The Social Network

Posted: 02/09/2011 in films
Tags: , , , ,

As my reward for finishing my essay I watched ‘The Social Network’ (in a hoodie no less for the full Zuckerberg effect). It’s been on my Netflix list for forever so I was excited to be finally seeing it despite my love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with the entity known as FaceBook (I prefer Twitter). I did not know exactly what I would be getting from the film but I did not think it would be so dull, and miss the mark by so much. It is practically a Hallmark movie or a sub-plot for a TV procedural though with high production value – “You sent me an email saying you were working on my site but then you launched your own one that might or might not have the same functionality but different code.” Zadie Smith wrote a piece for The New York Review of Books about how David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin are the wrong generation to make this film, and this is probably true but they also focused on the dullest part of the story – the business. But that also reflects their general disconnect.

‘The Social Network’ is focused on the he-said-he-said of the founding of FaceBook. Its early days in Harvard and Palo Alto, and then the subsequent legal battles with Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevosses. But, given that they were resolved behind closed doors there is no “You can’t handle the truth” court moment just undisclosed settlements, and a sad portrait of Zuckerberg left friendless by the end of the movie refreshing his ex-girlfriend’s FaceBook page after he tried to friend her.  It is beautifully filmed and well acted, but the trademark Sorkin dialogue isn’t quite as sparkly as it once was, and it is overrun with stereotypes. Jocks, nerds, lawyers, programmers and Asian ladies are all vying to conform. Fincher and Sorkin get the Harvard clubs – the exclusivity angle but they don’t get that the “internets” turns things inside out.

There is an interesting story to be told about FaceBook and the rest of its ilk but it is not about financial settlements. Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials don’t care about the money or who had the idea first – the Baby Boomers do. In the last ten years our ideas about privacy have been re-defined. The internet, and social networking has changed the we live and communicate. The geeks have not only inherited the earth they’ve redesigned it from the ground up, and that is the story that I wish Fincher and Sorkin had delved into. Going to need more than a few vague references to coding and LiveJournal to make a movie that taps into the zeitgeist of the ’00s. Also, if it wins the Oscar then I will never, and I mean NEVER, ever bother to read about the nominations let alone watch the damn show (James Franco hosting or not!).

Just as an aside, I’ve been writing an essay about the Roman historian Tacitus who has the habit of inventing speeches for historical figures. You have to be wary about using him as a historical source because he has a flare for fiction and hyperbole, and unfortunately his figures don’t have the ability to speak up for themselves as Sean Parker does.

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