Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, October 11, 2010

"Social Network" vs. "Network"

In this culturally fractured moment, the buzz is suddenly about connection.

A Facebook film breaks out of entertainment to serve as a metaphor for political columnists while Jon Stewart uses a 1976 movie with half its title in calling for a Rally to Restore Sanity.

Is America "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" or a huge circle of Friends creating digital democracy and instant political giants? Or, if you look closer, something new and grotesque?

The original "Network" was a howl of pain by my classmate Paddy Chayevsky over a world in which human decency was disappearing down a media drain. His angry anchorman doesn't start a revolution. He is milked for profit by an amoral corporation that then has him killed on camera when he stops delivering.

"The Social Network," as befitting our times, is more complex. David Brooks notes that its protagonist is not "a bad person. He’s just never been house-trained...raised in a culture reticent to talk about social and moral conduct...becomes a global business star without getting a first-grade education in interaction."

The picture, Maureen Dowd adds, "unfolds with mythic sweep, telling the most compelling story of all, the one I cover every day in politics: What happens when the powerless become powerful and the powerful become powerless?"

In this atmosphere, the nominal political bigwigs are toppled from thrones, only to be replaced by the same kind of faceless big-money powers behind them that pulled the strings in Chayevsky's time.

Frank Rich says that "you leave the movie with the sinking feeling that the democratic utopia breathlessly promised by Facebook and its Web brethren is already gone with the wind."

He cites Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker arguing that "social media increase the efficiency of the existing order rather than empowering dissidents. In his view, social networking is far less likely to recreate the civil rights movement of the 1960s than to track down missing cellphones for Wall Streeters."

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote "The Social Network," has a gift for turning public longings into powerful entertainment. In the Bush years, he fed the craving for intellect and instinct in Washington with "The West Wing." What is he trying to sell us now?

I would give anything to know what Paddy would make of all this. It's safe to say he wouldn't be thrilled.

1 comment:

poker affiliate said...

Zuckerberg is portrayed as a kniving genius that betrayed his only friend. He seems a little more normal and well-adjusted in real life, but still seems very awkward. The movie was really intriguing, and is one of the best movies of the year so far.