Howard Beale and our culture of non-doubt

This morning I posted a video clip from 1976’s counter-corporate anti-cultural cinematic manifesto, “Network,” on Facebook. The clip is of Howard Beale’s final audience monologue in which he grievously bemoans the death of the Individual in post-corporate America and the blurring of our humanity’s boundaries against the overpowering oligarchical demands of a global economic capitalist economy.

After posting the video, it dawned on me that my previous post here from Friday night also included the term “network” and the parallel dissonance between eras was present in that post and this is striking.

In 1976, “network” typically referred to a large, national broadcast entity that ran and managed subordinate affiliates across the country which were in turn expected to maintain and uphold many of the parent network’s principles and broadcast content. A mutually beneficial, if not vaguely, parasitic partnership.

In 2011, the term “network” refers to a hive-like conglomeration of interwoven and geographically removed actors sharing an intangible silicon/digital state of existence. The network of today has come to symbolize the melded nature of today’s technological global leash, the hive mind which embraces us all in an imprisoning maze of unforgiving shackles.

Funny how, separated by three decades, two movies share the word network in their title and are incompatibly unified by a similar concept of the coming indecipherable global critical mass of coalescing humanity as the network of elemental existences are drawn and clasped into a tight conforming mass of…networks.

Hollywood’s offerings have changed since. Movies like “Network” or “Taxi Driver” or “Eraserhead,” all released in 1976, would find a much more difficult commercial life in today’s market. I don’t believe the movies would fail simply because the counter-cultural, big picture questions they offer are not timely, even in today’s cultural environment; I believe they would fail because the typical cinematic audience today doesn’t give a flying fuck about big questions of doubt and suspicion. The masses have been ingrained.

As our present-day global network constricts, it strangles curiosity. As the global network encases our individual mentalities in its cement block of intellectual rigidity, it suffocates expression in the mainstream media and culture. I clarify because the blogosphere has turned out to be a godsend for this very reason in this age of non-doubt. It offers the ability for hive members to escape the imprisoning grasp of group ignorance and seek out truths and knowledge which exist outside the shell of common existence. Doubt can only be found in the outer realm. The blogosphere offers the curious and able-minded explorers of culture to step outside the confines of mass cultural indoctrination because we cannot rely on Hollywood any longer. Hollywood, as I stated on Facebook, is no longer a “company” town in which all the players historically lived and breathed show biz. They knew the intricacies of the Industry. Hollywood is now a conglomerate town which has come to mean that all the players in 2011 are trickle-down cogs in a large global machine which encompasses industry of every sort. A large faceless machine which only counts on Hollywood’s industry by greed, not passion. No longer lured by the art of celluloid creation, today’s Hollywood players are lured by the externally imbued utilitarian drive to exponentially breed fields upon fields of money, not art; to not offend the displaced and foreign corporate masters who haven’t the slightest idea how Hollywood used to work. The foreign masters, the non-Industry bean counters, who run Hollywood today were inserted by corporate decree and have earned their stripes in other facets of corporate sacrifice far removed from the business of Entertainment. The result is an industry which has lost the balls and heart to make the discomfiting movies it once did. Everyone in the mainstream show biz game (ie, money-making) must answer to a corporate mothership list of dos and don’ts. To escape the paradigm entails that one must be independently funded, which essentially, by virtue of the structure enacted and shaped by the major mainstream commercial players, insinuates that there is much less money and profit available unless one is willing to play ball with them.

Attempting to spark discussion about Howard Beale in today’s social environment will usually fail. This is the vapid and puerile public which the Hollywood of today feeds from like vultures growing bloated from discarded soulless carcasses. Our culture is shallow, disinterested and bored. Feed them the gnawed remains of a gutted pop culture and it feeds them well. Give them their television, their flawed, vain empty-headed Cult of Celebrity with its oodles of trashy drama. Give them their sports, which are mainly inhabited by megalomaniacs and megamillionaires and all types of macho prima donna’s and their deteriorated personal lives. Hell, give the audience this.

People don’t ask for much now. They ask that they can go to work, make gobs of money; spend too much of it, beyond what they have, enable this gluttony. They wish to eat continuously and live their frivolous day-to-frivolous days in a complacent fog of ignorance. They don’t want to think or ponder or agonize. Give them the mapguide to the path of least resistance and your entity will flourish. This is what the Hollywood conglomerates do best. Dish out empty cerebral calories which gorge the the mind with nonsense but do nothing to allow it to grow. For a public which demands so little, the rewards for the conglomerates are so great.

It’s not that people are averse to thinking.
Thinking is easy and it’s trendy. Always has been since its modern incarnation involves coffee houses and layers of high-brow and SWPL pretentiousness. Thinking is not the problem. It’s questioning that is. It is doubting and suspecting and not trusting. That is what what today’s lackluster Hollywood consumer lacks. Feed him anything and he’ll chew it as long as it tastes fleetingly good and does not leave bitter aftertaste of doubt and slight apprehension that this meal is poison.

Never lead today’s consumer into cynical doubt for that will be the hammer in your profit-margined coffin. What is your business plan?