Monday, October 4, 2010

Ladies Are Computer Programmers Too and Even the Vast Majority Who Aren't Are Still People: The Story of How We Invented Facebook Before Zuckerberg

Cowritten with Maya Dusenbery

The Social Network (you know, the facebook movie!) sprinted through its story with enough dramatic acceleration and high-voltage quipping to keep us pretty much rapt for its entirety. But it sure ain't the defining film of our generation, and not a responsible one at that, and here's why:

1. That's a stupid thing to say about a movie in general and a really weird thing to say about this movie since ambitious young nerds have been innovating, fighting, and reaching for power since time immemorial and their stories have also been told for about that long. It's just that this is about the internet. The same old arc applied to a new pixelated interface is the same old arc! People seem to think that just because this is about facebook it's "emblematic of its time and place" but the creation story is a familiar one and the way facebook has changed our relationships to one another goes relatively unexplored. Those larger questions hover in the backdrop of dueling nerds but the repeated shock and awe at facebook's success doesn't get at the real social transformations of the current age. This movie could say something interesting about the social complexities of the facebook age but it's kinda just about Harvard boys sparring and high-fiving over a good idea.

2. And we also really hope that The Social Network isn't emblematic of our time because, if that's true, there's really no place for us here. Because we're smart girls. Apparently smart girls' only role in this world is to spur entitled boys on to greatness with a sharp tongue lashing or, when they're at the top and feeling down, reassure them of their humanity. Every other female character in the movie is a twittering, bong-hitting bimbo with no ideas, hardly any words, and if she has a personality, it's an inexplicably crazed one. So don't call this our movie or a movie belonging to anyone on our social-scape because all the girls we know have ideas of their own right along side their male peers...not below them on their knees in a bathroom.

3. Further, Harvard in 2003 looked a lot more like our smart-girl world than the crudely misogynistic old boys' world depicted here. Many have pointed out how far the movie departs from reality--from the invention of Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend and the elimination of real influential female relationships in his life; to the fact that the initial project, facemash, had women and men and didn't seem to be an act of breakup-revenge; to the invention of Zuckerberg's final-club obsession. That Sorkin and Fincher felt the need to make this story more male-dominated and the world in which they exist more sexist--that these misogynistic elements are necessary ingredients for successful drama--is perhaps most indicative of our current culture's expectations. While the film is being praised for its contemporary insight, its most revealing commentary on the facebook age is an inadvertent one--the assumption that the we, the audience, want to see this particular story of age-old gender stereotypes and tired narratives.

4. So okay, this film doesn't tell our stories or even particularly truthfully reflect the world it's purporting to describe, but we'll hold that against it only through point #3. We love tons of all-boys narratives and totally believe in their right to exist and, furthermore, often think they have good things to say about the cultures they reflect, but this is not one of those movies. The Social Network casts a critical eye on a lot of the contemptible traits of its world: the elitism of Harvard, the ambition of the start-up company game, the immaturity of emotionally-stunted computer geeks, even the superficiality of social ties in the facebook age. But the misogyny of its world somehow escapes the critical gaze. Aside from the two women who bookend the film and "drive the action only from the sidelines," the film is populated with out-of-focus, muted, anonymous, often under-age girls whose only purpose is to embody the sex, fame, and power that all the men in the film are ultimately reaching for. What a fucked up gender dynamic. If the film had wanted to critique this dynamic in any way, as it does the rest of this world's debaucheries, well then it could have:

Let the camera linger in the girls' bathroom after Zuckerberg and his co-founder receive their blowjobs, instead of instantly cutting outside to the boys' smirks. Who knows if we would have found something less bubbly and excited than the rest of the film's images of femininity.

Bring the stoned teenage blondes into focus when Justin Timberlake tells them, as they dizzily loll and giggle, that it's time for another bong hit. What if they shared a half-worried look about how the night was shaping up?

Give us 6 more lines where boys trip up on their own sexist assumptions--like when one boy has to ask another, in so many words, if he means 'students' when he says 'chicks' or when Zuckerberg asks his arch enemies, the Winklevi twins, what their girlfriends thought about facemash and they reply, "I don't know; we should probly ask them."

Give us any kind of reason a girlfriend would hatefully burn a gift. Her being a bitch is not a reason.

We're not asking for The Social Network to be The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants with a little Waiting to Exhale thrown in; we're asking for any kind of third dimension in the wall of giggles and boobs that composes the film's background.

When Stephen Colbert asked Aaron Sorkin why there are so few women of any substance in the film, Sorkin’s response was startling direct: “The women are prizes.” First, let’s take a moment to appreciate how absurd it is that this qualifies as an answer. Oooooh I see! The women are the prizes and everyone knows prizes are, as Colbert says, “high or drunk or bleeping guys in the bathroom!” Frankly, that much was already clear. But it doesn’t answer the key question: Either the filmmakers are so totally A-okay with a world where women are considered nothing more than prizes, or they were attempting to critique that culture. If they were, they needed to do something (like any of the helpful suggestions above) to show that the women, even when serving as prizes in a male-centric film, are also human beings. And ultimately they failed to do that.


Boone said...

Sorry, but for a 19 year old computer nerd who is socially inept and burstin to get laid, there is no better word than "prize" to describe a pretty gal.

Or for a 50 year old auto mechanic.

How much of male industry is motivated by the "prize"? 99%, according to a recent street poll.

"If a if a man could --- a woman in a cardboard box, he wouldn't buy a house."-Dave Chappelle

And those girls in the film know it. They know their power, such as it is. The (minor) crime here isn't that the filmmakers don't make them human, but that they don't have more fun with this conundrum. Homegirl burning the gift gets a good, cheap laugh from the crowd, but her demeanor is too bratty to be construed as real, deep hurt. She's acting out, as she probably has all her sheltered life.

That doesn't make her not-human.

This movie is more caught up with the real-er emotions that flow betwen Zuckerberg and Saverin. They are real to each other at least for a little while, whereas most other relationships in their lives are cruelly transactional. That feels kinda accurate to the way things are out there. Sadly.

martha said...

Thanks for taking the time, Boone, but it feels like you didn’t quite register what we were saying here. Firstly and least importantly, I’ve known a fair few 19 year old computer nerds and some 50 year old auto mechanics who might take offense at your joyful generalizing, but let’s set that aside and go ahead and say all these men really do think of pretty gals as just prizes. That still doesn’t really do a damn thing to challenge our argument here, which is operating on a completely different level. We’re not saying Zuckerberg (fictional or real) and all his cronies don’t think of girls as prizes. We’re actually predicating our argument on the fact that they do think just this. That’s what the movie successfully portrays. That’s also the point blank statement we quoted from Sorkin. What we’re talking about is how in real life, the women that are considered prizes by these kind of boys, are in fact real people also! All we’re asking is that the movie accurately reflect that point as well as it does the first. Then it would be a brilliant movie—it would still support your fun stats about sex and boxes and Dave Chappelle while also hinting at the ludicrousness of this and the effects of this dynamic on everybody. So we’re not refuting the idea that sexism exists in The Social Network world or any other; we’re asking for a note of critical consciousness about that fact in the media that portrays it so thoroughly. The movie exercises a critical consciousness about lots of other things in that Harvard/ Silicon Valley world; the film really only aligns itself with these boys’ perspective when it comes to seeing women as background sex objects. The inconsistency of perspective is what damns this movie.

The rest of your comment I find difficult to approach—it seems we’re starting from very different assumptions. Being viewed as a sexual object is not power. Power isn’t withholding sex, either. Being a prize is not having power. Prizes have no agency. The film is about active males making history, following their ambitions, making millions, and gaining influence in ALL OUR LIVES. That women are one of the status symbols or signifiers of that power and that they (though we never see it) can withhold their attention and bodies thusly thwarting the total triumph for these boys--this does not give the women themselves any real power. Being a stumbling block in a man’s rise to fame and fortune does not grant that woman’s ideas, mind, soul, ANYTHING ABOUT HER AT ALL any kind of influence or meaning. The movie ends with Mark Zuckerberg pathetically requesting his ex-girlfriend’s facebook friendship; he is also still a fucking billionaire who has helped define our contemporary social paradigm.

Be careful in the rest of your paragraph because it makes you sound like you really just hate women. Sorry to bring it there, but a film can’t take the men that seriously and make the women the mindless punchline without supporting a long tradition of misogyny. If the men were caricatures of themselves, the female caricatures wouldn’t be offensive and we wouldn’t be having this discussion anyway, but in fact, the men are apparently worthy of three dimensions, humanity, and even a sincerely critical gaze.

I’m really happy about the fact that Zuckerberg and Saverin’s relationship was real and interesting, too. This was indeed one of my favorite parts about the movie.

Boone said...

I hate women only when they challenge my half-assed assertions.

This whole matter of what does and does not constitute "human" in the film could do with a bit more parsing. I once spied a mouse in a Tweety Bird cartoon that exhibited enough humanity in a two second gesture to fill a whole Wes Anderson flick. "Human" is a big word.

My use of the words "prize" and "power" have been fashioned into my hanging rope, but I think there's a lot more consideration there than met your eye(s).

First off, not "just prizes"-- never said JUST. But, Lord, right now there's a sweetie who has announced that she wants to be with me, and I'll be damned if it doesn't feel like I just won $1,000,000,000,000. Chappelle might have boiled the prize down to a certain something, but we all know that true companionship is the thing we are out there breaking our backs for.

As for "power," note my use of "such as it is." In other words, power to turn these boys' heads and stroke their egos for a hot minute and satisfy their own misguided, youthful-vapid sense of moving up. I did not confuse these girls for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Despite their sexual involvement in these guys' lives, it's clear that they are just passing through, as happens in that stage of life, especially for baby entrepreneurs on a whirlwind. People in life, let alone the movies, can become a blur, can become something less than human in the rearview mirror, no matter the level of supposed intimacy achieved at some point.

I think Fincher stealthily indicts this phenomenon-- in a manner similar to the near-subliminal flash cut of a black man at the Lincoln Memorial in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Old-fashioned and corny stratagem, yes, but it works. I gather that it works particularly well with a crowd unused to viewing any ancillary characters in mainstream movies as human (otherwise known as the multiplex audience circa 2010).

Movie-Zuckerberg's fake girlfriend is another such black-man-in-Mr. Smith Goes to Washington subversion. Is it enough that she tears down Zuckerberg's petty hangups and pretensions right off the bat, for ten ball-busting minutes? I say, hell yeah. We know going in what makes movie-Zuckerberg a certain kind of loser no matter how much he will win across the film's running time. He doesn't hate women. He's terrified of them. He has no idea what they want. The movie doesn't go into what experiences have struck him with such dumb terror, but Fincher/Sorkin give us little droplets that speak volumes.

Some say the Zuckerberg character is as impenetrable as others say the women in TSN are invisible. I think both stances are literary readings of a film whose primary poetic zing is visual, gestural. (Though one verbal droplet, the deafening club scene, is as gorgeous a bit of implied backstory as Cabiria taking down the picture of her (never-talked-about-til-that-moment) parents, late in Nights of Cabiria.)

Fake-Zuckerberg, fake-Harvard, robot girls, crass sexist readings, yeah whatever. This flick is designed for crowds, like the Golden Age entertainments Fincher and Sorkin seem to understand so well. This boys' adventure flick will trouble the sexist mind with 3am nightmares like no thoroughgoing "feminist" film I have ever seen.

martha said...

Hate me if you must.

I’m explicitly asking for just the kind of two second gestures you mention (see the list in my initial post) in order to give the crowd of ladies any kind of third dimension--any kind of acknowledgment that they exist beyond the eyes of these boys…since, again, nothing and nobody else in the film is seen exclusively through the boys’ perspective. We don’t have to use ‘human’ or ‘humanity’ if it feels uncomfortable from a philosophical perspective or a linguistic one; no prob.

And no, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth: I said the women were “just prizes”…and so did Aaron Sorkin when confronted about the sea of substanceless ladies in the film. Finding someone who wants to be with you and feeling like a trillion dollars or like you’ve won a billion billions is not what I or the film are talking about. Companionship is not what the film is talking about. If it had been thinking of companionship as the prize, as the ultimate victory in this world, well then we wouldn’t have been left with Zuckerberg, the king of the internet, refreshing the ex’s facebook page. No, the “prizes” Sorkin and I are referring to are blowjobs in the bathroom and girls being worn as accessories and flaunted as trophies.

And this brings up a larger issue: based on your first comment and some of your second, it seemed like you agreed with our starting assumption—that the vast majority of women portrayed in this movie were stereotyped, 1-dimensional, caricatures of bitches and bimbos. But in this second comment you seem to be suggesting, at times, that the film does show some deeper dimensions in these girls and that the relationships are shown as deeper than just the prizes or potential prizes on these boys’ road to fame and fortune. Or that somehow ‘prize’ means more here than Sorkin outright admits. If you truly believe that these women are shown as more than stereotypes—that Christine the scarf-burning girlfriend actually has motivations rather than just being a crass cliché of a pyromaniac bitch, for instance—well then I need some evidence because everyone else, even those who think the film itself isn’t sexist, even its creators, agree that these ladies are just prizes in the sense I just discussed. The conversation about the film’s treatment and consideration of those stereotypes (which is where the film becomes misogynistic or not) has no grounds if we disagree about the base existence of those stereotypes and, more broadly, a discussion about particular gender dynamics has no grounds if there’s any doubt that gender studies is a worthy angle or approach. But, for the sake of argument—of literally being able to talk about the film instead of discussing what constitutes a stereotype and if treatment of gender is important—I’ll keep riding the assumption that we’re starting from the same premise.

If we’re going to be specific about terms, then let’s not use “power” for being able to “turn these boys’ heads and stroke their egos for a hot minute and satisfy their own misguided, youthful-vapid sense of moving up.” I’m still unclear about how the girls’ ability to do that does anything but support my argument.

I totally agree with you re: graph 6. It is clear that these girls are just passing through, a blur for these boys. If the rest of the film had taken on a similar perspective and seen everything through these boys’ eyes, I wouldn’t have a problem with the girls being boiled down to pure, blurry, cliché. But this isn’t what this movie does. So no, I can’t agree that Fincher is stealthily indicting the phenomenon. Just presenting the dynamic, just having the girls in the backgroud-- this is no indictment. Which is why I’m asking for those two second gestures we’ve already mentioned.

(continued below)

martha said...

The first 10 minutes of the movie are great and totally contextualize the rest of the film’s action and I totally agree--it’s abundantly clear Zuckerberg (and all his ilk) are terrified of and confounded by women, not simply hateful toward them. The problem is, those two things don’t move forward through the film or change the way the crowds of girls come off. The scene with the ex-girlfriend is great because it’s poking fun at the ways these boys ARE terrified of women—it’s a meta-analysis because the conversation and the dialogue point out things that Zuckerberg can’t see. If Fincher and Sorkin had wanted to carry this vibe through—we wouldn’t see the blurry boobs in the rearview mirror of a boys’ life. We would see, again, those meaningful gestures, those slips of phrases that subtly hint at a world beyond these boys’ vision and the absurdity of their inability to see it.

Finally, one of the biggest, greatest jobs of criticism is to think about the Golden Age entertainments and the flicks designed for crowds. It’s what I’m doing and it’s important and fun, not a cavalier whatever kind of project. Of course I can’t agree with your last statement because I disagree with all the things that lead you to make it—I don’t believe this will challenge a sexist mind one bit. I prefer other feminist (not “feminist”) films by the likes of Mike Leigh, Jane Campion, John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Jan Troell, etc, etc, etc.

Thanks so much again for reading!

Boone said...

"Companionship is not what the film is talking about. If it had been thinking of companionship as the prize, as the ultimate victory in this world, well then we wouldn’t have been left with Zuckerberg, the king of the internet, refreshing the ex’s facebook page."

Did you miss the comical scene where Zuckerberg struggles to keep Saverin on topic (whether he got the digits from the girls he picked up in the previous scene) while the latter is going on and on about business stuff? Or the boyish gratitude when they first leave the lecture, marveling that those girls even gave them the time of day? Or their compete wonderment after the bathroom encounter? (Not high-fiving and strutting like frat jocks but, in their gazing-up-at-the-mothership expressions, pondering the mysteries of an existence which includes bathroom stall blowjobs)? It's sitcom stuff, and completely ludicrous, but, damn, it's plenty real for anyone who's ever been young, lonely and less than confident about one's own appeal.

Movies are indeed a "cavalier whatever kind of project" for the multiplex crowd these days. Even many of the smart girls and boys. I know plenty of eggheads at the tops of their professions, loaded down with degrees, esteemed by their colleagues and students, etc. for whom movies are mental or emotional downtime.

Emotionally, TSN speaks their glancing, stingy language. But it springs a trap for them. Not a particularly deadly one, but one that does have the sting of truth, in the end, if you're a lonely asshole-- or feel like one. (For further study see the 1997 docudrama "Unmade Beds" I guess we disagree over whether Fincher "carries the vibe" of female smarts "all the way through." I see the that opening scene, which the filmmakers call an "emotional prologue" as throwing a huge scrim over the rest of the film, giving us a way to see all the events that renders closeups of Pyromaniac Bitch crying alone unnecessary. We are meant to laugh at Pyromaniac Bitch and move on but maybe have some regrets about it later.

Fincher often uses "negative fill" to keep the light OUT of Zuckerberg's eyes, compelling us to scrutinize them for evidence of humanity and vulnerability. He jacks up the music in the club scene with Sean Parker so that we try harder to focus on his anecdote, which is, for Zuckerberg, more about righting high school wrongs than about business strategy. Similarly, Pyromaniac Bitch is conspicuous for her absence.

Fincher's only real weakness in the follow-through is in not making Zuckerberg's click-click ending even more desperate or embarrassing.

Oh, and this should have been the first thing I posted, sorry: Really enjoyed reading this piece and the articles it links to. You and Maya have written a blistering reproach to what you suppose is a misogynistic film. I love all those filmmakers you mentioned, too, but also wonder what Cassavetes, who has been accused of misogyny (not by anybody with sense), would say about TSN. Better yet, what kinda film he'd make about something as alien to his worldview as Facebook.

I don't hate you, Martha. I fear you.

Anonymous said...

I fully respect the right of narrow minded people to make films full of narrow-mindedness and all the bigoted implications that such narrow-mindedness carries with it if only because such films always end up being so scathing in their self parody that they really defeat themselves. Well, of course, it depends on the perspective. The majority seem to think this is the best film since Citizen Kane - or they would if they had seen Citizen Kane. I'll be in the minority that doesn't pay to see it. Out of sight out of mind, ahh.

But, really, maybe this film is less of a bigoted statement against women, less of a 'film of our generation', and more a film of the older generation whose memories of their own college life are fading and who are left to attempt to fill in the blanks in this new generation with silly assumptions that could never hold true in any world inhabited by real humans. Or maybe it's knowing pandering to the masses - in which case their assumptions about our generation are startlingly coming true not through what is depicted but through depicting what they assumed people wanted to see, and it's not reality. In this case, our elders are brilliant capitalists. But, then, our generation has Zuckerburg, so I think we win at capitalism.

Maya said...


I’m not the film expert in this duo, so I’ll leave it to Martha if there is anything more to say about our different readings of the film. Seems to me like there isn’t: you disagree with our argument that the film needed to demonstrate a little more critical consciousness about the sexist gender dynamics it portrayed to avoid being sexist itself (which is a reasonable position though one I obviously don’t buy) and also seem to think the sexist portrayals of most women in the film are not actually so sexist (which is honestly a little shocking).

But I guess you just think the smart girl scene at the beginning and pathetic boy scene at the end do enough to color—and thereby save—the middle section. And maybe for you, as a dude viewer who identifies with the boy protagonists, it does. But I think you have to read a lot more into the movie for the “vibe of female smarts to be carried all the way through.” And I’m thoroughly unconvinced that a sexist dude viewer would see it that way—sexist dudes being some of the least likely folks to think critically about gender dynamics as they enjoy their mental downtime at the multiplex. No, I think sexist dudes will see their worldview affirmed: that boys change the world and get to fuck girls along the way. And girls (some of whom maybe had silly notions that their grand ambitions had a chance too) will see the same thing: that boys change the world and the best consolation prize girls can hope for is to fuck the boys who do.

So we disagree about the film, clearly, and that’s fine, but I can’t resist one final feminist note regarding this part of your last comment. Because I spend a lot of time thinking about sex and gender in real life, not just in film, and this suggests a misunderstanding about what is misogynist about the sexual dynamics shown in the movie. You write:

Maya said...

"Did you miss the comical scene where Zuckerberg struggles to keep Saverin on topic (whether he got the digits from the girls he picked up in the previous scene) while the latter is going on and on about business stuff? Or the boyish gratitude when they first leave the lecture, marveling that those girls even gave them the time of day? Or their compete wonderment after the bathroom encounter? (Not high-fiving and strutting like frat jocks but, in their gazing-up-at-the-mothership expressions, pondering the mysteries of an existence which includes bathroom stall blowjobs)? It's sitcom stuff, and completely ludicrous, but, damn, it's plenty real for anyone who's ever been young, lonely and less than confident about one's own appeal."

First of all, you cannot possibly be suggesting that these scenes show the boys’ true longing for “companionship.” (So I’m gonna assume you aren’t actually.) No doubt they do want that, as we all do deep down, but these scenes are about the fact that the dudes wanna get laid. Badly. By the first pretty girls that show an interest. Any pretty girls, it doesn’t really matter. Because the girls are pretty and, as you say, the boys are “less than confident about their own appeal.” And because, even though they aren’t confident with the girls—are, in fact, pretty scared of the girls—they are very confident in themselves and insanely ambitious and they’ve been taught, all their lives, that successful men fuck girls. Sex—access to pretty girls—is both the boys’ prize for gaining power and a means of getting even more of it in the social universe in which they exist. (And the benefit for the girls? If anyone even thinks about that, which they don’t, because this is so thoroughly, aggressively the boys’ tale. Well, as noted, they get the prize of getting to fuck the powerful men. As Elissa Bassit writes, “Women are there to blow the dick, excite the dick, but not wield the dick.”)

Maya said...

It matters very, very little that the boys seem appreciative of their prize. And it doesn’t matter at all that they are the nerds not the jocks. Their “boyish gratitude,” their “marveling” and “wonderment”… I think you’re overselling it, but sure, I see it—after all, our problem with the movie was never that it didn’t humanize the boys enough. (I disagree, btw, that it’s very difficult to find “humanity and vulnerability” in Zuckerberg.) Yes, they are pumped to have entered a world that “includes bathroom stall blowjobs.” As well they should be! Seriously, everyone wants to get laid. And who wouldn’t want to get sexually serviced by a pretty girl? Plus, that’s apparently kinda why they invented Facebook in the first place—for the popularity, the recognition, and the girls.

But the fact that nerds are slightly more endearing than the jocks—who perhaps have a more inflated sense of entitlement to begin with—has absolutely no bearing on the sexist gender dynamics at play. The boys still see the girls as objects—the fact that they see them as rare, mysterious objects that not so long ago they didn’t dream they’d ever get to touch doesn’t change that. Sex is still something given to the boys by the girls. (If Fincher and Sorkin had wanted to suggest that the girls were also just looking to get off—to suggest any kind of sexual equality in the dynamic—they wouldn’t have had the hook-up scene be blowjobs in the bathroom. I mean, for fuck’s sake. There is still no indication that the girls are desired for anything more than their pretty faces and vaginas. Maybe Pyro Bitch was also a brilliant economist and she and Saverin had a passionate, if melodramatic, intellectual and sexual bond before it ended in flames. Odds are actually good she was—it is Harvard after all and I hear they don’t let just anybody in. But they didn’t make that movie.

Maya said...

One of the things that I actually thought the movie really accurately showed was how this sexist vibe is present in both the jock and the nerd worlds—despite their differences and the direct competition between them in the film. In this exciting new age, according to TSN, the nerds can beat the jocks and they can all screw the girls. Yay!

It’s these gender dynamics we’re condemning—and we had hoped the film would more definitively as well. Which isn’t to deny the boys’ humanity or just caricature them as sexist dude stereotypes. We can appreciate the vulnerability of Zuckerberg’s character, feel bad for his inability to build any real relationships, even find his awkwardness somewhat endearing, and still recognize that he has basically misogynistic views of women (which—hint hint!—could have something to do with his apparent inability to have real relationships with them) and condemn the fact that he and the other boys in the film are getting ahead in a socioeconomic system and getting off in a sexual system that are fundamentally sexist.

Steven Boone said...

Just peeked in and saw Maya's thorough reply. I learned a tremendous lot here, thank you. I don't mean to come off as rejecting diverse readings of a film like TSN. My eyes do tend to
roll at terms like gender studies when approaching a such a movie-movie as this one, but I am aware that such readings have academic and intellectual value. My boy Ry Knight, who is operating with trillions more brain cells than yours truly, helped me understand that (cuz these things only sink in w/me when a guy is saying it.)

(Pyro Bitch side note: Actually, I'll bet she didn't have a single thought about economics in her head, besides the economics of pricey handbags. That's the point: movie-Saverin went for the first pretty thing who paid him some attention-- to paraphrase Ferris Beuller's comment about his sidekick. That's the point. He didn't choose someone he could relate to. Smart women are phantasms, menacing from beyond the frame. Oh, and stupid people are everywhere, even at Harvard. One of the other cool themes in TSN is dutiful super-competence vs. unruly genius. Also, "smarts" vs. wisdom. Also also, street smarts vs. book learnin.)

There's no more for me to say, other than that I think the sexism you impute to Fincher is probably better aimed at the characters and, maybe, Mr. Trophy, Sorkin. I find it hard to accept that the director who made Alien3 such a poetic rumination on queer and class persecution is not actively challenging the sexist shenanigans on display in TSN.

And it's the director who pulls everything together in images and sounds to deliver something more (or less) than the source material. I don't care how many panels of feminists or thin-skinned intellectuals judge this film by the brute facts of plot and dialogue. As a piece of cinema, this film probably beyond their reach. Or, more appropriately, below it.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

While I'd like to simplify it to "Sorkin suxx, Fincher roolz!" that's just not the case. No doubt, TSN is crafted better than just about any product out there (word choice!) but it's selling the same old posture, the same old ironies. Trent Reznor's score isn't as one-dimensional as Hans Zimmer's _Inception_ thudd-maker but its main purpose is the same: to sustain a thriller's pitch, to push the mostly-words film faster. No, Sorkin didn't invent "the fuck bus," and no Fincher chooses to excise that awful moniker from his film, but that whole Final Club montage isn't exactly from the POV of the Final Club (Fight Club?) or the nerds-in-waiting (-hiding?)--it's just as glossy as anything Fincher's ever done, which means it looks _cool_, no matter a few sour expressions on some babes' faces nor the general yuckitude of what's actually happening. In any case, I think one of the main things M&M want to advocate for is simply the right to read a film thus, and for it to be met in felicitous conversation. Unfortunately, that seems kinda-sorta near-unwinnable. And I don't think one character at the beginning, sorta middle, and only vaguely at the end (I'm talkin the exgf) is enough to offer sufficient slant from the distaff side of things; sure, MZ or TSN's MZ hangs himself throughout the film, but, that's not a full argument either. Besides, the exgf is only ever an idea despite a good performance from the actress--and she's even reduced to that, to her FB page, at the end. Cuz, really, all FB is is a mnemonic device. And all the psychology we get of MZ here is that he's spurned, and thus spurred on, by this early infatuation. And that's pretty boring. Why, for somebody's sake, doesn't anybody talk about this dude as having asperger's?! Bah. I've said to much. I just wish the thing, like FB, would go away. But I know that won't happen. So I salute all the people who don't want to drink the kool aid. Or, at the least, the ones who want to think about how that kool aid's being served.

Anonymous said...

Looks like this discussion ended a while ago, but as a footnote-postscript I just had to recall a moment from The Mustached One's Daybreak:

"On the morality of the stage.— Whoever thinks that Shakespeare's theater has a moral effect, and that the sight of Macbeth irresistibly repels one from the evil of ambition, is in error: and he is again in error if he thinks Shakespeare himself felt as he feels. He who is really possessed by raging ambition beholds this its image with joy; and if the hero perishes by his passion this precisely is the sharpest spice in the hot draught of this joy. Can the poet have felt otherwise? How royally, and not at all like a rogue, does his ambitious man pursue his course from the moment of his great crime! Only from then on does he exercise "demonic" attraction and excite similar natures to emulation—demonic means here: in defiance against life and advantage for the sake of a drive and idea. Do you suppose that Tristan and Isolde are preaching against adultery when they both perish by it? This would be to stand the poets on their head: they, and especially Shakespeare, are enamored of the passions as such and not least of their death-welcoming moods—those moods in which the heart adheres to life no more firmly than does a drop of water to a glass. It is not the guilt and its evil outcome they have at heart, Shakespeare as little as Sophocles (in Ajax, Philoctetes, Oedipus): as easy as it would have been in these instances to make guilt the lever of the drama, just as surely has this been avoided. The tragic poet has just as little desire to take sides against life with his image of life! He cries rather: "it is the stimulant of stimulants, this exciting, changing, dangerous, gloomy and often sun-drenched existence! It is an adventure to live—espouse what party in it you will, it will always retain this character!"— He speaks thus out of a restless, vigorous age which is half-drunk and stupefied by its excess of blood and energy—out of a wickeder age than ours is: which is why we need first to adjust and justify the goal of a Shakespearean drama, that is to say, not to understand it."

However the thing that resonated with me the most seeing TSN was example of the above discussed male psychology from real life, one Dr Bruce Ivans, the Anthrax mailer:

"For example, Ivins was reportedly obsessed with the college sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) ever since he was rebuffed by a woman in the sorority during his days as a student at the University of Cincinnati. According to The Smoking Gun, U.S. Government court documents stated that Ivins edited the KKG article in Wikipedia using the account name "Jimmyflathead"; he attempted to add derogatory information about the sorority to the article."

Rafael Marinho said...

Could you change the background color? Your texts are interesting (even disagreeing in the most parts), but since they are quite big, i feel dizzy after read them... Thank you!