Facebook on the Screen

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Posted October 4, 2010 by Kristian Lin in Blotch

Surprising no one, The Social Network was the most-watched film over the weekend. Now that my review of the movie is finally up on this site, I can post a bunch of links regarding the movie. Wired previews the film and does a pretty good job keeping an eye on both the tech point of view and the movie’s place in the larger culture. Slate fact-checks the movie on its depiction of Harvard, from a writer who roomed two doors down from Mark Zuckerberg at the university. There’s a reference in the script to Mark being “the biggest thing on a campus with 19 Nobel laureates, 15 Pulitzer Prize winners, two future Olympians, and a movie star,” leaving the movie star unnamed. She would be Natalie Portman, who attended Harvard at the time and gave the filmmakers some inside dope on the school and its social clubs.

This video parody of The Social Network re-tells the story from a shamelessly pro-Zuckerberg point of view. (Mark’s friend: “I suck, and I’m jealous of you. Now shut up and make Facebook so I can sue you for it.”) José Antonio Vargas huffs on Huffington Post that the film is an expression of “old media’s disdain of new media.” His critique makes more sense if you know that he recently got lengthy access to Zuckerberg before writing a long piece in The New Yorker defending Facebook. There’s all sorts of complaints that Eisenberg’s performance bears no resemblance to the real Zuckerberg, but the filmmakers weren’t aiming for that anyway. Even though there’s no evidence that Zuckerberg has Asperger’s Syndrome, Eisenberg studied up on Asperger’s for the role. The real-life Zuckerberg is a fan of the Greeks and Romans, and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has a history of including classical references in his work, so I’m surprised that the only bit of this we got in the movie was Mark disparagingly referring to the Winklevoss twins as “the Winklevi.” (A very funny line, by the way.) In response to the film’s release, the real-life Zuckerberg has made a huge charitable donation and made a rather stilted appearance on The Simpsons. Oh, and apparently the movie’s line “Creation myths need a devil” came from a Facebook flack who was bashing an early draft of the script. Nice.

In a related story, the government is afraid of your Facebook page. The Obama administration told the New York Times recently that they’re putting forth legislation to force social networks, e-mail websites, and peer-to-peer messaging systems to allow law enforcement to break their encryption. Maybe they read our cover story about Facebook wingnuts. My question is: Where are the conservatives on this? They’re supposed to be all about less government intrusion, so why aren’t they making a fuss over this invasion of privacy? Maybe they figure that the lawyers for Facebook, Google, etc. will go to court and argue that the sites shouldn’t be doing law enforcement work for free. That’s all well and good, but it’d be nice if more prominent voices from the right would speak up on this, instead of wasting time railing against the health-care bill. How ironic would it be if Facebook was the defender of privacy in this instance, given that Zuckerberg has been pretty cavalier in his treatment of his users’ privacy. Many moviegoers who’ve seen The Social Network might feel that they’d rather have the government going through their personal stuff than Zuckerberg.

A lot of people are pigeonholing The Social Network and Catfish together, the latter movie also having Facebook play an important role. Because of the early deadlines on the Best of Fort Worth issue, I didn’t know Catfish was opening here this weekend until it was too late, but I caught the film at Rave Ridgmar yesterday. Unlike I’m Still Here, it appears to be a legitimate documentary even if some of the plot twists seem too incredible for real life. Filmmaker Ariel “Rel” Schulman follows his brother Yaniv (or “Nev”), a 24-year-old photographer living in New York, as he starts a Facebook correspondence with an eight-year-old girl named Abby who painted one of Nev’s photos in watercolor and sent him the canvas. Soon Nev starts corresponding not only with Abby but also her 19-year-old half-sister Megan, a gorgeous model/singer/dancer who sends him tracks of her music along with sexy pictures. Then some stuff happens that makes Nev, Rel, and their filmmaking friend Henry Joost doubt whether Abby and Megan are who they say they are. It’s not exactly earth-shaking to learn that it’s easy to impersonate somebody else over the Internet, but then again Gawker convincingly argues that the movie’s message is just the opposite — it’s impossible to impersonate someone else on the Internet, because it’s so easy to find someone out. That’s a frightening thought. Either way, the movie’s still one hell of a story that the Schulmans and Joost stumble on.


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