Posted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Adam Quigley
Mark Zuckerberg has spoken out on The Social Network a couple of times before, once on Oprah—”I’m going to promise you, this is my life, so I know it’s not so dramatic”—and then again in an interview with Mashable—”We build products that 500 million people see… If 5 million people see a movie, it doesn’t really matter that much”. In neither of those instances did he elaborate too heavily on what issues, if any, he had with the film and its portrayal of him. Now, finally, Zuckerberg has taken to task the veracity of the picture, pinpointing what he believes to be its biggest disconnect from reality.
When asked about what the film got wrong, this is what Zuckerberg had to say:
Where do you wanna start? I mean, I don’t know. It’s interesting what stuff they focused on getting right. Like every single fleece and shirt I had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own. You know, so there’s all this stuff that they got wrong, and a bunch of random details that they got right. The thing that I think is actually most thematically interesting that they got wrong is — the whole framing of the movie, kind of the way that it starts is, I’m with this girl who doesn’t exist in real life, who dumps me, which has happened to me in real life, a lot — and basically to frame it as if the whole reason for making Facebook and building something was because I wanted to get girls or wanted to get into some sort of social institution. And the reality for people who know me is that I’ve actually been dating the same girl since before I started Facebook, so obviously that’s not a part of it. But I think it’s such a big disconnect from the way people who make movies think about what we do in Silicon Valley — building stuff. They just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.
That Zuckerberg would be dismissive of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin‘s interpretation of his motivations is understandable, but he’s fairly deceptive in the way he tries to dismiss some of the factual events of the story. For example, Zuckerberg’s claims of dating the same girl since before starting Facebook have already been proven false; they actually started dating after she had been hired to work for the site. Also, despite Zuckerberg’s claims, Rooney Mara‘s character is indeed based on somebody who exists in real life, though Sorkin changed her name to save her from further embarrassment.
More importantly, I don’t think Zuckerberg understands that The Social Network isn’t merely intended to be a movie about him and the founding of Facebook. It’s meant to be a generational examination. Sorkin may be unwilling to acknowledge that he did Zuckerberg a disservice by using the young entrepreneur to personify his own ideas, but as he himself admits, “My priority is always the audience.” Sorkin used Zuckerberg and the stories of those around him to communicate a tale of his own devising—one of great thematic complexity, and one consisting of largely fabricated characters designed to strengthen the film’s narrative.
So, sure, The Social Network may fail to accurately convey what Zuckerberg was trying to achieve with the creation of Facebook. But who, other than Zuckerberg and those close to him, really care? The film is as good as it is precisely because Sorkin took significant liberties with the onscreen personas of those involved in Facebook’s founding. Had Sorkin let facts get in the way of telling a good story, the film likely would’ve been a bore.