Yet another take on The Social Network

Well, I finally did it. Despite all my apprehensions about being disappointed, I finally went out and saw The Social Network. Actually, I rented The Social Network. Really, you thought I was going to pay $12.50 to see a movie in theatres that is out on DVD already? Pssh. Anyway, point is:

This is winning the Oscar for Best Picture (sorry King George – I’m sure there will be plenty more films made about British Royalty though…but I believe it will be a battle against the hairline rather than a stutter).

Recently, I watched the other “Network” movie – that is, Network, the classic 1976 movie about broadcast news. It was also nominated for an Oscar. It lost to Rocky. I can’t be too bitter about that though, because Rocky has a soft spot in my heart (I mean, he’s an underdog people…and he went the DISTANCE). However, because an underdog movie won in 1976 against that other “Network” film (which was also a landmark of its era and surprisingly prophetic about the future of newscasting – see News, Fox), I believe that this year the Academy will decide to forgo giving its top prize to the erstwhile underdog and give it to the odds-on favorite…because not only is it deserved, it’s also ironic.

With the preface over, let’s tackle the betrayal, intrigue, and everlasting friendship (digital, that is) of The Social Network.

The plot, for those who haven’t read the thousand plus articles already covering this topic, goes like this:

Boy meets girl. Boy gets dumped by girl. Boy, with help of rich Friend, creates an internet sensation known as The Facebook. Then, after some shady dealings, the Boy is sued in two different lawsuits. At somepoint during the proceedings he gets rid of the “the” and his site becomes just “Facebook.” It’s a lot cleaner that way.

The “Boy” is Mark Zuckerberg as played by Jesse Eisenberg. Somehow, Eisenberg manages to create a character that exudes intelligence, determination and ambition while also being insecure, easily manipulated, and petty. The film casts Zuckerberg’s motivations in two ways – in one, he wants to get back at the girl who dumped him, and in the other, he wants to be accepted into one of the elite Harvard clubs. The tragedy of the film is that though he is the lord of a digital kingdom, it’s a hollow crown. He doesn’t get back at the girl, and isn’t accepted into an elite club. Even though he could have his pick of women (Facebook groupies, as one scene shows) or actually buy one of the elite clubs he wishes to become part of, he doesn’t actually succeed in either of his original goals. Instead, he becomes wildly successful but still doesn’t end up with what he wants. And he loses part of his soul in the process too.

The Social Network is a drama in the Faustian model. Except the devil in this version is binary code.

Some criticize the film for its inaccuracies and the supposed character assassination of Mark Zuckerberg. I didn’t see it in this way. In fact, I think Zuckerberg is portrayed pretty well. I mean, he’s a pretty suave character – easily telling off a group of attorneys with an acid retort and having an extensive knowledge about nearly everything with an impressive vocabulary to boot. If anything, the character who comes off poorly is Sean Parker. He’s portrayed as the character who manipulates Zuckerberg into turning against his best friend, and instigates most of the conflict in the film. However, there’s no reason to argue over which real-life personality is portrayed worse than the other. This is a film with bigger things on its mind that remaining true to exactly how events happened. There’s a more important message here than a just linear dramatic recreation of the birth of Facebook. It can either be viewed as a warning or just a passive observation: technology is leading us astray.

What I really enjoyed about the film is the score that Fincher and co. use to create the tone of the film. It’s ominous and dark, much like how Harvard looks through Fincher’s lens. It gives the sense that Zuckerberg’s creation isn’t the next step forward for humanity. If anything, the film makes it appear to be the next Manhattan Project or Frankenstein’s monster. There’s something unsettling afoot, and the scenes of Zuckerberg furiously typing at his computer echo the mad scientist in his laboratory. He does create a monster, one that consumes his every waking thought and clouds his judgment. Friends and enemies become hopelessly merged. But the real frightening thing about it is that nobody else notices. Instead of a monster, its a gleaming success. Progress, some would possibly call it.

We’ve been led to believe that a proficiency with technology leads to a better way of life. Zuckerberg ends up with a lot of money, but little else. Maybe we should check the water before jumping in headfirst.

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4 Responses to Yet another take on The Social Network

  1. I though the book was better.

  2. Pilot-Inspektor says:

    Well, to be fair, he has millions, a movie based on his life, and little else
    maybe a ship made of Gold. Blum.

  3. Modest Movie says:

    Haha true. I just find it interesting (in the film at least) that the character has all that wealth and status yet he still can’t get a girl to forgive him or be invited into an exclusive club. Though I am looking forward to the sequel: The Social Network 2: The Real-Life Story Behind the Making of The Social Network (with Eisenberg reprising his role as Zuckerberg…but this time upping the whine factor).

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