Taking things seriously

You all know by now that I’ve never quite been a fan of Facebook. It should come as no surprise, then, what I have to say about the movie.

I thought the filmmaking was brilliant. Strong acting, elegant camerawork, perfect soundtrack, but that’s not quite it.

It would be an understatement to say that the movie’s portrayal of Facebook’s meteoric rise to fame is a denigration of all that I believe about technological innovation, and how it comes about. And before you scoff at how I’ve taken the movie too seriously, why don’t I just grab a beer and chill, have a look at this article.

The coincidence of these 2 phenomena worries me (the article made the NYTimes.com “most popular/most emailed” list for a few days now.) I just want to point out that, the new tech entrepreneur is not an “elevated,” “expansive”, “just crazy enough” hypomaniac. Nor is he some sort of broken soul with a desperate unfathomable emotional need that can only be satisfied through relentless coding and utter subjugation of enemies and rivals.

I know this movie will make much more of an impact that that fleeting article will, which is why I’m targeting it specifically.

When you make a movie like this about a certain company’s young founder, you are making a romantic hero for our generation. This does not happen by accident; this portrayal is orchestrated. Romantic heroes endure in people’s imaginations because that is what they are made to do. And they affect perception.

I do not want to be in a world where people believe potentially world-changing software products happen out of a single thunderous brainstorm, followed by a sleepless night of coding, followed by sex, drugs and power struggles. Yang thinks people are too smart to believe that; I’m willing to concede that yes, it is a hard sell to think that every company is like Facebook. But what about the Seth Priebatsches of the world? Why would a publications like the NYTimes assert this ridiculous notion that there is a “just manic enough” psychological profile of entrepreneurs that predetermines success? And that the only way to implement good ideas is to follow a doggedly evangelical, workaholic-insomniac path to millions and millions of dollars?

The point is, most of the time most normal people in the entrepreneurial tech sector are putting hard work, careful thinking, and skillsets honed over a lifetime behind every inch of progress made in technology. I’m sure even Mark did this, even though the movie does not afford him that much credit. It is not some sassy powerdrunk joyride (okay maybe it was for Mark, to some extent). It is not an accident. It is not an epiphany or an idea that can be stolen. That’s not how the creative process works, and to elevate the singular instance in which it does work that way and then made that instance into the representation of our zeitgeist is to insult the creative work that the rest of us strive daily to do.

That’s all I have to say. It was a good movie otherwise.

5 thoughts on “Taking things seriously

  1. That’s why I dislike the computer science Barbie doll, and why I’m going to avoid that movie like the plague.

    On the plus side, it might encourage an increase of entrepreneurs, and out of thousands of theme, there’s bound to be one that actually creates value and has founders who can adapt quickly enough to succeed.

    Meanwhile, it sucks for existing entrepreneurs, who will get even less credit and respect than they already do today, especially on the east coast.

  2. Wow, I just realized how many typos are in this post. I should not blog at 2 AM.

    I had no idea there was a CS Barbie… what makes her a computer scientist? Slide rule? Do kids even know what that is?

  3. The movie is not about software development but about how software has altered our way of connecting (or not) with one another. I say this as I use some software to connect with you–a complete stranger.

    Anyhow, this is a problem with art, one that Plato recognized a very long time ago–you don’t have to know how something works in order to portray it–you can even distort it and very very few people will be the wiser.

    In short, yes, it’s only a movie but people’s perception of reality is often based on much less.

    If only the problem were limited to software innovation….

  4. I totally agree. You have to wonder why (if this has not already happened) Hollywood didn’t afford Bill Gate or Steve Jobs the same amount of ego boosting character makeover that the Facebook movie has done for this Mark Zucherwhatever!! I understand that FB made a huge impact for social networking, especially in youth culture, but really!!.. Facebook pales in comparison to those guys.

    Facebook sucks now, just as much as it did in the beginning. The UX is terrible and the security is a joke.

    Just my opinion. I will NOT be wasting time or money on the movie.

  5. The same stereotyping lands on artists. In fact perhaps the tech entrepreneur have begun to receive the collective projections about creativity that once landed on artists? (There is a thread of rumination that could depart from here). But back to the main point of subtle denigrating in the disguise of adulation–as if you were some kind of freak of nature who secretes amazing products from your body after you ingest this mix of drugs, alcohol and sex. You don’t need to eat like a regular person, nor do you deserve the honor due to one who has made a disciplined effort.

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