The Social Network is Creepy and Fascinating

The Social Network (2010)

Directed by David Fincher

PG-13, 121 mins. (Sexuality, nudity, language)

* * * *

Mark Zuckerberg is the smartest guy in every room he enters. The problem is that he knows it and he’s also either suffering from Asperger Syndrome or is a full-blown sociopath. As such, Zuckerberg has the sensitivity of a two-year-old, the morals of a sadist, and the self-control of a Turret’s patient. And he’s not even the most unlikable figure in the film. That dishonor would go to Jason Timberlake playing Napster creator Sean Parker, who packs more crude than the Gulf oil spill.

Be forewarned; seeing this (barely) fictionalized account of how Facebook came into being will make you immediately want to do five things: trash your Facebook account, kill Zuckerberg, assassinate the founder of Napster, call for a federal investigation of Harvard, and start a class war. Is The Social Network real? Technically it’s fictional and is based on the Ben Mezrich novel The Accidental Billionaire. Zuckerberg says it’s fanciful, Parker (Sean Fanning in real life) hasn’t said much, and several of the litigants who claimed Zuckerberg bilked them are silent because they signed non-disclosure agreements. But the fact that no defamation lawsuits have been brought against Mezrich, Fincher, or script writer Aaron Sorkin suggests that none of the villains of this piece--and there are precious few good guys--feels confident enough to air their views of the truth in public. (Sorkin insists the film is pretty close to reality.)

The film opens at Harvard in 2003. Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has just been dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and retreats to his room to slander her on his very-public blog, get drunk, hack into Harvard data bases, and set up a Website that allows testosterone-poisoned Harvard males to rate the relative “hotness” of Harvard coeds. This was the genesis of Facebook. Without giving away too much, getting to the Facebook of the present also involved Zuckerberg double-crossing a trio of secret society lads (including the smug Winklevoss twins, both played by Armie Hammer); putting the screws to Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), his only friend; and coming under the Svengali-like influence of Sean Parker/Fanning. The unindicted coconspirator is Harvard, a fetid cesspool of arrogance, self-indulgence, sexism, bad behavior, and contempt for everyone who lacks the social privileges enjoyed by the Crimson-clad spawn of Satan. Among the many questions raised in the film is why rich kids are allowed to get away with actions--sexual harassment, hacking, invasion of privacy, lewdness, drug dealing--that would land a public university student in prison. (Still another question is how this film managed to wrangle a PG-13 rating.)

The Social Network is like watching a horror flick; we don’t want to look but we do. Credit Fincher’s focused direction, Sorkin’s acidic script, and superb performances all around, especially that of Eisenberg, who keeps our eyes glued on a character who is essentially a monster, and an unsympathetic one at that. The movie unfolds at a crisp pace and deftly handles a task that is hard to capture on film: the creative process. For all of his faults, Zuckerberg was/is a genius and to watch him build Facebook’s architecture and envision its potential miles ahead of everyone else is reminiscent of the scenes in Amadeus in which Mozart dictates scores from his sick bed while poor Salieri struggles to keep up.

I‘m not sure if we can call this a “good” film, as there just isn’t much social redemption to be found. It is, however, an endlessly fascinating one. See it, and then go home and take a shower. Trust me--you’ll definitely feel like you need one.

Tax Cuts for the Rich and Endless Toil for the Masses

Are you kidding me? Was Barack Obama kidnapped by aliens and replaced by an evil replica? Or is he just so friggin’ stupid that we should just give up on him?

From Washington, DC comes startling news. First, President Obama has offered an olive branch to the Republicans by saying he’ll consider an extension of tax cuts on the rich. For the love of Pete, the tax increase was only going to affect those making over $250,000 and he’s going to cave in?

There’s so much wrong with this that one hardly knows where to begin. First of all, we have the pathetic case of Democrats behaving as if they are the minority party. I grant that they’re quickly mismanaging themselves to that status, but…hello! Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. That’s one-third more than Ronald Reagan had when he was first president, but he had the guts to fight for his agenda. An inability to govern has plagued Obama from day one. Remember the renting of garments that Democrats lacked the super-majority to prevent filibusters? I’m sick of listening to Democrats whine. So here is a series of call-outs to President Obama.

First, govern or get out! Want something? As the British say, put a bit of stick about. As chief executive, Mr. President, you have the power to dole out and withhold goodies. Lyndon Johnson took on Congress when he wanted the Civil Rights Act passed. Among his tactics was a threat to veto every bill that came onto his desk until it was passed. Withholding highway funds finally turned the trick. Get a spine, Mr. President.

Right after you’ve grown a spine, get your ears cleaned out because apparently you’re not hearing Republicans who shout that their number one objective is to make you a one-term president. Helping this lot is like lending your pocketknife to a man who vows to slit your throat. Or maybe you don’t care that the GOP wants to give the country back to the thieves who screwed it up in the first place.

Or maybe it’s courage you need, though one wouldn’t think it would take a lot to point out that a person making a quarter of a million dollars ought to repay the nation that enriched him. Who will pay if the Bush tax cuts aren’t renewed? Individuals making five times more than the average family income. You know what? If you make that kind of bread you shouldn’t be whining about your tax bill; you should be on your knees and grateful. C’mon Mr. President--tell these greedy bastards to shut up and pay up. Who knows? You might actually convince someone you have leadership skills if you fight that battle.

If all of this isn’t enough, we get today’s news that once again the GOP is targeting Social Security. If they get their way, the age for full benefits will rise to age 69. Here’s another issue I’m sick of hearing about. Everyone who has a calculator knows how to make Social Security solvent--remove the income cap. As it now stands individuals stop paying Social Security on income above $106,800. Why, for heaven’s sake? Once again, if you’ve that kind of money you can afford to pay another 6.2% tax on it. A lot of us pay higher rates than that in sales taxes. But what’s the message here? More for the rich even if the rabble has to work until they drop? Tell the rich that they need to help secure the future of the elders. And tell young people moaning over SSI taxes that if they aren’t willing to pay there simply won’t be jobs of them--the geezers will have them all.

So I’ve attached an old cartoon from the Industrial Workers of the World. It shows how IWW members thought the world operates. One doesn't have to be as radical as the IWW to think that maybe it was onto something. As the old labor song put it, Mr. President, which side are you on? If it’s with the lot on the top layers, then I couldn’t care less if you lose in 2012.