The Social Network: Pride and Privilege

January 11, 2011

By Jason A. Hill

The Social Network, USA, 2010

Directed by David Fincher

the social network movie poster on arts and entertainment playgroundShortly before I saw The Social Network I heard an interview with David Fincher on NPR. He said that “nothing in this film is fiction.” At first I thought he was joking, but there was no chuckle after his voice. Although I find it impossible to make a film that is 100% true, I think it showed just how much Fincher had invested himself into this film…and it shows.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a young computer science major at Harvard, hacks into the databases of various residence halls at Harvard and downloads pictures of female students for people to rank. Using an algorithm for ranking chess players created by his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), he creates the website “Facemash.” It becomes an instant hit and soon after the traffic crashes the campus servers. This gains Mark infamous status on campus, but still fails to gain him any real advancement with the school or the social clubs at school. However, it does bring him to the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), identical twins and members of Harvard’s rowing team, who plan to start a social website exclusively for Harvard. Impressed with his work on “Facemash,” they hatch a deal with Mark and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) to build “Harvard Connection.” In the meantime Mark takes the idea of “Facemash” one step farther and asks Eduardo to help him begin work on “Thefacebook,” an online social network that begins with the exclusivity of Harvard students. The site explodes in popularity. When they learn of “Thefacebook,” the Winklevoss twins and Narendra believe that Zuckerberg had stolen their idea while simultaneously stalling on their website.

As the popularity of the site grows, as does Mark’s, he soon realizes ways to continue the site’s trajectory by linking user accounts together, expanding to other schools, and adding “relationship status.” As “thefacebook” continues to grow Mark is contacted by Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the co-creator of Napster, who convinces Mark to move his operation to Silicon Valley and to drop “the” from the name, simplifying the site to “Facebook.” Eduardo and Sean eventually clash over job responsibilities. Mark, preferring Sean’s free willing style, moves Eduardo out, diluting his share of the company to near zero. This prompts the legal battle where much of the film story takes place, giving depositions in a high rise law office. When the case is finally settled, Mark is alone in the law office still trying to “friend” his ex-girlfriend.

The Social Network is at its heart Citizen Kane (1941). Zuckerberg is portrayed as a an obsessive computer geek who’s inability to relate to people causes him all kinds of social problems. It would seem that was founded by mistake out of a drunken revenge stunt on the people Zuckerberg couldn’t gain acceptance with.

The film works on many levels and has many rich characters, including a surprising performance by Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, but Eisenberg is the true star playing a believable computer genius with subtle yet clear emotional cracks. Debate of the facts surrounding “Facebook’s” founding will continue, but this film has captured its story in full dramatic execution.

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