The Social Network (a new film about how Facebook came into being) is making waves around the world. Watch the trailer here and then read Mamun M. Adil's piece about the film, from the Nov-Dec 2010 issue of Aurora.
The faces behind Facebook by Mamun M. Adil
"Dating you is like dating a StairMaster,” says Erica Albright to the awkward Mark Zuckerberg as she breaks up with him, at the beginning of The Social Network, a movie based on the life of Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest billionaire and co-founder of Facebook.
The sulky Zuckerberg promptly heads to his dorm, downs a couple of beers and blogs a rant about Albright. Then with the help of his best friend Eduardo Saverin and a bit of hacking, Zuckerberg creates Facemash, a website that allows Harvard male students to ‘rate’ the photos of their female classmates. The website receives so many hits that the Harvard server crashes.
No surprise then that Zuckerberg is placed on academic probation. But there is a silver lining to this: the soon to be Terrible Three – the earnest Winklevoss twins (Cameron and Tyler) and their friend, Divya Narendra – ask Zuckerberg to work on (surprise, surprise) a social network for Harvard students called The Harvard Connection. However, despite agreeing to help, Zuckerberg works on another social network, which he calls, The Facebook with Saverin, who invests $1,000 in the project.
The Facebook is an instant success, causing the Terrible Three much angst, believing as they do that Zuckerberg has stolen their idea and eventually end up suing Zuckerberg.
Meanwhile, Saverin and Zuckerberg’s relationship deteriorates. And after his shares in Facebook are mysteriously reduced to nearly nil, thanks to the intrusion of Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster (who earlier advised them to lose the word ‘The’ in ‘The Facebook’) Saverin sues Zuckerberg. Ironically, it is Facebook, a social network created to bring people together, that succeeds in tearing apart two best friends.
The Social Network is filmed via a series of flashbacks that stem from the two lawsuits that Zuckerberg faces. It is this mode of direction, perhaps, that ensures that the film remains gripping.
However, while the film is well acted and directed, it does have a major flaw, which is its misogynist bent. Most of the women (with the exception of a few lawyers and Albright) are portrayed as dippy and easy; they either want to party all the time and have men snort coke off their navels, or are borderline sociopaths prone to starting fires when angry. It is ironic that a movie about how technology has changed and perhaps even helped human beings evolve, depicts women in a way that sets them back centuries.
On the upside though, the saying that behind every man is a successful woman has never rung truer; The Social Network makes one realise that it is Albright who causes Zuckerberg to create Facemash, the precursor to Facebook, and it is only when she informs Zuckerberg that she has not heard of Facebook that he feels compelled to allow people outside Harvard access to it, thus leading to its eventual global popularity of 25+ million users.
Of course, the main question that the film raises is who owns an idea? The person who has the germ that leads to the idea itself? The person who conceptualises and executes the idea? Or the person who funded the idea, without which the idea would never have taken off in the first place? Zuckerberg’s defence, “A guy who makes a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair,” doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
Perhaps the fact that this argument is not resolved in the movie is what Pakistani advertising professionals will like most about the film, given how many of them have ripped off ideas from overseas, only to save face by saying that “two people living at two ends of the world can think of the same idea at the same time!”
But that is another story altogether.
Mamun M. Adil is Assistant Manager, Business Development and Research, DAWN. email@example.com
First published in the November-December 2010 issue of Aurora.
AURORA is Pakistan's leading advertising, marketing and media magazine; it is widely recognised as the voice of the industry. Building on a decade of experience, it offers its readers insight into the latest creative marketing campaigns, new product developments, consumer trends, and industry opinion.
Editor: Mariam Ali Baig