Review: The Social Network (2010)
Note: This post contains a portion of a review originally written for CaryCitizen. To read the full review, click here.
The rise of social networking may very well be the defining characteristic of this decade. The use of the internet not merely for commerce or website creation but as a hub for the vast majority of social interaction is a development of the times that has had a radical impact not only on the way we conduct business but on our day-to-day lives, down to every minute detail. Where we once had to work hard to exchange information about ourselves, it’s now at our fingertips at the click of a button. I used to have to think really hard to remember what each of my friends did for a living. Now, through sites like Twitter and Facebook, I might know what they had for breakfast this morning. The world is drowning not in any concrete substance, but in information itself, and the new film The Social Network shines a light on how we got here.
An origin story for an entrepreneurial superhero, The Social Network is less about the invention of Facebook and more about its creator, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). A sophomore at Harvard eager to become one of the social elite, he accepts a proposal by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer in a dual role), both Olympic crew rowers, to create an online networking site for Harvard students. He gradually spins this into his own creation, “The Facebook,” on which anyone with a Harvard email account can upload personal information about themselves and connect with others. When it becomes an overnight sensation, he hires his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) as CFO, but it isn’t long before he catches the attention of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), whose ideas threaten to create an obstacle for their friendship. The film flashes back-and-forth between this period of time in 2004 and several legal meetings he would later face in the wake of lawsuits from both the Winklevoss twins and Saverin.
It’s a classic story we’ve seen a million times before, a rags-to-riches story about how greed corrupts and just because you have more money doesn’t mean you’ve found fulfillment. The difference between The Social Network and its predecessors is that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t an innocent hero who gradually becomes undone over the course of the film. He’s an antihero from the very first scene, in which he’s dumped by his girlfriend not for being such a nerd, but for being so condescending towards those that are not. He may be a visionary, but it’s only because he’s a misanthrope trying to distinguish himself from the pack. Unlike the Winklevosses, who believe in being “gentlemen of Harvard” and treating problems in a dignified manner, Zuckerberg understands when you’ve stumbled upon a great idea the only that matters is who gets there first, no matter the cutthroat measures it might take. Second place is the same as last, and you aren’t worth knowing unless you’ll help him reach the top.