Making the Grades
In The Social Network, the character of Mark Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is an academically brilliant, but socially inept, Harvard undergrad. When his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) breaks off their relationship, Mark retaliates by posting his unedited thoughts about her on his blog. (The same lack of personal censorship has come back to sting other social network users who hit post before reconsidering their comments.) Mark then hacks into the school’s directory, steals information and sets up a website where his fellow classmates can rate the girls on campus.
While the site doesn’t do anything to endear him to the female population, it catches on immediately with the male students. The stunt also comes to the attention of the faculty when it brings down the school’s server. The result is academic probation for the computer whiz. Yet despite that, Mark convinces his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to help him create an even bigger version of a social networking site. In exchange for a thousand dollars seed money and a mathematical algorithm to make the program work, Eduardo becomes the business manager for the fledgling company that ultimately becomes Facebook.
Meanwhile Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) approach Mark with their own idea for a social website and ask him to help them write the computer code necessary to launch it. But accusations and lawsuits fly when Mark unveils his own version of the concept after repeatedly ignoring the twins’ attempts to communicate with him.
As the popularity of the original thefacebook.com explodes, NAPSTER creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) approaches Mark and convinces him and his programmers to relocate to sunny California (where it appears the group lives solely on licorice and liquor). The move tears a rift between Mark and Eduardo who have different ideas about the company’s direction and initiates yet another court case aimed at the young entrepreneur.
During scenes of the hearings, Mark remains indifferent to the allegations and insolent toward the plaintiffs and their lawyers. Though he has all the smarts needed to found a world-changing phenomenon, his lack of social skills and maturity fuels hurt feelings and threatens the company’s reputation. Consequently, it may be difficult for some audience members to warm up to this character that can hardly maintain a face-to-face relationship and yet is the guru behind the largest social site to date.
Putting in strong performances, the actors in this film bring believable versions of the multi-billionaires to the big screen. Unfortunately, these newly minted moneymakers use some strong expletives to express themselves. They also get involved in plenty of sexual exploits and parties that include smoking, drinking and the recreational use of illegal drugs.
While Facebook now boasts a net worth in the billions and over 500 million active users, this production gives a new face to the story behind its beginning—one that is often more acrimonious than friendly.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Social Network.
How might the accomplishments of these young men influence others who hope to achieve similar fame and fortune? How much of their success is based on their own abilities and how much is the result of good connections? Can money and recognition interfere with personal relationships?
What does this film suggest about life on university campuses? Do you think these depictions are accurate? How might the partying lifestyle impact a student’s academic achievements?