Chapter 5 of our recently published book is titled The Proof is in the Praxis (or “a little less conversation, a little more action please”).
This middle chapter features over a dozen examples of examining film from the Cinemagogue perspective, and this is one of them. The book is available here and on Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions. We’re posting an excerpt from each chapter as a little taste of what to expect (click here for chapter one).
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
(2010, rated PG-13)
“You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an a–hole.” – Erica Albright
It’s October 2003, and Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg has been dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright. In a hazy burst of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room ultimately becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. Six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history… but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications as he finds himself sued by two brothers who claim he stole their idea, and the co-founder who is later squeezed out of the business.
Not since Citizen Kane has such an obvious example of “Life Under the Sun” been told, thanks to director David Fincher’s flourishes on an actual historical event. It’s hard to be sure this narrative matches reality or where it makes assumptions, but this particular bent shows us a man who seemingly gets everything but still lacks any satisfaction.
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” – Jesus, Mark 8:36
The cinematic version of Mark Zuckerberg attains much of what the world would call greatness, leaving strife and broken relationships in his wake. His pride and arrogance as portrayed in the movie almost seem like hyperbole but for the fact that we each probably know someone in real life who ascends to those heights of absurdity. With wealth, fame and media acclaim, much of what the world treasures is at Mark’s fingertips. Yet the film ends with the social media mogul sending a friend request to former girlfriend Erica on Facebook, refreshing the page every few seconds waiting for a response that never comes.
Erica Albright: I think we should just be friends.
Mark Zuckerberg: I don’t want friends.
Erica Albright:I was just being polite, I have no intention of being friends with you.
We don’t literally see Mark Zuckerberg gasping out his last breath like the aforementioned Charles Foster Kane, lamenting the way his adult life leeched away the childlike joy he had so many decades ago. Still, by framing the film with Zuckerberg’s frustration regarding loss of relationship—his desperation to reclaim that which he lost—we have much the same message when we come away. Our relentless pursuit of the wrong things makes us lose our way, taking our eyes off the true prize in life:
“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” – Solomon, Ecclesiastes 2:11
Whether for status, money or simply arrogance, Zuckerberg is shown to be wanting:
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” – Solomon, Ecclesiastes 5:10
It’s not just Zuckerberg we see poisoned by a lack of priorities. In the film adaptation those suing him, his alleged “friends” and partners all have different vices, serving a desire for money or power, lust or conquest. The brokenness of man in our relationships with each other, and our own hearts, is rarely shown so deftly, the problem punctuated so perfectly.
For Contemplation and Discussion:
Do we believe an achievement like Zuckerberg’s would bring us any contentment?
What (or whom) have we sacrificed in our life quest for payment, prestige or power?
Have we left a trail of broken relationships and fragmented families in our wake?
If the “man who has everything” is so profoundly unhappy, what hope do we have?