Charlie Sheen, The King, and Howard Beale

March 2, 2011

In Aaron Sorkin‘s wonderful Oscar acceptance speech for his screenplay for The Social Network, he paid homage to the classic 1976 film Network. The recent triumph of substance of The Kings’ Speech at the Oscars stands in such stark contrast to the current Charlie Sheen debacle that it indeed reminds me of Network‘s Howard Beale and his crusade against the triviality of our current celebrity culture.

The other night, Charlie Sheen was the lead story on many national newscasts, pushing stories about Libya and our financial crisis to later in the broadcasts. Charlie Sheen. Really? Really ? Where is Howard Beale when we need him most?

From Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:

Paging Howard Beale: Triviality Trumps Substance

Remember the times when achieving something artistically actually had to happen before someone was considered a celebrity?

Andy Warhol was more prescient than he could have imagined when he said that everyone in the world would eventually have his or her own fifteen minutes of fame.

Would that it was only fifteen minutes.

Whereas the fan magazines of yesteryear glorified movie and television actors and actresses, the new twenty-four cable stations have created a celebrity culture where truly anyone can lay claim to being a celebrity by simply seeking that celebrity.

No talent whatsoever is required.

Even for legitimate celebrities, the magic and mystique are gone because they are so overexposed so constantly and also because the word “celebrity” has been so denigrated.

Case in point: Kate Gosselin, whose primary “ability” seems to be her willingness to exploit her own children, and whose claim to being a celebrity is rooted only in her desire to be considered as such. Gosselin is, nevertheless, actually referred to as a celebrity by much of the so-called mainstream media.

Gosselin even recently was reportedly paid five hundred thousand dollars to appear on Dancing With The Stars.

Meryl Streep is a star. Kate Gosselin? Not so much.

In the classic 1976 film satire Network, Howard Beale, a network news anchor, gets so morose over his poor ratings that he threatens to commit suicide on his next broadcast.

Instead, however, the next night he urges all his viewers to go to their windows and scream out to the world:

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Of course, his ratings go through the roof.

At that point, the entertainment division of the network takes over the nightly news and turns it into a sideshow that, of course, becomes an ever-bigger success.

Today, the excesses of the celebrity culture have fallen so far into the realm of absurdity that they make the satire of Network look quaint by comparison.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki Di Virgilio March 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

You’ve nailed it. This has been my complaint for years. I can hardly tolerate seeing the Kardashians or the Hiltons or any of the other “celebrities” who either have little talent or none. As a writer, imagine how I felt when Snookie got a book deal? I wonder how many “writers”, I mean famous people even write their books. It often takes me days, maybe weeks just to write a blog post, especially when I really care about the content to help others and want to write it well.

We moved to California for our daughter who is now attending acting school. She has true talent. She is professional. A hard worker and has character, and I’m not just saying this as her mother. I wonder about her career choice only because of what the industry has become. I asked her if she wants to make a career of the art of acting or being famous, looking perfect- that celebrity thing. I am comforted her true idol is Meryl Streep.

I have not seen the movie Network, but it is now on my list of movies to watch. But Charlie Sheen will not be followed by me on Twitter.


Stephen Simon March 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

Nikki—You and my wife Lauren have the same passion about those Snooki book deals–what a joke! Doesn’t seem she can even read and she gets a book deal? Paging Howard Beale!!! You have a treat in store for you with NETWORK. What a brilliant, visionary, way ahead of its time movie.

Thanks for being such a prolific member of our community!



Brian Mills March 3, 2011 at 6:47 am

Totally concur with both comments. In the UK the rise of so-called celebrity status has been mainly due to Reality TV shows, programs which I feel have been made because producers have forgotten the art of being creative. In Woody Allen’s Celebrity we see what people will do to be famous but at least they all had ‘talent’.
Nikki, I think that the fact that your daughter’s role model is Meryl Streep is very encouraging. I might add that a young actress named Emily Blunt who worked with Meryl in The Devil Wears Prada was considered by Miss Streep to be one of the finest young actresses that she has ever worked with.


Stephen Simon March 3, 2011 at 8:10 am

The so-called “reality” series are almost all scripted anyway, except for the shows which require skill like TOP CHEF, etc.
Totally agree about Emily Blunt. We love watching her in everything she does. ADJUSTMENT BUREAU opens this weekend with her and Matt Damon and looks like it might be interesting.
And thanks to you as well, Brian, for being so active here. We all so appreciate that…and you.



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