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Film and the News: Network Politics in Film Braunwarth.

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1 Film and the News: Network Politics in Film Braunwarth

2 Corporate Motivations In the early days, the news was provided by the networks as a public service In the early days, the news was provided by the networks as a public service But now is expected to make a profit and increase ratings But now is expected to make a profit and increase ratings Corporate owners of networks are not idealistic educators who are out to enlighten the masses and further the causes of grassroots democracy; their major purpose is to produce revenue and maintain their positions of control and power; what kind of news would you expect them to produce? Corporate owners of networks are not idealistic educators who are out to enlighten the masses and further the causes of grassroots democracy; their major purpose is to produce revenue and maintain their positions of control and power; what kind of news would you expect them to produce? The type of commercial distractions that reinforce passivity and illusions on a massive scale The type of commercial distractions that reinforce passivity and illusions on a massive scale Note how commercials and commercial concerns are shown in the newsroom clips Note how commercials and commercial concerns are shown in the newsroom clips

3 Marketing the News Marketing is based on assessing what customers would choose Marketing is based on assessing what customers would choose When dependent on profit maximization, the news people need takes a back seat to what they want to hear When dependent on profit maximization, the news people need takes a back seat to what they want to hear Leads to en emphasis on sensationalism and the reiteration of the preexisting views of the audience Leads to en emphasis on sensationalism and the reiteration of the preexisting views of the audience Should marketing drive everything in society? Should marketing drive everything in society?

4 Marketing the News Using Marketing to drive journalistic decisions lowers the credibility and quality of all news Using Marketing to drive journalistic decisions lowers the credibility and quality of all news Emphasis on the commodification of political information takes precedence over a responsibility to inform Emphasis on the commodification of political information takes precedence over a responsibility to inform In the U.S., coverage of international news is minimal as is the coverage of economic news or anything else requiring discussion, explanation, or nuance. In the U.S., coverage of international news is minimal as is the coverage of economic news or anything else requiring discussion, explanation, or nuance. Feeding Frenzy: News obsesses about a particular titillating item to the exclusion of all others until another item comes up Feeding Frenzy: News obsesses about a particular titillating item to the exclusion of all others until another item comes up Can you think of any examples? Can you think of any examples?

5 Marketing Driven Coverage To the exclusion of almost all other information: To the exclusion of almost all other information: During the O.J. trial it was all O.J. all the time During the O.J. trial it was all O.J. all the time Prior to the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks news was consumed with the disappearance of a Congressional intern romantically linked with her politician supervisor Prior to the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks news was consumed with the disappearance of a Congressional intern romantically linked with her politician supervisor Monica Lewinsky Monica Lewinsky Other examples? Other examples?

6 Braunwarth article What does the Braunwarth article in your reader argue about the importance of the news media? What does the Braunwarth article in your reader argue about the importance of the news media? That it constructs the reality of politics for voters That it constructs the reality of politics for voters What should be the role played by the media in a democracy? What should be the role played by the media in a democracy? That it should keep news spectators informed in a way that allows them to develop as democratic citizens That it should keep news spectators informed in a way that allows them to develop as democratic citizens What would be the perspective of this article on the emphasis in marketing the news? What would be the perspective of this article on the emphasis in marketing the news? Probably highly critical Probably highly critical

7 Network Is a satirical comedy Is a satirical comedy Directed by Sydney Lumet and written by Paddy Chayefsky Directed by Sydney Lumet and written by Paddy Chayefsky Dominated the Oscars in 1977 Dominated the Oscars in 1977 Sends messages about reality by exaggerating aspects of reality for comic effect Sends messages about reality by exaggerating aspects of reality for comic effect Could be argued WAS a satire and NOW is a documentary Could be argued WAS a satire and NOW is a documentary Theme: obsession with ratings and audience has generally transformed news into info-tainment Theme: obsession with ratings and audience has generally transformed news into info-tainment Consider how this is relevant to Neil Postmans Amusing Ourselves to Death Consider how this is relevant to Neil Postmans Amusing Ourselves to Death

8 Network Envisioned a world in which news would not give people what they need to know but what they want to know (assuming the demographic of the audience is attractive to advertisers) Envisioned a world in which news would not give people what they need to know but what they want to know (assuming the demographic of the audience is attractive to advertisers) Prefaced the reality of marketing driven news; if it is not hot and popular it might not be covered. Prefaced the reality of marketing driven news; if it is not hot and popular it might not be covered.

9 Structure of the Film Film is carefully structured; message is presented through Howard Beales rants Film is carefully structured; message is presented through Howard Beales rants Film begins with Beale being fired and joking about whether killing himself on the air would raise ratings Film begins with Beale being fired and joking about whether killing himself on the air would raise ratings The Suicide statement raises personal matters and the question of the meaning of life The Suicide statement raises personal matters and the question of the meaning of life Camus argues that deciding whether life is worth living is the fundamental question of philosophy; Camus argues that deciding whether life is worth living is the fundamental question of philosophy; Deciding to die implies you have recognized that life is full of pain and has become simply a habit without meaning. Deciding to die implies you have recognized that life is full of pain and has become simply a habit without meaning. The meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. The meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.

10 Outside Perspective Beales first major rant is on whether life is worth living. Considers God and an optimistic vision of humanity but decides both are bullshit Beales first major rant is on whether life is worth living. Considers God and an optimistic vision of humanity but decides both are bullshit Because nothing can be assumed to be meaningful anymore, sees life in a radically new way, Because nothing can be assumed to be meaningful anymore, sees life in a radically new way, He takes the position of an inspired outsider. He takes the position of an inspired outsider. Beales encounter with nothingness in the existential sense allows him to look at the world without the usual blinders of trivial concerns and traditional bullshit Beales encounter with nothingness in the existential sense allows him to look at the world without the usual blinders of trivial concerns and traditional bullshit

11 Mad as Hell Beales mad as hell speech examines the root of societys problems and finds it lies in the apathetic attitude of people themselves. Beales mad as hell speech examines the root of societys problems and finds it lies in the apathetic attitude of people themselves. Their acceptance of social problems as inevitable causes them to lose their power of democratic self-determination. Their acceptance of social problems as inevitable causes them to lose their power of democratic self-determination. He argues they need to get mad and change things. He argues they need to get mad and change things. Note the skillful triple meaning of mad; what does Beale point out as crazy? Note the skillful triple meaning of mad; what does Beale point out as crazy? Like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, its the state of the world, not the critic who points it out. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, its the state of the world, not the critic who points it out.

12 Truth and Illusion Beales illusion rant gets to the central statement of the whole film: Beales illusion rant gets to the central statement of the whole film: The role television plays in the destruction of democracy by disseminating illusion and systematically distracting peoples attention from what is really important The role television plays in the destruction of democracy by disseminating illusion and systematically distracting peoples attention from what is really important Knowing and communicating the truth are of decisive importance for individual self-determination and democratic self-government; Knowing and communicating the truth are of decisive importance for individual self-determination and democratic self-government; That is why truth and illusion are one of Beales major concerns when talking about the tube That is why truth and illusion are one of Beales major concerns when talking about the tube Note how he urges viewers to turn to the same two philosophical constructs he dismissed earlier, God or themselves, for truth Note how he urges viewers to turn to the same two philosophical constructs he dismissed earlier, God or themselves, for truth

13 Truth and Illusion Not the 1984, lying or distorting of facts Not the 1984, lying or distorting of facts But more the Brave New World tendency to turn most serious and even deadly events into material for recreational entertainment But more the Brave New World tendency to turn most serious and even deadly events into material for recreational entertainment Ahmed Kahn to be just like Archie Bunker Ahmed Kahn to be just like Archie Bunker How is this reflected in the format of The Howard Beale Show? How is this reflected in the format of The Howard Beale Show? Professed purpose is to inform viewers about the most serious and pressing problems but is accompanied by vaudevillian sidekicks, carefully designed sets, and histrionic swoons; dissonance between content and form Professed purpose is to inform viewers about the most serious and pressing problems but is accompanied by vaudevillian sidekicks, carefully designed sets, and histrionic swoons; dissonance between content and form

14 Contemporary News How is this reflected in the contemporary news? How is this reflected in the contemporary news? Anchors and reporters are explicitly encouraged to appeal to the basic emotions of the audience, not their intellect. Anchors and reporters are explicitly encouraged to appeal to the basic emotions of the audience, not their intellect. Complex analyses of inherently difficult subjects are never permitted on commercial television; it would turn off too many viewers Complex analyses of inherently difficult subjects are never permitted on commercial television; it would turn off too many viewers Duration of news items are kept short and serious items are counterbalanced with stories that please. Duration of news items are kept short and serious items are counterbalanced with stories that please. Even the events of 9/11 have become an item of consumerism and orchestrated emoting rather than an occasion for serious information, analysis and critical self-reflection Even the events of 9/11 have become an item of consumerism and orchestrated emoting rather than an occasion for serious information, analysis and critical self-reflection

15 Irony Because television cant be reformed, Beale concludes with his paradoxical appeal to turn it off! Because television cant be reformed, Beale concludes with his paradoxical appeal to turn it off! The bitter and hilarious irony is that Beales passionate rant against television is successful… The bitter and hilarious irony is that Beales passionate rant against television is successful… as a television show. as a television show.

16 The Network Revolutionaries Who is using whom? Who is using whom? Diana uses the radical activists to enhance ratings and revenues; Diana uses the radical activists to enhance ratings and revenues; Exploitive sensationalism will attract more of an audience than more substantive news Exploitive sensationalism will attract more of an audience than more substantive news The revolutionaries use the commercial network for propaganda The revolutionaries use the commercial network for propaganda But their radical politics are turned into entertainment and they become personally corrupted by the entertainment machine But their radical politics are turned into entertainment and they become personally corrupted by the entertainment machine No network yet has made a deal with a group of revolutionaries to document their crimes No network yet has made a deal with a group of revolutionaries to document their crimes But dont they show terrorist executions or similar things, over and over? But dont they show terrorist executions or similar things, over and over? What network wouldnt jump through hoops for an exclusive interview with Osama Bin Laden? What network wouldnt jump through hoops for an exclusive interview with Osama Bin Laden?

17 Beales anti-corporate message Beale then messes with the basic assumptions of corporate capitalism and calls upon viewers to rise up Beale then messes with the basic assumptions of corporate capitalism and calls upon viewers to rise up This ultimately attracts the wrath of his superiors who care about their corporate position but not the other sensationalistic rants This ultimately attracts the wrath of his superiors who care about their corporate position but not the other sensationalistic rants Is called to task by Jensen the CEO who points out that immutable natural order is that corporations rule the world Is called to task by Jensen the CEO who points out that immutable natural order is that corporations rule the world

18 Beales Disillusionment Beales naïve patriotism is shaken and muses that democracy is a sick, dying political concept Beales naïve patriotism is shaken and muses that democracy is a sick, dying political concept Beale delivers his last major rant in which he describes his former vision of personal autonomy and democratic self- government as a futile dream Beale delivers his last major rant in which he describes his former vision of personal autonomy and democratic self- government as a futile dream

19 Futility of individual action? Beale has come full circle Beale has come full circle He started his philosophical journey when he looked into the abyss of his meaningless life He started his philosophical journey when he looked into the abyss of his meaningless life His freedom from old constraints gave him a sense of empowerment and self-worth His freedom from old constraints gave him a sense of empowerment and self-worth His attempted rebellion is put down because people remain convinced they have no role other than as tools and material in the gigantic process of production and consumption run by all-powerful corporations His attempted rebellion is put down because people remain convinced they have no role other than as tools and material in the gigantic process of production and consumption run by all-powerful corporations Beale is back at the meaninglessness of human existence and he is ready to die once more. Beale is back at the meaninglessness of human existence and he is ready to die once more. How similar to McMurphy or Thoreau? How similar to McMurphy or Thoreau?

20 Affair as an emotional metaphor for the film Max leaves the trust and commitment of his marriage for the lure of the flashy but shallow Max leaves the trust and commitment of his marriage for the lure of the flashy but shallow Note how is wife mentions the 25 years of mindless pain theyve inflicted on each other, the same thing Beale found in his search for meaning in life Note how is wife mentions the 25 years of mindless pain theyve inflicted on each other, the same thing Beale found in his search for meaning in life How is this a metaphor for the film? How is this a metaphor for the film? Who gets screwed when news and entertainment hop into bed together? Who gets screwed when news and entertainment hop into bed together? The Viewer The Viewer Max is eventually troubled by feelings of guilt and vulnerability and he misses real understanding and warmth in Diana Max is eventually troubled by feelings of guilt and vulnerability and he misses real understanding and warmth in Diana She scripts it just like another show and scripts it like commercial TV entertainment She scripts it just like another show and scripts it like commercial TV entertainment Diana learns life from television and has little depth, honesty, or morality Diana learns life from television and has little depth, honesty, or morality Ultimately she recognizes this and wants him to stay Ultimately she recognizes this and wants him to stay But it is too late for both of them But it is too late for both of them

21 Plato and Government Plato maintained that good government requires people to have the knowledge and training to run the ship of state or elect the right people to do it for them Plato maintained that good government requires people to have the knowledge and training to run the ship of state or elect the right people to do it for them But, Plato found that people were too easily bamboozled and misled by the flattering rhetoric of cunning politicians But, Plato found that people were too easily bamboozled and misled by the flattering rhetoric of cunning politicians

22 Platos Allegory of the Cave In the Allegory of the Cave, people are like prisoners in a dark cave who are confined to watching moving shadows on a wall and have no way of developing critical consciousness In the Allegory of the Cave, people are like prisoners in a dark cave who are confined to watching moving shadows on a wall and have no way of developing critical consciousness When freed, the real world is too bright and confusing When freed, the real world is too bright and confusing If they do learn the truth and return to educate the others they are rebuked and shunned If they do learn the truth and return to educate the others they are rebuked and shunned What is the message? What is the message? Ordinary people have no use for critical thought, dont want to have their illusions shattered and leave the easy life (Thoreau) Ordinary people have no use for critical thought, dont want to have their illusions shattered and leave the easy life (Thoreau)

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24 Democracy and Plato Instead of learning what they need to know to solve their problems, they seek temporary relief by consuming escapist entertainment. Instead of learning what they need to know to solve their problems, they seek temporary relief by consuming escapist entertainment. Democracy, according to Plato, is bound to destroy itself Democracy, according to Plato, is bound to destroy itself People will either learn what needs to be learned, or they will be at the mercy of forces they do not even understand. People will either learn what needs to be learned, or they will be at the mercy of forces they do not even understand. And, when the alternative is an easy life with little self-discipline, there is no reason to expect that people will settle down for serious study And, when the alternative is an easy life with little self-discipline, there is no reason to expect that people will settle down for serious study And thus the control of their lives will increasingly slip out of their hands And thus the control of their lives will increasingly slip out of their hands

25 Network is pessimistic Plato How are Platos concerns relevant to the film? How are Platos concerns relevant to the film? TV viewers are as reluctant to turn away from their more or less insipid moving electronic images as are the prisoners of the cave reluctant to give up what they have become accustomed to TV viewers are as reluctant to turn away from their more or less insipid moving electronic images as are the prisoners of the cave reluctant to give up what they have become accustomed to Network argues that people in the electronic cave stare at electronic images that are as far removed from reality as Platos shadows Network argues that people in the electronic cave stare at electronic images that are as far removed from reality as Platos shadows In Tennessee Williams Glass Managerie the protagonist remarks: People dont move, they go to movies. In Tennessee Williams Glass Managerie the protagonist remarks: People dont move, they go to movies.

26 Paradox of Network On the one hand, people are shown to be victims of corporate rule On the one hand, people are shown to be victims of corporate rule TV lulls people into the semi-life and intellectual torpor of couch potatoes TV lulls people into the semi-life and intellectual torpor of couch potatoes Not the active and informed citizenry democracy requires Not the active and informed citizenry democracy requires On the other hand, viewers demand sensationalism and info-tainment that do not make demands on their intelligence or civic obligations On the other hand, viewers demand sensationalism and info-tainment that do not make demands on their intelligence or civic obligations The media demand high ratings thus it seems the people are ultimately in control The media demand high ratings thus it seems the people are ultimately in control

27 Corporate Democracy It may not be as drastic as democracy destroying itself by voting in a fascist regime but it is still democracy on the way out It may not be as drastic as democracy destroying itself by voting in a fascist regime but it is still democracy on the way out But if this is our democracy, where people vote with their dollars via ratings it is a democracy that is destroying itself in just the way Plato said it would but were doing it in a democratic manner But if this is our democracy, where people vote with their dollars via ratings it is a democracy that is destroying itself in just the way Plato said it would but were doing it in a democratic manner


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