The Social Network -- which came out on Friday -- is a great movie. Predictably brilliant script from Aaron Sorkin. Sharp and seamless direction from David Fincher. Strong performances from a cast of actors who are just unfamiliar enough to make you believe that they actually are these characters. A timeless tale of ambition and ego and friendship and loyalty. Justin Timberlake proving that he is as cute and charismatic as ever.
Sure, maybe the film feels a bit more like the story of Facebook than the story of our generation. The very reality of social networking comes across as secondary to the personalities of those who perfected it. But who wants to see a bunch of tech geeks wax philosophic about the future of privacy trends and online advertising strategy when you can watch them backstab each other and hook up with groupies in bathroom stalls instead? Not me! So no complaints there.
But I was left with one nagging question after the initial sheen of my viewing experience wore off.
Where are all the girls?
There are women in the movie, of course. But none of them play any sort of foundational role in the creation of Facebook -- other than acting as a motivating factor in anti-hero Mark Zuckerberg's decisions to build and expand his empire. Erica Albright is a sympathetic but shortsighted co-ed (a "who's laughing now?!" vibe rests just underneath the surface of her portrayal) who blows Zuckerberg off and compels him to drunkenly vent his anger at being rejected by constructing Facemash, the pre-cursor to Facebook. Jilted and ultimately insecure girls say mean things about him when Facemash hurts their feelings. Newly-interested gold-and-status-diggers perform sexual acts on him when Facebook becomes popular. Co-founder Eduardo Saverin's girlfriend is a psychotic and needy hanger-on. Timberlake's Sean Parker surrounds himself with Victoria's Secret models and underage girls who encourage men to consume drugs off of their bodies. Even the young associate on Zuckerberg's legal team is a voice of reason, but also a supporter of the traditional expectations and compromises and rules that Facebook and its generational converts tend to mock.
It's all sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Silicon Valley-style. But only for the guys. Are there really no women who were heavily and influentially involved in the early stages of one of the most famous brands in the world?
As a former Harvard undergraduate, it's difficult for me to believe that Facebook remained a "Boys Only" club for as long as the film projects. These guys were surrounded by intelligent, ambitious women -- none of whom contributed to the project in important and interesting ways?
What about Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg's longtime girlfriend who seems to have been a key sounding board -- at the very, very least -- in Zuckerberg's major business decisions about whether to sell Facebook to Yahoo! and how to invest his latest $100 million? Or Randi Zuckerberg, his sister and one of the site's main faces and voices, who is partly responsible for Facebook's respected and mostly-professional public image, among many other things? Did the company really transition straight from boys, beers and bongs to the hiring of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's powerful and experienced chief operating officer? Hell, even The Bachelorette's Ali Fedotowsky was an ad sales rep for the brand and seems to have been nowhere near the first female hire for the company.
These women have played more recent roles in the company's success, but their (more or less) pivotal involvement leads me to believe that females might not have been totally absent in the Facebook landscape, even during its earlier days.
The founding story of Facebook is undoubtedly centered around the men who built it -- Zuckerberg, Saverin, Parker, and maybe Divya Narendra and the Winklevoss twins, depending on who you believe. That's where the drama is, and the core from which the human conflicts and trials that make this movie so entertaining arise.
But let's just take a moment to acknowledge that women may not have simply been the mean girls and sexpots who, with their initially dismissive attitudes and eventual offers of sex and attention, led these innovative men to change the course of history. I'm willing to bet there were some smart chicks involved in this story. Maybe someone will want to tell their tale someday.