Some thoughts on ‘The Social Network’

Last week I saw The Social Network, a film about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. I’m currently buried under a pile of undergrad essays, so the best I can do is provide some linkylinks to articles that resonated with my interpretation of the film. There are spoilers in these pieces, be warned.

* First of all, there’s this fantastic essay by Zadie Smith about the film and ‘Generation Facebook’: Generation Why?. Aside from her final paragraph where she describes Livejournal as obsolete (a claim with which I heartily disagree), I loved this piece by Smith. She touches on a number of issues relating to the so called “web 2.0 generation” that I have been pondering (and beginning to research) myself, and she also highlights for me why the Zuckerberg portrayed in the film was so utterly hateful.

World makers, social network makers, ask one question first: How can I do it? Zuckerberg solved that one in about three weeks. The other question, the ethical question, he came to later: Why? Why Facebook? Why this format? Why do it like that? Why not do it another way? The striking thing about the real Zuckerberg, in video and in print, is the relative banality of his ideas concerning the “Why” of Facebook. He uses the word “connect” as believers use the word “Jesus,” as if it were sacred in and of itself: “So the idea is really that, um, the site helps everyone connect with people and share information with the people they want to stay connected with….” Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important. That a lot of social networking software explicitly encourages people to make weak, superficial connections with each other … and that this might not be an entirely positive thing, seem to never have occurred to him.

He is, to say the least, dispassionate about the philosophical questions concerning privacy—and sociality itself—raised by his ingenious program. Watching him interviewed I found myself waiting for the verbal wit, the controlled and articulate sarcasm of that famous Zuckerberg kid—then remembered that was only Sorkin. The real Zuckerberg is much more like his website, on each page of which, once upon a time (2004), he emblazoned the legend: A Mark Zuckerberg Production. Controlled but dull, bright and clean but uniformly plain, nonideological, affectless.

* You might also like to check out ‘The Social Network’: A modern horror film, by Matt Zoller Seitz. He writes:

It is about, to paraphrase a memorable Parker line, being smart enough to recognize the “once in a generation ‘holy shit!’ moment” and seize on it. But it’s also about the “holy shit!” that gets pried out of a person when he or she figures out that whole corners of reality can be torn down and rebuilt according to someone else’s whim, with no regard for law, tradition, decency or manners. When you don’t recognize any limits — and this film’s Zuckerberg doesn’t, that’s how he got so far — all of reality is virtual.

* For a film that doesn’t come close to passing the Bechdel Test, in her article, Groupies, Sexed-Up Asians, Vengeful Sluts, And Feminist Killjoys – Meet The Women Of The Social Network, Rebecca Davis O’Brien asks ‘where are the women of substance?’.

* For another feminist take on the questionable gender politics of the film, check out The Feminist Spectator, where Jill Dolan writes:

Portraying Zuckerberg as a wounded Lothario is a cheap trick, when it’s clear from the rest of the story that capitalist invention is in fact driven by a world of connections facilitated by who you know and the clubs to which you belong. Women, in this schema, are interchangeable and disposable. In almost every scene, the continuous party happening in the background is populated with nubile, beautiful girls who are stoned out of their minds, giggling together, draped around one another on couches, or offering their bare midriffs up as tables on which their friends can snort coke. They’re mindless accessories of the most offensive sort. Only Erica is given any kind of story or psychology that lets us see her as something of a person. And even then, her story only serves to illustrate Zuckerberg’s.

* And I quite like this post by Melissa Silverstein over at Women and Hollywood. Like Silverstein, I quite enjoyed the film, despite its limitations and despite the fact that I absolutely loathed the lead character. The performances are fantastic and Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced dialogue absolutely sparkles. Summing up the horror and helplessness that the film evoked in me, Silverstein concludes:

The Social Network proves that assholes pretty much run the world. As if we needed a reminder.


2 Responses to “Some thoughts on ‘The Social Network’”

  1. Melissa Silverstein Says:

    Thanks for linking to my post.


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