In 1976, Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet's Network—about the corporatization of everything and its resultant debasement of the news—was considered many things: Sharp, insightful, ridiculous, mean, and silly. Many thought it was over-the-top, and in some ways (particularly the heads meeting discussing the risk/reward ratio of an on-air assassination) it still is. At some point over the next 20 years, it was reduced to a catchphrase you vaguely knew about but hadn't actually seen: "I"m as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!" Divorced from context, Network became a face-value celebration of righteous indignation. But watching Network in the 21st Century is profoundly bewildering and upsetting, because almost nothing in it reads as over-the-top now. It basically all happened. It might as well be a docudrama, charting the rise of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch; a how-to-guide for grifting millions of desensitized simpletons through the combined powers of branding, inarticulate rage, and loud noises. Oh, it's still funny—but in the way gallows humor can put a scratchy chuckle at the back of an already-noosed throat.
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