Aaron Sorkin on ‘The Social Network’s’ problematic depiction of women


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There’s been a lot of talk on the Web that, all of its rave reviews notwithstanding, ‘The Social Network’ offers a crude, often misogynistic portrayal of nearly every women featured in the movie. (Or as one particularly acerbic post at put it: ‘ ‘The Social Network’: Where Women Never Have Ideas.’) And hey, when you think about it, it’s true. Mark Zuckerberg and his 2004-era Harvard cohorts treat women in almost exactly the same way that Jimmy Page and his Led Zeppelin cohorts treated their female fans in 1969 -- like groupies.

Veteran TV scribe and blogger Ken Levine loved the movie (after all, he’s a guy), but one of his female readers posted a comment, saying that as good as ‘The Social Network’ was, with the exception of one or two women, everyone else was ‘basically sex objects/stupid groupies.’ What a letdown, she wrote, especially from the guy who created ‘The West Wing’s’ C.J. Cregg! The critique must have hit home, because Aaron Sorkin has now responded with a lengthy defense, in which he acknowledges that ‘it’s not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie.’


But -- and isn’t there always a but -- Sorkin says he was simply offering an all-too-accurate portrayal of Zuckerberg’s own actions toward women. Here’s what Sorkin has to say:

I used Mark’s blog verbatim. ... Facebook was born during a night of incredible misogyny. The idea of comparing women to farm animals, and then to each other, based on their looks, and then publicly ranking them. It was a revenge stunt ... I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren’t the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80’s. They’re very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now.

Sorkin adds that the woman portrayed as happily lining up to take the bus to the hot final clubs parties and taking their tops off to dance for the boys once they arrived, were ‘real, I mean REALLY real.’ So all this disturbing misogyny and willingness on the part of women to play the role of sex objects is, to hear Sorkin tell it, not exaggerated at all, but totally authentic. I guess I’m willing to believe him, even though I still have some nagging doubts, since Sorkin has been quick to admit that when it came to Zuckerberg, he had no problem with exaggerating or inventing some of the Facebook founder’s actions.

Still, I don’t know what’s more depressing -- that the men at Harvard (just a few short years ago) acted like such crude misogynists or that the equally well-educated women hanging around them acted like they’d spent a hell of a lot more time watching Britney Spears videos than reading Germaine Greer.