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Nicholson '12.5: 'The Social Network': zeitgeist of our generation?

"The Social Network" hit theaters a couple of weeks ago, capturing the number one slot at the box office for two weeks and counting. The "Facebook movie," as my mother would call it, was extremely well-done. Director David Fincher relies on muted colors and a fast-paced script penned by Aaron Sorkin to tell a riveting tale of the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg. The film serves as a vehicle for some of the hottest young stars in Hollywood right now: Andrew Garfield (the new Spider-Man) as Zuckerberg's best friend, Eduardo Saverin; Rooney Mara (the next "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") as Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend Erica Albright; and Jesse Eisenberg (future Oscar nominee) as Zuckerberg himself. The bottom line: You should go see it.

I did have some minor issues with the film — for instance, did anyone notice the fake snow or Garfield's yellow face? My biggest concern, however, lies with the critics' response to the film. In her review for the New York Times, notoriously sharp film critic Manohla Dargis describes, " ‘The Social Network' is less of a biopic of the real Mr. Zuckerberg than a gloss on the boot-up, log-on, plug-in generation." She represents one of many critics who have come to the same conclusion: "The Social Network" is the zeitgeist of our generation.

Sure, having grown up in the era of computers, I know more about the "interweb" than my parents do. I had no problem keeping up with the fast-paced dialogue of the intensely riveting script. Although I don't have a Facebook profile of my own, I know what membership entails. However, despite the seemingly modern subject matter, "The Social Network" portrays a world filled with issues that are, quite frankly, old-fashioned. Sexism? Financial greed? Harvard? Say it ain't so.

There are two college-aged female characters in Sorkin's masterpiece. The first one, Erica, we meet immediately. After exchanging some well-written, feisty words with her then-boyfriend Zuckerberg, she is never heard from again. Predictably, the Facebook creator takes to his LiveJournal page (remember those?) for a post-breakup rant, making misogynist cracks about her breasts. The other female character, played by ex-Disney star Brenda Song, starts her relationship with Eduardo by performing oral sex in a public restroom. The relationship ends when she sets a silk scarf on fire while Saverin tries to have a conversation on his cell phone. Does Sorkin accurately depict a new world defined by the derogation of the educated, sexually liberated female? Is misogyny not passe? If forced to choose between the role of the objectified girlfriend and psychopath, I select neither. In fact, based on the gender roles detailed in the so-called zeitgeist "The Social Network," I long for the days of the sphere of domesticity.

Throughout the narration, the film flashes forward to two separate depositions brought against Zuckerberg: one by the ex-best friend, Eduardo, and one by the evil Winklevoss twins. Because the material in the movie is inspired by court depositions, the producers did not have to buy "life rights." The entire framework of the film, then, is defined by the giving and receiving of money. In the end, Eduardo gets his money. The lawyers get their money. Mark Zuckerberg gets his money. Sean Parker, founder of Napster, gets his money. And eventually, they all live happily ever after, with ruined relationships, money and a defamatory biopic.

The theme of corporate greed more appropriately belongs in "Wall Street 2," or, more idealistically, its '80s predecessor. How could a movie that allegedly "defines our time" be so driven by the degradation of relationships and prominence of greed? I imagine the typical Brown student as someone who legitimately wants to change the world. College life used to be portrayed as a time of innocence and idealism. "The Social Network," however, presents a distinctly different picture.

One scene sticks out vividly in my memory of the film. The exchange takes place in a generic nightclub between Zuckerberg and the slimy Parker. Picture Victoria's Secret models, fancy martinis and kitschy colored lights. Parker, played a little too convincingly by pop star Justin Timberlake, convinces an entranced-looking Zuckerberg of Facebook's potential. While portraying the perks of the high life, Parker's face is illuminated by the whirling colors of the nightclub below. He looks like the love child of the Wizard of Oz and Satan, a role Parker assumes proudly. Like the generation before him, Zuckerberg bites the forbidden fruit of financial succes and, as a result, throws his friend under the bus.

Perhaps Fincher cannot properly make a movie about our generation because he's not part of it. Unfortunately, this solution is too idealistic. The terrible behavior of the characters detailed is less a testimony to the filmmakers' lack of prowess than to the backwardness of the times. Hopefully, when a director of our generation ventures to make a blockbuster about contemporary culture, he'll paint a distinctly different picture. Until then, it's up to us to provide the material.

"The Social Network": zeitgeist of our generation? I certainly hope not.

 

 

 

Lorraine Nicholson '12.5 is a literary arts concentrator from Los Angeles, Calif.


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