‘The Social Network’: A New Age of Political Pop Culture Commentary

So far, The Social Network has been the critical darling of the past year. It has become an endless source of fascination for audiences everywhere, who have forced themselves to ask, “Who is Mark Zuckerberg?” On the surface it seems like a perfectly simple question and one not entirely deserving of a big budget movie. But as the film gains popularity, these questions, the very ones that the movie asks of its audience, fall to the wayside. It’s no fault of the film or the audience. Inevitably, Oscar season politics always seem to stand in the way of any movie’s real success, but I’d like to take a moment to leave behind the SAG wins and losses, the DGA upset, and any other movie business talk. The Social Network remains a relevant piece of pop culture history, regardless of its triumphs or failures.

At the heart ofThe Social network is a simple story. It’s a story of guy meets girl. Guy loses girl. Guy becomes consumed with the idea of success, loses priorities, and loses a lot more than the girl in the end. Like I said, pretty simple stuff. But it’s not just the simplicity of the story that makes The Social Network work on screen. It’s the voice. A good deal of that can be found in Aaron Sorkin’s writing. After all, he’s receiving attention for a reason. What’s most refreshing about the writing is that it takes its audience for granted. It pre-supposes a level of familiarity with Facebook and with Mark Zuckerberg and considering Facebook’s popularity, it does so rightfully. But still, it finds new and innovative ways to explain the complexity of coding and hacking, in a way that manages to engage the audience.

However, as any writer will tell you, it’s also about the people that find a way to bring it to life. Jesse Eisenberg does a brilliant job bringing Mark Zuckerberg to the big screen in a way that’s frustrating and pathetic all at once. It’s hard to believe that he could be so clueless when you see what he’s capable of, but in the end, he’s just the boy who always got picked last in gym class. There’s an infantile resentment to all of his actions that, on one hand is deeply troubling, but also a little sad when he’s finally faced with the facts.

Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore the people in his life that shaped him into this person. I’m not here to assign blame or credit to the characters in this character’s life, but there’s one undeniable influence that shapes the entire film. That, of course, is Erica Albright, the girl who dumped Mark and brought on Facebook. It’s a lot of importance to assign one young woman, but Rooney Mara is captivating as Erica Albright and owns the few scenes she is in. There’s a sort of sadness to her character, as Mark arguably destroys her social standing with the click of his mouse, but also a sense of pity. It’s clear that she’ll recover from Mark’s attack against her, but she seems unsure of whether Mark will be able to survive the burden of his own actions.

Although these are merely two of the compelling characters on display in The Social Network, the entire film is beautifully acted. In many ways, The Social Network has the distinct feel of our generation’s Citizen Kane. Even ignoring the thematic similarities, Fincher and his crew revolutionized a number of technical innovations to make the movie possible. In the end, The Social Network is a compelling addition to our pop culture fascination with the way that history is made. At the very least, The Social Network is an interesting commentary on Zuckerberg’s larger than life persona and at it’s very best, it is a beautifully acted and excellently written exploration of one man’s seemingly never ending influence on the way we have come to live our lives.


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