Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Social Network

Mark Zuckerberg must hate The Social Network. He's portrayed as a virtual walking pathology: the monomaniacal, reclusive computernik with an almost autistic and ADD-like view of the world around him. Even Temple Grandin - no stranger to the autism spectrum herself - states that if the movie is indeed accurate, Zuckerberg may well have Asperger's syndrome. (I myself am more skeptical about this judgment.)

Zuckerberg is an asshole. By second 31 of the movie, that point's driven home with the force of a sledgehammer. You want to throttle this guy who is giving his near-ex verbal whiplash; he speaks at an auctioneer's pace and switches topics mid-sentence multiple times while studiously avoiding eye contact. Worse, all he cares about is getting into a Harvard final club and using said near-ex as a means to an end. But when he insults her lesser (Boston University) education, that's the last straw. She calls him an asshole and stomps off. Cue Zuckerberg's descent into a bloghole, wherein he tears her apart online. (And, of course, writes the code for the predecessor of Facebook, posts the website, and enjoys the fallout as thousands of students vote for which girl is hotter than the next, crashing Harvard's servers hours later.)

And throught the rest of the movie, Zuckerberg (or more accurately, Jesse Eisenberg) does little to change this view. His disregard for others around him other than as a financial or technological means to creating Facebook is relentless; his push toward success unbothered by the personal details around him. And when he goes through hours of depositions, his contempt for the opposing lawyers is witheringly heartless. Only toward the end of the movie does he begin to show a heart; his CFO and best friend is, courtesy of Napster creator Sean Parker (and unknown to Zuckerberg), suddenly reduced to virtually having no financial interest in Facebook, and when Zuckerberg finds out, he looks stunned. And, of course, he still has a soft spot in his heart for the girl who crushed him at the beginning of the movie, approaching her months later in hopes of making amends. (She flatly rejects him, of course.)

So why's the movie so amazing? I see it as a fascinating profile of the man and the circumstances surrounding the rise of perhaps the most pervasive cultural force today. The guy has vision...relentless vision. He follows it, picks up opportunities on a moment's notice, does what he has to to support his vision, and assiduously protects and supports the people who work assiduously for him. (If they're busy, he says they're "wired in," with the implication that they are not to be disturbed by anything.) Facebook is his baby (regardless of what the Winklevi twins say), and he will defend it to the death. Is Zuckerberg an asshole? Ennh...I'm not so sure that's up to me to say. I do find it interesting, though, that he is portrayed as such nearly the entire movie, yet once it's wrapped up, I find him more admirable than not. Maybe the anti-social intellectual side of me resonates with him...someone who was so true to himself that regardless of whether he ended up hurting people, he saw his vision come to fruition.

1 comment:

Sensory Swim said...

Awesome post. I agree the movie shows a guy with a lot of determination & guts to go after what he wanted. We can't get along with everybody right?