I’ve seen ‘The Social Network’, written by Aaron Sorkin a couple of times, deeply impressed by the script’s vibrant construction and razor sharp dialogue. The film’s prologue, a break up ceremony between a fictional Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend, is one brilliant bit of writing, one that stands on its own as a scene, while establishing the themes of class envy, blinding intelligence and casual misogyny that weave through the narrative like threads in a finely tailored suit.
There was an outcry by some very smart women that ‘The Social Network’ not only depicts sexism but is sexist itself, falling victim to the evil it attempts to illustrate. Any acute depiction of a condescending attitude toward women is likely to make folks uncomfortable, especially the people being depicted as objects of scorn. “The fact that the real Zuckerberg has had a real life long term relationship made some feel the salty nerd Sorkin created in ‘The Social Network’ was a violation of the truth and a ruse played upon a gullible audience.
But ‘The Social Network’ is not journalism and I didn’t expect fidelity to the facts when I entered the multiplex. (All screenwriters know “based on a true story” is as reliable a barometer of accuracy as the dealer in a three card monte game.) My feeling was that Sorkin was using the fictional Zuckerberg as a metaphor for the insecure boy’s club that is Silicon Valley and the world of net nerds worldwide.
If this fact doesn’t satisfy the film’s female critics, believe me I understand. The most talked about African-American feature film of 2010 is ‘For Colored Girls,’ Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1970s play/poem that features black male characters who are cruel, alcoholic, rapists, wife beaters and child killers.The play is a touchstone of black feminism and I don’t believe there’s a working black actress in Hollywood who hasn’t been in at least one production. In Perry’s film there is one good dude (a policeman and husband) just as in Sorkin’s script there is a smart, perceptive attorney played by Rashida Jones amid a world of Facebook groupies.
But ‘For Colored Girls’ is never gonna be a black man’s favorite viewing experience. And why should it be? Like Sorkin in ‘The Social Network’, Perry has a point of view on sexual relations that defines the work they created and they follow it through with gusto. I have no problem with ‘For Colored Girls’ existing (though I didn’t love the filmmaking.) It wasn’t made for me and I’m not the audience for it. Art with no viewpoint is just product and we have more than enough of that. But it does sting when you find yourself the villain of the piece.