Competition, sexism and rich kids rule in Facebook film

Review: The Social Network
Directed by David Fincher, in cinemas now

The Social Network traces the origin of the online social networking website Facebook from its genesis amongst Harvard University’s elite up to its role today as multibillion dollar corporation.

The film is supposed to be a comedy about marginalised “geeks”, business, betrayal and intellectual property. But a more critical look shows how the institution of Facebook has its genesis in a sexist ratings web site and rich kids’ competition and in-fights for profits.

The film is set around Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s preoccupation with ascending the social ladder of Harvard’s elite. Feeling scorned by a woman that cannot relate to his social climbing,

Zuckerberg blogs a sexist tirade about her on the Internet, an activity that degenerates into him creating a website where Harvard students can rate pairs of their women classmates against each other according to perceived attractiveness.

Female characters in the film are few and far between. Facebook CFO Eduardo Saverin’s partner is portrayed as an irrational woman that doesn’t trust her partner’s “relationship status” on Facebook and sets his dorm-room alight.

Inter-spliced with scenes of Zuckerburg’s desire to enter Harvard are scenes of partially naked women dancing on tables at exclusive parties. Yet tellingly, the film seems nearly oblivious to its own portrayal of women as objects.

The plot revolves around the real life story of lawsuits between Zuckerburg and other rich kids over their rights to the Facebook pie and its windfall profits. Every single one of the main characters is willing to betray their friends to help themselves gain money and influence.

In 2009 alone Facebook made over $700 million in profits and estimates place 2010 revenue at $1.1 billion. Facebook’s owners and the corporations that market their goods and services on the site make money from an institution that substitutes real social interaction with social alienation. Instead of developing relationships in real life, Facebook is more about spending time updating “statuses” with inane details, “liking” each other’s activities and images and peering over others’ party photos. The genesis of the whole project is as a place to compare others on superficial merits.

The film displays a certain level of creativity in the development of Facebook’s technology that its creators have access to via their elite education. Facebook and other social networking websites are often hailed as a communication revolution. But more often than not, the potential of the technology is wasted on attempts to sell us the same products that are always shoved in our faces. In fact

Facebook even has software that reads your profile and generates targeted advertising. Far from being revolutionary, Facebook concentrates power, money and influence in the hands the same elite that has always held it.


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