The title for this comic could also be “Mark Zuckerberg’s Punch-Out.”
Cami and I saw The Social Network on Saturday night and loved it. It’s always a good sign when you wake up the next morning still thinking about it. Much like Facebook itself, The Social Network worms its way into your head and doesn’t quite let go.
Stylistically, this movie has the stamp of professionals. David Fincher’s moody and dimly lit lens work make Harvard look like Hogwarts for Douchebags and Aaron Sorkin’s script pops with electricity.
You wouldn’t think that a film told largely in flashback with jump cuts to the present inside dueling depositions would be all that interesting – some might call it “talky” – but I was riveted for it’s entire 2-hour run time.
Of course, then again, no one talks like Aaron Sorkin writes and that’s half the fun of it.
I thought everyone gave great performances. Jesse Eisenberg has the easiest job portraying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and maybe plays up Zuckerberg’s inability to pick up social cues a little too much. But in Eisenberg’s hands, Zuckerberg is a motor-mouth genius that is operating on a level he doesn’t want you to know about. Zuckerberg never shows his cards unless he has to.
Andrew Garfield does an excellent job of playing Facebook co-founder and general punching bag Eduardo Saverin and Justin Timberlake practically dominates the last two third’s of the movie as Napster co-founder and Facebook investor Sean Parker. In fact, I’d argue that both of their performances are so strong, they detract greatly from what Eisenberg is doing and draws the focus away from him completely.
Major kudos need to be handed out to Armie Hammer who played both Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss – the twin brothers who claim they came up with the idea for Facebook. Using digital technology, Fincher was able to seamlessly fit the actor playing two roles into the same scene and Hammer does an expert job having impassioned, testosterone-fueled arguments… with himself.
I had more I wanted to say about The Social Network, but truthfully, I’m a little distracted by a review I read from new media author Jeff Jarvis that takes the movie to task for not understanding the value that Facebook brings to communication or how Zuckerberg has changed the world as a result of it. He cites New York Magazine’s Mark Harris who proclaimed “The Social Network can be seen as a well-aimed spitball thrown at new media by old media.” In his review and in an interview with This Week In Google, Jarvis went as far to state that the movie is “anti-geek.”
Personally, I find these claims to be ridiculous – a calculated complaint designed to stir the pot and draw attention to Jarvis.
I only mention it because I was incensed after listening to his interview on This Week in Google and went to Twitter to express my frustration. “Jeff Jarvis is a paranoid idiot,” I wrote. To which Jarvis replied “I saw that.” 3 hours later.
Was I a little harsh calling Jarvis an “idiot?” Maybe. But keep in mind I didn’t use Jarvis’ screen name in my tweet. So that means Jeff was doing a bit of ego-surfing on Twitter and decided to send a shot across my bow. It’s these actions and Jarvis’ review that make him come off like the possessive tech-snob he claims The Social Network tries to paint all new media representatives with.
Is everything about The Social Network true. No, of course not. It’s a movie – a dramatization – not a documentary. This is an argument Jarvis doesn’t accept. He says if they were going wholly fabricate details (for example, Sorkin’s creation of a fictional girlfriend who spurned Zuckerberg – and indirectly “inspired” Facebook) then they should have done what Orson Welles did with Citizen Kane in his take-down of William Randolph Hearst and changed the names and locations as well.
I would agree with that if I thought The Social Network was meant to be a take-down piece. But it’s not. If anything, I think it shows reverence to the societal value of Facebook by demonstrating the ferocity with which the players at is genesis fight to take control of it.
If anything, I would argue that it’s not the responsibility of Fincher or Sorkin to paint a 100% accurate portrayal of Zuckerberg. He wouldn’t be the first public figure to suffer character assassination for the sake of entertainment and he won’t be the last.
Is it fair? Not in the slightest. But as far as I’m concerned, Zuckerberg has done a miserable job changing the tone of the story. He’s a very reclusive and private individual. Perhaps even introverted. Yet he’s the figurehead of the social media revolution? He has – as Jarvis claims – “a vision?”
Why do we know nothing about him aside from a fluff piece he did with Oprah? He’s sitting on top of one of the largest communication networks in history and he doesn’t have the power to turn the tide on negative press? He can’t do an interview where he comes off like an authentic human being? They knew the movie was being made YEARS ago. They could have killed it with negative word of mouth months before it came out.
Transparency. Authenticity. Humility. Zuckerberg doesn’t know the meaning behind any of those words. For someone that is fast and loose with EVERYONE ELSE’S privacy, he’s very guarded about his own. At this point, I’d say a little bit of character assassination is his just desserts.
Jarvis hinges his criticism of the film on Sorkin’s admission in Harris’ New York Magazine piece that he doesn’t have a Facebook account. Jarvis has gone on to “expose” director David Fincher and lead actor Jesse Eisenberg also do not have Facebook accounts.
“This is all about snobbery, about dismissing all this Internet stuff,” Jarvis claims. “The filmmakers didn’t give any value to what Zuckerberg made. How can they say that they understand him if they don’t understand his creation? It’s dismissive of the 500 million or so people who are on Facebook. It’s intellectually lazy. It’s insulting.”
And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with Jarvis’ take on The Social Network. Jarvis didn’t want a movie about Facebook’s creation. He wanted a movie about Facebook’s users. He wanted to see a movie about himself. He didn’t get what he wanted, so now he’s screaming to anyone who will listen that the film is “intellectually lazy” and “insulting.”
Kudos to Jarvis for spinning the conversation about The Social Network in a different direction. The debate is worthwhile and interesting. I just happen to disagree with him completely.
Did you see The Social Network this weekend? What’s your take? What do you think about Jarvis’ criticisms of the film? Do they have merit? Did you expect the film to be 100% accurate? Should they have changed the names and locations if they were going to change details of Facebook’s creation? Let’s get a larger debate started. Leave your comments below!