December 16, 2015
‘All the World’s a Stage and Every Revolutionary a Commodity: Network and Its Progeny’
Although the cultural and political references of Network are very mid-1970s, the film has remained remarkably contemporary. (…)
Back to the future, and my claim that Network set a template we still follow: Katniss’ minders are all about using violence, or the rhetoric of “real revolutionaries,” to cut through “regularly scheduled programming” in order to redirect viewers to a different spectacle. In this sense, Hunger Games is progeny of the Patty Hearst saga – as prefigured by Network. The Hearst story, so central to Network’s Rubicon moment, has developed its own afterlife in American film and literature, as in Robert Stone’s brilliant documentary Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst. (…)
Christensen has an epiphany about the commercial potential of what she sees as “authentic stuff.” “Maybe they’ll take movies of themselves kidnapping heiresses, hijacking 747s, bombing bridges, assassinating ambassadors.” She improvises the TV version of events – each week of the series will open with a section of the “authentic” footage, and a couple of writers will be hired to dramatize the story behind the footage. Voilà. Reality TV 1.0. (…)
Diana’s producers are skeptical, but she sees how her brainchild would fit with existing programming: “They’ve got Strike Force, Task Force, S.W.A.T. Why not Che Guevara and his own little mod squad?” The challenge is to convince the suits who kept recycling dramas about state-legitimized violence to get on board with the notion that counterculture or revolutionary violence can also sell. When Diana mandates “I want anti-establishment,” she is underscoring a new paradigm: the image of being anti-establishment is now an establishment cash cow.
In addition to burlesquing the romance of revolution in the entertainment industry, this scene also skewers white liberals. Diana’s view that the audience “is hungry for someone to articulate their rage” reveals the degree to which revolutionaries in general and black radicals in particular have penetrated the psychosexual fantasy life of white liberals during this era. That dynamic spread out into a more multiethnic fantasy life in subsequent generations.