When Ken Levine wrote his review of 'The Social Network,' he might not have expected Aaron Sorkin, the writer of the movie, would be one of his commenters. More importantly (and strangely), Sorkin chose this outlet to respond to the complaints about how women were portrayed in 'The Social Network,' and he did so at length.

Sorkin wrote, "Mark's blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he's sure he's missing, came directly from Mark's blog. With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark's blog verbatim... Facebook was born during a night of incredibly misogyny...."

He adds, "More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren't the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80's. They're very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren't women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)... I didn't invent the "F--k Truck", it's real--and the men (boys) at the final clubs think it's what they deserve for being who they are. (It's only fair to note that the women--bussed in from other schools for the "hot" parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)

These women--whether it's the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo's psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real."

This response is somewhat disappointing to those of us who defended the writer and the movie. As I wrote in my piece about sexism in 'The Social Network,' I believe that Sorkin and director David Fincher could have written the few women in the movie much better, Erica and Marilyn notwithstanding. However, in their defense, I argued that the other women -- the crazy girlfriend, the bong-hitting groupies, the hotties dancing on expensive Harvard coffee tables -- were shown that way because we were seeing them through the eyes of these three fictionalized men. The women were symbols for all the things that Zuckerberg, the character, wants yet resents, the things he thinks are out of his reach but which he craps on when he does get them. (I highly recommend reading Alison Wilmore's piece on IFC for a more insightful take on the sexism discussion.)

'The Social Network,' after all, is a movie, not a biopic, and certainly not a movie done with any help or input from the people portrayed in it. The story was pieced together from a variety of sources -- some reliable, some perhaps not -- and then turned into a script that has to hit certain points and keep a certain flow to keep a movie-goer engaged. Poetic license is taken. I was so mesmerized by Jesse Eisenberg's performance as Zuckerberg, the writing, the directing, and the music by Trent Reznor that I left feeling like I'd been snorting Adderall. Frankly, the question of whether or not it was sexist didn't occur to me. I think the movie is fantastic.

As Sorkin told New York magazine, "Several different-and sometimes contradictory-versions of the story were told... I didn't choose one and decide that it was the truth. I dramatized the fact that there were conflicting stories." Much later in the feature, he added, "This isn't a documentary. Art isn't about what happened, and the properties of people and the properties of 'characters' are two completely different things. There's a set of facts I'm dealing with, and I try to imagine motivations and fill in blanks that none of us can see. But the question of truth ... the very first words out of Mark's mouth in the present-day part of the movie are, 'That's not what happened.' And that's my signal to the audience that there are going to be any number of unreliable narrators."

The movie is about these three characters -- Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). It's not about whether or not there were also women working alongside the nameless, faceless coders in that dumpy Silicon Valley house that Zuckerberg and Parker took over. Even the Winklevoss twins are just props to symbolize the tall, blonde, athletic WASPs that are the opposite of Zuckerberg.


It seems like Sorkin wants to have his cake and eat it too. If these women -- some of whom are conflated for plot purposes, and I get that, that's what happens when you write about real people and real stories but still need to keep a plot going -- are "REALLY real," then the questions about how they're written are once again on the table. After all, Zuckerberg et al aren't "REALLY real." They're dramatized characters.

And more importantly, does it really matter? Frankly, I don't really know. As Willmore points out, forcing in a female lead just to make people happy doesn't do anyone a favor -- not the story and not women, either.

Cinematical has contacted Sony to ascertain whether or not this comment was really from Aaron Sorkin, and they have since confirmed to us that it is indeed Mr. Sorkin.
The Social Network
PG-13 2010
Based on 42 critics

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