The Social Network

by Melissa Silverstein on October 1, 2010

in Reviews,Sexism

If I take off my feminist hat, I am here to report that The Social Network is a very good movie.  It will be at the top of the Oscar heap and might go all the way to the finish line.  One reason is because it taps perfectly into the current zeitgeist of our culture.

There are great performances from an up and coming generation of actors that feel like they arrive on this film.  Jesse Eisenberg is great as Mark Zuckerberg the nerd anti-hero who every guy wants to be, and I can’t say enough good things about Andrew Garfield as his best and only friend Eduardo Saverin.

The script is done by a master – Aaron Sorkin – and it reminded me of the awesome patter of the early years of The West Wing.  TV is nowhere near as good since that show.  The barbs are fast a furious so good that at times I wanted to write them all down.  And director David Fincher continues to prove how good he is.

But…as a woman and a feminist, the film illuminates another instance of just how superfluous women are.

As laid out in the film, Facebook is born because Zuckerberg got dumped.  In a brilliant opening scene with his then girlfriend Erica Albright played by the soon to be seen Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Rooney Mara, Zuckerberg’s asshole of a personality is revealed quickly and she calls him on it and dumps his ass.  He’s pissed because she only goes to Boston University intimating that she is not worthy of dumping a guy from Harvard.

So he goes home pops a few beers, blogs some nasty stuff about her, and begins to exact his revenge which is a on-line game where people can vote on the hottness of the women at Harvard called Facemash.  He crashes the Harvard server, pisses off the women’s groups and gets a slap on the wrist by the school.

The smart thing about Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is that you can’t really tell if he is a deliberate misogynist and what I mean by that is that he really displays little emotional life at all beyond his attachment to his computer and the creation of “the facebook”, but nevertheless, misogyny is rife in this world.  He is in general a smug son a of a bitch who believes he can get away with anything because he’s a guy who goes to Harvard and is smarter than, well, everybody.  Zuckerberg seems to lack a moral center which is immediately evident from the start.  Eduardo tries to make him understand what he is doing, but Zuckerberg doesn’t care.  It’s all a game to him.

Once “the facebook” launches (and the film infers strongly that he stole the idea from other students who wind up suing his ass and winning) at Harvard he becomes a legend and girls fall at his feet.  But he really doesn’t notice and just burrows in and sets on expanding the site to other Ivy League schools and elite universities across the country and the world.

The film depicts a world where women are crazy groupies, there for amusement, to give you blow jobs in bathrooms at parties, and to snort coke off of, but not to be taken seriously.  The tech world has long been known as a world that favors guys, just this week twitter was all “atwitter” about a women in tech panel that occurred at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in SF.

I guess that is one reason why it is a perfect movie for Hollywood today.   I know there are women doing some seriously important and great jobs in tech, just like I know that there are women doing some seriously important and great jobs in the films business.  But we all know that the tech guys are more visible and the movie guys are more visible.  It’s not like the stakes aren’t too high.  Zuckerberg even after having had to pay out millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements for stepping on his friends and colleagues is still the youngest billionaire in the world.

I guess that the tag line of the film is right – “you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a couple of enemies.”  But the sad thing about the movie is that Zuckerberg, the man who created the way that most of us connect with friends and family (and lots of others we don’t really know but are our “friends”) has no real friends and can’t connect with anyone.  And even sadder is that really all he wanted was to be liked by a girl.  But, at the same time it’s hard to feel too sorry for him because as Rooney Mara’s Erica said when she dumped him “Don’t think girls won’t like you because you are a nerd.  They won’t like you because you are an asshole.”

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

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Sidhom October 15, 2010 at 3:02 PM

I haven’t checked back here last week so this is a late reply, but whatever.

Flewellyn, whenever there was a semblant of an argument from Dani’s part I fully responded to it. It’s not as if I dismissed everything she said as troll material from the beginning. Only when her posts veered more and more into that territority, I pointed it out. She wasn’t refuting my points in any way. All her rants were directed at that strawman drawing of my general position and where she assumed I’m coming from. As a result, the last 2 or 3 back-and-forths from both of us weren’t that dense with content, but start from the top of the page and you’ll see how the disparity between the nature of our posts increased.

“Dani has indeed put forth an argument, you’re just ignoring it because it doesn’t suit you to listen.”
Please tell me exactly what specific points from her part I haven’t listened to and haven’t addressed.

“First, social skills can be learned. I know this firsthand.”
I’m sincerely glad to hear that you were able to cope with that personally. But not everyone has had the same chance. No two persons are alike, even within the same diagnosis, so even though I have no doubt what you’ve gone through must have helped you understand people in many more ways, don’t assume that they all fit your model. I know for fact (both from reading and from experience) that many people are unable to acquire social skills sufficient to live a life close to ordinary or having near-ordinary social interactions or social outlook/perception. Scorsese’s The Aviator is an example of a case study which fits the mould of OCD but is unique in its own way. I can assure you that outside perception of someone in that spectrum as an “asshole” is not uncommon. Even if it’s not listed in the disorder’s diagnosis.

One last thing: We can agree that an argument doesn’t have to be dispassionate to be valid, but only as long as the passion doesn’t cloud or replace its premises or reasoning..

Anonymous February 6, 2011 at 1:24 AM

Something tells me more women came out of this movie feeling hatred towards men than men came out of this movie thinking that women were worthless.

And to everyone who is passing judgment on this film without seeing it and therefore are unable to analyze it intellectually: for shame. Really.

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