You’ve already read tons of interviews for The Social Network now, so it’s silly to cram another one down your throat. Suffice it to say I really, really liked it.
But as much as this movie is a commentary on the founding of one of the most popular Internet sites ever, it’s real story vs. the movie story is a damning commentary on the media and the world we live in. Three assumptions I made the second I walked out of the phenomenal Facebook movie The Social Network on Sunday afternoon without completely knowing the history of the company:
1. Since “co-founder” Eduardo Saverin is the only major player in the movie who isn’t made out to be a complete douche, the book the movie is based on is probably told from his perspective (it is).
2. Saverin probably isn’t as innocent as he’s portrayed to be (he isn’t).
3. The movie is pretty much fiction (it is).
But here’s the newsflash for everyone (including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg): It’s supposed to be fiction! There has never, ever been a true story in Hollywood. Geez, even documentaries aren’t true! There is still the opinion and slant of the filmmaker that villainized Gene Pingatore in Hoop Dreams and started the rush to get George Bush out of office in Fahrenheit 9/11 rightly or wrongly. So to cry and complain about how true a non-documentary movie is or isn’t sounds like my 2-year-old daughter crying when I turn off The Wonder Pets before it’s over. When you’re famous, you’re going to be talked about. When you’re megafamous — like Zuckerberg — you have movies made about you.
And if you don’t want to participate in that movie, you’re probably in trouble. Zuckerberg and his Facebook people let it be known early on they didn’t want to deal with the movie, or wanted changes the producers couldn’t agree to. So they were in trouble. I love this quote from Zuckerberg in the New York Times:
“Honestly, I wish that when people try to do journalism or write stuff about Facebook that they at least try to get it right.” He later added, “The movie is fiction.”
But how can anyone do that when he turns down every interview requested of him! I have the same problem with Howard Stern, who does everything but show up at the doorstep, barking pit bulls in hand, of anyone who dares to even include his name in a story. But he very famously doesn’t return any phone calls from reporters who are doing those stories, then foolishly thinks the story will go away without his comment. Doesn’t work that way. Good reporters will find other people who know the story too, and have their own slant. All a reporter can do is try their best to corroborate that information.
Movies and books don’t even need that corroboration, they can just make a story up — which is clearly what happened here. Saverin felt jilted by Zuckerberg, so he went to someone to write a book about how he took it up the tailpipe. The writer obliged. Because of that, no part of the movie when Saverin isn’t there can be trusted.
And how under-reported has this story been in the first place? I consider myself a pretty informed person. I’ve read Wall Street Journal stories about Facebook’s status(heh heh, status, yeah, I meant to say that) in the business world, and thought I had at least an educated background about it. Then I watched the movie and realized I didn’t know jack squat about how Facebook was formed. Why has this story only been reported previously in niche publications like Business Insider? I never even heard of BI until I Googled “how true is social network,” but its stories on the subject are comprehensive and extremely informative if you’re interested in the background of the company (which apparently $23 million worth of people are).
I knew there were lawsuits going on, but I dismissed them because, well, that’s what America has become. When someone gets rich, you sue them. Apparently, everyone else dismissed them too, because this story should have been told much quicker and more comprehensively in mainstream media than it was.
Two particular aspects that especially make me angry:
–It would have been easy to miss the beginnings of Facebook, no media member is at fault for failing to monitor drunken dorm-room proceedings. But the nanosecond Sean Parker – one of the co-founders of Napster and notorious nutbag — gets involved, this should have been on every one’s radar. I’m not sure if I’m mad at myself for not knowing he was involved until I saw the movie, or mad at the media for not reporting it more. (And I wasn’t a fan of Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of Parker. Thought he was pretty stiff and sounded like he was reading from cue cards. Which is weird, because I’ve liked him in his other stuff.)
–I watched my fair share of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and sat through countless, endless, pointless personality profiles of the athletes from around the world. There were stories of over-achievement by people whose parents died at a young age. People who were dedicating their performance to their brother-in-law with leukemia. People who do charity work at children’s hospitals. Basically, if you didn’t know someone who was sick, then you didn’t get profiled. Maybe I missed it somehow, but I don’t remember hearing one iota about the Winklevoss twins, the Olympic rowers from Harvard that received a $65 million settlementfrom Zuckerberg because of an intellectual properties lawsuit. And I even watched rowing! I’m not sure if I watched their races, but I know I watched rowing. And it was boooorrrrrring. Really, really, boring. You know you can spice it up? Say that two of the racers claim they invented Facebook! I don’t care if they’re in the race or not. It could have been a qualifying race with eight countries you can’t even pronounce, but say something like, “Well, they’re back at their hotel right now, probably sleeping, but coming up in three days, we’ll have the Winklevoss twins here racing! They’re the ones suing Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, because they say it was their idea all along!” Someone could have even called them the Facebook Twins. I know I saw the Opening Ceremonies and didn’t hear about this. During those ceremonies, the announcers should have been talking about Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the Facebook twins. No one else. This should have been one of the big stories of the Olympics, and shame on NBC for either not pushing it, or even more unforgivable, not knowing about it. Or shame on me for not remembering or noticing the story, whatever.
All that being said, the movie is fantastic. Fictional and possibly libelous, but fantastic. It even forced me to finally join the crowd and start my own Facebook page after holding out for, like, ever. So that’s powerful. GRADE: A-.
Some other quick links for the day:
Damn you ABC! You screwed up my prediction that My Generation would be the first show of the new season canceled by waiting a couple days to dump the awful show that really makes me question how shows like this can possibly make it to the air. Poor Lone Star, it has to cope with the reality that it got canceled before My Generation.
If it’s true, then Emma Stone is a great choice for Mary Jane in the next Spider-Man movie. She’s been good and well-received in everything she’s done, one of the few actresses able to mix comedy in with regular, everyday moments. No one asked, but I’m down for brining in Quinn Fabray as the next Gwen Stacey, too.
There aren’t many people who can match what Stephen J. Cannell did for TV. When it comes to the great TV producers of all time, he’s in the discussion with guys like Aaron Spelling and Norman Lear. I took a look at his credits, and he didn’t do as much as I thought he did. Maybe I only thought he did because much of my mid-80s childhood revolved around A-Team and my old man watching Rockford Files reruns. But his career was indisputably one of the best in TV history.
If you have Dish Network and you’re a fan of Sons of Anarchy or Always Sunny, this could be the worst news you’re going to hear today. Fox if pulling FX and a whole bunch of regional sports networks from Dish over increasing fees. It’s hard to keep track anymore of which cable or satellite company is fighting with which network, but this one is the latest. Although by the time you read this, Comcast might decide to drop MTV.