The Social Network
Release Date: October 28, 2010
WARNING: Contains Spoilers
The irony at the heart of Facebook is that apparently the world’s largest social network was created by a young man so socially awkward he was incapable of holding on to a single friendship. It’s a contradiction The Social Network conveys well, while challenging us to consider whether we are more or less friendly than ever before.
This is a human drama about the doubtful dealings, broken promises and shattered relationships that went into building the world’s largest site for online friendships.
The Social Network appropriately builds its story around Mark Zuckerberg, the 19 year old who took a fledgling website and transformed it into the most powerful social network of all time … or did he?
This is the magic behind Aaron Sorkin’s script. The same writer who brought us the brilliant complexity of The West Wing tells Facebook’s story simultaneously from four perspectives that occasionally agree but often conflict. By doing so Sorkin mirrors the multifaceted, misleading way social networks allow us to present ourselves.
“One of the most compelling things to me about Facebook is the limitless possibilities it offers for reinvention and fabrication and putting forward a very subjective idea of the ‘truth’ about yourself,” Sorkin says. “So it felt exciting and provocative to me that I could mirror that in building a story about how the thing itself was incepted.”
It’s obvious from the start that The Social Network is a Sorkin script – who has ever thought that fast and spoken that well? But it all adds to the frenetic pace of the film. Viewers get a real sense that the world is changing faster than even Zuckerberg expects.
Just pause and think for a moment about what that team of programmers really achieved:
a) A $25 billion dollar web property?
b) 500 million members in seven years?
c) A site second only to China and India in population?
All true, but the answer is ‘None of the above’. It’s too easy to be swamped by the statistics and miss what is truly significant. Mark Zuckerberg and co. helped redefine friendship. Thanks in part to Facebook, a generation that grew up online has learned to build relationships on bytes of computer information. Yet it is a sad truth that a person can be part of a thriving Internet community and still maintain sufficient distance to be barely known by anyone at all. Facebook has helped create ‘Friendship Lite’.
The Social Network is ultimately a film about that tension: knowing but not really being known. It’s somewhat fitting that we don’t really know whether actor Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is an accurate representation of his character.
Sorkin maintains the unflattering portrait ‘isn’t fiction’. Either way the CEO of Facebook knows how malleable the Internet has made our identities. So I don’t believe it was a coincidence that Zuckerberg decided to donate $100 million dollars to the Newark School District shortly before the US release of the film. That said, his on-screen ego finishes the film with everything and nothing. The day that Facebook signs up its millionth member, Zuckerberg loses his best friend. “I was your only friend,” his college roommate tells him. “Your only friend.” Sitting on top of his silicon tower, Mark might have benefited from some of Jesus’ advice: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world – yet loses his soul?” Instead he finishes the film refreshing his computer screen, hoping a single person he cares about will ‘friend’ him on Facebook.
The Social Network shows us what we have lost in the way of friendship. In many cases we have exchanged quality for quantity, when what we hunger for is real concern. Strangely this is what archaic Christianity can offer cutting edge Facebook: a community that will strive and sacrifice for even its least-known members. Facebook may have topped 500 million, but the church consists of more than two billion who know the truth of that statement.
Release Date: 9:30 PM, Thursdays
Seven’s fourth digital channel aimed at Australian men – 7Mate – may end up the salvation of science fiction fans. If you were a fan of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, then you will probably want to set aside some time for its prequel, Caprica.
Caprica tells the story of the human civilization that fled the Cylons before they invented those cyclopean killer tin cans. On the surface it is a story about rebellious teens who get mixed up in a fundamentalist religion that believes violence is a suitable way of bringing down their violent oppressors. Sound familiar?
The major difference between their world and ours is that the terrorists are actually people who have the effrontery to believe in one god (rather than a pantheon), and who believe that he has the right to dictate how we live our lives. There are decidedly Christian overtones to the bad guys, creating a new twist on an old formula.
Below the surface, though, Caprica is an examination of how far human beings will go to prolong their lives, the Cylons in this case being the key character’s answer to eternal life. Which just goes to show, no matter how many light-years we travel from home, death always ends up being humanity’s greatest enemy.