Random Factoid #442

13 10 2010

There have been many interesting debates brought up in the wake of the release of “The Social Network,” but an unexpected one that has risen to the top of the heap is the discussion of misogyny in Aaron Sorkin’s script.  Just to give you an idea of the wide range of accusations leveled against the movie, I’ll excerpt from the plethora of articles written on the topic.

Jenni Miller, Cinematical:

“Could Sorkin and Fincher have come up with a better way to portray women? Of course they could have. Is the depiction of Asian women as sexed-up, one-note, batsh*t women ridiculous and unnecessary? Of course. These are not points I’d disagree with. It is lazy to fall back on these stereotypes, and beneath Sorkin and Fincher’s talent.”

Jennifer Armstrong, Entertainment Weekly:

“But the way the women who do exist in the film are depicted is horrendous, like, ’50s-level sexist — if this were fiction, the snubs would be inexcusable … women in the movie are reduced to set pieces, gyrating, nearly naked scenery at parties, bimbo potheads, and mini-skirt-wearing interns meant to denote how far Zuckerberg has risen from his dorky beginnings. At one point, his mentor, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) brings a Victoria’s Secret model along as his date, and her major function is to demand shots if the boys insist on talking about icky business stuff. Perhaps the most nuanced female character in the film is the object of Sean’s one-night-stand who happens to first introduce him to Facebook. At least she seemed to give him a run for his wits as she questioned whether he remembered her name or not — even if she was ultimately blown away to find out he’d founded Napster.”

Rebecca Davis O’Brien, The Daily Beast:

“Women in the movie—apart from the lawyer and Erica, who sets the stage and disappears—are less prizes than they are props, buxom extras literally bussed in to fill the roles of doting groupies, vengeful sluts, or dumpy, feminist killjoys. They are foils for the male characters, who in turn are cruel or indifferent to them. (In a somewhat ironic turn of events, former Harvard President Larry Summers is perhaps the only man in the movie portrayed both as solicitous and respectful of a woman’s opinion.)”

Irin Carmon, Jezebel:

“He lived, and lives, in a world where, even if women were scarce in computer science classes, they were achieving as brilliantly as the men around them, in a Harvard that was driven more by extracurricular accomplishment than it was by the old-boy network, even if the old boys haven’t had their last gasp.”

Needless to say, the ladies are upset.  In a way, I understand.  The movie doesn’t exactly portray many strong women other than the two that manage to put Mark Zuckerberg in his place.  The movie argues that a woman’s rage is exactly what drove him to start Facebook, and this sets him up to have a fairly demeaning view of women from then on.

This is not real life; this Aaron Sorkin’s take on events.  In order to fully breath life into his character of Zuckerberg, I believe that he decided to make him a fairly unrepenting misogynist.  Throughout the movie, our reaction is always supposed to be, “Yes, Zuckerberg is brilliant … but look at the way he does this!  Look at the way he treats this friend!  Look at the way he treats that woman!”  How Zuckerberg acts is meant to undermine the brilliant things that Zuckerberg does.

The portrayal of women is, in my mind, not at all representative of how Sorkin wants us to view them.  Just because the main character does something does not mean that it’s what the entire work stands for.  Does anyone think that the creators of “The Office” support sexual harassment because Steve Carell’s Michael Scott does it every episode?

For all those who happened to be offended, Aaron Sorkin has apologized by commenting on a blog.  Here’s some of what he said:

“It’s not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes an equal. 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 incredible misogyny. The idea of comparing women to farm animals, and then to each other, based on their looks and then publicly ranking them. It was a revenge stunt, aimed first at the woman who’d most recently broke his heart (who should get some kind of medal for not breaking his head) and then at the entire female population of Harvard.

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…”

So the misogyny is there, I’m not denying it or belittling it.  But if this is of great concern to you, Aaron Sorkin and “The Social Network” should be the last places you direct your anger.  Direct at the society that spawned the movie because there are real people out there who act like film Zuckerberg to women.  Yelling at a movie doesn’t get read of the real problem.


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One response

15 10 2010
Andrew

I’m with you. I understand how The Social Network could be upsetting to women, but they shouldn’t be getting upset at the film. It’s not like Fincher and Sorkin are making this stuff up; this a movie based on very real people and very real behaviors and attitudes. Don’t shoot the messenger, folks.

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