The Social Network aka The Old Boys Club

By K. A. Laity

I tweeted my initial review of The Social Network: Why not spend a couple of hours with really unpleasant people? No? Well, I did so you don't have to do so. As many of you know, I am a happy user of "The Facebook" and have written about it once or twice - or maybe a lot. So I had to see The Social Network for professional reasons.


Despite the inexplicably glowing notices for it, there are all kinds of problems with this film but let me start with the most irksome because it's a problem bigger than this picture. Sorkin's screenplay paints Zuckerberg as a pathetic misogynist whose empire is based on rejection by one woman. No, I don't have a problem with that portrayal, it looks to jibe with the facts as known. It rings a little hollow, however, coming from the same misogynist Hollywood system that cannot conceive of women as anything but sexual trophies or emotional security blankets. This is film is yet another example of the dread Movies Without Women™.

Yeah, there are female actors in the film, but not a one is a character. They're just props: one to make him angry, others as trophies to demonstrate his success, one to cross examine him, one to offer an emotional pat on the head. There's even a "crazy girlfriend out of left field" to ramp up the tension pointlessly—who's then immediately abandoned. Sorkin has gone to great lengths to say it was a case of "just the facts, ma'am" elsewhere. But considering the way the rest of the narrative is shaped—and when you fit years into a two-hour film, they are always shaped—he felt no need to address the inherent misogyny of Zuckerberg and pals except by re-creating it accurately without question.

Two things: we can see how this kind of misogyny in tech gets perpetuated. The heart of the old boy network is friends calling upon friends when they need something done. It's still the case that many men don't consider women to be friends. The portrayal of this in the film, as the budding entrepreneur goes around the room to introduce the impromptu team, he stops at the two women sitting on the sofa. "What do they do?" one guy asks.  What indeed?

That's the second point. Women need to be there in the room—yes, even when the men are misogynist schmucks like Zuckerberg. We need to be part of the conversations, we need to have the technical know-how and we need to be taking the reins of power, as we have been doing as users of social media like Facebook. Though men continue to have a slight edge as influencers on Twitter (doubtless due to the same habits of reliance on and recommendation of [male] friends), women's influence is growing.

Despite Bigelow's Oscar win, too few Hollywood execs are willing to trust a film to a female director and take any failure as a reflection of her gender. Many women choose to work outside the studio system; there's not much choice. In the tech world, it is still possible for women to move ahead, have successes and network for greater stability in their fields. It's clear none of the key people involved in the film have used Facebook or social media or have the slightest understanding of its significance. But we do—and we need to use it effectively for our success.

Call it Revenge of the Nerds—or just a slap-down of misogyny—but let's get it on.

Image via Women in Technology

Thu, 14 Oct 2010 14:30 (GMT+01)
4 Responses

Cor. I didn't walk away feeling that at all. The period of Facebook's history that the film deals with didn't actually *have* a notable female influence. So why make one up for the sake of it? I'd argue that that would have been worse.

Vikki Chowney
Thu, 14-Oct-2010 13:46 GMT

Whoa -- that's NOT what I'm saying at all. While the rest of the film critically examines the relationships between the men, it never really deals with the misogyny critically. My point is that WOMEN NEED TO BE IN THE ROOM. I'm not asking to wave a magic wand and insert them in the past. I want them to step up, get the skills and put themselves forward,

K. A. Laity
Thu, 14-Oct-2010 14:12 GMT

The weird thing is, this really makes me want to see it now! It strikes me as very disappointing that a man who created CJ Cregg - and put the words in her mouth in the episode The Women of Qumar, not to mention throwing in Amy Gardner in the same episode - and Joey Lucas could allow such misogyny to stand without throwing in some criticism (he does like to preach a bit - arguably Sorkin's weakest point). This thoughtful review has made me want to see if I get the same impression. Thanks!

Fri, 15-Oct-2010 12:51 GMT

Having finally seen this movie, I have to agree completely. Although the female roles annoyed me throughout, the part that really pushed if over the edge for me was the completely unnecessary "crazy girlfriend" scene. This was the closest a female character came to having a personality, and she was just a vindictive psycho. Nice one.

Interesting also that while the male interns are shown to be coding geniuses, the sole female intern with dialogue only seems to be there to deliver the mail and be leered at.

Tue, 16-Nov-2010 22:39 GMT

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