The Facebook Story: A Big, Sad, Weird Dick Fest
I went to a screening yesterday of The Social Network, the blockbuster movie soon to be released in the UK about the agonies and ectasy of the birth of Facebook, mostly mediated through the contortions of Mark Zuckerberg’s (ok, actor Jesse Eisenberg’s) unbeautiful, nerd-tastic face.
As I say, the movie made me feel weird, and continues to do so.
Here’s why. Without realising how or even remembering when, facebook became an integral, natural part of my life and those of my friends – albeit a relatively small one. I stalk people on it, view their old pictures, search for people, update my status and read comments on other people’s stati. “Facebook me” is a phrase I use. And lately, I’ve become more and more disturbed by that “facebook feeling” – that sense of flushing time down the toilet, but compulsively. Looking without caring what you see, encountering things you shouldn’t really know, finding out tidbits you then can’t comment on because you’re viewing them as a voyeur in cyber-reality. It bothers me that I check facebook and indeed that I seem unable not to check it. It feels…rotten. Empty and pointless. Yet necessary bceause who can say they don’t like that ego stroke when the little red alert shows someone has commented on something YOU have said? Or said you look good in a photo?
All this behaviour – the poking, preening, tagging, messaging, im-ing, spying and ego-boosts – is down to a drunken sexually frustrated burst of energy from an unattractive undergraduate genius one night during his sophomore year at Harvard.
And that, people, is REALLY WEIRD.
The unsettling portrait of Zuckerberg in the film augments the weird feeling. One likes to think of businesses coming from clean spaces of the mind -clean urges, clean ideas about financial gain. Zuck, it appears rather convincingly, was motivated by anger at feeling unwanted, with a dash of serious sexual frustration. He wanted to be in a Harvard final club (an elite male-only members’ club); he wanted social power and acceptance. What better way to stockpile power than to make everyone – including the sorority girls he could never pull – become puppets in his cyber-show? We’re his puppets now, too. That is REALLY WEIRD.
More weirdness comes from the film’s portrayal Harvard itself. I’m from Boston and only caught the occasional whiff of the superhuman scent pulsating from it. But the film hammers home the brainy aggression of the men and also their shameless misogyny. One feels that among the supersonic athletes, hedge funders’ kiddies and braineacs, there was nothing anyone liked to do more than rate women on a “hot or not” scale. The sucess of Facemash makes perfect sense in a place where women are shipped in on buses to entertain at the male-only final club parties. It’s very American. But more than that- it’s very HARVARD.
WEIRD, too, that undergraduates could be both so litigious and so business minded. Zuckerberg’s friend Eduardo Savarin – before Zuck screwed him out of Facebook, that is – was president of the Harvard Investment Club and raring to go as Facebook’s CFO. He sued Zuckerberg. The two Olympic rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss sued Zuckerberg for stealing an idea for a business that THEY had. That’s a lot of lawyers and intellectual property argument for a group of undergrads.
Perhaps what left the least pleasant taste from the film is the sense that Facebook is just a big dick-fest. Sexually frustrated, uncool Zuckerberg is spurred to become “Ceo, Bitch” – making billions off a site that captured the social cool he had always lacked. The litigants, the venture capitalists and the mentors were angry men. The only women in the story are interns, secretaries, insane girlfriends, model attaches and hot young girls. When one of the not-yet insane girlfriends asks Mark “Is there anything we can do?” to help Facebook, he says dismisses them immediately, almost as if they didn’t exist. And in the minds of Harvard’s most aggressive entrepreneurs, it would appear that – as people – women don’t.