Today, let’s talk movies. Specifically, let’s talk about the movie that’s topping the US box office charts this week. The movie that has a 97% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes. The movie….all right, enough of that. We’re obviously talking about The Social Network. The ‘Facebook Movie’. Except, it’s not really the Facebook movie. It’s not even the ‘Zuckerberg Movie’. No, from this vantage point, it basically feels like a ‘we-have-no-idea-what-Facebook-or-social-media-is-but-let’s-make-a-movie-anyway’ movie.
Oh, we are not here to talk about the actors, who are mostly brilliant, or David Fincher’s direction, which is tight, or even Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, which has the pace and bite his fans are familiar with. But as a peek into one of the foremost techno/entrepreneurial minds of the 21st century, it stumbles and ultimately fails. Zuckerberg is presented as a loner with an edge, awkward around other people. Basically, the caricature of a programming geek. By all accounts Zuckerberg has his flaws and a history of questionable decisions, both personal and professionals. Many might take him to task on his ideas about privacy. But neither is he the unblinking, unsmiling, unfeeling, almost alien creature he is presented to be. The movie does not explore why he does what he does, or tries to even understand the Facebook phenomenon. It is far more interested in a (largely fictionalized and lurid) story of betrayal and excess with a popular brand name to draw in the crowds.
The Social Network does not understand social networks; indeed, it even seems frightened of them. It sees its creators as disconnected nomads in a digital desert; people who don’t understand humans, only computers. The one man painted in a sympathetic light is Zuckerberg’s former friend and partner Eduardo Saverin. Not surprising, since Saverin served as consultant for the book The Accidental Billionaires, the book this movie is based on.
The tagline for the movie reads ‘You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies’. It’s clear that Fincher and Sorkin lie strictly outside that 500 million. Ultimately, what’s ironic is that The Social Network gets many things right – but not the people that populate it.