Monday, October 4, 2010

The Social Network - What Generational Divide?

I had been looking forward to The Social Network for some time, so was excited to see it this past weekend and thought I'd share a few uncollected thoughts.

One aspect of the movie that I found challenging was dealing with the veracity, or lack thereof, of the plot. This aspect was both awesome and difficult. It's not a criticism of the movie, more a statement of how difficult it is to deal in half-truth, half-fiction. I should be clear that the movie is a pastiche, piecing together some real events and sprinkling them liberally with invention, and the movie's creators have been very open about that. Of course, people will inevitably watch it and see it as the story of Facebook. The last movie I had this kind of trouble with was The Blair Witch Project- you're supposed to believe, yet not believe. I had trouble dealing with it - real names and places are in the movie, yet we are not supposed to treat it like non-fiction. I came away with a strong judgment of many of the subjects of the movie, but had to remind myself, "Okay, but a lot of this is fiction. It's not journalism. It's too early for you to pass judgment."

The subject that most inflamed me was not even the movie itself, but some of the stuff that's been written about it. Specifically, I find really annoying and disingenuous the discussion in the media of how reactions to this movie are emblematic of a generational divide. Basically, the olds will be repulsed by anti-hero Zuckerberg, and the youngs will cheer him. I don't know, I don't really see it. Maybe I am between generations? The movie portrays Facebook's wunderkind founder as a mean-spirited, socially awkward, arrogant genius who looks out for number one. (Per my paragraph above, this is the movie's portrayal, not necessarily real life.) I think it's kind of insulting to say an entire generation considers this behavior to be heroic. In fact, I believe that you'd find an equal proportion of people of all ages who think he's a hero/anti-hero. Look at some of the vicious men who were heros to some men and women of generations past - Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Gould, Astor - successful men who engaged in philanthropy, but cutthroat, arrogant robber barons. I would say that probably some people admired them, and some didn't.

The last thing that bothered me were that *spoiler, maybe* women seemed to be used as a sort of Achilles heel to challenge the protagonists. It seems from the light research I've done that women were not a big part of the founding of Facebook - in fact, even the smart, sensible, sensitive ex-girlfriend, who was a great character and well-acted, seems to have been an invention - so I really don't mind the scarcity of women. Still, there are a few scenes that are a bit over the top for me in their stooping to portray women as a) valuable for little more than sex and/or b) nutty.

All that said, I did really enjoy the movie, and it met my expectations. It was no Citizen Kane or anything but it was unique, thought provoking and well-done. The cinematography, writing, acting and direction were phenomenal.


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