This is George Zimmerman’s MySpace page. Years before he stood at the center of an international storm over the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, the Florida man used his page to complain about “mexicans” and celebrate a victory in a criminal case against him.
By the time Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher’s The Social Network opened Friday, smitten reviewers and pundits had already proclaimed the film as the second coming of Citizen Kane, extolling Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, director Fincher, and writer Sorkin as modern prophets. This movie, we’ve been told, not only reflects its era, but will shape it.
Amid the frenzy, Stephen Colbert asked what few had observed: What about “the ladies in the film”? In his interview with Sorkin on Sept. 30, Colbert mentioned Erica, Zuckerberg’s “super smart” (ex-)girlfriend, played by Rooney Mara, then said, mischievously: “The other ladies in the movie don’t have as much to say, because they’re high or drunk or [bleep]ing some guys in the bathroom. Why are there no other women of any substance in the movie?”
“That’s a fair question,” Sorkin replied, pointing out the “one other woman,” the young lawyer played by Rashida Jones. “The other women are prizes, basically,” Sorkin said, later adding: “The women in this particular story who are prizes, it really doesn’t speak to the entire female population of Harvard, this is just the people who are populating this story.”
It’s hard not to enjoy The Social Network. It is an impressive film: crisp, beautiful, kinetic, with humor as dark as its lighting.
But Colbert was right. Women in the movie—apart from the lawyer and Erica, who sets the stage and disappears—are less prizes than they are props, buxom extras literally bussed in to fill the roles of doting groupies, vengeful sluts, or dumpy, feminist killjoys. They are foils for the male characters, who in turn are cruel or indifferent to them. (In a somewhat ironic turn of events, former Harvard President Larry Summers is perhaps the only man in the movie portrayed both as solicitous and respectful of a woman’s opinion.)