Keepin’ It Reel: The Social Network

It feels significant that The Social Network and the other most important movie of the year, Inception, both end with a question. However, unlike the latter, which only encourages you to dig deeper into Chris Nolan’s vainly labyrinthine Matrix redux, there is no wobble here. The intent of the final scene is clear and humiliating: “What have we come to?”

But first: The Social Network is probably the film of the year. Whatever generic glow-stick rave you planned on painting your face or ironing your shirt for this weekend, drop it. For all the skeptics who thought a film about Facebook would be a snooze-fest of epic proportions, please direct your apologies to Aaron Sorkin’s devastatingly sharp screenplay. I don’t want to feel like I’m disparaging any party, as the directing (Fincher), acting (Eisenberg, Timberlake!, and Oscar-deservee Garfield), score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and everything else were spot on. But above all, I was hanging on every word that these characters delivered.

That the early Facebook arose in a state of drunken revenge is surprisingly unsurprising. As so shamefully exemplified by the suicide of Tyler Clementi this week, the inhuman is becoming increasingly mundane – except when it’s not. Friendships are quantified (Facebook says I have 349). And they don’t just end, they are deleted, never to have occurred. We spend hundreds of hours crafting a caricature of ourselves through which we can then converse with other digital caricatures when the real thing is only 5 minutes away – but only if their relationship status says “Single” and you find their “Interested in” dropdown choice satisfactory. None of us are any better, at least judging by the dozens of blue webpages I can see from the back of every Intro IR lecture. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is no better, as he coldly deletes away his only friendship in favor of the promise of billions.

And screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is no better. No doubt, large swaths of this film are just as contrived as your inflated friend count. Characters in the film are complex, yes, but only unabashed caricatures of their real life counterparts. What we see in The Social Network are Facebook profiles in interaction, pseudo-Zuckerberg trying to be an asshole, the cowardly-predatory Timberlake character failing to live up to the suave persona he has manufactured, etc. None of it is real, yet somehow it makes for the most compelling drama of the year. Facebook has officially become more real than real life itself, and it’s time to ask the question, “What have we come to?”

The Social Network is now showing at Providence Place Mall.

4 Comments

  1. lizbeth

    Pretty stupid and naive. No one really knows the story of Facebook, there are more than several versions and those litigated. Too naive and not intelligent accepting the movie as life, it is a version of life, why it is also called fiction.

  2. Thanks for the comment. This may not be an apt comparison, but I’m sure that the models that sat for Picasso (did they? I’m not an art historian..) during his Cubist period were rather offended at the result. Yet, the point was not fidelity to the literal form, but the feeling behind it.

    The movie may be 50%, 75%, or 90% false, but the movie is aiming for a different kind of fidelity. The message is that if this kind of detachment can happen at the top, then it spirals down the entire social network. These caricatures in action act as a synecdoche of Facebook itself.

    Ask yourself this: When you write on someone’s Wall, are you talking to that person? or are you interfacing with their profile? This feeling is more real than the disputed facts of the origin story of Facebook, and you’re right to feel some friction toward that.

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