The Social Network: Add As Friend, Please

Facebook’s origin myth is more interesting than you probably think, but it turns out no one has a dance fight with MySpace Tom, so take my personal advice and don’t get all excited.

It’s all very up-in-the-air as to how much truth there is in The Social Network, which chronicles the origins of Facebook, the social networking site where people come together to let each other know how much they hate Mondays. Based on the book, The Accidental Billionaires, the film moves through the thought processes of founder Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), who, according to the movie, is kind of a dick.

Oh sure, sure, the book was written with the help of Mark’s jilted pal and Facebook’s original CFO, Eduardo Saverin, so it’s bound to exaggerate some of the finer points of Zuck’s assholeishness, but the naked facts don’t really exonerate him. The dude made a website rating his female Harvard colleagues on their attractiveness, singlehandedly pulling the rug out from higher ed’s efforts to try their damnedest to actually get 19-year-old men to respect 19-year-old women. While he made a half-hearted apology, that fact alone colors his character for the rest of the film (or in my opinion, anyway, the rest of his existence), and he never quite recovers.

I was furious at awkward, arrogant Zuckerberg from the first scene to the last, and that’s certainly what director David Fincher and writers Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) and I imagine Ben Mezrich (book) want. Second only to the Zuckerberg’s glory-seeking is the offhanded showy manner of Napster creator Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake, who somehow manages to be unadorable). Zuck gets a little help in the integrity department by the film’s heavy insinuations that Parker’s influence on Facebook pushed an otherwise well-meaning guy into doing some weird things. Saverin alone emerges with his honor intact, contractually abused by his now-rich friend and outshined by Parker’s charm.

Poor guy! If only he’d read a contract thoroughly or picked better friends, HE and not Parker would be the one going through Victoria’s Secret models and doing lines off underage girls’ chests.

While the movie’s going on, the tension caused by skillful directing (Fincher did do Se7en and Zodiac, after all) pulls you along with it, and you don’t think too much about those things. It’s a movie about a site that links people together, and not even the first site to link people together! It’s the movie about the most successful site to link people together, and it honestly doesn’t even really go into why. And thank goodness for that, because yawn, who wants to sit around and listen to some college kids talk about MySpace or (even worse) Friendster?

The fact that a movie in which characters repeatedly use the phrase “writing code” manages to compel and engage is the reason why The Social Network is a must-see. For all that it makes me cringe a little to think that someone like Mark Zuckerberg has the power to affect the lives of so many millions of people, I can say with all honesty that my heart pounded and my jaw hung open idiotically for a solid two hours. It wasn’t until afterwards that I thought, “All of that drama and suspense over a frigging website!” But then again, isn’t that the same website that is the locus for most of our drama anyway?

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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