Monday, January 17th, 2011

'The Social Network' Is a Pack of Lies That Conveys Nothing About Our Time

Picture, if you will, the opening scenes of next year's blockbuster, The Quagmire—a dramatic account of America's descent into the war in Vietnam.

The film opens on young Lt. Lyndon Johnson of the U.S. army. He is stationed in Tokyo in the 1950's. As the opening credits roll, he is sulking away from the base’s fancy officers' club, his application for membership having been rejected. He realizes that try as he might, with his poor Texas upbringing, he will never be one of them. Stung, he ventures out into the field, across the Asian continent, turning over those stones that the well-to-do ne'er-do-wells back at the club couldn't be bothered with. While travelling through Indochina, he sees up close the resistance to French rule and, in it, sees opportunity for a young soldier! Meanwhile, while passing through a village, he falls in love with a Vietnamese girl, who ultimately abandons him, because his poor Texas upbringing means that, try as he might, he will never be one of her people.

Ten years later, now President of the United States, Johnson signs an order sending half a million troops into Vietnam. He stares at the map of the land he is about to destroy…. We cut to the map, and then a misty shot of the village where long ago, he found love, and love was denied him….

Yeah. If audiences were shown the above tale of Vietnam, they would laugh it off the screen.

No matter how it "captured the spirit of the age" and dealt with important issues about America's changing role in the world, those few little imagined pieces of history would remove it from serious discussion.

And yet? A film that takes liberties just as brazen and ludicrous with real life figures, a film that inserts similarly imaginary motivations into real life events, is being celebrated as a gripping drama and lauded by critics across America. It has won the Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture: Drama" and is currently easily the front-runner for the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2010.

Yes, The Social Network is, no doubt, a finely crafted work. The acting is impeccable, the dialogue is zippy and zings along. As writer Aaron Sorkin himself pointed out in his bizarre speech last night, David Fincher made a story about computer nerds typing as entertaining as such a subject matter could possibly bear. But that's not all he said.

In speech, Sorkin quotes scripted line from a fictional girlfriend, from an invented scene, then assures real Zuck: "She was wrong." #metaMon Jan 17 20:15:51 via Echofon

That Sorkin thanked his researcher in his speech was audacious, at best. Any film that treats history as flippantly as The Social Network does deserves to be taken as seriously as the new Yogi Bear adaptation.

The film’s misstatements have been well documented. The jilted love affair that drives Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook is invented. The resentment against the Harvard elite clubs that drives him to create an alternate society is invented. The claims of others involved in the creation of Facebook are given vastly too much credence in the film. Zuckerberg is portrayed as an angry, vengeful sociopath, which by most accounts and all appearances, he is not.

But other than that, it says a lot of fascinating things about the era.

A dramatic work need not be faithful to every fact of history. We do not expect dramatic films to be moment-for-moment, not-a-hair-touched recreations of history. Even documentaries are forced to exercise some altering power in deciding what to leave in and what to cut.

But what we do expect, and regarding which we should not compromise, is that when a film purports to be a telling of actual events and the lives of real-life people, it gets the basic facts of those events and people right. Or at the very least tries! A biopic about Marie Curie and the discovery of radium, if it purports to tell the actual story, will not show the great scientist dressing in bearskin rugs to get in touch with her atomic nature and taking hot air balloon rides up the Amazon in search of a legendary molecule, unless it is clearly indicated that this is a fantasia of Marie Curie, not meant to be a realistic telling of actual events. (See: I'm Not There.)

The Social Network offers no such disclaimers. In a narrative punctuated by legal deposition, it strives for hyper-realism, suggesting strongly that these events did happen as they are being shown. In doing so, it far exceeds the limits of any commonly understood dramatic license.

We do not even regularly demand of dramatic recreations that every line of dialogue was actually spoken as portrayed. We can be tolerant of entire scenes and sequences being invented. But we only allow the filmmakers that leeway so long as we can trust that the scenes, the sequences, the characters, the dialogue created are in order to help dramaticize points that are in themselves true.

What Aaron Sorkin has done in the screenplay of The Social Network is to say, essentially, if I'm allowed to invent the dialogue, I should be allowed to invent the rest of the facts as well. Because, the screenplay’s liberties suggest, the facts of Facebook's invention are not important in themselves. They are only relevant so far as they serve larger points Sorkin wants to make about the times in which we live. (Apparently, according to Sorkin, who despises the Internet and does not much use it, virtual identity has replaced actual identity. Oh dear!)

His project not only oversteps its bounds, but is fundamentally dishonest about its nature. The Social Network is not the story of Mike Zipperberg, creator of Smilepages. It is the story of the making of the most-visited website in the United States! Whose creator is himself the most famous entrepreneur our time! By telling us the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, the film asks the viewer to do half its work. You are to bring into the theater all that you know about Facebook and all you may have heard about Mark Zuckerberg. This film functions essentially like an "origins of the superheroes" comic book, showing you how the pieces fell into place to create this entity that you know well.

And if that is the mission of your script, you are obliged to make some attempt to get the very basics right—not to just walk away from them in the interest of making bigger, more imaginary points about the era.

Another current release shows just one of the many ways in which nonfiction can be handled. In All Good Things, the authors create a drama that is, as they indicate, merely inspired by events—in this case, the well-known disappearance of the wife of Manhattan real estate heir. Wishing a bit of latitude to dramatically explore the characters as they see them, the screenwriters changed the names of the protagonists from the real life people, taking it upon themselves to create characters and the world they inhabit. That is fine! Specifying this is a fictional world, no one expects them to stay absolutely true to the real facts, and no one takes the fictional version as a reflection on the literal truth of the case. Also no one gets sued.

In Richard Roeper’s year in review, he called The Social Network “the definitive look at the way our world has been changed forever by a site that turns everyone into the star of their own personal movie.” That a movie that invents the basic facts of its own tale can be considered "the definitive look at the way our world has been changed forever," by no less than one of our most esteemed critics: this is a far more defining statement about our times than anything Aaron Sorkin has ever written.

Richard Rushfield is the preeminent American Idol scholar of our time, and author of the forthcoming Hyperion book American Idol: The Last Empire. He is also the author of ;Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost: A Memoir of Hampshire College in the Twilight of the 80s.

110 Comments / Post A Comment

Murgatroid (#2,904)

I thought The Awl's "anti-Social Network week" was over?

Anyway, doesn't its legal deposition framing, that it's framed by not one, but two, essentially state that the facts of what actually happened are in contention?

Adouble (#1,300)

I'm assuming the "anti-Social Network" posts must have gotten the number of page views normally reserved for pieces on HuffPo where they crop a photo of a starlet in a backless evening gown to look like she's topless. You can't turn your back on that sort of web traffic.

It really should have ended. But every week on planet media, there's a new generation born who has to be reminded that this movie sucks.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

Are you going to answer my second question or are you going to treat it as a rhetorical one?

Not really, because you never see anyone, including Zuckerberg in the film, disputing the basic facts, just their significance. And also stuff that was invented like the girlfriend and the fancy clubs werent from the depositions in the first place, so that device was kinda a cheat

Murgatroid (#2,904)

Addressing the basic facts in the depositions when he was not being sued for them would have crossed the hamfisted line with this admittedly not-too-subtle film. That there are multiple depositions should be enough.

But then again, I believe deepomega, who hasn't even seen it, got it spot on, by saying that treating it as a work of nonfiction is to miss the point.

eudaimonic (#9,434)

In reply to your second question: yes, but that's beside the point because the facts that the movie invents are NOT among the facts that are in contention. No one contends that Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook out of a sense of social rejection by exclusive clubs. If anything that patina of "what happened is in dispute, this is one interpretation of how things may have happened," is even more outrageous, because it means the movie places itself firmly in the category of "plausible interpretation of real-life events" and not in the category of "absolute invented fantasy," which is where it belongs.

Oh, and Social Network doesn't even hold up at all as a work "capturing the spirit of the age" or whatever, because it gets the spirit of the age utterly wrong. The culture at our elite educational institutions is relentlessly, unforgivingly meritocratic today, (the girl whose blog was quoted approvingly by TNR, the guy whose poetry has already been placed in quarterlies, and yes, the guy whose site is getting enough buzz to attract investor attention are all common enough at these institutions to inspire the hothouse of overachievers to work harder to catchup) but Sorkin seems to think that 2000 is 1950 and that Harvard social life still revolved around some faded WASPY gentleman's clubs. If you wanted to make a movie about the modern elite and their arrogance/entitlement you would need (1) to know that the values of the modern elite became meritocratic decades ago, and (2) to incorporate an understanding about how the grueling years of constant toil and competition that constitutes the modern gateway to the ranks of the elite contributes to an indifference about the failings and weaknesses of everyone else. Sorkin doesn't do either of these things, because he wrote a pure fantasy.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

When critics and viewers proclaim this as "capturing the spirit of the age", they aren't exactly thinking about it in an aristocracy vs. meritocracy context.

Besides, the themes that arose from the final product that contribute to the thinking that it captures the age blah blah, would have still been there even if Harvard was accurately portrayed as a meritocratic institution.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

But Richard, you do agree that all Asian girls are whores, yes?

Also arsonists!

keisertroll (#1,117)

I'd pay ten bucks to see The Quagmire. Get Randy Quaid on the phone.

djfreshie (#875)

Not Bill Pullman?

Lyndon Johnson…Bill Pullman…Lyndon Johnson…Bill Pullman…yeah, now we're castin'. Randy Quaid has more of a Taft kind of face.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Oh, you should've seen Quaid in his prime. Tom Hanks could do it, though a film of this style requires less of a "Donald Moffat in The Right Stuff" touch to LBJ.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Also, Bill Pullman as LBJ should personally shoot Greg Kinnear as JFK.

djfreshie (#875)

Bill Pullman as LBJ shoots everyone. I mean, we're talking "Quagmire" here…it's a very loosey goosey account. There's a scene where he hunts and kills Sasquatch.

I haven't seen that Kennedys thing, but I'm guessing Kinnear plays him like Bob Crane + a few more "er…ah"'s?

keisertroll (#1,117)

Richard Dawson introduces him to Clay Shaw.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Repeal The Social Network! Or am I missing the point?

No, that was it.

"deserves to be taken as seriously as the new Yogi Bear adaptation"

Amen. Serious movie.

Precisely. I meant that as a compliment.

djfreshie (#875)

I laughed a solid couple minutes at "Mike Zipperberg, creator of Smilepages." That is a great name for a person, and an hilarious name for pages.

deepomega (#1,720)

MONDO DISCLAIMER: Have not seen the Social Network. (But thanks to TheAwl, I feel like I have!)

Isn't this more akin to JFK, where treating it like a work of nonfiction is maybe not the point? It's a counternarrative! Or narratives within narratives! And acting like outright lies make it less "about modern life" is weird!

Murgatroid (#2,904)


metoometoo (#230)

But it is not a more interesting or creative narrative than an attempt at nonfiction could have been. It just cuts corners and lazily applies formula rather than trying to genuinely address the complexities of modern reality.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

Do we know for a fact that it's not more interesting or creative than an attempt at nonfiction could have been?

deepomega (#1,720)

@BoD: Indeed. Basically, argue all you want that you don't like the movie on its own merits, but don't argue that it sucks because it's not journalism.

@mtmt: Given that the "actual story of facebook" (As near as we can tell! All of these people are still alive and nobody's really necessarily telling the truth!) is relatively mushy and uninteresting, I think using the depositions as the factual armature around which to build a story is a pretty solid idea.

metoometoo (#230)

It would have been more creative AND more truthful if I had written the script, obviously.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@metoo: I was thinking this, but I thought it would come off as too prickish if I actually said it. You should write the true story of Facebook! And share it with us! I mean this sincerely!

metoometoo (#230)

If I wrote The Social Network, Zuckerberg would have been a comically bumbling tool who happened to be really good at coding and stumbled into success almost in spite of himself.

But I'm busy writing a screenplay about Gawker. You should see what I'm doing with Nick Denton!

metoometoo (#230)

I agree with all of this. Personally, the one thing that bothers me most about The Social Network's disconnect with reality is Sorkin's need to invent a romance-based motivation for Zuckerberg. That such a simplistic, obvious, and completely fictional motivation was necessary to drive the script demonstrates that Sorkin and Fincher totally failed to comprehend the personalities and lifestyles of tech nerds like Zuckerberg and his friends.

I thought the courtroom scenes were also an obvious and simplistic technique for structuring the story.

I read the script and thought it was well written, and the movie was entertaining and well made. But the basic, initial choices were not well considered. I read somewhere that The Social Network was "a movie about 2.0 people, by 1.0 people," which I found pretty apt.

MrTeacup (#9,427)

An ironic comment, considering that the movie is partly about the resentment at being unappreciated and misunderstood. Doesn't this reaction prove Sorkin's point, aren't the Winklevoss twins the 1.0 people to Zuckerberg's perception of himself as a 2.0 person?

metoometoo (#230)

I think Sorkin's worldview is too deeply entrenched in 1.0 ideas to understand anything about Zuckerberg's perception of anything.

Adouble (#1,300)

I'm intrigued by this idea of "1.0 ideas". Is that just convenient word play, or are you suggesting that difference between "1.0/2.0" people is somehow different than any other generational difference?

metoometoo (#230)

I can't speak for whoever came up with the original 2.0/1.0 quote, but I see it as the difference between people who find the Internet comfortable and intuitive, and people who just don't get it. If you're commenting on the Awl, you're probably solidly 2.0.

Adouble (#1,300)

Hopefully this won't out me as a 1.0, but I thought there was something to The Social Network, for all its creative license/shoving into narrative conventions, that speaks exactly to modern times. I'd argue that the past 10 years hasn't shifted who people are so much as how information and knowledge get doled out. Facebook is all about people authoring/editing their own image. Wiki is about the masses sorting out the crank claims from the accepted truths. Ideas like "death panels" embed themselves by their ability to quickly propagate. I wouldn't expect a movie about these things to have the same relationship to the truth as a movie about Marie Curie.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

I agree with Adouble above, but I really can't believe that "1.0/2.0" is seriously being used to describe individuals. The world is fucking with me today.

metoometoo (#230)

Yeah, I just think a movie about these things would be even better and more relevant if it were made by people who use and understand the Internet.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

Valleywag: The Movie sounds like a thrill ride.

soco (#8,225)

I don't think that's a very good definition of 1.0/2.0 personhood. If we're associating a type of person who is more of the Internet 1.0 or 2.0, then it isn't a distinction of "who [finds] the Internet comfortable" versus those that don't. A 1.0 or 2.0 still uses the Internet, that absolutely has to be part of the definition otherwise it doesn't make any sense.

So I think you'd have to start with "what is Internet 1.0 vs. 2.0?" 1.0 was/is generally more chaotic, less interconnected, less in the cloud, more individualistic. Looking at 1.0 websites, as awful as they were, is interesting because they're all different. 2.0 sites are more about interaction, replicating 'real-life' activities on a virtual scale, more standardized, more cloud.

I think the statement that The Social Network is "a movie about 2.0 people, by 1.0 people" is still apt because Sorkin, and the movie, shows a general disdain and lack of interest in the kind of standardized, interconnected world that Facebook is helping developed. It's not so much an olds/youngs difference, but a philosophical difference in how the web should be structured.

MrTeacup (#9,427)

Just to summarize the logic here: Sorkin falsely attributes certain personality traits and motivations to Zuckerberg. Therefore Sorkin doesn't understand the internet? Which implies an attack on Zuckerberg is synonymous with an attack on the internet. And an attack on the internet can only mean you don't understand it, because the internet can only be good. Lots of Silicon Valley billionaires have assured us of this!

metoometoo (#230)

No. Sorkin frequently states in interviews that he hates the Internet and doesn't "get it," and this lack of understanding comes across in the movie. Conceptualizing Zuckerberg as someone who did what he did because of a girl was a cheap, lazy, formulaic shortcut. I think that someone with a deeper understanding of the Internet and of technology-minded people might have been able to come up with a more relevant and insightful interpretation of the story of Facebook, and of Zuckerberg himself. But not a kinder or more celebratory take, by any means.

riggssm (#760)

"Conceptualizing Zuckerberg as someone who did what he did because of a girl was a cheap, lazy, formulaic shortcut."

I'm confused. The initial Facemash, ya, pissy revenge while drunk perhaps.

But the evolution of what became The Facebook wasn't that, was it? I thought it grew from:

- an exclusive way to connect with friends/peers (the bike room scene with the Winklevi)
- bringing the entire college social experience online (the scene outside calypso night)
- getting laid/meeting a girl (the addition of Relationship Status after the kid from Jurassic Park asked if a girl he knew was single)

None of them seemed to have anything to do with the girl, other than his drunk reaction to that was what caught the Winklevoss' eye. (I think?)

For the record, I do think Sorkin gets the internet. And hates it because too many people reply TL;DR to whatever he posts.

MrTeacup (#9,427)

I think Sorkin's take on social media is remarkably insightful and relevant. The story is about envy, admiration, arrogance, resentment, status, popularity – aren't those the same emotions driving participation in social media? Facebook gained critical mass after restricting itself to exclusive ivy league colleges; Myspace by promoting itself among hip LA bands and nightclub goers; Twitter's first big moment was at SXSW, the tech event for the cool kids, and went mainstream because that's where you go to follow celebrities.

metoometoo (#230)

I would have a lot more respect for this film if the emotional through-line were based on what you are describing here. But the story isn't about social media at all. It's about a legal dispute between some Harvard bros who come from slightly different levels of wealth and privilege.

Loftus Chabra (#9,432)
soco (#8,225)

I remember reading that article when the movie originally was released, and was struck by the limited nature of her 1.0/2.0 distinction. She uses it almost as a throw-away jab, as if Sorkin and Fincher are 1.0 because of their age, and therefore obsolete. It's sad that she was able successfully paraphrase Jaron Lanier's argument of software lock-in, but ignores his critique of 1.0/2.0 web structures (both featured heavily in his book "You Are Not A Gadget").

I suppose a 1.0 critic might say, given the very terms used to distinguish between the two ages of the Internet, that 1.0/2.0 is rooted in an age distinction. I don't think that's completely true. Maybe Sorkin didn't intend this, but the movie that was made certainly provides an interesting contrast between the two sides. 1.0 was more about navigating the web that had just opened, learning how to connect and control the environment. 2.0 is more about replicating 'real-life' activities, and interconnectivity. The movie offers a critique of the type of hyper controlled site design that is all too common in 2.0 sites by contrasting it with the irrational and emotional actions of real people. That's not a senseless attack on the Internet, but a well reasoned argument about what we should be wary of. When we take the often irrational and emotional actions of real humans and put the glass facade of the Internet in between, what happens? Of course, the film doesn't take it's questioning that far, but it certainly starts the conversation.

laurel (#4,035)

It seemed odd to me that Sorkin took this screenwriting job until I realized it was the perfect opportunity for him to free his standard smartypants/curmudgeon character from high-minded network TV-imposed constraints on vicious bitchiness, self-interest, bathroom stall BJs and, ultimately, fantastic wealth. That must have been fun!

Birdie (#5,811)

I could not agree more. To me the Social Network makes sense only if you completely ignore the reality of Facebook, and think about it as an attempt at a modern day Citizen Kane. Otherwise it's just absurdly wrong in every way. Why are we so outnumbered on this?

deepomega (#1,720)

OK, so what would you say if Aaron Sorkin popped up on this thread and was like "actually it is a modern day Citizen Kane"? How would you rate the movie?

Murgatroid (#2,904)

Not so outnumbered on this site. The only person seemingly on my side on this is someone who hasn't even seen it (not to say I don't appreciate the support, deepomega!).

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

No, I'm with you, Murgatroid, to an extent. I think the creators could have done a better job of making clear off the bat that The Social Network was more of a fictionalization of events. But that being said, we all knew after the first day that The Social Network was more of a fictionalization of events, so I don't see why we can't just view the movie through that lens and move on.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

Can we confirm that William Randolph Hearst wasn't driven throughout his real life by being spurned by a girl in his youth?

atipofthehat (#797)

@ Louis Fyne: He was apparently spurned by a sled.

Birdie (#5,811)

Higher, on that rubric! Sorkin saying he was trying to remake CK would explan this movie much more coherently to me. It's a completely mythologized story of [insert huge new media company of our day here] – divorced from any actual facts about FB.

Birdie (#5,811)

Argh! Meant to reply to @deepomega above.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Birdie: Great! So now just accept the most important lesson of post-modernism: Fuck the author, they know not what they write (/direct/act/&c). If the movie is better when viewed as a remake of Citizen Kane, then perhaps take the most charitable reading rather than the most likely to make you mad at the movie!

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

I don't understand fiction; should I watch a dramatic rendering of a real event and expect it to be documentary-like in any way, Y/N?

joshc (#442)

"The Social Network is, no doubt, a finely crafted work. The acting is impeccable, the dialogue is zippy and zings along."
I also agree that the inaccuracies are silly, but don't see why it needs to be entirely accurate to say something about "our time". Further, aren't the biggest departures from reality on the motivation side? There's a lot more to the story and the site than a fictional girlfriend and some elite clubs.

dailyny (#3,326)

Hang on…which parts of The West Wing are fake?

josefranzen (#7,891)

The part where they elected a Mexican-American president.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

Also, 'The Quagmire' would be "laughed off the screen" because it sounds corny as hell, not because of its historical inaccuracies.

sailor (#396)

I'm unconvinced that the film "purports to be a telling of actual events and the lives of real-life people," despite the "hyper-realistic" dialogue and legal testimony, anymore than "West Wing" supposedly depicted the way the White House really works.

This is fiction, much as your post.

deepomega (#1,720)

Yeah, the mannered Sorkinian dialogue should really be a clue!

Sailor, as noted, the difference is the west wing did NOT USE REAL NAMES OF REAL PEOPLE. Thus, it was identified, from the start, as fiction. Please, tell me you all understand the distinction there.

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

Yeah, but it was real confusing when Sorkin named the president Will Blinton, you know?

Troy Tolley (#9,430)

GREAT article! It's unfortunate that people aren't naturally this discerning. Thanks for pointing out the laziness and licensing that went into this film. It's annoying that it is now being celebrated and awarded. Bleh.

roboloki (#1,724)

what you're saying is it's a documentary, right?

coryballs (#4,647)

So we're saying that one of the most watched movies of the past year, about the most well-known website in history, was going to create some misconceptions about the events it was based on in light of the creator's failure to point out that it isn't a true-to-life retelling?
Did I enjoy watching it: YES
Do I know it isn't factual: YES
Do I give a shit if someone else doesn't get either of the above: NOT REALLY, BUT I DID WRITE THIS POST, SO GO FIGURE.

I'm really not bothered at all by the accuracy-or-not of the story, but by the fact that so many are calling it the Movie Of Our Time (and awarding it as such). Yeah, the acting was good & the dialogue zippy, but where was the there there? It was a fine movie.
But that's really it. It was just fine.

I really don't get what folks are seeing there that I'm not.

deepomega (#1,720)

This is basically how I felt about The Departed, so hey! A perfectly reasonable critique!

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

I also think that Predator should have gotten a Golden Globe.

jfruh (#713)

I agree with much of the awlsensus here (i.e., I enjoyed the movie in and of itself, I am troubled by the fundamental liberties played with actual proper noun individual/institutions histories and motivations), but I too have a hard time seeing as a movie for our time etc. I mean, I honestly think the first half of this trailer — you know, the part that doesn't have any footage from the actual film — more effectively captured the essence of what being on Facebook is about than anything in the movie.

The movie — which, I should emphasize again, I enjoyed, primarily on the strength of the dialogue — is essentially a character drama about how a rapidly expanding business drives a group of friends and acquaintenance apart. "Facebook" is essentially a Maguffin. It could have been any business from any era. I suppose you could argue that billion-dollar companies formed by college students are unique to our current age, but they did happen in decades past and they're still pretty darn rare today. We buy the drama more because we know the ending: Facebook will become huge, the people onscreen are creating something that will in a few short months be used and loved by millions of people. But there's nothing actually about Facebook central to the core of the drama (which is classic stuff about friendships betrayed, scrappy beating priviledge, etc.).

Late to the game, but I want to agree about the trailer. The trailer was PERFECT. I mean, absolutely perfect like the Where the Wild Things Are teaser. There is no better trailer possible for this movie, a movie about people talking about typing.

What does that mean, that this trailer does a better job at "capturing our era" than this movie? I think it means that our era is not imaginarily lived in movie-narrative chunks anymore. It's lived either in YouTube limited clips or in enormous, multi-year, shaggy arcs (Mad Men, The Wire).

joshc (#442)

I really don't see this at all: "Zuckerberg is portrayed as an angry, vengeful sociopath"

Not that I'm buying this as a Movie For/Of Our Time, but the general divide among viewers in this conclusion is awfully fascinating,

riggssm (#760)

Exactly. I never once felt Zuckerberg was an angry sociopath. Vengeful? Maybe if you were of the view that Character Zuckerburg rigged the chicken and party incidents (which, I personally didn't); even then, would one call that vengeance or simply a means to an end (disabling characters in the way of the success Character Zuckerberg thought FB could have?).

I did grin when I finished this essay. Mr. Sorkin's style suggests he'd write 200 words to say, "I didn't like it cause it wasn't For Reals enough or disclaimered with an anvil." Mr. Rushfield, apparently, also.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

I found his character sympathetic….maybe this a Movie of Our Time.

hockeymom (#143)

I can't get past the fact that Sorkin dated Maureen Dowd.
On purpose.
I guess that makes me a .5 type person.

riggssm (#760)

Hey, Dowd looked pretty hot in that one photo shoot she did a few years back. I like to think Sorkin was thinking purely with his dick on that one.

josefranzen (#7,891)

Won't someone think of Black Swan?!

pepper (#676)

Also: Henry IV Part 2? Totally made up. Mistress Quickly didn't even OWN a cat.

Annie K. (#3,563)


BadUncle (#153)

doh. Missed this when I posted.

NFK (#8,747)

Saw the movie, had a laugh, not particularly concerned that it wasn't factual. Movies rarely are, given the tragedy of verisimilitude: the closer to reality a given scene gets, the less likely it will entertain.

All this bruhaha reminds me of an old boss who used to bitch that our meetings weren't moving quickly enough to resolve every issue he brought up (often out of the blue). At one point he explicitly said he wanted our meetings to run like those he watched on The West Wing.

I wanted to say "So hire Sorkin to script us if that's what gets your dick hard." Of course I didn't, because it was a job, not a movie.

omitofo (#4,921)

Our own history books are filled with mostly lies. move on.

lazymoviereviews (#9,433)

I completely agree, even if it was an entertaining movie. It's so refreshing that Mark Zuckerberg has a sense of humor about himself–unlike the sue-hungry Winklevi twins or the Golden Globes audience.

That said, as Richard said, it did take too many liberties. It's the exact opposite of what Al Pacino said about playing a real person with respect.

Also, I'm conflicted about Aaron Sorkin's "yo go girl!" elitism/smart girls finish last comment. Though his portrayals of women on TV have been smart, witty and powerful I found TSN to be very misogynistic and playing into the nerds get the girls in the end BS stereotype. As Mark Zuckerberg told (was it) Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes- he has been dating his girlfriend for over a decade, and before Facebook was created, before he was a billionaire. I find it hard to believe Harvard-educated women act like desperate Hollywood club goers dying for a rich guy to take them home. Smart girls have the most fun, amirite?

I am really surprised by TSN sweeping all the awards ceremonies categories. I wonder if there will be an Oscar upset. Black Swan maybe? It's interesting how differently they portray women's lib.

Holy shit! There's a new Yogi the Bear adaptation?!?

KarenUhOh (#19)

I mean. It's Hollywood, Jake. Whatd'ya expect?

Aatom (#74)

That Andrew Garfield sure is dreamy, though, right?

LIKE! my enjoyment of the film can probably be accounted thus: 25% from the snappy dialogue, 25% from the dark atmosphere (evoked by the both the score and the photography), 25% from the acting, 25% from watching andrew garfield's hair. his hair is SO GREAT! some people look great bald, but i hope andrew garfield never loses those luscious locks.

Backslider (#819)

The Social Network is a fictional film framed as a document about a shared document of our time–Facebook–in which people broadcast fictions about themselves and call them truths.

What's the problem with that Rich?

TrilbyLane (#1,318)

It's art. Art is allowed to lie. Novelists take liberties with the motivations and inner feelings of real historical figures all the time; why shouldn't filmmakers? Anyone who thinks The Social Network is (or should be) a gospel record of What Actually Happened has misunderstood something basic about the movies.

pastalex (#9,443)

When we talk about the movie as representative of a strange, sad era, well, wasn't that partly the beauty of the film? I wrote about this on

"Superficiality, truth-bending, dramatization, unfairness, and very sketchy characterization – let’s call it “storytelling” – is just right for this movie. In the wild back country of Facebook, anxiety about what’s real or important is the background noise that is so prevalent you never really notice it. If the film dramatizes, skews the truth, treats Mark Zuckerberg and everyone unfairly – and inspires all kinds of questions about how it represents reality, “The Social Network” is not just about Facebook: it’s just like Facebook. It's a recursive movie, a fun house mirror pointed at Facebook, the fun house mirror we point at ourselves. It adopts the logic of Facebook, and runs with it, fast."

sailor (#396)

Really late to respond here, because real life matters more than this. But, yes, I do understand the distinction and even though real names were used–if the subject was Facebook, was Sorkin going to make up a character name Bark Yuckerberg?–this film is still fictional in nature, as inspired by reality. See David Fincher's film about the Zodiac killer for another reference.
I have no major objection to your piece, but I do object to supposedly intelligent people like Ana Marie Cox posting a Tweet about this and calling it "Sorkin-Serving Lies." But it is Twitter so I should should I have expected nothing to begin with. No harm done. Still appreciate you and The Awl. Just unfollowed AMC.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Bark Yuckerberg is the protagonist of The Asylum's new film, "The Internet Website".

BadUncle (#153)

Isn't this like criticizing Shakespeare's reportage of Richard II?

bahaha. kidding.

omitofo (#4,921)

to quote erica albright's (the rooney mara character's) REAL website on the facebook movie "As far as the two scenes I'm in, the first one is fairly accurate, we did "break-up" over dinner, I do remember him ripping on my school (that wasn't the first time)…but the second scene of me at dinner with my friends blowing Mark off never happened. (also he NEVER friended me on Facebook) lol! (:"

That's real enough for me!

TrilbyLane (#1,318)

but you do know that erica albright was made up by Sorkin and never existed, yes?

skaay (#9,447)

I agree and disagree. The movie does say something about our time, namely that the public is satisfied with hollow characterizations and simple-minded representations of personal qualities like greed and ambition. Most of the characters are really caricatures – Eduardo is the only one who shows any breadth, and even he's shown as just a sap whose only contribution is a little cash. I don't mind bending the narrative for dramatic purposes. Just give me some characters with some depth and nuance so there is a possibility of creating a more universal experience. Selling one's soul is an old theme that has been done much better many times before.

Matt Cornell (#8,797)

"Erica Albright" may be an invention of Sorkin's. She's the Rosebud of the film's Zuckerberg. On the other hand, Sorkin did base much of the first portion of the film on Zuckerberg's actual blog which begins with "(NAME REDACTED) is a bitch."

No word on whether said woman was actually Mark's girlfriend at the time. So, that's all we can know with any certainty.

I think the film is too harsh on Zuckerberg's alleged misogyny and far too easy on his obvious hatred of privacy and his overweening sense of entitlement.

youngcheesy (#9,463)

All larger debates aside, I still don't understand exactly which facts the movie got wrong. Perhaps a list of things we are sure never happened? The burden of proof is sort of on you at this point. As a noted editor who teaches writing is fond of saying, creative non-fiction encompasses "anything not verifiably un-true."

sweetyardley (#8,590)

Goddamn, people love Facebook.

beastclouds (#9,481)

I have just sent Mr. Rushfield the following email;

"@facebookmovie el oh el "The Social Network' Is a Pack of Lies That Conveys Nothing About Our Time"

OH EM GEE it waszunt/fullytrue? YOU MAD BRO>?

yours always

Wanda Tinasky (#9,482)

Seriously, you think that entertainment owes us anything in the way of factual truth? I think the point of the whole thing flew out the window while you were looking the other way.

Nick Douglas (#7,095)

Is there still time to find-and-replace this whole piece with "Macbeth"?

carver (#9,498)

If anything, I'd say that the rejection Zuckerberg faces in the first scene is the most recent of many, many puzzling rejections he has faced in his life. He went home and blogged about the b***h that just dumped him…that blog is almost word-for-word what he wrote that night.
Using that as a starting point is a pretty damn fine way to kick off your film, if you ask me. It's a drama, and that scene is dramatic as hell…and they're just talking! That's quite an achievement.
So now are you going to write a scathing review of Hamlet in which you dispute the fact that there was anything in the state of Denmark that was rotten?
If there is such a thing as a 0.0 person, Mr. Rushfield, you are him.

Susan Salisbury (#9,511)

The most significant fact in this review:— Sorkin doesn't have a facebook account. Facebook, for all you people who don't actually use it, is an online meeting place. People are no more narcissistic on Facebook than anywhere else. It is there that I see pictures my niece took on her alaska cruise, that I learn that my nephew is moving to New York, that my cousin, stationed in Iraq, is reading a book I also read and enjoyed I saw my other niece's baby sonograms. This isn't called making us the stars of our own narrative, its called socializing. Of course I want to see all that stuff. These are my friends and family. If I see something interesting, like this review, I share it with others on Facebook. Only a narcissistic twit, who is unhappy when the whole story is not about him, would see that as narcississm. The fact of our time is that we can communicate around the world in minutes. Thank God.

carver (#9,498)

Fortunately, The Social Network is not the retelling of Susan Salisbury's latest vacation, or enumerating the ingredients in her daily breakfast. To make this film, there had to be drama, and structure, and a story arc. None of these things is necessary on your personal Facebook wall, so I have no idea what your point is, or how it is relevant to analyze this film.

susanna (#9,514)

You're exactly right. Well argued. Well said.

califran (#9,557)

That Richard Roeper is "one of our most esteemed critics" also says a lot about our times, and none of it good.

Post a Comment