Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It's a Man's World.. or Social Network
Fact #1 - People love social networking (hence this blog, yes?)
Fact #2 - People LOVE Facebook. I'm talking my little cousins, my students, myself, my mom.. the list goes on.
Fact #3 - In the most unexpected move of all, people LOVE the Facebook movie (also known as The Social Network).
I'm sure a lot of people cringed when the news of a Facebook movie emerged, but in a true Hollywood twist, celebrated director David Fincher, famous for well-crafted thrillers like Seven and Fight Club, turned what could be a cheesy gimmick into something worth seeing. Case and point - during last night's Golden Globe awards The Social Network walked away with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score. How's that for accomplishment?
I saw the film late last week and I have to say, it was better than I expected. The story was well-told, and benefited from a fairly unusual narrative structure. The performances were good, the pacing excellent. But.. when I stepped back (and conferred with a friend) one surprising fact emerged. This was one sexist film!
The film presents the question: what's the cost of inclusion? what's the price of success?
It opens on our anti-hero, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook. He's in a strangely intense conversation with his soon to be ex-girlfriend about the importance of getting into the exclusive social clubs of Harvard. His insistence comes off negatively, and the conversation ends with the girlfriend breaking it off with him. This sparks a mean-spirited internet revenge, that eventually leads to the glory that is facebook.com. The ride from start to finish is a whirlwind of drive, deception, desire, and an all-consuming quest for cool. And the story ends where it began, with our anti-hero being alone, wishing he had the girl who left him. A nice story arc indeed. But what's beneath that curve?
Between being dumped and becoming a billionaire, the fictional Zuckerberg lives the life of a rock star. And by that I mean, he steps into a world where girls do any and everything to be a part of the journey. What do I mean by that? Well, let's run it down:
There are the Harvard co-eds who go from a Bill Gates lecture to performing sex acts on the main characters in the bathroom at a local pub; the Stanford co-ed who boasts her schools name on her skivvies after one-night stand with the founder of Napster; the Victoria's Secret model whose main concern is sharing a round of shots; and the college party girls, including the Facebook intern, who gleefully snort powder off another girl's stomach in a back room at a party.
I would feel like a prude writing this if it weren't all taken straight from the film. By and large, the women in this movie are backdrops, symbols of male success. And though the main character actually rises to fame after degrading his ex- and other women with a website called facemash, it seems wholly unnecessary to allow that callous disregard for women to extend to the larger world of the film.
Is it impossible to tell a story of American success without paying tribute to the supposed sexual spoils of victory? And is it possible that Zuckerberg and friends navigated Harvard University and Silicon Valley without coming across any woman who was more substantial than a one night stand? In this award-winning film, it seems that women are one-dimensional beings used to drive home a point - success may be complicated, but it sure is a lot of fun.