The ‘Social Network’ generation split

Posted by · 1:57 pm · October 4th, 2010

Last week, I mused on the possibility of “The Social Network”‘s highly youth-oriented narrative proving a bit of an obstacle to older audiences, Academy members among them. So far, it seems not to be a problem: judging on reactions I’ve skimmed and conversations I’ve had, interest in the film spans a broad demographic range, as the media saturation has ensured even people who wouldn’t dream of opening a Facebook account are aware of its existence.

Nevertheless, a couple of articles published over the weekend suggest that the film does still expose a generational divide — just not in simple “will see/won’t see” terms. Rather, as the NYT’s David Carr writes, it’s the way audiences respond to the film and its characters that is likely to differ across age groups, with some seeing it as a cautionary tale and others as a success story:

“When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films,” said Scott Rudin, one of the producers. “The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.”

What’s interesting is that either reaction paints Zuckerberg in a more sympathetic light than might have been expected, considering how some argued that the socially autistic billionaire was too cold and unrelatable a protagonist for a successful commercial feature.

Meanwhile, The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman writes that we might have misidentified the film’s potential blind spot all along — rather than older viewers less familiar with the technology and social scene it deals with, Waxman anticipates a “backlash” from the more clued-up, web-savvy audience, who may feel they know more about the subject than either David Fincher or Aaron Sorkin:

A large majority of the film’s producers and principal architects have no active Facebook pages, including screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher… Moviegoers who devote a good part of their lives to the website – it’s where increasing numbers of Americans spend the bulk of their online time – feel somewhat offended. And in some way, the filmmakers have missed the special sauce of Silicon Valley – the understated drive of its geek-entrepreneurs.

“There’s something that feels quite dated and very 1990s about all of this, like the filmmakers never bothered to meet some of the geeksters — geeks and hipsters — at Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. who fuel the social media renaissance in Silicon Valley,” [Huffington Post contributing editor Jose Antonio Vargas] complains.

I’m not sure I necessarily see that as a disadvantage — that “The Social Network” is less about social networking itself than the social (and legal) fallout it creates is what has made it a water-cooler topic among viewers who otherwise would have no personal connection to, or investment in, “the Facebook movie.” It’s difficult to see how Fincher and Sorkin could have pleased everybody in taking on a pretty niche subject; for now, they seem to be doing pretty nicely.

→ 14 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

14 responses so far

  • 1 10-04-2010 at 2:38 pm

    Lucas said...

    I’m fairly up on my technology and nothing in the film stood out to me as egregiously outdated or showing technological ignorance.. Or did I miss some obvious anachronisms?

  • 2 10-04-2010 at 2:42 pm

    Will said...

    I’m 22, very keyed in, and this is my favorite film of the year.

    My response was actually a mix of those two responses. I thought Zuckerberg was portrayed as a tragic, lonely figure who just wants to be validated but, at the same time, I agreed that his actions (whether they made him popular or not) were important in that Facebook never would have been the success it was had he (for example) listened to Eduardo.

  • 3 10-04-2010 at 3:02 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Guy, Kris, and whoever else, I’m curious (because I respect your opinions here) … what is your response to some people who are saying: well, yeah, the tech work, acting, and dialogue is fantastic, but the story itself doesn’t feel layered, complex, or substantial enough, as it is, to be considered “great”.

    Do you understand where they’re coming from, or can debunk that? I don’t necessarily agree with their line of thinking, but I am curious to hear your respective opinions.

  • 4 10-04-2010 at 3:11 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’ll have an answer for you on Thursday, JJ1. #StupidSlowEngland

  • 5 10-04-2010 at 3:22 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Fair enough. :-)

    I ask only because, for as many raves I’m hearing/reading from the public and critics, I’m also hearing that particular criticism from the younger crowd, as well as ‘it’s kinda cold’ from older folks. But I don’t care about the latter criticism, just the former.

  • 6 10-04-2010 at 3:44 pm

    Drew said...

    Oh my god you guys, Zack Snyder’s directing Superman! Aren’t all of you just bursting with excitement?

  • 7 10-04-2010 at 5:29 pm

    Linda said...

    Pretty interesting that I’m the same age as the real Zuckerberg, Saverin, etc and I felt both what the older and younger audiences felt. He was a tragic figure because he lost out on Eduardo’s friendship, obviously made a mistake regarding Sean’s moral fiber and still yearns for Erica, but the choices he made were inevitable ones. From a business standpoint, I very much appreciate and am in awe of his instincts to cut ties with Eduardo’s limited vision and trust that the doors Sean was opening were the right ones. He did what he had to do, but he had to make sacrifices. I felt for him but realized I would have made all the same moves he did.

  • 8 10-04-2010 at 7:46 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Well said, Linda. Interesting read on it.

  • 9 10-04-2010 at 10:21 pm

    Patriotsfan said...

    I didn’t quite see Zukerberg in either of those ways. I saw Zuckerberg as a certain type of nerd (for lack of a better word) that is socially awkward, but understands the perceived importance of popularity and is totally driven by rejection. For instance, I don’t think he had any real feelings for Erica, but was simply obsessed with her because she rejected him.

  • 10 10-04-2010 at 10:25 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***… with some seeing it as a cautionary tale and others as a success story… ***

    Exactly. His final “status” at the end of the film is the culmination of his uncompromising business logic, which drives him to great success, and on the flip side the alienation an online-focused world can create. It is the meshing of these two points, the contrasts and the ironies exhibited within, that makes the film so great.

  • 11 10-05-2010 at 4:05 am

    tony rock said...

    JJ1…most of those ppl who say the unsubstantial stor” is what keeps the film from being “all that,” I imagine they failed to pick up on the more subtle themes that are what make the film so great. The basic plot is not the driving force here, it’s everything surrounding it and how it’s put together.

  • 12 10-05-2010 at 6:10 am

    JJ1 said...

    Well said, tony rock.

    And on the last minute of the film … him hitting refresh over and over again, to me, was simply a desire to see IF she would “accept” him, and how QUICK (given the state of things today/media/internet … have to be quick, have to be quick, have to be the fastest, etc etc) he would get “accepted” or “ignored”. I don’t think he was obsessed with her, at all.

    I just think the scene was there to make a point about said acceptance and/or rejection, and how quick and finite it can be nowadays.

  • 13 10-05-2010 at 12:55 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    man, this is great news for the Oscar campaign, if it’s connecting with everyone EXCEPT tech-savvy hipsters. Exactly the demographic least likely to be found in the Academy voting body, other than maybe African American Jewish lesbians.