The Social Network: Vs. The Accidental Billionaires

SEPT / OCT 2012: BY LYDIA JACOBS

social

As I was re-watching this movie in preparation for writing this article, I noticed something I hadn’t seen the first time I watched it. I saw in the credits that The Social Network is based on a novel called The Accidental Billionaires. At first, I was kind of disappointed. The theme of this issue of Femnista is true stories. If the Social Network is based on a novel and not completely on real life events, would it still be considered a true story? I decided I was over thinking it. I downloaded a copy of The Accidental Billionaires and decided it would be fun to compare and contrast the movie and the book.

The Social Network focuses almost exclusively on Mark Zuckerberg. Thanks to Jesse Eisenberg’s excellent performance, we get quite a bit of insight into personality and mindset of Mark even before the opening credits roll. In the very first scene (a conversation between Mark and his girlfriend Erica at a college hangout) we learn several things about Mark. He’s a brilliant guy, having received a 1600 on his SATs. He’s also self-absorbed. He monopolizes the conversation and talks mostly about himself and his desire to get into one of Harvard’s final clubs. At the same time, we can clearly see how insecure and awkward he is in social situations. It is a combination of his brilliance and social awkwardness that lead to his creation of Facebook.

Unlike the movie, the novel is written from the perspective of Mark’s business partner and best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield on screen). This seemingly insignificant difference actually is very important. Because the book doesn’t give us much insight into Mark’s personality, we don’t see all of his insecurities. And since we don’t have an understanding of those insecurities, his actions take on a much more sinister tone.

Another major difference between the movie and the book is the format of each one. Obviously, because they cover the same subject matter, they include basically the same events. Both recount the night a drunk Mark creates Facematch, a website that becomes the precursor to Facebook. (On it, the guys on campus rate college girls on who is better looking.) Both recount Mark’s meeting with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, identical twins who want Mark’s help to create a social networking website exclusively for Harvard students. Both include the actual creation of Facebook. But that’s where the similarities end.

The bulk of the movie takes place in two legal cases Mark is involved in, one against Eduardo, the other against the Winklevoss twins. The rest of the film is a series of flashbacks. This format works to give us more insight into Mark’s personality. We see how detached he is even at these two very important deposition hearings. Even when he is being charged with some very serious accusations, he is still thinking about improvements he can make to Facebook. He doesn’t seem to understand why he is involved in the legal proceedings at all. As far as he’s concerned, everything he did was for the good of Facebook.

The book is more chronological in format. It begins at the point where Eduardo is brought in as the financial backer/CFO of Facebook and ends when he is told his money and input is no longer necessary. Just like the movie gives us more insight into Mark’s character, the book gives us more insight into Eduardo’s character. When Mark first tells him about his idea to start a social networking site and asks Eduardo for $1000, Eduardo says yes without reservations. Mark is his friend and he wants to help him. Even when Mark asks him for an additional $18,000 some time later, Eduardo gives it to him. But Eduardo is not a pushover. When it becomes apparent he is being edged out of a company he is bankrolling, he freezes the account. In the movie, this action seems somewhat coldblooded, but because the book gives us more insight into his thought processes, we understand why he does what he does.

Although both the movie and the book are excellently written, I have to say I preferred the book (as is most often the case). I felt it more accurately depicted the events than the movie and was therefore more of a true story than the movie was. ■

septoct2012

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