenes of Howard going off, over and over again, that so many people are saying in their own way, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Rant on, Howard. We'll continue the fight for you.