The two cows revisit a more innocent time, when Facebook was just a silly site where people posted relationship statuses and the only concerns about it involved whether your mom saw that frat party photo your friend tagged you in. Is Sorkin overrated? Is this a breakup movie? Is it a movie about revolutions without ideals? What is Jesse Eisenberg like in real life?
Of course it would be a petty, anti-social, narcissist who develops the world’s most popular social networking website. What’s interesting to me is how the perception of nerds has changed in the decade since the release of this movie, and how Sorkin did kind of sort of get it right from the jump. Here, the “lovable, harmless, nerd” archetype from popular culture gives way to a sinister, soulless, toxic persona, whose felt entitlement for attention/sex because they are smart, meek, not jocks, etc etc, would eventually become an online rallying cry for incel culture.
But Fincher/Sorkin also portray a changing society, as the American aristocracy whose families adorn on the walls of Harvard are forced to cede ground to upstart tech bros. The prescience here is impressive; remember: the iPhone debuted the same year as this movie. But the writing was on the wall all along. What the monied elites didn’t understand, but somehow Zuckerberg did, was that creating something “cool” was more powerful than creating something marketable. Blinded by their adherence to ancient codes, these elites (among them the Winklevosses and Saverin) couldn’t fathom why thinking in terms of bottom lines would be antithetical to your quarterly returns, something that proved to be their undoing.
But elites don’t go away quietly, this being a system designed to make it very very hard to redistribute power and money anywhere other than among people already with a lot of it. Yet, in the end, for Zuckerberg this wasn’t about money or power or being cool or anything of that sort. What drives Zuckerberg is being right and a bewildering intrinsic devotion to a website whose purpose is to connect people but whose repercussions have been to drive people deeper into siloed echo chambers filled with misinformation.
On a first watch, this movie left me cold. I didn’t understand why anyone would make such a harsh, sneering, critique of a harmless nerd who just wanted to make a silly website. But from today’s vantage, in our post-Cambridge Analytica world, it’s easier to be receptive to the movie’s critical tone. // Blobcat