October 9, 2010

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Went to see The Social Network last night, and thought it was terrific. Even though most of the scenes set at Harvard and Silicon Valley were shot elsewhere, the versimilitude was high. And,while it was strange to see the recent past treated as history, the story actually works, and carries truth, even if it doesn’t ring true for the living subjects of the story. (I’ve haven’t met any of the movie’s characters, but I thought Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of the Sean Parker character was drawn straight from Jason Calacanis.)

The story that matters, at least to me, is about the making of a Silicon Valley success. In The Business-Movie Business, The New Yorker‘s James Surowiecki unpacks Hollywood’s small and mostly poor assortment of movies about business. His summary statement is “Movies’ mistrust of capitalism is almost as old as the medium itself.” Here’s how he puts “The Social Network” in that context:

Watching “Wall Street,” you’d think that business is a Hollywood obsession. But it’s really Hollywood’s biggest blind spot.

For that reason, the fall’s most important business film—indeed, the most important business film in ages—is not the second “Wall Street” but, rather, “The Social Network,” David Fincher’s film about Facebook. The film represents a rare attempt to take business seriously, and to interrogate the blend of insight, ruthlessness, creativity, and hubris required to start a successful company. Hollywood has made good films about money, loyalty, trust, and organization before—but most of them have been about gangsters. “The Social Network” suggests that it could also start making good films about businesspeople who don’t carry guns.

Henry Blodget’s blog post title sums up his own take: No Wonder Everyone Loves The Facebook Movie: It’s The American Dream. He begins,

True, it paints Harvard as a stuffy cartoon-scape. True, it treats women as as video-game props, sex tools, and platforms for coke-snorting. And, true, Mark Zuckerberg’s character comes off as a bit of an asshole. (But based on the other evidence I’ve seen, this would seem to be a fair representation of the reality at the time. And, thanks to Aaron Sorkin’s writing and Jesse Eisenberg’s delivery, even the assholishness is charming.)

But all this is secondary to the main message of the movie, which is a celebration of what makes a vibrant corner of our economy–and our country–great.

What’s the Facebook movie really about?

It’s about a college sophomore who says “fuck you” to authority, follows his passion, and creates something great. In so doing, he works ridiculously hard, inspires his colleagues, blows past the comfortable establishment, and becomes rich beyond belief.

In other words, the Facebook movie is the latest incarnation of the American Dream.

Ah, but we wake up from our dreams. And Hollywood knows how to make that movie too.

Mark Zuckerberg is clearly an extremely bright and prescient dude, and Facebook could hardly be a bigger success story. But that story isn’t over. In fact, it’s just begun.

(An aside… Both The New Yorker and BusinessInsider, from which I lifted the quotes above, do something I hate. They give me more than I intend to copy, putting on my clipboard a “Read more” and the URL of the piece. So, when I paste the passage, I get bonus jive. Sometimes this is handy, but it smacks of pure promotion, and its annoying.)