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“We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re gonna live on the internet” (Fincher & Rudin, 2010). The Social Network is a biographical drama that follows the life of Mark Zuckerberg and the events that led the Harvard undergrad to the creation of Facebook, one of the largest social media platforms in the world. Founded in 2004 out of a Harvard dorm room, Zuckerberg created Facebook, originally named The Facebook, which allowed users to create their own profiles, upload photos, and communicate with other users. Mark dropped out of Harvard after completing his sophomore year, allowing him to focus on Facebook full time. With 1.86 billion daily users, you have more than likely used Facebook at one point in your life. This film brings to light the harsh reality of how a sophomore at Harvard was able to become the youngest ever self-made billionaire at the age of 23. In this paper I will be taking a look at the film and seeing how it relates to the six perspectives of visual analysis; personal, historical, technical, ethical, cultural and critical.
The Social Network gives insight to the creation of Facebook and what the founder/creator, Mark Zuckerberg, was really like back then as well as the steps he took to get where he is today. Zuckerberg’s character comes off as the villain for the majority of this film. It opens with him being harsh and disrespectful to his girlfriend and then bitterly blogging back at his dorm room after she breaks up with him. It is there that he gets an idea for a website called “Facemash” that allows users to decide which of the two females shown on the Harvard campus are hotter. The creation of this website is what sparks the idea for The Facebook. However, around that time Mark was also working with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, whom he humorously calls the Winklevi, as well as Divya Narendra on a similar project. Due to this project also being developed while he was working on creating The Facebook , a lot of backlash was created and landed them all in court. Co-creator Eduardo Saverin is also portrayed as a victim to Mark’s power trip. Zuckerberg diluted his stake in Facebook down to .03% and then fired him all together from the company. The instigator behind Mark’s poor behavior seems to be Sean Parker, creator of Napster, who takes an interest in The Facebook and strives to hop on the money train and boot Eduardo from the company all together. Overall, I found the film to be well directed with an interesting, entertaining story line and a great cast!
“You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies” (Fincher & Rudin, 2010). Launched in February 2004, The Facebook was exclusive to educational institutions. Within 24 hours of the site going live, there were over 1,000 Harvard students signed up and over half of the undergraduate population had an active profile within one month. By September 2006, the site had expanded to anyone with a registered email address. The Social Network film, staring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, opened on October 1, 2010 in the United States and grossed $22,445,653 in the opening weekend. While it was initially said that the film’s release aided in young people liking Facebook more, a study conducted in 2014 showed that the site had actually lost 11 million young users since 2011. Regardless of this significant loss, as of February 2017, Facebook has more active monthly users than WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram combined.
In this film, Facebook was not the first social media site of its kind as Friendster launched in 2002 and MySpace followed shortly after in 2003. However, by April 2006 Facebook’s popularity had overtaken MySpace based on monthly unique visitors. Based on this data, it isn’t surprising that a film was developed about the sites creation. The focal point in this film is Mark Zuckerberg and therefore follows his life story while he is a student at Harvard and the path that leads him to becoming the CEO of the largest social media site in the world. This film is 2 hours in length and manages to keep its audience engaged at all times while it jumps from the present to the past to show what events unfolded to land Zuckerberg facing multiple law suits. The decision to jump from past to present acts as a foreshadowing of the story. You can see how the story starts out with Eduardo and Mark being friends and business partners but the audience is also fully aware that something is going to happen along the way that results in a lawsuit. I think that this directing decision was the best choice to tell this story.
“You are going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole” (Fincher & Rudin, 2010). This is a quote found within the first scene of The Social Network in which Erica Albright, Zuckerberg’s then girlfriend, breaks up with him after the multiple offensive things he has said to her throughout the night. This quote sets the tone for the rest of the film and the perception you have of Mark’s character on a moral and ethical level. He is a highly critical 19 year old who is so intelligent that it’s hard for most people to comprehend. You can see that he is a socially awkward individual with passive aggressive tendencies. The film may not be 100 percent factual, but there are many components that are factual and the producers, director, and writers do not sugar coat those areas. If you look at this from the standpoint of the creators, the moral and ethical lines are a little blurred because most of these people highlighted in the film are real people whose life stories have been manipulated to create more entertaining content for viewers. It can also be said that these real life people would find the way they’ve been portrayed in the film to be highly offensive and not at all accurate.
Erica Albright, Eduardo Saverin, Divya Narendra, Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss are all characters in this film whose lives were negatively impacted by Mark’s journey to creating Facebook. The legal case depicted in the film between Zuckerberg, Narendra and the Winklevoss was a very real case in which they claimed Zuckerberg copied their ideas and coding used to create their own social network site, ConnectU, which he had been helping with back at Harvard. This case was dismissed in March 2007 but Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss made a statement that they would be pursuing an appeal to overturn the decision. The film also highlights the impact Sean Parker, creator of Napstar, had on Facebook. They point out how he created a very popular website but did not receive much money considering it was for free music, and then showed his pursuit to befriend Zuckerberg and get involved with Facebook. In the film, it is Sean Parker who actually suggests the name change from The Facebook to just Facebook. He then becomes Zuckerberg’s right-hand man, pushing Eduardo further and further away and fueling the fire that leads to the big blow out with Eduardo and yet another lawsuit.
This film opens in 2003, prior to Facebook’s creation. It takes place on the campus of Harvard University, a top ranked Ivy League school in Massachusetts, where Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Divya Narendra, Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss all attend school. In addition to Harvard being prominent in this film, Stanford University is also featured film as the location in which Sean Parker discovers The Facebook. These schools symbolize intelligence, wealth and privilege. These characteristics represent the underlying theme for the whole movie and shows how corruption comes into play when all three are tied together. Additionally, Sean Parker symbolizes the corrupter that turns Mark Zuckerberg from a hero to a villain throughout the duration of the film. He enters the film several months after The Facebook has launched and already gained substantial volumes of users. He sells himself as the wise man that has already created one successful company and will be the ticket to the sites monetary success. It’s his guidance that leads Mark to making bold moves, rash decisions, and ultimately reducing Eduardo’s shares from 30% to .03% and cutting him out of the company. As previously stated earlier, the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo Saverin, along with Erica Albright and Divya Narendra are therefore symbolizing the victims to Mark’s “evil” actions.
Ultimately, while this film was wildly popular and grossed a large amount of money for Columbia Pictures, the fact is that it is a biographical drama and not a documentary. The primary purpose of the films creation was not to inform, but to entertain. Therefore some events may be completely factual, partially true or entirely made-up to create the best possible story line for the film. Mark Zuckerberg has stated that the producers put a lot of effort into recreating buildings and offices but the real story of how the social media site was formed was not glamourous enough to warrant its very own movie and thus events were embellished. For example, in the film Zuckerberg creates Facebook in an attempt to attract women after being dumped by his girlfriend. In real life, Zuckerberg created the site while already in a relationship with the woman he is married to today. That one event in the movie is what supposedly started the whole thing and if that isn’t even true, you have to wonder what else is made-up.
“A guy who makes a chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair” (Fincher & Rudin, 2010). The Social Network is based on the creation of Facebook and, with 1.86 billion daily users, you have more than likely used it at one point in your life. This film depicts a harsh reality of how a 19 year old sophomore at Harvard University became the youngest ever self-made billionaire by the age of 23. However, it is important to ask questions and analyze the content to determine what is fact and what is fiction. This is especially important when the information is coming from a source with the sole purpose to entertain and not inform. After applying the six perspectives of visual analysis, I have been able to move from a subjective and emotional opinion to an objective, reasoned judgement of the story that is reflected by the critical perspective.
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