The Genius of Paddy Chayefsky
The genius of Paddy Chayefsky never ceases to impress me. It is worth rereading one speech of the Howard Beale character from the movie Network, for it is as timeless as Dickens' opening line in "A Tale of Two Cities."
From the screenplay:
and, suddenly, the obsessed face of HOWARD BEALE, gaunt, haggard, red-eyed with unworldly fervor, hair streaked and plastered on his brow, manifestly mad, fills the MONITOR SCREEN. HOWARD (ON MONITOR) I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job, the dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter, punks are running wild in the streets, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air's unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit and watch our tee-vees while some local newscaster tells us today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We all know things are bad. Worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything's going crazy. So we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we live in gets smaller, and all we ask is please, at least leave us alone in our own living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my tee-vee and my hair-dryer and my steel- belted radials, and I won't say anything, just leave us alone. Well, I'm not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad -- ANOTHER ANGLE showing the rapt attention of the PEOPLE in the control room, especially of DIANA -- HOWARD I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to write your congressmen. Because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the defense budget and the Russians and crime in the street. All I know is first you got to get mad. You've got to say: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more. I'm a human being, goddammit. My life has value." So I want you to get up now. I want you to get out of your chairs and go to the window. Right now. I want you to go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell. I want you to yell: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!"
What has changed since 1976 beyond the more thorough saturation of corruption? It's as if time stood still, and everything has been a prelude to something greater that is yet to come. We're all waiting. I don't know if we're ready.