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Anti-'Social' goes viral

Published October 08. 2010 05:00PM

The co-founder of Facebook (FB), the world's most successful social media website is, if the film, "The Social Network," is to be believed, anti-social.

It all started in fall 2003, according to "Social Network," when Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg (played with resolute inward focus by Jesse Eisenberg) was jilted by his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara).

Zuckerberg retreated to his dorm room. Huddling at his computer, hours and a couple of Heinekens later, "drunk and angry and stupid and blogging," Zuckerberg cruelly mocked Erica and devised Facemash, where students clicked favorites among pairs of online photographs of Harvard co-eds.

"The Social Network" is a fascinating, college film studies seminar-worthy and exuberantly ironic look behind society's mirror du jour.

The very system, that of fraternity hazing and exclusivity that Zuckerberg rejected but desperately wanted to be a part of at Harvard, was the basis for his strategic plan.

We perhaps shouldn't fault Zuckerberg for his anti-social behavior. As portrayed in the film, he seems to have Asperger's syndrome.

The anti-social roots of the social network emphasizes the not so nice beginning to what seems to have replaced email, chat rooms and the telephone as the go-to place for community, not unlike the cracker barrel at the village general store years ago.

The popularity of FB is analogous to the 1970's Citizen's Band (CB) radio craze. FB is the CB of the new millennium. FB has become so much more: one's own not so private Wikipedia.

Accurate or not, "Social Network" presents the founding of FB through the lens of class distinctions and prejudice against Jews, represented by Zuckerman and Saverin, by WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), represented by the Winklevoss twins. It's the old story of working class outsiders versus the privileged elite.

Women are depicted in the film as sex objects, there as men's fawning admirers, playthings or to be vilified. In the wake of tragedies allegedly stemming from cyber bulling, the story, if true, that a cyber bully started FB, is sadly chilling.

"We lived on the farm. We lived in the city. Now we're going to live on the internet," crows Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake, brilliant as always), Napster founder who early on recognized the financial windfall of the innovative FB.

The outcome of cyber life for the 500 million worldwide on FB is yet to be determined. "Private behavior is a relic of a bygone era," Parker claims. "You just don't go to a party," Parker says. You upload photos and post comments while at the party. It's "the true digitalization of real life," Parker says.

"It's freakishly addictive," Parker observes gleefully of FB.

As Parker rounds up venture capitalists, lawsuits descended on Zuckerberg. Harvard students and twin brothers, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (Josh Pence and Armie Hammer, respectively, played to bland perfection), claim he stole their idea. Co-founder, Eduardo Saverin (played with intense certitude by Andrew Garfield) said he was squeezed out of the fledgling firm.

"The Social Network" is based on the book, "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal" (2009) by Ben Mezrich (the movie, "21," was based on his book, "Bringing Down the House: The True Story of Six MIT Kids Who Took Vegas for Millions").

In the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin ("Charlie Wilson's War," "A Few Good Men," TV's "The West Wing"), the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue translates the click-click-click computer keyboard messaging and cell phone texting.

Director David Fincher ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Panic Room," "Fight Club," "Se7en") captures the storyline's many "ah-hah" moments. Movie-goers will identify, especially those on FB and cell phones -- as were several a few rows in front at the "Social Network" screening.

Maybe they were clicking on the FB "like" button for the movie, "Social Network."

One quibble: in the film, the flat-screen computers, small laptops and cell phones seem too contemporary rather than the clunky gear of the story's mid - "1990's setting.

"Social Network" symbolizes the culture vulture potential of the internet, which, not unlike reality TV, pokes fun at those judged less talented or intelligent. Zuckerberg apparently voted everyone off the island until only he remained; the master of his domain.

"The Social Network," with a media story similar to that of Orson Welles' landmark "Citizen Kane" (1941), shows just how far we've come since "Network" (1976), which portrayed an angry populace not "going to take it anymore." Presumably, with FB gone viral, we're now preoccupied with "status updates."

Look for Oscar nominations for "Social Network," including actor for Eisenberg, supporting actor for Timberlake, director for Fincher and adapted screenplay for Sorkin.

Yes, Facebook peeps, "friend" this film.

"The Social Network," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language; Genre: Drama, History; Run time: 2 hr.; Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The original Beatles' song, "Baby, You're A Rich Man," is heard over the closing scene and start of "The Social Network" end credits.

"Get Low," starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, is a dramatic comedy about an elderly southerner who decides to throw himself his own funeral. The film continues Oct. 6 and 7 in the 19th Street Film Series at Civic Theatre of Allentown.

Box Office, Oct. 1: "The Social Network" opened at No. 1, with $23 million. "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga-Hoole," stayed at No. 2, $10.8 million, $30 million, two weeks. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, $10.1 million, $35.8 million.

4. "The Town," $10 million, $64.3 million, three weeks; 5. "Easy A," $7 million, $42.4 million, three weeks; 6. "You Again," $5.5 million, $16.4 million, two weeks; 7 "Case 39," $5.3 million, opening; 8. "Let Me In," $5.3 million, opening, 9. "Devil," $3.6 million, $27.3 million, three weeks; 10. "Alpha and Omega," $3 million, $19 million, three weeks

Unreel, Oct 8:

"Life As We Know It," Rated PG-13: In the romantic comedy, Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel star as two friends who become parents to an orphan toddler.

"Secretariat," Rated PG: The drama is based on the true story of Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), whose racehorse, Secretariat, won the Triple Crown in 1973.

Hear Paul Willistein's movie reviews on Lehigh Valley Arts Salon, 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM,, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio. Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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