You can learn a lot about Mark Zuckerberg in the first five minutes of The Social Network, David Fincher’s chronicle of the rise and, um, continued rise of the website Facebook.com.
Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) are having a pre-dinner pint at a campus pub near Harvard, which he attends. She looks at him when she speaks. His eyes wander the room or occasionally rest just outside the contours of her body, the gaze of an autistic. He’s terribly smart and wants her to know it, switching topics in mid-clause, half-expecting her to keep up, half-hoping she won’t.
Like a good chess player (actually, like a good chess-playing computer), he’s mentally three or four moves ahead of her. Like a human being, she reads his vanity and arrogance, and dumps him. When he realizes what just happened, his attempt at apology sounds little better than “control-alt-delete.”
It’s a brilliant scene by Aaron Sorkin, the writer who gave us TV’s The West Wing and the under-appreciated Charlie Wilson’s War. Whether it captures the real Zuckerberg is anyone’s guess, but it certainly creates a memorable anti-hero for the two-hour drama that follows.
The question at the centre of The Social Network -- and it’s worth far more than $64,000 -- comes down to the definition and value of intellectual property. Thomas Edison said genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, but he was also famous for contracting out the perspiring. Zuckerberg, as the movie tells it, seems to have taken the Winklevosses’ idea and made it his own, even as he told them he was working on their site, HarvardConnection.com.
Will there be a sequel to The Social Network? It’s a certainty. The only question is whether we’ll be watching it at the movies or living through it.