Faith Review – The Social Network (2010)
by Jeff Smith
Film Title: The Social Network
Year: October 1, 2010
Director(s): Directed by David Fincher. Fincher’s history includes directing television commercials for Coca Cola, Nike, Budweiser, Converse, AT&T, etc… He has also directed music videos for Madonna, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, and Billy Idol to name a few. He is most notably known for directing Se7ven (1995), Fight Club (1999), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) all starring Brad Pitt, and Panic Room (2002), starring Jodie Foster. His films often end in suicide, and he most often uses low-key lighting with blue or green tinted color temperature.
Original Release Form/Venue:
Originally released for theatres.
Current Availability and Formats:
Released onto DVD and blu-ray disc on January 11, 2011. Available on Netflix. Clips available through hulu.com.
Biographical Drama – PG 13, 120 Minutes
Characters are central to the plot of the film, which is based on a fall night in 2003, when Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jess Eisenberg) sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history… but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.
Zuckerberg is a young genius whose intellectual ingenuity prevents him from truly having the social life that most other Harvard students have. Thus, he uses his wit and creativity to wittingly prove his talent and capability of making a new social network emerge that becomes his social scene. Zuckerberg’s character is complex because on the inside he desires to be liked and picked to be in the Phoenix Club at Harvard, but his lack of social skills unable that to happen. Therefore, his character comes across as vengeful and spiteful to the group of guys who wish to use his talent to make millions.
His best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), is his partner in the Facebook plan, but doesn’t trust Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) who convinces Zuckerberg that he can make him a billionaire. Saverin’s character is convincingly depicted as one whose character represents Harvard’s best. As Zuckerberg gets tempted by his desire to make a big deal with Parker, Saverin is appalled at his willingness to betray their friendship by legally removing him as a partner in the Facebook endeavor. Parker proves to be untrustworthy as his lifestyle of partying and lack of discipline land him in jail for cocaine use and charges for enabling minors who happen to be interns.
Peripheral characters are the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer & Josh Pence), who sue Zuckerberg for idea theft, as they had discussed developing a “Harvard Connection” social network.
The atmosphere of the film also plays a vital role into how the film develops. Harvard is the school of invention, where those who graduate don’t go to get jobs, but leave to create them. This backdrop is the context of how the social network emerges and embodies this mindset.
Film Language Elements:
The film is a dark film – in that the lighting is always very dim, which is telling to the audience that the film does not have a “happy ending”. Several elements of the film make it very “tense” to watch. First the film is constantly moving back and forth in the plot from the story of how Facebook came to be, to the present lawsuit between Saverin and the Winklevoss’s. The frustration and tension arise from the intentional cuts of the camera from shot to shot, as well as the intensity of the music playing quickly and loudly as the story shifts.
Audience/Cultural Context Elements:
The intended audience of the film is anyone who actively has a Facebook account. Social media is a huge driving force today across the world, primarily because of this particular outlet. Given the popularity of Facebook, this would include a range of all ages.
The film captures the audience in a different way by exposing the behind the scenes reality of how this social media outlet was developed and how it was originally meant to be exclusive. In some ways the film exposes those who have a Facebook account as beneath Zuckerberg, by falling into his billionaire business. Our lives are partially controlled by Zuckerberg’s ingenious idea.
The film shows life at Harvard University, the place where great minds invent new realities, and yet it also exposes the sinfulness of competition, and the greed that drives it. This story is only one of many stories of businesses and corporations that rise quickly and have casualties of war along the way. This story is “in our face” because we are captive to its reach and sold on its ability to allow us to keep up with our “friends”.
Theology is Found:
Theology is not found inside the movie itself, but is found outside of the movie. This is a film that allows us to look at different elements of the film and see theological themes and the impact of them.
Theological Themes for Conversation:
Friendships – how do we treat our “friends/girlfriends”?
Competition – is it healthy or does it fuel animosity and strife?
Bullying – online bullying – degrading others out of anger
Greed – how does temptation affect our choices?
Trust – what does trust look like?
Suggested Use of Film:
This film is best used as a deepening of theological themes. This film helps us wrestle with the sinfulness of our humanity and depicts how it can affect our lives. There are a number of scenes you can use to depict the theological themes that are present.
Recommended Amount/Parts of Film to View & How to View It:
This is a film that should be seen in its entirety. It would take a lot of work to set up a specific scene and the film builds on itself and leads to the result of the lawsuit settlements in the end. I would recommend having a theological conversation after viewing it.
This movie does have language, drugs/drinking, and sexual content in it. Please use caution if showing this to teenagers and make sure that you have received written permission from parents.