Because it is the 15th birthday of Facebook, and because that span seems both an extremely short and an extremely long amount of time for Facebook to have existed, I recently rewatched The Social Network, David Fincher’s 2010 film about the founding of the website that would reshape the world.
Here’s one thing that’s striking today about the movie: how efficiently this work of mythmaking, with its claustrophobic settings and taut instrumentals and don’t-go-through-that-door ironies, doubles as a work of horror. In the years that have passed since Mark Zuckerberg built the site that became TheFacebook (from his Harvard dorm room, the myth pretty much requires its contributors to add), the hacker’s ethos, move fast and break things, has steadily hacked its way into people’s lives. So much has been moved. So much has been broken. And The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin and featuring Jesse Eisenberg as the shuffling, shower-shoe-wearing founder, anticipated some of the fallout. The movie’s trailer is set to a choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” a song that sings of longing and belonging and perfect bodies and perfect souls, and that choice tells you a lot about the lessons espoused by this particular fable.
The Social Network is in many ways a flawed movie; it got one of the biggest things, however, right: It knew enough to ironize the Great Man breathlessness that typically defines the biopic. Its heady historical revisionism (“I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth,” Sorkin said; “I want it to be to storytelling”) finally warns, through metaphor, of the future: what it will mean for people to live lives that are conducted, at least in part, online. Sorkin’s twist on Luddism was to question not the march of technological progress, but rather the Mark of it—the historical figure who drove things forward, nearly by accident. Zuckerberg, the person, is famously a fan of ancient epics (he quoted The Aeneid, via instant message, in a New Yorker profile timed to The Social Network’s release); the journey his likeness takes through the movie, though, is the path of the antihero. This is an indictment at feature length.