I Get to 500 Million Friends and All I Get Is the Hollywood Treatment?

By internet terms, Facebook is already an oldie. Any site that lasts long enough to merit a major motion picture is practically geriatric.

But Facebook’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 500 million users. And it’s just getting started.

The Social Network stars Jesse Eisenberg as the iconoclast founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and costars Justin Timberlake (yeah, weird) and the up-and-coming Andrew Garfield as his frenemy co-conspirators. It is based on the bestselling book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich.

First of all, the book is nearly worthless. I object on principle to nonfiction books that are written like novels. If it’s written like a novel, I’m going to treat it as a novel and assume most of it is pure fiction. With Mezrich’s book, I’m probably right.

Sex up a story, add great acting, great sets, script, and pacing–in essence, make a good film–and truth doesn’t matter so much anymore. That is why Hollywood is so powerful.

97% of Rotten Tomatoes critics can definitely be wrong, but they aren’t this time: The Social Network is definitely worth a watch.

The movie opens with a scene in a campus bar. Zuckerberg and his girlfriend are having a conversation. Or something. It’s more peaceful than a knife-fight, but only just. The insults escalate. Finally the chick breaks up with him and leaves, with one last dig:

Listen. You’re going to be rich and successful. But you’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.

First of all, the girl is the movie’s only “good guy.” And Zuckerberg can’t let go of her. In fact, the movie hints that he did everything for her. Pure poppycock of course, but the final scene is so charmingly Hollywood and yet so scarily modern that I have to relate it.

Zuckerberg is sitting alone in the stylish new Facebook offices. He’s just fired Sean Parker, his flamboyant cocaine-addled business partner, and searches his site for the girl who dumped him in Scene 1. Bam, she has Facebook. He “friends” her, and then refreshes the page. Again, and again, and again, waiting for that magical notification “You are now friends with Ex You Treated Like a Douche.”

This movie isn’t decrying Facebook. It’s not coincidence that Facebook’s core demographic (18-34 year olds) thinks more positively about Facebook since the movie came out. In fact, the movie’s not really praising or blaming anything.

The movie has a flaw: it doesn’t make a bold statement. A movie like this should. It implies that Zuck is a crook. Everyone’s ready to agree with that. Apparently, though, no one’s ready to examine how Facebook and the internet as a whole have changed our lives so massively in so short a time. Instead of charting new territory, the producers of The Social Network decided to play it safe and make another (beautifully shot, perfectly-acted, well-timed, well-scripted) dystopian tech movie.

So: watch The Social Network because it’s a good movie, not because it’s very true or even particularly relevant.

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