Interested (only) in men: Misogyny in The Social NetworkPosted: February 25, 2011
So I FINALLY watched The Social Network last night.
And it did not disappoint. Gripping from beginning to end. Fantastic acting all around, especially from (surprise!) Justin Timberlake. Was not expecting that. Jesse Eisenberg won’t win an Oscar this Sunday, but he certainly deserves the nomination and the critical acclaim he’s acquired. Fincher proves once again, that he’s quite the capable director and Sorkin’s adapted screenplay (already a Golden Globe and BAFTA winnner) is wickedly funny.
But there is one problem.
The Social Network’s got itself a case of some good ‘ole misogyny.
With the possible exception of Rooney Mara and Rashida Jones’s characters, the women depicted in The Social Network are one-dimensional, insipid sex tarts, meant to liven up parties, dole out oral sex and provide a surface on which to snort coke. It’s appalling. In one telling scene, Mark Zuckerberg assigns tasks for people to do. One of the two pretty Asian girls, invited to Zuckerberg’s dorm room after discovering he invented ‘The Facebook,’ ask if they can help.
“No.” Zuckerberg says flatly. They cannot.
That’s all good and dandy though, because the film is a faithful depiction of a very real, misogynistic world. At least, that’s Sorkin’s response in this blog post comment.
And Sorkin would be right.
Were it not for the lingering shots of the female flesh (we’re introduced to Timberlake’s character via a close up of some girl’s Stanford-decked ass), scenes of girls high on marijuana who don’t know how to play videogames, and the inclusion of Brenda Song’s character, Christy. Christy serves no purpose except to provide a tawdry sex scene and fulfill her role as inexplicable crazy bitch (she sets her boyfriend’s trash can on fire, and then seconds later, asks him placidly why he’s leaving her). Song’s character in particular makes no sense; she’s doesn’t add significantly to the film in any way; if anything she weakens a film otherwise strong in interesting, complicated characters. Christy is an especial shame, because so often Asian women are reduced to these sexpot roles. It’s one thing for a character (or characters) to make repeatedly misogynistic, even racist comments. But it’s quite another thing (and a wrong thing, I might add) for the screenwriter and director to implicitly condone these misogynistic viewpoints, by zooming in, lingering and even creating characters that inexplicably bring out the ‘female’ crazy.
I suppose this is the inherent issue with ‘faithfully’ depicting objectionable ideas, concepts and/or modes of thinking. What’s the final takeaway? Using another Fincher film, Fight Club, as an example, it’s clear that the film ultimately doesn’t advocate violence. But you don’t leave the theater with that message in mind. You leave with all the punishing shots of Edward Norton beating the crap out of Jared Leto imprinted in your brain. You leave thinking about Brad Pitt’s taut torso and his effortless cool. A tepid one minute ‘this is wrong’ ultimately ain’t as strong as an hour and fifty-nine minutes of THIS IS SO FUN AND COOL.
The Social Network suffers from the same fate. It’s impossible to admonish and condone at the same time.