Discomfort with The Social Network

Two nights ago I watched The Social Network, and I can say without hesitation that it is not a feel-good movie. Given that the film is a work of fiction, I will assess the movie not for its amount of accuracy, but rather as a story with a message.

As entertainment, The Social Network really didn't succeed with me; through most of it, I wasn't enjoying myself. I don't think I even laughed out loud, as others did, to many of the funny parts. The reason for this, I think, was that I was uncomfortable. And why was I uncomfortable? I think that was really because The Social Network is not the happy story one might wish it to be, and it doesn't deliver a good enough message.

Many movies have unhappy endings. Many involve realities of death and destruction and tragedy far beyond any of the unhappiness to be found in a movie about young adults getting rich. In many movies, too, the "bad guy" does not get punished in the end, and just desserts do not arrive for every character. Still, however, these movies often portray historical realities that we bear a responsibility to confront, and/or they still include important themes of justice and goodness that we can cling to in the face of the story's sadness.

Basically, the story goes that Zuckerberg the character betrays friends, makes enemies, and is pretty much an all-around mean person - and in the end receives little to no poetic justice. It's not that I was uncomfortable because the pain he inflicts is most deserving of retribution; think how much one would want Hitler to die in Valkyrie! I think it's perhaps because the pain Zuckerberg inflicts and the kind of person that he is in the film resonate much more closely to personal experience.

Ultimately, the film doesn't seem to send a very clear message; perhaps that's not its intention at all, or perhaps the message concerns a theme that I wasn't able to find. If you consider yourself to have good friends and relationships, and if you consider yourself a reasonably nice person, I think The Social Network stands a good chance of making you uncomfortable. The movie simply doesn't communicate well enough that your characteristics are ones to be valued. Niceness needs to win out!—but maybe that's not so much a problem with a social network. Maybe it's our social reality.

Comments