Friday, October 15, 2010

Uh...Pirate...

Movie spoilers for The Social Network...although, it's kind of impossible to have a spoiler for this movie..

I have really been enjoying all the responses to the movie The Social Network. We saw it last week and then I was reading some of the reviews and blogs about the movie. I am quite impressed with how many different feelings there are about these characters. I landed up doing some reading online about Mark Zuckerberg to see if there was any possibility he had Asbergers Syndrome. I wanted to read more about Sean Parker too. Vanity Fair has an online blurb with Sean Parker and I recommend it...actually, the magazines online pages have all kinds of good stuff. (including awesome productin photos from The Empire Strikes Back)

Some audiences have been pretty pissed off with this movie saying it is misogynistic. Complaining that the portrayal of women was really bad. Others feel it is a tragedy because of the breakdown of friendships. Some people feel it's a rags to riches story. Others feel it's a nerd gets back at the world story. Others feel it's the portrayal of a genius artist who fights "the Establishment". Others feel that its a story about a world "Facebook" that they feel not a part of...so their curiousity was about trying to understand what a social network is...

Social networks manifest in all of the following...blogging...the Freemasons, chess clubs, bookclubs, the paintings in caves in Europe, the PTA, the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, subdivisions, universities, rural communities, unions, managers, rolodexes, telephone books, well...you get the drift. We are all in social networks.

In the movie, The Social Network, our hero is a very immature young man. We might want to note that he is 19. I think it's folly to put an old head on young shoulders...and why would you want to?

The creator of Facebook is fictionalized in the movie and portrayed as not very good with women. Actually, all of the male characters in the movie seem abysmal with women. They just don't have a clue. Gee...big surprise...especially in college. They do some rude, insensitive things and with some nasty payback to women. They can barely even talk to women. Gee, big surprise...sounds like most of the guys I knew in school. There were the few odd young men when I was in school who were cool to girls. Few and far between...and to be honest as a bartender for over twenty years...not much has changed.

As for the portrayal of women in the film...they are looking for boys that were hot, rich and partying...ready to have sex with these guys five minutes ago. Sounds pretty typical to me. Not all young women are like this but lots are. I thought the portrayal of these women was as realistic as these men.

Young people can be insenitive and inexperienced in human relationships. Gee what a news flash!

The sexual battles in this movie are part of it's charm and realistic portrayals.There is payback and there is karma.

The difficulties of human relationships and power struggles contrasted with constructing a highly democratic web log is part of the scripts accomplishment. We have layers of hierarchy in the real world...creating a social format that resists hierarchy by it's very design is what is brilliant about the internet...and Facebook. And Mark Z. Shit, this kid Mark Z maybe should get a Nobel Peace Prize!

I am part of the audience that sees the main character as difficult and socially inept...but a kind of hero.

You know, have you seen the pirate movies with Johnny Depp? They are a lot of fun. I love pirates and pirate movies. They could have called this movie "Pirates" or Hackers" but there are already two movies with those titles.

Instead the movie is titled life ...er... "the social network".

In one of the pirate movies with Johnny Depp... a character is angry and betrayed and says to Captain jack Sparrow "You lied" and Captain sparrow holds up his hands and says "Pirate".

Duh. What did you expect from a pirate?

One of the main conflicts in The Social Network is a few of the supporting characters are angry because the Mark Z character has ripped them off of their idea. So they sue him.

He has ripped them off of some of their ideas...ideas he was already interested in building I might add. But out of all the people these guys could have gone to...they chose to ask for help from a hacker. What did they expect...ha ha ha.

These guys are the privedged few in our society. They are rude and dismissive of the hacker and promise him they will help him hang out with the cool people.

If you've ever ben an underdog...a loser...you can imagine how offensive this notion of being initiated into some cabal could be. Tempting but insulting.

And from there our hacker hero proceeds to create a brilliant set of programs that connect people in a very rewarding way (it's so rewarding that 500 million people are on Facebook, it can be that much fun!)

Mark Z builds an organic feeling program imitating the sensation of hanging out with your friends. It's as if he has created a sort of artificial intelligence community where people can visit and it mimics the way people move through the world. it's really quite brilliant. And there is no way the privelegded snobs could do it themselves...at least not in a few weeks.

They are pissed off because this guy builds this network without them. Uh...pirate. They believed they could get him to build this community, let them get all the profits, and his payment would be an invite to a couple of parties, and a few bucks.

Mark Z says fuck that noise and goes ahead without them. He doesn't even seem to care about the money. For him it's about the creativity and imagination. He isn't just a hacker and pirate, he's an artist.

I've really enjoyed looking into who the real-life guy Mark Z might be. He was on Oprah a few weeks ago and gave a shitload of money to the schools in New Jersey. Interesting. i have felt a little sorry for him since seeing the movie.

I am really glad no one had a camera on me when I was a kid. I was not perfect as a teen. I wasn't as nasty as he was with his girlfriend, but I wasn't an angel either. I don't know many angels from that time period, or any of my friends or peers who were angels in high school or college or at 19. Mark Z made some massively rotten decisions when it came to people skills...but he wasn't much worse than many teens and young men when they were trying to find a way to fit into society or grow up. I don't condone his treatment of his girlfriend, but most people make a lot of mistakes in their social lives when they are growing up. Sure 20 years ago it wasn't recorded on an internet site...we might not have tweeted or blogged about our anger and left a permanent record of it...but when it comes to karma...we still know what mistakes we've made in our own hearts.

I'd like to believe that the real life Mark Z might have learned how to be a better boyfriend by now. I've seen it happen with lots and lots of people. Part of the "side effects" of social networks is learning through our experiences and trying to change our behaviour. I also hope he's learned how to be a better friend.

Why? Because I believe according to the fictional story portrayed in this movie...this guy is more than a hacker. He is a person who saw through the bs in some of our social networks and behaviour. He stuck it to "the establishment" and protected himself from people who think just because they have all the money and power they can take advantage of the less socially connected people in the world. He stuck it to the people who make all the money and don't share and they hire people as slaves. Mark Z stopped himself from being such a slave. I think there are a lot of positive lessons in the Social Network.

On one hand there are people out there who take advantage of social networks, making pyramid schemes or rising to a position of power. Mark Z cut through that very powerful negative side of the social network and he also created a program that cuts through that potential for hierarchy in social networks. I hope that he can find a way to be a better person with better karma. My impression is that he has already done so by making real life work environment with a mission statement protecting humanism. And hopefully he'll keep donating money.

It seems that there might be a generational reaction to The Social Network. Audiences seem to be divided by their age/experience in reacting to this fictional account of a pirate hacker artist. See New York Times regarding generational reactions.

From one pirate to another, I think Mark Z is a rebel and hero. I give props to anyone who can stick it to "the establishment" and I hope he can always stay one step ahead of that force. It is really hard to do as you get older...I hope age gives him compassion and doesn't make him bitter or powermad.

You can't put an old head on young shoulders...and why would you want to?

8 comments:

mister anchovy said...

Perhaps the reason we see the film so differently is that the way I saw the film, the fact that the character Mark Z was a hacker was secondary to the fact that he was a corporation builder. There's lots of hackers who never build multi-billion dollar corporations. Look how quickly the film's protagonist went from so-called pirate to defining a new look for the power corporation of the 2000s. Sure he sticks it to the man, but I watched a character who knew exactly what he was doing, and that was becoming the man.

Candy Minx said...

And much of what you're saying is why the movie is so layered with brilliance.


If he was Ghandi, or Mother Theresa and was helping little old ladies cross the street...it wouldn't be so delightful. Here is a guy...just like most of us. Typical. He's not a genius with the women. He can't get laid...just like most people when they're young and an underdog. He's cranky and selfish...but believes in democracy and fairness. Like a lot of us. he's not perfect as a young man.

I think it's naive to think we can get rid of power corporations, the poit is that they become more human friendly...the point that is for those of us who believe that life is more fun when its more democratic and more humanistic...and respectful of all life forms.

His corproation may be the new face of corporations...and I LIKE the face i see. You can skateboard in the office. You can play games after work with your co-workers and wear nice clothes. Passion is encouraged, with three great meals a day served. Intelligence and energy is respected. It is rumoured to have a high quality of life work environment. people friendly.

I don't believe though...that he was a corproation builder. I believe he was trying a scientific experiemnt to see if he could build a creature that mimics real life and resists hierarchy that is played out in real world.

His suffering came from the hierarchy we all struggle against. Unless you're the president of Harvard or the twins in the movie. He was the bottom of the totem pole. He wrote a program that resists hierarchy...and that is incredible. He might not be able to build a corporation that resists hierarchy...and maybe he doesn't have any interest in that...but his model with Facebook can teach us a lot about our social networks and democracy. Much like the internet in general does.

His aim wasn't to build a corporation but to build a system that resists hierarchy. That's the point of showing what a dick he was in the movie. The writers could have left that out. you can apparently still read his blog post "Erica is a bith" on his blog today from back then. It's no secret he was a typical bitter young man with social situations. He took his underdogness and applied it to science and creativity.

The job of hacker/pirate is to work around the restrictions of social hierarchies. His role as a hacker is the main metaphor propelling the film and story.

And further beauty of this movie is that the existence of the movie also undermines hierarchy. The writers wrote him foilbles and all. if he had been written as some kind of boy scout...the real life Mark Z has had his "hierarchy" as genius democratized by storytelling!

He will never live that down...most of us our karma can be left to share with people or not...his is played out in a movie...reminding us that we might actually be able to transcend the limitations of our own social weakness and our societies potential dark sides.

Like most literary heroes...he is a hero despite his very typical human failures. Despite his possible desire to create a corporation...or to get payback...the movie disassembles his mythology and his program for Facebook leads us to see how we might disassemble hierarchies in the real world...and in our own egos. Mark Z had less than nobel urges for creating a democracy. it's brilliant.

For me, the movie acts as a portrayal of the power of nature to return to itself as the most powerful force. Even when we are selfish and less than honourable, or immature...the nature of the universe and the world is to even-out the odds. A selfish boy like the character in this movie is redeemed by creating something that resists hierarchy...just like nature does. Nature is the only hierarchy and as animals who depends upon social networks for survival...we are saved by that force.

His selfish urges motivated his invention that resists hierarchy and selfish behaviour. it's amazing!

And it's brilliant storytelling!

S.M. Elliott said...

You have some really good points about this movie. I responded too strongly to the racism and amorality of the Zuckerberg character; my first instinct was to delete my Facebook account and ritually cleanse myself ASAP. (It's good to remind ourselves that these guys were young, and that the final product isn't so bad.) What I learned after doing some background research into Parker and Zuckerberg is that this movie also opens up a whole can of worms in regards to truth in screenwriting, intellectual property, and the integrity of nonfiction. For instance, I couldn't find any indications that Parker is anything like the sociopath of the film. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, admits he didn't speak to even one principal player, and that he doesn't consider adherence to the facts an asset in screenwriting. To me that's troubling, because we're dealing with living people whose reputations and careers and relationships will be affected by this film for the rest of their lives.

Candy Minx said...

S.M. I agree there are some fascinating questions arising from the idea of writing about real life events and peoples variety of experience regarding what happened. In many ways what we have here is a "he said he said" situation.

I also had major problems within the first few minutes of the film with the main character. Just because I bonded with him, and I did really bond with the Mark Z character...I didn't think he was a good boyfriend. And he over re-acted to being rejected. But his girlfriend dumped him...he was getting the repercussions and I don't see how viewers jumping up in outrage against a lousy, dumped boyfriend has much to give us as viewers. Something else is going on with this narrative.

When Mark Z wrote on his blog "erica is a bitch" no one was reading his blog...back in 2003. In fact, blogging wasn't even a familiar topic for most people. He didn't expect anyone other than his friends to read his online journal. Sure, it turns out...these things on the internet had/have repercussions none of us anticipated. He will pay for his anger in rejection for the rest of his life. Most of us who act impulsively in anger don't have to pay for it forever.

Second...the interviews with the other players in this story are out there and that is what the script is built upon. I can understand why the twins were angry. i get it. they were somewhat sympathetic characters if totally out-of-it in realizing how smug and priveledged they seemed to me. These are guys who would never normally have spoken to Mark Z. Their sense of doing the right thing is delightful part of the humour in this movie.

I have to say...i laughed a lot in the movie. I would consider it...if I had to label it as a genre- a pirate comedy.

It is the idea that the writer and director were dealing with a real life person...who is portrayed so harshly...that I felt a little sorry for the guy.

Did you see him on Oprah? The real life Mark Z lives very much like he was shown living...in a small suburb in California in a modenst, RENTED house with lots of bikes. He seems genuinely sincere in his compassion for other people, in his passion for learning (he is studying Chinese) and his compassion for his employees. his workspace was shown on oprah too...and it looked really really cool. He lives modestly because he is really into his work and so who needs a fancy house when his prioroty is continuing his creation. In the movie one of the things that hit me was he was aware that this creation of his "would never be over". It is an infinite job to make such a web log like Facebook to make it people friendly and resist hierarchy.

I'd like to believe that the writer and director weren't out to show this guy as a total jerk...but rather that even a socially inept person, a young adult can make something really great for humanity.

We do see him learn some things about people and life during the movie. Remember at first he doesn't get beer for his friend, a guest. But by the end of the movie he seems to be learning how to be a good host and friend. He gets beer for his guests, ha ha. Only it's terribly funny because he throws it at them...like he's some kind of nerdy beer jock. I loved that scene.

I reiterate...that I would have hated for a movie to be made only focusing on me when I was growing up...I sure would have looked like a jerk...and many of my friends were also developing as people too.

I can't imagine anyone who would feel superior to Mark Z portrayed as a young man...most of us have made some real humdinger mistakes learning how to be friends and grown ups. I didn't think he was that bad of a guy.

It is a very traditional narrative of a hero to be a flawed human being...and I think the writer and director used that tradition for this story and it is the richer for their decision...and besides if it was the reason that the real life Markz donated 100 million dollars to help improve education in new Jersey...then it was worth it.

Gardenia said...

I can't wait to see the movie - from what I've read, I totally agree - he is A Hero. I am so sick of "The Establishment" and status quo - ugh!

And, how dare he be criticized for the brashness of youth? It's interesting, I've had several ghosts of the past pop up to "apologize" and I've said, "Whatever for?" Answer: "Being a jerk." "Weren't we all just growing up and finding our ways, and we all had our share of jerk-dom, but if you need to settle anything, its ok, now give me a hug and go your way." Or, stay, and we'll go into the next phase of life or death as friends.

I am so fascinated with Facebook - I didn't like it to begin with, but it is very interesting. I have a friend posting to her deceased husband her grief. People inviting each other to events, people snarly and political, people being incredibly wise, people sharing who they are - with guts - out there to the world of 500 million people - brilliant!

S.M. Elliott said...

I think a lot of Mark Z's attitude as depicted in the movie can be chalked up to youth, for sure. Most college kids don't deal with breakups too well. And the racism is mitigated quite a lot when you realize that he probably wouldn't have had a German girlfriend and a Brazilian friend in the first place, if he was totally racist. I didn't agree with Sorkin's analysis that Facemash was "born in a night of incredible misogyny", either, because that really was just typical college stuff - kinda mean, but harmless.

Candy Minx said...

S.M. yeah you know it's funny...when guys act like that I don't think it's because they hate women...it's because they want women and have been hurt by them. Thanks for checking in here S.M. and your comments. Good to "see" you!

Janet said...

Candy, what an amazing post and even more amazing comments. I'm catching up on my blog reading and posts like this make me happy I didn't hit "Mark all as read". I saw this movie, too, and also laughed quite a few times. Pirate!