“You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.”
So says a member of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s legal team in David Fincher’s The Social Network. Can’t say I agree with her.
The Social Network follows the rise of the behemoth Facebook, from humble beginnings in Zuckerberg’s dorm room at Harvard – if you can call anything at Harvard “humble” – to 500 million members and a value of $25 billion. The focus of the movie is less on a website and more on the ethical and legal boundaries that were crossed in the creation of it. The way the film portrays it, most (if not all) of the people involved in the creation of Facebook are total jerks. Especially Zuckerberg himself.
Of course, the film is fiction, and it’s drama, and anything on screen has to be taken with a grain of salt. For all I know, Zuckerberg is a perfectly nice guy—although I doubt it.
As a fictional account of what happened, it’s a fantastic watch. Jesse Eisenberg, who I had previously written off as another Michael Cera after seeing Zombieland, was surprisingly perfect for the role of Zuckerberg—a brooding, condescending genius with a cutting sense of humour. I hated him, and at the same time appreciated his intelligence and his quick wit. Most of the characters came across the same way—there was something to love in them and plenty to hate. Justin Timberlake did a great job as bad boy Sean Parker, founder of Napster, who helped spread Facebook worldwide and made it profitable. He was also the only character in the movie that was less likeable than Zuckerberg, an impressive feat.
The only one who seemed like a good guy was Eduardo Saverin, who Zuckerberg allegedly screwed out of billions of dollars. Incidentally, Saverin also provided most of the material for the book that The Social Network was based on. Take from that what you will.
Two law suits held the story’s narrative together as it was told in board rooms, with lawyers present, by Saverin and the Winklevoss twins, who claimed that Zuckerberg stole their idea to create Facebook. While it kept the story cohesive, this method of storytelling also occasionally took me out of the movie and reminded me that it was fiction. Often the focus would skip from 2003 to the board room, and one of the characters would be sitting in their chair or staring out a window, sullenly facing away from everyone else as they told their story—an unlikely scenario. Frankly, it went from the sublime to the ridiculous in seconds.
There were also some inconsistencies in some of the technology used in the film—in 2003 they didn’t have netbooks, which went on sale in late 2007, and they didn’t have 22” Samsung LCD monitors. I guess older technology wouldn’t have made for great product placements. When Zuckerberg was blogging on LiveJournal, I noticed he sometimes put HTML tags where they didn’t belong. These are minor irritations in the grand scheme of things, though, and only a tech geek would notice.
If you’ve read anything about some of the controversy around Facebook, you’ll know how the story ends. But the movie tries to add something new by making a last ditch effort to show that Zuckerberg does have a heart after all. Maybe he does, but after two hours of non-stop douchebaggery, it’s hard to sympathise. Fortunately, that two hours was culturally relevant and highly entertaining. I liked it—and I liked it on Facebook.