JONATHAN CHAIT SEPTEMBER 18, 2010
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner]
It feels silly to give more publicity to the new Facebook movie, The Social Network, which hardly anyone has seen, but which has received lengthy write-ups in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and now New York magazine. The New York piece, written by Mark Harris, is basically an excellent profile of Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the movie, and is well known for creating The West Wing and A Few Good Men. While it is painful to say anything negative about the man who wrote the latter, Sorkin's approach to this movie, as captured by Harris, is simply absurd.
Much of the controversy over The Social Network focuses on the accuracy of the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, and the various claims of his former friends and classmates, who believe Zuckerberg stole their ideas. Sorkin is intent on letting everyone know that the movie is not supposed to be entirely fact-based. Sorkin created a personality for Zuckerberg that is (by design) not particularly accurate, for example. And then there is this:
When Sorkin and [David] Fincher [the director] disagreed, it was usually over a minor visual or textual detail—with Sorkin arguing for the dramatist’s prerogative to make some things up, and Fincher countering that whenever they knew the facts, they should stick to them...“I was mostly picking a fight with David,” says Sorkin, “because I wanted to have it out with him on the question, 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?”
Well, okay. But Sorkin then goes on the rant to Harris about how the internet is an evil tool spreading misinformation!
As he revs up, we coast over the statistic that one in four Americans still believes Barack Obama was not born in the United States (“There’s just too much bad information getting out there, and I have to believe that’s mostly the fault of the Internet, which isn’t held to any standards of accuracy”)
This could be defensible, rather then hypocritical. After all, real events must always be somewhat fictionalized for the sake of art. But Sorkin seems unable to hold true to his vision. The piece ends with Sorkin talking:
"This isn’t the movie that’s going to tell you ‘Mark Zuckerberg stole Facebook,’ or that he didn’t. But,” he says, “we would sure love for those arguments to happen in the parking lot.”
In other words, come see our movie, which I have intentionally fictionalized in various ways, and then when you are done, engage in debate about what really happened, even though you don't have the real facts.