Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

"The Social Network" Is Just as Brutal as Mark Zuckerberg Feared

It’s hard to feel sorry for a billionaire. But here I am, feeling bad for Mark Zuckerberg. If you see the “The Social Network” you’re probably going to feel bad for him, too.

I saw a screening of the movie last week, and can report back that it’s just as rough on the Facebook CEO as his people feared it would be.

Not because of scandalous scenes involving sex and drugs–there aren’t many of those, and they’re quite tame*. It’s because the film portrays him as an insecure jerk who screws over people and becomes a much-richer insecure jerk.

At the end of the movie, there’s a suggestion that Zuckerberg may not actually be a jerk–he may just be someone who acts like one. That’s about it when it comes to the upside of his character: He’s the bad guy in his own creation myth.

But I liked the movie a lot–I’ll see it again once it comes out in October. And given that you’re seeing these words, it’s a good bet that you will, too. If you like reading about start-ups and growth rates and valuation, then you’ll like seeing it on a big screen, right?

The best hope for Zuckerberg and his team is that the wider audience for this one could be relatively small.

The movie may not be accurate–it’s based largely on Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires,” which Mezrich admits has many doses of make-believe–but there is lots of inside tech/investing baseball here**, and it spends a lot of time in lawyers’ conference rooms. It’s a dark movie with a climax that hinges on stock dilution, and the only vampire to be seen is Justin Timberlake’s version of Sean Parker.

So that may be a hard sell for a really big audience, at least at first. But no matter how well it does, it’s the only version of Mark Zuckerberg that most people are going to know about, and it’s a terribly unflattering one.

If that doesn’t make you feel at least a twinge of sympathy for the guy, then I definitely don’t want to be your Facebook friend.

*Note for Henry Blodget and crew: The coke and boobs scene made it into the movie but the girls keep their bras on. There is also a scene involving a 12-foot bong, which Zuckerberg is not involved in, and another one involving two couples having bathroom sex. He is in that one.

**The movie is chock-full of real names that the start-up set will recognize, from Dustin Moskovitz to Peter Thiel, but there’s one glaring omission. Sequoia Capital and partner Mike Moritz, both singled out by name in a version of Aaron Sorkin’s script that surfaced last year, have been replaced with fictional entities in the final cut. Would love to know the backstory there….

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”