In a now-classic scene from the 1976 Academy Award Winning film Network, newscaster Howard Beale screams into the television camera, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Beale -- struggling with declining ratings and just learning that he was about to lose his job – decides to let loose on national television after declaring that “life is bullshit.”
But instead of getting him fired (Beale’s goal), the outburst causes a ratings spike, and Howard Beale becomes a national hero for angry and frustrated Americans.
Many have compared this scene to the career trajectory of the new king of country music, Wheeler Walker, Jr. Wheeler moved to Nashville in 2000, with dreams of Garth Brooks in his head, confident that his golden voice and poetic songs would make him an instant star. Unfortunately, as Howard Beale noted, life is bullshit.
Wheeler’s first album – the unfortunately titled “No Love For the City” (his ode to preferring country life over city living) – featured a picture of Wheeler giving a thumbs down in front of the World Trade Center. Although the album was full of hard-driving, hook-laden honky-tonk, the record was released on 9/11/01 and had to immediately be pulled from store shelves. Of course, this mishap was not Wheeler’s fault... but the next decade of missteps certainly were: sleeping with record company presidents’ wives, burning down the women’s restroom at the Grand Ole Opry, and getting dropped by label after label for refusing to censor his music.