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10 Years Later: The Social Network

15 October 20 words: Hollie Anderson

Is this just another blockbuster film that glorifies people who don’t deserve it? Hollie Anderson finds out...

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Running time: 120 minutes

The Social Network, released in 2010, cashed in on the world’s fascination with social media – something that didn’t exist until 2003 – and the legal proceedings against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

On the face of it, it’s a good watch and back then the film was a hit with a range of accolades including including Academy Awards and Golden Globes, with rising star Jesse Eisenberg catching the attention of critics, and the inclusion of Justin Timberlake (an underrated performance) catching the eye of pop audiences. 

A decade on, it’s an interesting re-watch. Documentaries like The Great Hack and The Social Dilemma, media stories about child depression rates, the wave of body negativity, tales of bullying and the scourge of fake news have all bubbled to the surface, and we’ve finally realised what’s been happening under our wave of friends, likes and shares. They – we – created a monster. 

Can we watch this film about Mark Zuckerberg in the same way ever again?

In fairness, even with a Harvard education, how could Zuckerberg possibly know that social media would be used not just to connect people, but to judge, shame and lie to them? Large conglomerates are guilty of utilising these tools for those reasons, and Facebook a company is likewise guilty for responding to the demand and making their creation the biggest brainwashing machine in human history.

The film makes too many allowances for Zuckerberg and his associates

The film gives a disappointingly vague nod to this in a co-founder’s insistence that they cash in on advertising, the bigger offices, more staff and an ever-more intricate web of coding. But it was 2010. Did we know how bad things were yet? Possibly not. 

But even with the sweet, blissful unawareness we had ten years ago, the film makes too many allowances for the way Zuckerberg and his associates conducted themselves. Cheating business partners, online trolling, spreading bad press, taking advantage of underage girls, drugs, working interns to the bone… all, apparently, triggered by the initial dream of getting into college clubs.

It’s worrying that Hollywood had to dramatise every bad decision and trope to keep us on board with the characters and romanticise the whole business. Don’t get me started on the vainly thrown-in and purely fabricated love story that tried to make Zuckerberg more likeable. 

Perhaps deep down we knew how bad the whole thing was – but no one could put a finger on what it was but covered it up nonetheless to make a big money-spinner. With a second watch, and ten years of press, we know fake news when we see it.

Did you know? Mark Zuckerberg criticised the film for being inaccurate and said he spent most of his years at Harvard working hard rather than partying. However, he offered some praise to the costume design, saying: "It's interesting the stuff that they focused on getting right...every single shirt and fleece they had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own."

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