David Fincher’s The Social Network is one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin brought a number of elements together to build a story that welded fact and fiction together to tell the tale of the rise of Facebook.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, of whom the main character in the film is based, recently explained that The Social Network focused on the wrong facts. He claims the only aspect the filmmakers got right were the clothes on his back. It’s an interesting argument, because the film firmly presents itself as real life – or does it?
Sorkin does not deny embellishing the real story of Facebook’s creation and creators. In fact, he argues that his tale is simply manufactured in a way that should entertain. In a New York Magazine interview, the screenwriter explained his side of the story.
“I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to story-telling.”
But even the book that Sorkin’s film was based on was told from a highly sensationalized perspective. Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires started with a phone call from Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder who desperately wanted to explain how Zuckerberg screwed him over.
From there, it was a tilted story. And from this novel emerged Sorkin’s structure. Even Mezrich admitted to pumping up the excitement in his biographical account.
“There’s a whole cabal of old-school journalists who hate the way I write nonfiction. It’s a true story, but I write in a cinematic, thriller-esque style. It’s a valid form of nonfiction that dates back to Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe. Or maybe it’s a genre that I’m trying to create.”
Most people who saw The Social Network don’t seem to have a problem with the reality of it all. That’s a testament to Sorkin’s writing ability. But not everybody is willing to sit back and let Zuckerberg be the brunt of a Hollywood joke.
Let’s face it, Fincher’s film presented him as a relentless bully with a computer instead of muscles. It also made Facebook’s creation seem like a ploy to get back at a girl, rather than the simple desire to create.
The film’s representation of Mark Zuckerberg created a monster that I would never want to meet. The punk genius, as the promotional campaign labeled him, was a persona that the real Zuckerberg isn’t so sure he earned. In fact, he argues that The Social Network had its priorities backwards.
Watch Zuckerberg explain the truth behind The Social Network‘s allegedly flawed account of the creation of Facebook. His nonchalance is a disturbing characteristic of a man so sure of himself that he doesn’t feel the need to prove his worth to anybody.
I’ll admit to having no knowledge of the debauchery behind Facebook before seeing The Social Network. I opened up a few Zuckerberg interviews to gauge the real-life persona before watching Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal. But it’s difficult to truly know somebody when they are on-camera. People change when a camera rolls – nice guys become jerks and jerks become nice guys.
If The Social Network got one thing right, it is an era where social media’s stranglehold on pop culture was just finding its grip. As a part of that cultural movement, I don’t need a book or interview to prove Sorkin’s perfect encapsulation of a time like no other.
For me, The Social Network is not about Mark Zuckerberg’s personality or why he created Facebook in the first place. I could care less if Rooney Mara’s in-movie girlfriend existed or not. When a film claims to be based on a true story, I find that completely different from claiming it is a true story.
David Fincher’s latest film is everything it tried to be and more. The characters in the film are simply a caricature of a time where everything moved faster than the world was prepared for. I have no doubt the overwhelming ego presented in The Social Network still exists somewhere inside Mark Zuckerberg, but the film’s portrayal is more about the drama than the person.
Whose side to you fall on? Do you agree with Sorkin’s attempt at dramatizing real life? Was the film unfair to represent Mark Zuckerberg as somebody he claims not to be? Sound off in the comments section below.