Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

An audio program about movies. Listen with your iPod or computer.

Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

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Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.

Jesse Eisenberg in David Fincher's The Social Network (2010)

On this edition of the Plastic Podcast, Rob and J. Robert talk about the new David Fincher film about Facebook, The Social Network. Is it Kane? All the President's Men? Elephant? And who is this Marshall McLuhan fellow, anyway?

0:00 Intro
1:04 The Social Network Teaser
2:06 Discussion: The Social Network, Fincher (2010)
21:02 Present Difficulty
42:44 Outro

3 Responses to “The Social Network

  1. Brian says:

    Rob, I'm impressed you remembered my tweet! When I heard you mention my name I was immediately thrown into suspense-mode, trying to think what had I said about this film that was worth citing. I think you got what I was going for, though for posterity's sake here is the original.

    I liked the film perhaps a bit more than either of you did, though I also enjoyed hearing all your comments in this episode. I feel like the film is something of a victim of its own hype; ad copy screaming "the movie that defines a decade" or whatever it was makes it seem like it's trying to be an 'important' movie while I think it would have been better served being sold as simply an entertaining one. On the other hand, a lot of its viewers seem to have bought it on that level (Tom Hall's review is the most persuasive one along these lines I've seen), and there's no denying that Sorkin and Fincher were trying to insert commentary about how the internet has changed society as a whole, even if much of this falls rather flat.

    Most crucially, I think the film should be seen as one that strokes its audience's desires to be reassured of their own superiority (ethical, or perhaps just psychological) to the rich. It's a tradition that goes way back, at least as far as the class-conscious comedies of the silent clowns. As such, is it pernicious? I suppose some politically-minded folks (from various points on the ideological spectrum) would say yes, but though I consider myself pretty politically-minded, I don't see the real harm. As cinema, there's something quite impressive about certain scenes (particularly the facemash sequence I'm glad you both mentioned- I had to watch the first 15-20 minutes twice on my trip to the multiplex, just because I enjoyed that bit so much), and I've been selectively recommending the film to certain friends I think will appreciate it.

  2. Robert DAVIS says:

    Brian, sorry to take so long to respond. Yeah, I happened to be looking at Twitter when you tweeted about the Social Network, and your comment stuck with me. I'm glad I didn't butcher it during the podcast.

    I admit, too, that some of my response to the film, in this discussion, is reactionary, wanting to peel back some of the unqualified praise. I can imagine that it's a lot more fun when expectations are lower. It's a much better film than, say, The Pirates of Silicon Valley, the TV movie that similarly told the story of a different time period's corporate wrangling that led to our favorite technical gizmos.

    I like your observation about it stroking the audiences "desires to be reassured of their own superiority ... to the rich," although I think it hedges even that sentiment by helping you side with certain characters, even if you can't quite identify with them. If there'd been an outsider who shrugged "who cares" while the privileged argue over turf, there might have been something to that. The last scene fits, though, and as Ghost Dog says, the end is important in all things.

  3. Roy says:

    Hi guys, first time listener. Found this blog via a link from the Wikipedia page of The Brothers Bloom.

    Anyway, I wanted to say thanks for the great podcast on The Social Network. I think, as well as the interesting critique, the thing that I enjoyed most is the fact that neither of you seemed to be championing it as much as everyone else is. As someone that is a huge fan of this film, this gives me a fantastic chance to defend it.
    I'll try to be brief, though I feel as though I could write a dissertation on what makes this film great (that might be an exaggeration), and I'll focus first on one point that I feel you misread from the film and that I think really coloured your opinion of it.

    I don't think this film skips over the fact that there were other networking sites before this one. I also don't think it tries to portray Facebook as "the one that succeeded because it got there first". The thing that set Facebook apart from the rest in the beginning was EXCLUSIVITY. This is a point that I feel is the backbone of this film in many ways.

    Zuckerberg didn't steal the idea of a social networking website from the Winklevi (as you and he himself point out, Friendster and MySpace have been there and done that), what he stole was the idea of keeping the site EXCLUSIVE.

    Zuckerberg's conversation with his girlfriend at the start is all about how he feels like he is being left out of the upper echelon of the Harvard experience (the final clubs), and his desire to join it. The rest of the movie isn’t about Facebook the website, but how Mark treats the creation of Facebook itself as a final club (remember how he auditions new programmers?) and as it's leader he gets to decide who is in this club (Sean Parker, Saverin) and who is out (The Winklevi, Saverin).

    After getting the idea from the twins, he discusses it with Saverin outside of the lame Caribbean party that their lesser club is throwing (further cementing the fact that the two of them are outsiders that are excluded from the cool clubs). The point that really hooks Saverin is that, by making the site exclusive, he'd essentially be making a final club online and he could be in charge of it. Zuckerberg decides to team up with Saverin instead of The Twins because, like him, Saverin is an outsider and this creation is a chance for the outsiders to be cool by deciding who is allowed into their club and who isn’t.

    Zuckerberg then meets Sean Parker and finds another outsider to join their club. The fact that Zuckerberg likes him but Saverin doesn’t (and the fact that Saverin has been let into one of the final clubs but Zuckerberg hasn’t) shows that these two friends aren’t quite on the same wavelength anymore and soon their relationship will suffer as a result. Saverin is no longer an outsider in social terms (by getting into a final club) and he isn't an outsider in business terms (trying to make money from this idea is not the primary objective, taking the idea as far as it can go is what Zuckerberg and Parker are more concerned with.)

    Saverin mentions a couple of times in the film how he is trying to make his dad proud of him and that the tangible success of (i.e. making money from) this idea will do that. The Winklevoss twins come from money and feel as though they have been cheated out of a lot of it by Zuckerberg. On the other hand, Sean Parker was sued by the entire music industry and is currently homeless, but everyone thinks he is the coolest guy around. Zuckerberg came up with an app that Microsoft wanted to buy for big bucks, but he gave it away for free.

    Zuckerberg mentions at the start of this film that Saverin made $300,000 in one summer. His girlfriend is wildly impressed by this but Zuckerberg says this still won’t get Saverin into a final club. The fact that Saverin does get into a final club shows that Zuckerbergs' idea of cool is different from (and, to him at least, more important than) the traditional one.

    By illustrating the differences between the two sides in this movie, I think the theme of exclusivity becomes clear. To Zuckerberg, excluding the uncool kids is the most important thing to him because it means he can stay in control of his idea, which in turn will mean he remains the coolest and most important person, regardless of the consequences.

    I could go through the whole movie talking about how this theme ties it all together but I’ll spare you wading through all of that. Also, it is 9am where I am as I type this (I started at 7) and I haven’t slept yet so there’s a good chance that all of this might not make as much sense or be as profound as I think it is. Anyway, I shall essentially skip to the end and tackle the big issue of this film.

    I think people are calling this “the movie that defines a generation” because of the following:
    Never mind Facebook, what the internet as a whole has done is help to level the playing field. People no longer have to kowtow to traditional methods to achieve their dreams. Whether your band gets discovered on MySpace, your blog gets you writing for a magazine, or your YouTube video gets you a record deal(Justin Bieber)/movie (have you heard of “Fred – The Movie”?), the internet has created a shortcut that some people utilise (and accept) more than others.

    The “Sean Parker Variety Hour” (as Saverin puts it) that takes place at the restaurant discusses this fact. He was the head of a huge multi-million dollar company at such a young age (without going to college) that his much older and old-fashioned colleagues as good as take offense to this and see to it that he is removed. Also, the fact that his getting fired from his previous companies may have actually been of his own doing shows that skyrocketing from high school nerd to CEO has its drawbacks. These drawbacks are another important theme to the film.

    The tangible air of disapproval between the “kids” and “adults” of this film further illustrates this schism. The kids think that the skills they have are of monumental importance, the adults think the kids are merely being arrogant and need to be put in their place (see the first court hearing between Zuckerberg and the staff of Harvard). The attitude of Zuckerberg in general throughout these court hearings clearly defines this generational gap.

    Another point that this film raises is the idea that – in this digital age we live in – influence is more important than money. The ability to garner millions of views for your website gets you more cool points (which are more important) than earning money from it. When the Twins hear about Facemash getting 22,000 hits in a few hours, one of them makes the amusing comparison that drug dealers couldn’t sell that many drugs to people in such a short time. Once upon a time you needed money to have influence in the first place, but thanks to the internet this is no longer the default method.

    Of course, the only people that actually consider influence and cool points as more valuable right now are the most forward thinking people in the film and the ambassadors of this new generation – Zuckerberg and Parker. The fact that Zuckerberg has just been made Time’s Person of the Year, and that Facebook is worth billions, says that things have changed. Instead of money bringing influence, influence brings money.

    I hope that this essay makes sense – sorry that it is of essay length – and I would love to discuss this film further with you or hear if my points have changed your opinion or whether a repeat viewing of the film has got you to see it in a new light.

    To sum up: the stellar script, bitchin’ soundtrack, flawless acting and subtle yet effective directing, and the conversations that this film creates, make this a very good film worthy of all its’ praise and awards. The points I’ve tried to raise are why I think this is a great film that does indeed define a generation.

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