Network: The Other Cold War

Document Type



Media Studies (Pomona)

Publication Date



cold war, television, network


Fifteen years later, another television critic, as equally implicated in the medium as Minow, issued a remarkably similar catalog of the televisual experience; his variant ended, however, in a slightly different challenge to the American people: "Television is not the truth. Television is a goddammed amusement part. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players." The critic was Howard Beale, martyred hero of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky's Network. And the challenge was deceptively simple: "Turn off your television sets," Beale cajoled.

Though few followed his instructions, Beale captured the attention of a nation. In this paper, I will argue that, first of all, Beale's challenge is nowhere as simple as it seems, that buried within this challenge can be found the history of the difficult relationship between film and television. Moreover, I hope to suggest through my reading of the film that the intimate ties of the medium of television--and thus the film industry's depiction of television--to the Cold War make Network's message, and the peculiarities of its timing, as public a statement as Minow's, and one far more ideologically loaded.

Rights Information

© 2001 The University Press of Kentucky