The Social Network - Show time with Mitrajit Bhattacharya

What happens when you decide to revisit a movie after 11 years, made on a phenomenon that decides to change the way you think and act every single day within this span of time?

When David Fincher’s Oscar-winning movie The Social Network hit screens in 2010, Facebook had 500 million users, a valuation of $25 billion and its founder Mark Zuckerberg had recently been declared as the world’s youngest billionaire — facts which appear on the film’s closing slides. As on date, the estimation is it has 2.89 billion active users, and valuation of a $1 trillion. While growth in a decade is staggering, the main difference is how the public discourse around Facebook has changed since 2010. Today, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are clearly beyond being the tech platform that turned the former into one of the world’s most powerful companies, and the latter into one of its wealthiest citizens and most important policy makers. The company employs 60,000 people, boasts nearly 40% of the world’s population as users of its service and Zuckerberg is the tech CEO with deep interests in politics and policy making across the world (barring China).

With that in mind, I revisited Fincher’s film (written by Aaron Sorkin, whose script won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar). The Social Network was and still is one of the wittiest — Sorkin’s writing on glib-talking men with outsized intellect and poorly disguised narcissism serves as an advantage.

In 2010, The Social Network, with its egomaniacal antihero, seemed a bit overdramatic at times, trying to analyse the birth of one of the biggest social media platforms, though still in its infancy. The movie however makes abundantly clear, though the facts behind its founding can be in dispute, but it was Zuckerberg, who did create Facebook. The way Sorkin and Fincher go about creating the screenplay was far from celebrating this feat, it was quite critical (at best analytical) about how the man who became the world’s youngest billionaire could not retain his one true friend.

I must admit I resisted joining the social media platform for the longest time and always thought Zuckerberg looked like Jesse Eisenberg till the real Mark started making appearances in media.

Aaron Sorkin’s writing is based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires” and own research that didn’t include Zuckerberg’s point of view. So, it is as a fictional construct where the writer in Sorkin decides to provide Shakespearean dimension to the protagonist, where he gains the whole world but loses someone closest to him because of a fatal flaw highlighted in the very first scene of the movie.

Mark, a Harvard undergrad student and his girlfriend, Erica are trying to have a dinner date at a noisy pub. Motormouth Mark’s every word screams of egocentricity, dripping with sarcasm and defensive insecurity. Fed up with Mark’s inability to listen, Erica decides to break up with him. There comes Sorkin’s take on the character — the guy who will revolutionise the way people communicate but can’t communicate himself. He is virtually blind to anyone else’s perspective.

Pissed off, Mark jogs home, gets drunk, hits his computer and, to take his mind off Erica, accidentally invents Facebook, rather its earlier version- the Facemash. He comes up with a rather stupid idea where he hacks into Harvard’s computer system, downloads all photos from the “facebooks” of the university’s houses and asks students to vote on which girls are the hottest.

The contest goes viral, crashes Harvard’s computer system, earns Mark a reprimand from authorities but attracts the attention of Harvard twins, the wealthy and privileged scholar-athletes Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who were working on developing an inner-campus website to create a place for students to meet and greet.

On being approached by the twins, Mark is intrigued by their idea but prefers to go to his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), to finance a social network that contains elements of the Winklevoss’ idea but transforms it into what we now know as Facebook.

Then the rest of the movie takes place at legal depositions as few years later, Facebook is a billion-dollar miracle and Mark is sued by everyone: Winklevoss Bros and their Indian-American partner Divya Narendra and Eduardo, who has been frozen out of Facebook thanks to Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).

The story deals with power, fame, betrayal, revenge and responsibility of young men who are billionaires in the making. Fincher’s astute direction succeeds in giving us sharply etched characters and authentic milieus that make the movie look real be it the campus life among America’s elite, the drug-and-party excesses of Silicon Valley or the legal war rooms of corporate attorneys.

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