The Social Network – 2010
This movie was supposed to be based on the true story of billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and the legal issues surrounding the popular website, Facebook. It was pretty good, even though, according to the real players in the drama, it was mostly a fictional story. I have to mention this right off the bat because in my research I found it interesting to note that Zuckerberg, himself, and Facebook’s co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, both say that about the only thing the movie got right was the clothes that the characters were wearing. If that were true, it would be sad. I wasn’t expecting a documentary, but I did expect more than accurate costumes.
Except that in my research, I found there was much more accuracy in the plot than Zuckerberg and Saverin claimed. The basic plot points were all true. Character motivations and even personalities were surely fabricated, and events might have been dramatized, but the basic story was pretty accurate. So what did the movie get right, and what did it get wrong? In the movie, Zuckerberg was played by Jesse Eisenberg. He is portrayed as a geek without an ounce of social skill. He is insensitive and mean to everyone. He is so socially inept that he has no friends, alienates nearly everyone around him, and can’t keep a girlfriend. There is nothing I could find to support this as an accurate portrayal.
When his girlfriend breaks up with him for being a complete jerk, he gets drunk and creates a degrading website called Facemash which allows college students to rate the prettiness of girls against each other. To do this, he hacked into digital profiles from different Harvard campus websites to gain access to photographs of female students. While he did get drunk and create Facemash, the bit about the breakup with his girlfriend was made up.
By creating Facemash, he offends nearly every girl on the Harvard campus, but his brilliant hacking skills and the popularity of Facemash do not go unnoticed by a couple of his fellow Harvard grad students, the Winklevoss twins, both of whom were played by Armie Hammer. The twins hire Zuckerberg to create a website that is like Facebook for the Harvard campus. As Zuckerberg begins to write the code for them, he gets the idea to go bigger and create the beginnings of what we know today as Facebook. This is all true.
Zuckerberg works on the code for Facebook and neglects his agreement with the Winklevoss twins. When he needs seed money to create Facebook, he goes to his only friend, Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield, who gives him $1,000. As Facebook went live and began to spread like wildfire, Saverin was named the company’s chief financial officer and business manager. All True.
As the business grows, more money is needed, and Saverin ponies up with $19,000. But the company is ready to expand beyond the confines of Harvard. To do this, they approach the creator of the music sharing website, Napster. His name is Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake. He is the real bad boy of the movie, both figuratively and literally, portrayed as a partier and a drug addict, though he also does what he is hired to do. More than that, he convinces Zuckerberg to make Facebook a global, multi-billion dollar business. This is also all true.
Parker convinces Zuckerberg to cruelly cut Saverin out of the Facebook business, screwing him out of millions of dollars. Saverin sues Zuckerberg for being set-up to sign away his financial holdings in the company. In the meantime, the Winklevoss twins go out of their way to sue Zuckerberg for stealing their Harvard Connection idea to create Facebook in the first place. Parker gets arrested for suspected drug possession and is forced to resign as President of Facebook. All true.
So, I think what Mr. Zuckerberg objects to and claims to be untrue, is the way he was portrayed in the film. He is not a complete jerk. But portraying him as one made the movie more dramatic. After all the legal depositions were done, junior lawyer Marylin Delpy, played by Rashida Jones, says to him, “You’re not an A-HOLE, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.”
But I beg to differ. The way he was portrayed in the movie, he was absolutely an A-HOLE. He lied to people, and betrayed his friend. He was insensitive, condescending, and heartless. He considered himself intellectually superior to everyone around him and treated them accordingly. However, this was absolutely not true. But when you watch this movie, keep in mind… though characters and their motivations are fabricated, most of the plot points are quite accurate. Don’t the true events portrayed in the film say something about the real people upon which the characters are based? Think about it.