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