Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Social Network

It was bound to happen sooner or later. With one out of every twelve people now a member of Facebook, someone was bound to do a movie about its origin. I have to admit that I was late to the game and just recently jumped on the bandwagon. But now with over 500 friends (and honestly I didn’t realize I had 500 friends) I have become a fan.

By now, you realize the new movie, The Social Network, has become a phenomena of sorts. Some observers are going so far as to say that it defines an entire generation, much like The Big Chill did in the 1980s for baby boomers. It certainly is a leading candidate to take home a ton of awards at the upcoming Oscars. But is it as good as advertised? Should you go out and rent or buy a copy? At least, in my opinion, it has to be one of the best films of the year. It’s intelligent, smart and thought-provoking.

It’s much more than just your standard corporate double-dealing and manipulation. Friendship, loyalty, jealousy and betrayal are portrayed in just about every facet of The Social Network. The film is constructed in a fashion that constantly keeps you guessing as it cuts between present day and past events.

Who doesn’t know a little something about the Mark Zuckerburg story? As founder of Facebook, he is the world’s youngest billionaire. In The Social Network he is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, a brilliant computer wiz who is working on his undergraduate studies at Harvard University. We never fully understand why he starts Facebook other than an opportunity to meet girls. For that matter, we never fully understand his motives or why he is driven to do the things he does. That’s what makes this film so brilliant. The viewer will have to determine that based on all the available evidence.

Zuckerburg is approached by fellow Harvard students, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, thanks to the magic of computer wizardry are played by Armie Hammer. He is asked to build a social network for college students. At the same time, his best friend Edwardo Saverin, portrayed by Andrew Garfield, helps to finance the new site and provide his business expertise. To make matters worst Napster founder, Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, complicates matters by dividing the loyalties between Zuckerburg and Saverin. Obviously, the end result is a series of law suits and disputes over who is the real founder and owner of Facebook.

This kind of stuff can be really complicated. But the script somehow makes the details less important than the emotions that surround them. Is there a message to be found in The Social Network, perhaps a lesson to be learned? Often filmmakers themselves don’t realize what kind of movie they are making.

The Social Network serves as a cautionary tale for all of us. It is a lesson we will learn at some point in our lives. Hopefully, we can learn from The Social Network and not in real life. Money has a way of changing everything. Put a few bucks on the table and see how people go absolutely crazy. Whether it’s in relationships, ministry, or business, as soon as real money becomes part of the landscape, everything fundamentally changes. Often our humanity goes right out the window. The Social Network is a perfect example of how friendship and loyalty no longer matter. Now it’s about backstabbing and getting the upper hand.

The real question is how does anybody justify and find a way to live their lives once they have committed such acts. We know there is a price to be paid for it. Late at night it has to eat at the very soul of Mark Zuckerburg. Gee, wasn’t there enough money to go around for everybody?

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