The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
Facebook is one of the most fascinating tools for human communication and interaction ever created, and yet, as director David Fincher’s film shows, Face Book’s young inventor was very poor at interper sonal communication. Thus the film is more than another biographical picture: it can be seen as a parable of love lost while gaining success.
The film opens in the fall of 2003 with Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) dining with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) at a Harvard gathering spot. He is speaking a mile a minute, but he is talking at her and beyond her, not conversing with her. His remarks are so cruel and insensitive that she walks out on him. Upset, he heads to his room and sets to work on his computer, first spewing out his anger at Erica, publically humiliating her. Then he visits all of Harvard’s websites, gathering the pictures of every woman on campus, and sets up a cruel game of having his readers choose who’s “hot” and who’s not. His prank lands him in trouble with the Harvard authorities, but also draws the attention of a trio of Harvard bluebloods who hire him to help them develop what amounts to a prototype Facebook.
Soon Mark and best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) are setting up a company, even as Mark keeps dodging the upperclassmen who had hired him. Napster co-creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) joins forces with them, after Mark has taken his advice, dropped out of school, and moved to the West coast to set up operations.
Much of the film consists of meetings with lawyers representing the Harvard trio who are suing Mark for stealing their concept of an on-line social network. We see in flashback what transpired over the past six years or so, or rather, each person’s view of what happened, thus giving the film a Rashomon quality. Thus the film is a fictional blending of “facts” about an arrogant, self-centered young man and those whom he encounters on his road to success.
The film opens with Mark and Eric in a crowded restaurant, and closes with Mark alone with his computer. But as we see him looking at a picture, and we realize that if Jesus had been telling this story, he might have closed with his famous statement, “What does it profit a man…” I do not know whether or not this scene is fiction (the film is based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires), but by writing it in scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin has given us a powerful parable that draws us into the complicated lives of the characters. Few of them are admirable, but that they are interesting, and that the central one changed our world, cannot be denied.
1. What do you think of the various characters, and of Mark in particular? Not many that are likable, are there?
2. What do you think makes Mark run? How often was the observation made, by Mark or others, that he is not really that interested in money? And yet he winds up as the youngest billionaire in the world!
3. What do you think of the charges that Mark stole Face Book from his Harvard classmates? What is his defense? That he actually created the code and organized the company? Can an idea be patented? Or is it just the application or working out of the idea that can be legally protected?
4. What do you think of Napster co-creator Sean Parker? Does he seem to place much value on friendship and loyalty? How did he bear within the seeds of his own destruction?
5. What about Eduardo: how do we see that he does not think “outside the box” as he and Mark develop The Face Book? What do you think of the way in which Mark treats him?
6. How have the filmmakers turned the film into a parable of achievement and lostness? What has Mark gained? What does the last scene suggest that Mark has lost?
7. Do you use Face Book? How does it help to connect people? And also, how might it trivialize relationships, or perhaps better, trivialize communication? Are many of the daily, and for some, hourly communications very important or meaningful? (Might he same be said for the cell phone conversations of so many people, talking while shopping or paying a cashier at checkouts?)