October 5, 2010

The Social Network debunks Facebook origin myth

With the box-office success of The Social Network, the whole world will know that Facebook emerged not from an attempt by a college kid to connect with his friends, as the origin myth has it, but from a misogynist online prank.

The title speaks to the profound irony underlying this almost accidental invention: The man who invented the world's largest and most successful social network is devoid of social intelligence.

The central plot device is flash-forwards to founder Mark Zuckerberg's testimony at a legal deposition. Despite the obvious distortion of how a deposition works, the device works to remind us of the movie's essential accuracy. And, indeed, it had better be accurate. As unflattering a portrayal as it gives, and as wealthy as Zuckerberg is, the filmmakers certainly ran a risk of being sued for slander if they made a misstep. This legal risk alone makes the producers heroic.


Anonymous said...

From what I've read, the plot device in the movie where he wants to get back at a girlfriend who dumped him is flatly false, and that there was no such person. I certainly don't know, but I'm curious if you have other information that contradicts what other knowledgeable reviewers are saying.

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

You may be right. I didn't check into the factual accuracy of that vignette. Thanks for alerting me to that uncertainy; I've removed that phrase from my movie review (both here and on Amazon). However, it has been documented that Facebook morphed out of Zuckerberg's sophomore prank, "Facemash," in which he took the photos of women students at Harvard from their houses' online "facebooks," posted them online, and invited viewers to rate who was "hotter" (Locke, Laura, "The Future of Facebook," Time Magazine, July 17, 2007, as reported on Wikipedia).

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Facemash wasn't just photos of women but men too. I don't want to become this guy's defender, because I don't like his attitude towards his users' privacy (as he first demonstrated with Facemash), but I read a critique of this movie that convinced me that the movie doesn't give an accurate portrayal of that particular sequence of events. Anyway, I love your blog!

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

Thanks. I appreciate your pointing out that inaccuracy. It makes me want to revise my rating on Amazon; It's frustrating when a film prominently inserts a fictional element in what's supposed to be a nonfiction topic (even if they do label it a "dramatization").