Last night I watched the movie “The Social Network,” the story of Mark Zuckerberg and his creation of Facebook, which featured his various and sundry betrayals of former friends, who later sued and won settlements against him.
Ironic, of course, because Facebook is all about keeping in touch with friends. But, as its ads note, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”
The mostly-praised movie was okay, fast-paced and fairly entertaining, featuring snappy dialogue while it raises (and never answers) various moral, ethical, and legal questions. It also is, of course, about real people and real events, although somewhat fictionalized.
That’s what makes it both interesting and annoying in equal measure, at least to me. What’s fiction and what’s truth? I have always been disturbed by the indiscriminate blending of the two, and the resultant confusion of one for the other. How many people will see the movie and come away from it convinced that it depicts what actually happened? How many people will care?
In a way, whether one thinks Mack Zuckerberg is every bit as dipshitty a back-stabber as in the movie, or an even worse one, or a slightly nicer guy, is not of much import to anyone other than Zuckerberg, family, friends, and multiple (that’s a pun, by the way) ex-friends and their lawyers. But inaccuracies bug me nevertheless; I’d much rather the film used pseudonyms to make it crystal clear this is a work of fiction—but of course, then it would lose almost all of its gossipy appeal.
Zuckerberg is on record as saying:
…that the film portrayed his motivations for creating Facebook inaccurately; instead of an effort to “get girls”, he says he created the site because he enjoys “building things”. However, he added that the film accurately depicted his real-life wardrobe, saying, “It’s interesting the stuff that they focused on getting right – like every single shirt and fleece they had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own.”
Screenwriter Sorkin (of “The West Wing”) has said, “I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling. What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?” Sound familiar?
But I’m a lot more upset when filmmakers such as Oliver Stone take liberties with far more important history, and their revisions and fantasies become real history in the mind of many. How many, I have no idea; certainly not everyone who watches their creations. But enough to make some sort of difference, I believe.
There’s no way to block this sort of artistic license, and no way I’d wish to do so. What I really wish is that history were taught in such a way as to make people more impervious to those who would play fast and loose with it.