EQ and The Social Network

Last Updated Nov 28, 2010 7:18 PM EST

If there is one film you have to see this year it is The Social Network.

The film is about the development of Facebook, the modern phenomenon of our time. The hero (?) is Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his two foils are Eduardo Savarin (played by Andrew Garfield) and Sean Parker, founder of Napster (played superbly by Justin Timberlake). All three (like the rest of the cast) are simply brilliant. Savarin is a great Double Checker, Parker is the Hustler extremis, while Zuckerberg is the perhaps the best representation of an Artist I have ever seen on the screen. The script, by Aaron Sorkin, is better than his best work on The West Wing.

At the first level Zuckerberg has been described as an intense, gifted programmer whose intelligence and poor social skills make it impossible for him to attain what he wants most: recognition, popularity and a girlfriend. So, in stages, Zuckerberg creates Facebook, an online world where Harvard students like himself can have the kinds of connections he craves. He is seen as a sad but intelligent loser who was fueled by anger, jealousy, loneliness and alienation, sacrificing the few authentic friendships he had to create something that ended up being great. Sorkin himself shares that view.

I diasgree, however. It is not anger fuelling Zuckerberg but the overwhelming desire to create. He is filled with this drive, and it is programming on the computer that he fulfils it. Great programs are like great poems. You write them in a creative frenzy. Zuckerberg has all the charactistics of the Artists. Avoidance of eye contact, stubbornness, seeing things differently, etc. There is a beautiful scene in the trailer where, brought before a review panel for crashing the Harvard computer system, Zuckerman argues that they should be thanking him for demonstrating its flaws.

Another wonderful example is the friction between Zuckerman and Savarin about the monetisation of Facebook. Savarin wants Facebook to monetise/sell out immediately by courting advertisers, a move Zuckerberg supposedly rejects as a fatal threat to Facebook's nascent coolness. Savarin, as a Doublechecker, is not doing this because of greed but fear of bankruptcy. Zuckerberg, however, is rejecting the commercialisation just as all artists through history have done. They are not doing it for the money.
In the film your sympathies lie with Savarin who appears to be ripped off by Parker and his Silicon Valley associates but they too are only driven by their core drive, the desire for material success. Interestingly at the end of the film Zuckerman rejects Parker as well.

Two of the best scenes bookend the film: Erica Albright breaking up with Zuckerman and Marlyn Delphy, the youngest lawyer on his defence team, with the shattering quote at the end: "You're not an asshole, Mark. You're just trying so hard to be."