On October 1, the world will get Hollywood’s rewrite of the Facebook story featuring the hip likes of Jesse Eisenberg and handsome help of Justin Timberlake and Rashida Jones. Say what you will about Zuckerberg’s recent trouble using Instant Messenger, communicating to users about privacy, and the poor timing of a movie that largely makes him out to look like an even bigger schmuck. Let's get one thing clear: the movie isn’t really about Facebook. When was the last time movie studios let the facts get in the way of a good movie? It’s entertainment, but nonetheless has generated a lot of discussion and even well-produced video spoofs, including “The Twit Network” which is catchy and hilarious.
I’m less interested in the fictionalized history of Zuckerberg’s rise to fame, but instead more drawn to the film to see what director Aaron Sorkin will do with it (yes, Entourage has made me into a fan). Coming from a man who says, “I think the way we were communicating before seemed just fine,” wouldn’t you just want to see how he treats the birth of social media?
But the more I think about the film, the more I realize it isn’t so much about social media or even Facebook, but one that reflects on a generation. “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Singles” come to mind – all movies that, sure, had some drama, but also bottled up a fleeting part of youth culture. Add in a little technology and real names and you have “The Social Network.” But take the names out and it could be one of probably a thousand other stories from the past ten years – boy meets internet, boy has idea, idea meets success, success meets greed, boy leaves path of destruction. If you blur your vision, there’s something about this storyline that seems to define those times, pre-recession of course.
Perhaps the exaggerated story of Zuckerberg mirrors some the problems with America before the economy went bust: go big, big, big; make more money; work hard, play hard. People are being punished for this kind of thinking now. Then again, maybe these problems have been around for ages. Something one of the film’s producers Scott Rudin recently said hinted at the primal, cyclical and even Roman nature of the movie’s themes. “The men want to kill each other, the women are cruel, and only the fittest survive,” he commented.
But another one of Rudin comments haunts me even more. Claiming Facebook is less about a revolution and a business, he says it evokes deeper questions about communication like “what is friendship?” and “what is the nature of loneliness?” As filmmakers turn an unflattering lens on Zuckerberg, we may all be prompted to recall life before status updates and cringe at the path our Facebook lives have taken. Has it manifested into a one-dimensional space where we only post about ourselves and compete to be the best? Or worse, are we all fixated by a place to watch, unseen, a stream of strangers pass by?
Contributed by Jennifer Eberline. Follow her @jeberline.