“Justin Timberlake is in a movie about Facebook?”
The universe had a discussion among its components and decided to grant me a wish. Sort of. I wasn’t sure, at first, if The Social Network was just some more publicity for the overwhelmingly influential, not to mention widely accessible and international, website www.facebook.com. But when director David Fincher, of Benjamin Button and Fight Club fame, decided to take on the project, I was excited to see where the story was headed.
Facebook co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is played by Jesse Eisenberg. I definitely entertained the thought of Eisenberg, playing the Zuckerberg character, shooting it up in Zombieland. I think Zuckerberg would have some ballsy one liners. The creator of Facebook is portrayed as someone who is aware of his genius, but also aware of his lack in social skills. The simplest way to sum up his characterization is this: Asshole. But as I watched, I never felt that the film was being overtly obnoxious in its portayal; it presented the story, with nuances of lost love, failed or non-existent friendships, and then the greed of having an idea turn into something big.
If we put aside our own overly inflated sense of self-righteousness, perhaps we would have fallen into the same rabbit hole.
It was Zuckerberg through the eyes of others. It comes across negative because we don’t perceive his actions in th film to be morally aligned. But they are perfect examples of corporate alignment. This may be more an issue of what capitalism does to the human spirit, but we’ll save that for another day.
The point of negative light lies in Zuckerberg’s response to the film:
Make it seem like fun fiction
“It’s a movie; it’s fun… I can promise you, this is my life so I know it’s not that dramatic. The last six years have been a lot of coding and focus and hard work, but maybe it would be fun to remember it as partying and all this crazy drama.” (Zuckerberg on Opera Winfrey Show)
Make it insignificant
What’s 5 million movie viewers in a pool of 500 million?
Zuckerberg receiving messages from inspired would-be entrepreneurs. Don’t fool yourself, the man is the world’s youngest billionaire.
The kicker for me is the release about Zuckerberg donating $100 million to the Newark School system. While it is a wonderful gift, and one the system is in need of, the timing of the donation was matched with the release of The Social Network . The contribution was announced on Opera, during a much hyped release of the film Waiting for Superman; pointing out the need for a hero to help the US public school systems.
What better way to neutralize the negative than turning into a superhero! Mr. Z Enters : Look at me! I can share too! I fight crime with dollars!
Let me tell you how I leap over tall buildings
This would have been a perfectly appropriate gift had it been done earlier, later,– anytime that doesn’t give off the public perception that it was a media stint to create a positive image. Was it necessary even? Zuckerberg probably thought so; he gives off the impression that he needed to downplay the film, that he needed to make it seem insignificant, that he was above such fictional nonsense –
wait, doesn’t that merely reinforce the movie’s characterization?
Audiences, and I am included, may have gone to the film without knowing anything about Zuckerberg but his standing amongst the world’s richest. We left knowing only one side of his story, but by reacting in this manner — which inevitably in the PR world becomes the second side – the public may not know what to believe when it comes to the complications of Mr. Z. I wish I had a solid answer as to what I would recommend in terms of handling the situation — how about start being a great, generous man before the making of the film?
Or what about giving the film its due in terms of how large and significant it really is in the modern world. If he’s going on Opera, be honest and humble; that doesn’t mean saying everything in the film is true, but give the public a second side that matches who you are.
If you are, indeed, different from your characterization.
After the film, or rather as I was getting impatient like we do in the 21st century and rushing to get out the theatre doors, I was on my BlackBerry checking out some Facebook messages. I went home and scrolled through some of my South African relatives’ profiles to see how they are. The movie certainly moved me to respect the pure creative brain power it took to create a site bringing together the world. A few of my friends who saw the film felt as though Facebook had some real psychological validity to it, and don’t know how they will ever get off it. That’s the thing – how can the world even imagine itself without Facebook? The movie has undoubtedly promoted the international status of Facebook, it’s longterm staying power, and the fact that many more will continue to join.
That’s not Popularity, that’s Power.