Just saw the The Social Network and was very intrigued by the story, the characters and the dialogue. Yes, it’s a really good movie. It may even win Best Picture (however, that is a relative term, and I’m definitely not saying it is in the same class as The Godfather, Rocky, American Beauty, Schindler’s List, etc.), but given today’s offerings, it just might. Oscars are very political and affected by a myriad of factors including money. It may even win due to the fact that the spectacularly visual Avatar won last year and the Academy’s taste pendulum may swing back to a “substance” movie with a story. Plus, it’s a very hot topic.
Whether the story is true, 50% true or even 10% true, it actually makes no difference, because as a story, it has just the right amounts of sub-text, irony, and tragedy and to make it a compelling film. Sub-text: man seeks out to show the world his value based on his creation ends up alienating his best friend and business partner due to deep seated resentment towards his personal social success, personal success that eludes man. Irony: man who creates a revolutionary service based on being social is actually socially inept in real life. Tragedy: man who gains the respect and adulation of the masses, despite not being born into bourgeoisie blood lines nor being aesthetically or athletically gifted to be popular, can’t parlay that popularity into recapturing the love of his life.
But at the core of this film is a simple message that was first brought to light in the purely fictitious, 80’s gross out comedy franchise, Revenge of the Nerds. The premise? As Imdb puts it; “At a big campus, a group of bullied outcasts and misfits resolve to fight back for their peace and self respect.” Ok, so Zuckerberg wasn’t exactly bullied in The Social Network, but the goal was the same, and he and his computer nerd buddies were outcasts and misfits. The clearest example appeared near the beginning of the film when the popularity of Facemash was spreading like wildfire amongst the cool, popular kids through dorm room parties, while the nerds gathered around their lonely computers hatching the idea and tracking its popularity in solitude. In fact, the nerds turned the cool kids’ narcissism upon themselves to create a site so popular, it shut down the Harvard network within hours. Facebook has accomplished so much more than that. And other sites like it. And all those sites were created by nerds. They are utilities now, as important to the world as the things that made the cool kids popular in school; sports, heritage, money, aesthetics, etc. Brain power. The nerds have it. The world runs on it. It is now cool to be a nerd.
What was laughable fiction in the 80’s has actually happened today. Nerds are the new BMOCs. Nerds are the new Rockstars. Nerds are the new Quarterbacks of the football team. Nerds never got the girl. Well, actually, in the end, neither did the nerd in The Social Network. But the reason was best given by Rashinda Jones’ character toward the end of the film where she said, “Mark, you’re not an asshole. You just try too hard to be.” And that’s the tragedy. Whereas in the 80’s hi-jinks screwball comedy nature of Revenge of the Nerds where the main characters remained undaunted in their enthusiasm to prove themselves, the weight of this burden had the reverse effect on The Social Network’s Zuckerberg. Whether he was born with it or it manifested within himself since puberty, Zuckerberg is shown to continuously damage his personal relationships due to deep rooted resentment. If The Social Network is Revenge of the Nerds 2.0, then today’s Zuckerbergs are finally being given their due. But at what cost?