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Aaron Sorkin really wants to convince you The Social Network isn't sexist

10.12.2010

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is universally beloved by most and on the way to making a splash during Oscar season. But with any popular work comes controversy, and the latest screenwriter Aaron Sorkin thought it was best to directly respond to.

On TV writer Ken Levine's blog, Sorkin encounter one commenter who had a lot to say about how the film portrayed women, which, according to her, was not very flattering. “I also loved The Social Network, except for one thing– the lack of a decent portrayal of women. With the exception of 1 or 2 of them (Rashida Jones included), they were basically sex objects/stupid groupies. … kinda makes me think that Aaron Sorkin (though I love his writing) failed the women in this script.”

Sorkin apparently feels deeply for the commenter's hurt feelings, and felt the need to write an entire essay to combat these allegations. Read it below, or for the TLDR version: "This is how things were, these guys were misogynists."

Believe me, I get it. It’s not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes an equal [sic - "prizes and equals", I think]. Mark’s blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he’s sure he’s missing, came directly from Mark’s blog.

With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark’s blog verbatim. Mark said, “Erica Albright’s a bitch” (Erica isn’t her real name–I changed three names in the movie when there was no need to embarrass anyone further), “Do you think that’s because all B.U. girls are bitches?” 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, aimed first at the woman who’d most recently broke his heart (who should get some kind of medal for not breaking his head) and then at the entire female population of Harvard.

More generally, 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. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.) And this very disturbing attitude toward women isn’t just confined to the guys who can’t get dates.

I didn’t invent the “F–k Truck”, it’s real–and the men (boys) at the final clubs think it’s what they deserve for being who they are. (It’s only fair to note that the women–bussed in from other schools for the “hot” parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)

These women–whether it’s the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo’s psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real. (In the case of Christy, Eduardo’s girlfriend so beautifully played by Brenda Song, I conflated two characters–again I hope you’ll trust me that doing that did nothing to alter our take on the events. Christy was the second of three characters whose name I changed.)

I invented two characters–one was Rashida Jones’s “Marylin”, the youngest lawyer on the team and a far cry from the other women we see in the movie. She’s plainly serious, competent and, when asked, has no problem speaking the truth as she sees it to Mark. The other was Gretchen, Eduardo’s lawyer (in reality there was a large team of litigators who all took turns deposing witnesses but I wanted us to become familiar with just one person–a woman, who, again, is nobody’s trophy).

And Rooney Mara’s Erica’s a class act.

I wish I could go door to door and make this explanation/apology to any woman offended by the things you’ve pointed out but obviously that’s unrealistic so I thought the least I could do was speak directly to you.

I see where he's coming from. I mean, hot girls lining up to get into exclusive parties is something I witnessed dozens of times in my (non-Ivy league) college, and I'm sure it happened to some extent and Harvard. As for Facemash, it's not hard to believe that a college guy thought it was a good idea to have a website where you could rate girls on their hotness. That's not Sorkin being sexist, Facemash was a real site invented by Zuckerberg, so that speaks to the character, whose blogs about his (ex) girlfriend being a bitch were verbatim from the blog entries he wrote in real life.

Maybe as a guy, I'm biased, but I honestly don't see the case for the movie itself being sexist. Sure, there are characters that are misogynistic, and girls who allow themselves to be taken advantage of in that fashion, but I don't think the film is straying all THAT far outside of reality, and has plenty of strong females in the film as well (Erica and Rashida Jones' Marylin). I don't think Sorkin needed to play this much defense, but hey, he is a writer, it can be hard to stop once you get going.

Extra Tidbit: I think Sorkin's bigger problem is dismissing ALL these guys as misogynists when he didn't really even talk to most of them.
Source: Ken Levine

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