The Videogum Movie Club: The Social Network
As a 64-year-old man, I think of myself as being pretty “with it” when it comes to the Net. But the first time I heard of Facebook was from my younger brother, who asked me if I was on it, and I said “on what?” He laughed at me, and switched all the pills in my pill box to the wrong days of the week. It was humiliating! (He actually did say “you’re old” to me. It’s sad that he’s dead now and in heaven. R.I.P. little bro.) The point is that Facebook’s “exclusivity” and “coolness” was actually a real thing at some point. It’s funny to think about that now, since Facebook is neither exclusive nor cool. I mean, seriously. And yet, what it got in exchange for becoming uncool and unexclusive is basically World Domination and 100 gillion dollarz and a David Fincher movie written by Aaron Sorkin about it that somehow becomes number one at the box office even though it’s basically a movie about BUSINESS and NERDS. Of course, it helps that it’s a GREAT movie about business and nerds, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, let’s talk about it!
What a gooooood movie! David Fincher is really good at his job. I mean, admittedly, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is awful. And Panic Room is silly. But for the most part he makes really good movies, and this is no exception. This might even be his best movie yet. It’s no small feat to make the backroom business dealings of a 20-year-old college student with a Livejournal riveting and moody and sometimes funny and not at all boring or pandering. There was practically no boneheaded tone deaf techno-speak. When people spoke about the Internet, they actually sounded like people who had BEEN on the Internet, which is surprisingly rare still despite the fact that we can get the Internet while FLYING THROUGH THE SKY and also IN OUR POCKETS. Your mom has a gmail account, but even she still prints out all her messages to read before bed and calls them “blogs.” What I’m trying to get at is the impressive simulacrum of Genuine Understanding this movie created about a subject that has, for the most part, remained insane-makingly elusive to Adults.
Of course, it’s not all boringly realistic talk of SEXTing and PMs. There is also some real dramatic tension, and also SASS. This movie has sass coming out of its butt! Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of an Asperberger-y SuperNerd with the world’s sassiest sass mouth was so compelling and entertaining to watch. The parts when he talked back to the lawyers, like when he explained why the one lawyer did not have his undivided attention and didn’t deserve it? And the part when the lawyer was talking about how much money Andrew Garfield had invested in the company, and Mark Zuckerberg sarcastically checked her math? So good. SO SASS. (Although I never noticed how much Jesse Eisenberg sounds like Michael Cera. A lot, kind of, it turns out. It was a little distracting.)
Now people are talking about what it all MEANS. Apparently, adults see it as a cautionary tale about the moral ravages of greed, while children see it as a tale of one genius’s success. Personally, it doesn’t really seem like either of those things? For one thing, everyone in this movie was greedy. Can we get on the same page about that? Eduardo Saverin got a bum deal, I guess, and was screwed over by his friend, for sure, but he also filed a 600 million dollar lawsuit. The Winkelvoss twins (about which: this makes me feel very weird) were crybaby rich kids who, as the movie’s epilogue points out, earned 65 MILLION DOLLARS from their lawsuit, which I’m sure they immediately invested in their daddy’s hedge fund and tripled overnight. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg comes off as kind of a dick, but it’s hard to see him as a villain in a sea of poor victims. (Also, as far as the whole “dude who doesn’t have any friends because he is so emotionally crippled by his own ambition” thing is concerned, if anyone read the New Yorker profile of the actual Mark Zuckerberg they might notice that the movie conveniently left out any mention of his longtime serious girlfriend. It’s complicated, I’m sure.)
On the other hand, it hardly seems like a tale of triumph, so I don’t really know what the kids are talking about, either. Kids think the darndest things, AS USUAL.
Perhaps the most surprising and innovative development in the Facebook generation is people’s willingness to publicly share details of their personal lives that in ancient times (like the 1990s) they would have kept themselves. The movie didn’t talk about that at all, and in that sense, it doesn’t seem to actually capture the thing about the current zeitgeist that makes it so zeitgeist-y in the first place. I mean, there have been revolutionary business ideas in the past, and there have been cruel wunderkinds and bloody corpses trapped under the wheels of indifferent buses where their former friends threw them. None of that is actually that new (although the Facebook offices near the end of the movie DID look much more Razor Scooter friendly than the bedroom at the end of Citizen Kane.) It doesn’t make it any less great and enjoyable and interesting and well written (I’ve never heard of this Aaron Sorkin guy and I think this is his first major project, but I think he’s going to have a VERY bright future!). It’s probably going to win lots of awards, and it should. I’m just pointing out that it might not actually be as NEW as some people would like it to be. All they really needed was at least ONE scene in which a teenage girl stood in her parents’ bathroom and held a digital camera awkwardly above her head to get the “perfect” pouty-lip profile self-portrait. It’s called FINGER ON THE PULSE. Ask Jeeves about it.
Nevertheless, I CLICK LIKE.