Social Network, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.
Length: 120 minutes
Grade: B+C-BC=B-
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $203 million (95 U.S., 108 Intl.)

Written by: Aaron Sorkin (Charlie Wilson’s War, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The West Wing, The American President, Malice, and A Few Good Men), based on the book by Ben Mezrich (also wrote Bringing Down the House, made into the movie 21).
Directed by: David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, Se7en, and Alien 3)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg
With: Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, and Arnie Hammer (who played both of the Winklevoss twins)

This is a very, very, very loose interpretation of the story behind the creation and early years of the massively successful social networking website, Facebook.

Entertainment Value: B+
First, let me say that I genuinely adore Aaron Sorkin’s ability to write. If there were any justice in the world of television, Aaron Sorkin would have a lifetime contract to write at least one hour of prime time programming on each network. His writing is so much better than real life that I don’t even care it’s so impossibly unrealistic. That being said, in typical Sorkin style, the quick-pace dialogue often suffers from terribly lousy sound editing, in this case even though the audio department seems to have been Fincher’s rather than Sorkin’s. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating story with intriguing characters told in a clever way. And extra kudos for using Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) to make the soundtrack.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity C, Violence B+, Language C
There’s no single thing making this movie awful, but it’s definitely PG-13 or more. It has more than enough mild sexuality, both in dialogue and implied or shown. There are several alcohol scenes and even a handful of drug scenes, including cocaine, and the language is right on the line between PG-13 and R. I would rate it R-15, personally.

Significant Content: B
The modern online techno-culture is shallow to the point of cultural ruination, where cool is everything, speed is king, and popularity waxes and wanes far too quickly because a bunch of computer-savant-social-misfits are running things.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Sorkin himself has admitted (bragged about, actually) this movie being not a historically accurate presentation of the story but rather a deliberate shot back from the non-online-networking culture (read, older people) against FaAcebook, Napster, Twitter, MySpace, etc. and everything they represent. His goal was to portray them as shallow, vapid, psychologically unhealthy people consumed with their own arrogance and power ripping apart a world of real relationships by supplanting it with relationship porn. As such, it’s pretty interesting. But I have real trouble with a movie supposedly about the founding of a major real company/social force told with no cooperation from any of the principal players in that company other than the one who was forced out and made to look like the only decent one by the portrayal. This is very close to libel, and Sorkin is way too talented an artist to sully himself this way.

Discussion Questions:
~Based on this presentation, do you think Mark Zuckerberg was guilty of stealing anything substantial from the Winkelvoss’s? Was the size of their idea significant enough to justify them getting a share of the massive profits of what Zuckerberg actually did with their idea? What about the similarly small contribution of Eduardo Saverin? Why did Zuckerberg go to him for such a small amount of money and give him such a large share in the company? Even though he was maneuvered out, do you think in the end he was truly cheated or treated unfairly?
~Zuckerberg has an impeccable sense of what works online, particularly in grasping that being cool and letting something develop on its own is more valuable than taking out potential profits by running ads or risking catastrophe by being offline even for a day. Such ability to understand and manipulate new forms of cultural production has always been the leverage point for shifting power and money. Can you think of some other similar past examples?
~Why is Sean Parker so appealing to Zuckerberg? Have you ever known anyone like Parker in real life? Considering both of them, is there a legitimate concern that people with such social problems would be in positions of such power today?
~Given Aaron Sorkin’s power to make a movie like this about a very young man and shape how people view him, do you think his use of that filmmaking skill was virtuous in this case?
~Sorkin said, "I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling. What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?" When do you think an artist has an obligation to tell the facts and when do you think an artist is free to abuse the facts to try to tell what he believes to be the truth?
~Dustin Moskobitz has said that the actual story would have been terribly boring because they just sat around for unending days writing code and eating pizza. Does this make you change your opinion of this?
~Presuming they are mostly exaggerated or false, are the character attacks of this film unjust or are they just a dose of Zuckerberg’s own medicine given the social bullying that is made ever-so-possible by his own website?
~What do you think of the historically true irony of the biggest force in new culture having been spawned at the biggest force in old culture (Harvard)?
~Part of the original idea of Facebook was to make it possible to have the college experience online over a distance. Does Facebook serve this function in your opinion today? Compare, for instance, late night conversations in the dorms with FB threads and the ease/difficulty of meeting new people and having genuine conversations with them.
~Do you think new online media is making the country and relationships better or richer or do you think it’s doing something bad to us?
~In the movie, we are given the implied dilemma of whether it is better to have one true real friend or the online friendship of millions. What do you think? Why do you think God seems to have made us with the ability to only have one or two really close friends at a time?
~One of the classic difficulties with relationships is judging just where you stand with people. In modern social media, there is a high value placed on immediate, quantifiable feedback and status indicators. Do you think this is an improvement? In what way is this a form of technology serving people who are not adept at reading such cues the old-fashioned way and eliminating the advantage they used to have? Have you ever felt like modern social media was dangerously different from the experience of human socializing for known history?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The opening scene in the bar. What does this tell us about Zuckerberg?
~The subsequent scene creating FaceMash. During this process, are you being taught to admire his skills or to despise his judgment?
~The final scene with the lawyer and the laptop. What is this intended to tell us about the nature of social networking online?

Overall Grade: B
I admit it’s a film well worth watching and thinking about. But in spite of my love for Sorkin’s writing (the real key to any good movie), I’m very disappointed with all the heavy-handed fictionalizing. It left a sour taste in my mouth, for sure, to read about how distorted and biased this was.

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