You’re television incarnate, Diana, indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. The daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into jagged fragments of minutes, split-seconds, and instant replays. You are madness, Diana, virulent madness, and whatever you touch dies with you.
If Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network were really about television, it would be as timeless as Archie’s jalopy and Ward Cleaver’s boxes full of ticky-tacky. Its relevance would have died with the cathode-ray tube. It wouldn’t elicit those sighs we heave at dystopias too close to our present sorrows. It’s about the twin prisms of technology and time, how they curve and distort the fabric of human life.
Sure, the lives in the film belong to the grizzled American mid-life crisis. There’s some math necessary to account for the middle-aged, the mid-life crisis, the male; “middles” which don’t, in fact, describe the middle at all. But in this particular hour, concern about our machine-optimized future must land somewhere in the center, as well as a nagging suspicion that it won’t inherit anything we value. Network’s an elegy from the old to the young.
So it’s about the Internet. So it’s about television programming, that bigger vessel for radio and movies, which in turn were bigger vessels for the arts of the stage. So it’s about reading.
Oh yes, it’s about reading. Everything was young once—even the stars and the speed of light.