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Comparative Films

There are a few movies that Talk Radio can be compared and contrasted to.  Here are two that have a good comparison level as well as a necessary distinction.  To greater understand this film, it is beneficial to look at other films that deal with the same topics in different manners.

Private Parts (1997)
    Directors: Betty Thomas & Ivan Reitman
    Paramount Pictures
    109 min

        It can be said that Howard Stern's Private Parts is the modern day Talk Radio.  There are many similarities not only in their plots, but also in the main characters of Stern and Champlain.   To begin with, Stern and Champlain possess many of the same physical attributes and background.  Both have rugged and somewhat disheveled appearances with their dark untamed curly hair and preturding noses.  Not to mention both are of the same religious faith.  There are drastic similarities in both of their personalities.  Stern and Champlain both have the ability to incite their callers, with their arrogant, forthright, and blunt attitudes.  Their bold personalities tend to attract callers of all kinds, and many disgruntled callers.  With Both Howard Stern and Champlain, it seems to be the case that their radio shows are somewhat addicting.  People wind up listening and calling not so much because they respect or admire their comments but, moreover, despise or disagree.  In both Talk Radio and Private Parts, Stern and 
  Champlain’s biting and inciting comments attract what we can call the trash of American society.  Both characters create a love-hate relationship with their audience.  While listeners hate the two radio personalities, they listen because they are captivated by their forthright attitudes and are constantly waiting to hear what either Stern or Champlain will say next.

Pump up the Volume (1990)
    Director:  Allan Moyle
    Columbia Tristar Home Video
    105 min

 Pump up the Volume is a film that like Talk Radio deals with the phenomenon of talk radio.  In this movie, a teenager has put together an underground radio station that he does not expect people to really listen to.  In between the music and simulated masturbation, he comments on the state of affairs at his school where the corruption is quite blatant.  He talks about many things that he thinks are wrong with the system. 

There are many parallels between the movie Talk Radio and Pump up the Volume.  Barry and “Happy Hard-on Harry” are both quite cynical in their view of the world.  They doubt the system and are skeptical of solutions.  Loneliness is another characteristic they share.  While Harry is lonely because he is a t a new school and does not have any friends, Barry just feels utterly alone in the world despite having acquaintances.  Neither one of them allows people to get close to them, although Harry does begin to by the end of the movie.  They are not confident enough to let people get to know who they really are.  Another similarity that is obvious is plot-based.  Both hosts are forced to deal with a suicidal caller whom they do not take seriously at first. Barry recognizes that it is serious, but Harry does not and in effect is forced to deal with the issue of the suicide of a student in his school.  Harry did not believe the cry for help because of all other bogus letters that he had received, but tragically he understands that it was no joke.

     There is one quite major difference that exists between these two films: Harry is heard, while Barry is not.  Barry is frustrated because he speaks, but no one understands his point.   He goes over the edge and has a long commentary at the end of the movie only to be bombarded by the same type of callers and questions that he had been complaining about.  Harry's problem is that people do listen to him, even though he does not expect this.  The student body of his high school hears him loud and clear,; he becomes an invisible icon to them.  They act on his suggestions and take what he has to say seriously.  This initially overwhelms Harry, and he is not sure how to react, but he eventually takes charge of his power and reveals his identity to the students as he runs from the police.  It is because of this fact that the ending of the two movies also differed. Talk Radio ends tragically when Barry dies, and the viewer is left feeling depressed.  Pump up the Volume, on the other hand, ends on a more positive note because of the triumph of the student body over the authorities that had been corrupting the school.  Even though Harry is arrested, the hope for true change is still there.