By Daniel Greenwood
This review is eating breakfast, lol.
In The Social Network Jesse Eisenberg is Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard undergraduate whose first meaningful action is to be dumped by his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) after a game of verbal volleyball over beers in a student bar. Mark is so busy speaking quickly and syphoning put-downs at Erica that he hasn’t the chance to realise he’s wronged her, and that their relationship’s over. ‘You’ll go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a geek, but it’s because you’re an asshole,’ Erica bombs, and departs.
Some critics point to that event as the dawn of social-networking website Facebook, and the movie itself pushes the idea. Later in the film Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker tells Mark he invented Napster to get with a girl. Still eaten-up over Erica, Mark asks Sean if he ever thinks of that girl, but Sean is too busy with a lingerie model to mind. In any case, Mark’s early shoot-down inspires him to charge home, load up his pooters and blog via LiveJournal about his ex-girlfriend’s surname and her bra size. The student’s disdain is incomplete however, and, necking a few lagers, he develops a website called Face Mash. He pastes images of girls from different faculties that can be found on Intranet face books and pits two profile images against one another in the infamous ‘hot-or-not’ style. The film skips around locations of male students clicking right or left to choose who they find more attractive. Thus is the germ of Facebook founded on the misogynistic belittlement of women.
Representations of women in The Social Network are uneasy. One satisfactory profile of a female character is Erica, a young woman wronged and smart enough to stay away from Mark and his pals. She’s more likeable than anyone else. The film itself is about men and perhaps majors for men. Women are drunks who offer oral sex or bong hits, at least in the world of Facebook’s conception. Lads brew over who owns it, gents want to invest in it, and women want to be on it. Though the second sex is offered a late reprieve by Marylin (Rashida Jones), who carries with her a sense of reasonable moral judgement which she bestows on loner Mark at lunchtime and after the legal hearings over who owns Facebook cease. ‘You’re not a bad guy, Mark, you’re just trying really hard to be,’ she says. One gets the impression that a more macho depiction of the film might have included the male characters slapping their members on their glimmering mahogany tabletops and measuring to see who gets the rights. If Mary Ann Doane argues that cinema has predominantly masked the notion of men lacking anything, this is a movie which does the opposite. The men behind Facebook are desperately lacking.
All the aggression and intensity of The Social Network, written in a snappy and engaging style by Aaron Sorkin, is in stark contrast to the experience of Facebook itself, which can be mundane and merely an act of time-wasting. The final images of the movie offer a glimpse into what social networking is all about. Mark is alone in the board room on his laptop, he searches for Erica on Facebook and finds her profile. He pauses, contemplating whether to ‘send friend request’ and ultimately does so. The movie closes with a shot-reverse-shot of Mark refreshing Erica’s page with a keyboard shortcut as he waits to see if she has accepted. And perhaps this glint of truth mirrors something of the experience of being online and involved in social networking outreaches: it’s one of boredom and stagnating desire. In the case of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook as seen by David Fincher, Leslie Feist’s Let it Die rings true: ‘The saddest part of a broken heart isn’t the ending, so much as the start.’