Talking About The Social Network

by Melissa Silverstein on October 6, 2010

in Sexism

I don’t know about you but I have clearly noticed that something really interesting happened in the conversation about The Social Network.  Because Facebook is such a profound force in all our lives, the conversation about this film has been broader than just movie folks, and the issue about the women — or lack of women — in the film and their treatment has generated a lot of talk.

We all know there are many films and (TV shows) that treat women horribly.  I remember a couple of years ago when No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood were Oscar contenders there was a brief conversation, from folks mostly abroad, about how Hollywood treats women.

But this time feels different.

Women are getting into the action and have written some fantastic pieces — some with personal observations of the tech world and Harvard — that have really called into question the treatment of women in this film.

The film in general gives a snapshot into this world and this is a world where women are viewed with little or no value. The conversation that has erupted from this says in no uncertain terms that you can’t get away with this even if the movie is good and even if it may be an Oscar front runner. It puts a mark on an otherwise incredibly well reviewed movie (97% on rotten tomatoes.)

Here’s a link to the ones I have found and my piece from last week.

The Social Network Has a Woman Problem (EW)

The Social Network’s Female Props (Daily Beast)

Female programmers on “The Social Network” (Salon)

The Social Network, Where Women Never Have Ideas (Jezebel)


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ambre October 6, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Most of the feedback I’ve heard about it, specifically on facebook is… everybody has to complain about something.

I’ve slowly come to the realization that people are going to call me a whiny bitch, and you know what?
Thanks. I’m a Pitbull who has something to say, damn proud of it.

zebra October 6, 2010 at 1:51 PM

From Jezebel: “That world (Harvard) had its problems, but I never thought it was driven by simultaneous desire and contempt for women.”

From Salon: “You would think no woman ever wrote a line of code or actually worked at a high-tech company. It makes Sterling Cooper look progressive.”

Sorkin and Fincher are talking about their experience, not Zuckerberg’s. Most successful men in the film/TV biz treat their young female employees like whores. Aaron Sorkin is writing what he knows by transferring the contempt with which women are seen in Hollywood, onto the characters in the Social Network.

Lisa October 6, 2010 at 11:29 PM

Okay, so I haven’t seen the film yet, but my take on this whole situation is that the issue is far greater than this film. While I may very well be just as frustrated about the lack of strong female characters in the film, I also feel like Sorkin and Fincher have a right to tell the story they wanted. Sometimes it’s more painful to see stereotypical grrrrllll power in that often comes off more as superficial rather than an attempt at a real character.

Rather than try and impose a feminist quota and force male filmmakers to tell a story they don’t truly believe in, I would rather see studios and marketing departments be more willing to take chances on quality scripts that are driven by strong female story lines. I also think it’s a task of critics, major publications, and marketing departments to get behind these female filmmakers the way they have for Fincher and Sorkin’s work. There are some amazing female auteurs out there today–Katherine Bigelow, Sophia Coppola, Jane Campion, Nora Ephron, Mira Nair, Nicole Holofcener, Catherine Breillat, and Lisa Cholodenko, to name a few–who don’t get nearly the respect and exposure they deserve.

T October 7, 2010 at 1:54 AM

It’s not about force, no one is forcing, however, if we don’t speak up- they wont notice. Most sexists (in our culture) do not realize they are sexists. Too many women are unaware of what perpetuates the inequality we still experience.

I don’t care if the female characters are “good” I care that they are developed and vary as much as we do in real life.

I wont support films like SN with my $ and I hope other women who are tired of blatant misogyny in film and TV will avoid them as well.
My $ is hard earned at probably less then 76cents to the dollar as I work in a male dominated industry, in male dominated positions -I am very often the 1st female AD, PM, Prod, Director at least 1 person on the crew has ever worked with. The LAST thing I would do is support films that don’t bother to develop any of it’s female characters. No thanks, I’ll pass.

anna October 7, 2010 at 9:44 AM

To be honest, I stumbled upon this site because I googled “Hit Girl Costume” and your Kick-Ass piece came up (obviously, I loved the film and from another angle not mentioned by your readers–it empowers little kids!).

By the previews alone, I decided SN wasn’t one that I would go to the theatre to see. In my eyes, it looked like another male film about power and women as sex objects.

I loved Hackers because Jolie was a brain and a bombshell with all the power. A movie like Social Network to me smells of greed, lust and $$$ or the Gold Rush in America, seen it already, just in a different form.

Sally October 7, 2010 at 7:23 PM

High Tech is a sexist world. Inserting Jolie in a film is not going to fix that. And in this conversation about the movie – hey take a look at the real world. What are we going to do about that?

However, there seems to be a generation of screenwriters and directors that are loathe to turn a judgmental eye on sexism. Insert beautiful attorney for minutes of airtime to balance. Call her “token.”

If someone did a movie about a highly successful business in the South during segregation, wouldn’t people expect some context on how racist the South was? That yes, in that movie of wealth and success there’s a dark side of hating a group of people and excluding them – because they are “naturally less-than” as deemed by genetics?

Allison October 7, 2010 at 8:52 PM

I will be boycotting this film (damn the critics) and instead support a movie this weekend with a strong female lead–Secretariat.

Thomai October 8, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Thank you Sally for opening this train of thought~

If you make a film about the South in the 60’s and PROPAGATE the racist stereotypes, do not develop a single character that is not “white”, then you’ve failed as far as I’m concerned. Just because the lead character may be a racist does not make the people he is racist towards any less human, any less interesting as characters to develop.

The reason Mad Men has succeeded with a varied audience is that the women are not invisible. Yes, it was an extremely sexist era, women were demeaned and dismissed more often than not, and NO, the women in the show are not flat, they are NOT furniture…they are developed and varied characters. If they were not I would not watch the show.

I wont watch SN.

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