I’m a (B-) movie buff, so I love Trailers From Hell, despite the knee jerk liberalism that so often ruins their otherwise entertaining and educational voice-overs.
I knew before I clicked “play” that their mini-seminar on Network (1976) would include a tossed-off Glenn Beck reference. After all, the left has been compulsively comparing Beck to the movie’s “hero”, Howard Beale, for the last couple of years.
Now, we all know that a) the Left is bereft of fresh ideas, b) sees everything through 1960s and 1970s “eyes,” and c) makes countless expensive, disasterous and sometimes fatal policy decisions accordingly.
So why be surprised that Howard Beale has become the misunderstood 1970s movie character next to Nurse Ratched.
(Yes, I said Nurse Ratched. The poor, unmarried woman was stuck in a low paying job, dealing with weird, helpless men in diapers all day. How great a mood would you be in? The hospital’s therapeutic methods were considered enlightened and humane at the time. [Sound familiar?] If you watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  and pretend Nurse Ratched is the main character — not that shiftless, fake-crazy rapist who’s meant to stand in for all the would-be draft dodgers in the audience — it’s a revelation. She’s a model of stoicism, a competent surrounded by incompetents, a woman who defies the average man’s belief that women should be beautiful and gentle only, almost an Ayn Rand heroine (except for her “altruistic” career choice — assuming she had a choice [the film/novel is set in the early 1960s, just pre-Friedan.] I love Nurse Ratched. She’s one of my heroes. And yes, that does explain a lot…)
Anyway, like every leftist pundit and blogger these days, the talking head narrating the Network trailer is convinced that “madman” Howard Beale is also a villain of sorts. How else to explain the left’s insistence that Beale = Beck? (Wow, they both even have one syllable names that start with “B”! And “God” spelled backwards is “dog”.)
But watch the Trailers From Hell narrated version of these clips closely. (Or just scroll down for the original trailer without the new commentary.)
The “heart of the film,” as this narrator rightly points out, is (insert obligatory “poor”) Ned Beatty’s speech. And how does that speech go again?
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, interwoven, interacting, multivaried, multinational dominion of dollars. (…)
Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little 21-inch screen and howl about America, and democracy. There is no America; there is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.
The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. 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.
Anyone whose even walked past the open door of a Noam Chomsky lecture knows this sounds a lot like a primarily left wing worldview, both in its analysis and its solutions. Beatty is part of that “secret” “cabal” — and Beale’s been going on the air, using the airways THEY own, exposing all these hidden connections and busting the myths. (But of course, he’s “crazy”, so…)
Progressives will object that screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky is just messing with our heads. After all, Beatty’s character is clearly a “suit,” a corporate millionaire. So why’s he talking about the wonders of collectivism? Huh?!?
Well, let’s see now:
Do you really need more than three…?
Your mileage may vary, but doesn’t all this stuff make Beale a little more of a Chomsky than a Beck?
No, the parallel isn’t perfect. It couldn’t be. But once again we see leftists smugly incapable of making even rudimentary connections between one piece of (flimsy) evidence and another, and coming, again and again, to the exact opposite conclusion than any normal person would. And then telling us how stupid we are.
PS: In one of those providential/subconscious accidents that marks true art, note that one of the gunmen who [spoiler alert for anyone under thirty] murders Beale at the finale is… idiot leftist bore and Susan Sarandon ex-“husband”, Tim Robbins.
PPS: if you’re a young person who’s ever thought it would have been cool to grow up in the 1970s, take it from me: it was horrible. Chowchilla. Patty Hearst. Watergate. Manson, Jim Jones, the Son of Sam and Zebra killers. Stagflation. Drugs. Swingers. Deep Throat. Dead hitchhikers every five minutes. The hostage crisis. Powder blue, cap sleeve t-shirts with two ironed-on fried eggs across the chest.
The best way to experience the 1970s, if you insist, is to rent a bunch of movies like Network, Americathon (1979), Winter Kills (1979), Nashville (1975), The Parallax View (1974) (and even The Ice Storm ) but watch them all back to back in a completely darkened room, sitting in a really uncomfortable chair. Shut the drapes, close the windows. No snacks, smokes or booze. Ideally? Put some kind of a bag over your head. Without an atmosphere of sheer claustrophobia, you won’t get the full suffocating 70s experience. If you don’t come away wishing you had ready access to a portable oxygen tank, you did it wrong.
I’m actually having trouble breathing after typing the word “Americathon.”
You only think I’m kidding. The 1970s actually. Were. That. Bad.
Also? They’re back.
And the music is, incredibly, worse.
Now I have to go open another window.