By MARC McDONALD
With the Oscars upon us, I thought I'd do a review of a film that many people thought would capture the Best Picture award, The Social Network.
I simply don't understand the hype about this film and I can't comprehend how it could be considered one of the year's best.
In a nutshell, The Social Network about a bunch of privileged, pampered Harvard kids who are ruthless and who crush anyone who gets their way. Along the way, they create a company that exists solely to collect as much personal data as it can get its grubby hands on---and then turn around and sell that data off to the highest corporate bidder.
For this, Facebook gets praised as a era-defining phenomenon that is supposedly out to invent a wonderful new online world by creating this vast social network.
To which I say: hogwash. The World Wide Web itself is actually the real great social network. In the end, Facebook really adds nothing to the online experience. Some might argue that a Facebook page is easier to set up than a Web site. But this is false. Anyone can easily set up a Web site for free, with only a few clicks these days---and in doing so, you have freedom from the grubby clutches of Facebook.
The problem with Facebook is that it goes against the open nature of the Web that made the latter so successful. Facebook rejects being a part of the Web. Indeed, it wants to replace the Web. Facebook stakes its claim in an isolated community that's hermetically sealed off from the Web. Facebook basically wants to control everything (including all your personal data). And not for lofty idealistic reasons, but simply to rake in billions of dollars.
The Social Network is idealizing and over-hyping a company that has been basically extremely overrated by the gullible mainstream media. Even revenue-wise, I'd say Facebook is overrated---I'm not at all convinced that its multi-billion dollar valuations are going to stand the test of time (any more than companies that had ridiculous valuations during the 2001 Dot Com meltdown). And even as a work of fiction, The Social Network utterly fails.
Maybe it's just me, but I simply can't get into a film that has no appealing characters. Nobody in this film has a heart. Nobody seems to care about anyone else but themselves. I couldn't really relate to anyone in the movie. They're all a bunch of privileged, elitist kids who believe they are geniuses who tower over the rest of us. In reality, the only way they're "superior" to the rest of us is that they have bigger trust funds (or trust funds at all, for that matter).
Maybe some people enjoy two hours of watching egotistical jerks, scheming about how they're going to control our online lives (and sell our personal data off to the highest bidder). But the characters left me ice cold, as did the story.
Incidentally, I know a thing or two about creating successful Web properties myself. I'm a Dot Com entrepreneur who has built a number of popular Web sites. And for me, The Social Network simply didn't ring true in depicting the grueling, hard work that it takes to build a popular Web site.
For one thing, no one in this film ever seems to break a sweat. Success for the characters seems to come effortlessly. The film does a poor job of depicting the brutal, marathon, 20-hour days that one must put in to build a popular Web site. When I built my sites, I didn't spend loads of time (as the characters in this movie do) at fancy bars and nightclubs, sipping $20 martinis. The reality is a lot less glamorous.
In truth, to find success on the Web, you must spend endless hours hunched over a computer monitor, doing tedious, often repetitive work, trying to find the spark that will make your site a success. (Oh, and unlike the privileged, pampered site creators in this movie, most popular Web site builders, including myself, also worked at full-time day jobs as we built our Web sites). Life wasn't an endless series of parties, as it appears to be for the characters in this film.
For me, The Social Network simply didn't ring true. It's an overrated film about an overrated company.
Personally, I'm glad that The King's Speech took Best Picture over The Social Network. I'm not an Anglophile (and I haven't been since Tony Blair sucked up to George W. Bush) and I really don't give a f*ck about the British monarchy. But The King's Speech at least had real, flawed, human, flesh-and-blood characters with a heart (unlike the sterile, narcissistic people who populate The Social Network).
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