Spoiler Warning: This article touches upon the ending of 'The Social Network' and 'Citizen Kane.'
Cinematical's very own Erik Davis began his review of 'The Social Network' by predicting that "They'll call it a film that defines a generation," and if the ubiquitous ads and the chatter following the film's New York Film Festival premiere are any indication, Erik's prophecy is already being fulfilled.
What I find most interesting about the shotgun analysis he preempted is that such a statement seems far more critical of "this generation" (whatever that is) than it does of the film itself. Incidentally, it's also not true. Well, it's not true enough. Because to say that 'The Social Network' defines a generation is to suggest that it defines only a generation, and I wouldn't be convinced that David Fincher's latest (and possibly greatest) is the best American film since 'There Will Be Blood' if it only concerned itself with or pertained to those born between 'Risky Business' and 'The Sandlot.'
'The Breakfast Club' is a film that defined a generation; 'The Social Network' is a film about a generation that defines what it's like to be alive in the first world. It uses Facebook in much the same way that 'Citizen Kane' used newspapers: as a means to an end. The film's subject is so topical that it feels like something of a quickie cash-in or a movie-of-the-week, and has engendered an array of negative assumptions as to the film's intent that not even an all-star creative team or the year's most compelling trailer seem to have sufficiently addressed. Perhaps the best way to understand what Fincher and Sorkin have attempted is to explore what they haven't. (Read about 10 films that actually did define a generation.)
So while 'The Social Network' sets its sights on a bunch of different things, defining this generation ultimately isn't one of them, and here are five reasons why not. Steel yourself for sweeping generalizations.