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Does Mark Zuckerberg's person of the year prize help 'The Social Network's' Oscar chances?

December 15, 2010 | 10:56 am

Should Mark Zuckerberg give director David Fincher a call just to say thanks? Clearly, "The Social Network" was a giant thorn in the side of a young man who prefers to keep private but  just happened to invent the most popular online social network of our time. But did the film inspire the 26-year-old computer programmer's selection as Time magazine's person of the year for 2010?

It's hard to argue that it didn't. Sure, Facebook keeps growing but it's not like the streamlined site just started this year. (You know that when your mother and grandmother sign up for it, it's clearly not a new phenomenon.) Yet, Time magazine still chose 2010 to honor the man who created the site six years ago. And they aren't doing it for his generous philanthropy, the one thing that really did take off in 2010, though it is noted. (Zuckerberg donated a staggering $100 million to the Newark, N.J., public school system around the time of the film's release and pledged earlier this week to donate half of his wealth to charity.)

Rather, the one thing that did change is how many people know about the founding of Facebook now. And that didn't come from the site itself. It came from Sony Pictures and Fincher, and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and star Jesse Eisenberg. It also came from the film critics who adored it. And the critics who put it atop their 2010 list for best picture. It even came from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which awarded it Tuesday with six Golden Globe nominations.

Yes, the one thing that really changed for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 is that "The Social Network" has made close to $200 million worldwide, making mythic the founding of a utility hundreds of millions of people use hourly. As such, should this cultural touchpoint be rewarded by the academy? I'm not sure it's a metric by which to judge best picture of the year, but it's hard to ignore the cultural impact it had on 2010. Just ask Time magazine.

-- Nicole Sperling

 Photo: Mark Zuckerberg; credit: Reuters