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‘The Social Network’ sequel

By on Apr 13, 2011 in Stop The Press | 4 comments

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High drama today as it appears Mark Zuckerberg is being hauled to court for the third time over potentially screwing people out of their dues when Facebook started. (The first two being Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevii.)

The person suing this time is a snake-oil wood-pellet salesman called Paul Ceglia who looks like an unemployed Bengali art teacher. He has already¬† been convicted once for fraud (long story, but apparently that’s how he unearthed the evidence to file this lawsuit) so on normal days people would laugh him away. Which indeed he was, when he filed the lawsuit last summer.

Now, however, he is being represented by a law firm that specialises in technology IP disputes called DLA Piper which says it has done the due diligence in this matter and certain that none of the evidence is faked.

This is big because if a law firm is willing to financial risks and loss of face by backing the authenticity of evidence it’s submitting to court, not to mention that Ceglia has already been to jail once and knows the consequence of such an outrageous fraud claim (even more jail time), this makes it all the more believable that there might actually be something here.

Hoo boy. Who could’ve thought circumstances would make a sequel of The Social Network possible?

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In my review of The Social Network, I was fairly critical of it but I don’t think I explained my stand clearly. See, the problem with it – in my opinion – is that although it’s an exceptionally well-written and acted movie when seen on its own, it is not a good movie about the origins of Facebook. Where The Social Network failed for me was that even though it got the events and the chronology right, it got all the motivations of the characters wrong. And I’m not even talking about the ‘official’ Zuck / Facebook version of what happened (the ‘official’ Bible happens to be The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick); I’m talking of how blatantly Aaron Sorkin twists everything to tell a story he as a person who didn’t know much about Facebook (like most of the viewers) wants to tell rather than the one even its source material tells. (The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, the book the film is based on.)

The iconic scene right at the start with Rooney Mara? Fabricated, as Aaron Sorkin himself confesses. While the film portrays Zuck as a misogynistic nerd who made Facebook out of spite, Mezrich tells the story of an ambitious college kid who knows the masterpiece he wants to build (and, FYI, is not driven out of hatred out of being spurned; instead mentioning Zuckerberg’s relationship with current fianc√© Priscilla Chan). Mezrich also give a more complete picture of how uninterested Eduardo Saverin was and how he put up ads for competing social networks on Facebook early on, while the movie glosses over this to make Saverin look a handsome Brazilian hombre who got royally screwed over by an asshole. Even the stake dilution was completely overblown, as in real-life and in Mezrich’s book (which, if I may remind again, is supposedly the source material for the film) the stake was reduced to “slightly less than 10%”, not the jaw-dropping “less than 1%” in the movie.

Sorkin had an agenda here to tell a gripping story, but it just isn’t the one which captures the true motivations and intentions of the characters he could have pieced together from so many accounts. Nobody expects a documentary – but when it got the chronology and the events themselves right, changing the other bits to make Zuckerberg come across as a jerk seems intentionally malicious. This is why I feel The Social Network is ultimately a bad movie because it fails to do what it sets out to achieve: tell The Story of Facebook.

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And while the latest lawsuit does open up the discussion again on whether Zuckerberg really was a jerk, you have to remember this is a 20-21 year old kid (at that time) we are talking about. In the same position – with an idea you feel can truly revolutionise the world – with no life experience dealing with millions or with VCs or investors, how much wiser decisions would you have taken instead in Zuckerberg’s place?



4 Comments

  1. Vivek

    April 13, 2011

    Post a Reply

    “unemployed Bengali art teacher” – Bwahahahaha
    To be honest, while I do get that twisting the facts to make the film a commercial success may be an acceptable practice, well, the fact that the dude hadn’t even used FB strikes me as a bit odd. By the way, is the Facebook Effect worth reading?

    • Ankur Banerjee

      April 13, 2011

      Post a Reply

      The Facebook Effect is a very sanitised book; bit like a really long CNN interview. BUT, because of David Kirkpatrick’s strong and early relationship covering Facebook he does get access to a interview a lot of people including Mark Zuckerberg and his co-founders that makes it worth reading. Even after Facebook was launched proper, there have been many controversies in its history and this is where the book shines in covering.

      However, I would also suggest reading Ben Mezrich’s version because it pulls no punches when telling the story and yet is surprisingly balanced.

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