The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

« Previous Post | The Big Picture Home | Next Post »

Aaron Sorkin on 'The Social Network's' problematic depiction of women

Aaron_sorkin There's been a lot of talk on the Web that, all of its rave reviews notwithstanding, "The Social Network" offers a crude, often misogynistic portrayal of nearly every women featured in the movie. (Or as one particularly acerbic post at put it: " 'The Social Network': Where Women Never Have Ideas.") And hey, when you think about it, it's true. Mark Zuckerberg and his 2004-era Harvard cohorts treat women in almost exactly the same way that Jimmy Page and his Led Zeppelin cohorts treated their female fans in 1969 -- like groupies.

Veteran TV scribe and blogger Ken Levine loved the movie (after all, he's a guy), but one of his female readers posted a comment, saying that as good as "The Social Network" was, with the exception of one or two women, everyone else was "basically sex objects/stupid groupies." What a letdown, she wrote, especially from the guy who created "The West Wing's" C.J. Cregg! The critique must have hit home, because Aaron Sorkin has now responded with a lengthy defense, in which he acknowledges that "it's not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie."

But -- and isn't there always a but -- Sorkin says he was simply offering an all-too-accurate portrayal of Zuckerberg's own actions toward women. Here's what Sorkin has to say:

I used Mark's blog verbatim. ... 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 ... 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.

Sorkin adds that the woman portrayed as happily lining up to take the bus to the hot final clubs parties and taking their tops off to dance for the boys once they arrived, were "real, I mean REALLY real." So all this disturbing misogyny and willingness on the part of women to play the role of sex objects is, to hear Sorkin tell it, not exaggerated at all, but totally authentic. I guess I'm willing to believe him, even though I still have some nagging doubts, since Sorkin has been quick to admit that when it came to Zuckerberg, he had no problem with exaggerating or inventing some of the Facebook founder's actions. 

Still, I don't know what's more depressing -- that the men at Harvard (just a few short years ago) acted like such crude misogynists or that the equally well-educated women hanging around them acted like they'd spent a hell of a lot more time watching Britney Spears videos than reading Germaine Greer.   

Photo: Aaron Sorkin, left, with Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in London, promoting "The Social Network." Credit: Kieran Doherty / Reuters

Comments () | Archives (45)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The author writes "...I don't know what's more depressing -- that the men at Harvard (just a few short years ago) acted like such crude misogynists..." Isn't Harvard where the Kennedy's went to school? It seems mysogyny is in the blood of the blue bloods who come from Harvard.

You don't know which is more embarrassing? Really? That seems like an easy call to me. All the same, what exactly did we see that was supposed to be misogynistic anyway? Was it a girl laying naked while JT snorted coke off of her stomach? Was he portrayed badly for waking up in the bed of a Standford student or was she?

What I don't get is this: sexually aggressive women are suddenly treated ONLY as sex objects, even though they clearly got into Stanford and Harvard in the first place. The girl who has a one-nighter with Timberlake is funny and smart - so she slept with a guy. The girls in Harvard nude dancing and kissing each other weren't portrayed any better than the dudes drinking beer and watching them.

We don't see female hackers - that's true. We see men as douchebags and women as lawyers. I'm not prepared to give up the past thirty years I've spent as a woman owning my own sexuality just so that I can make a few men who throw around the word misogynist to make them feel better.

No thanks.

Patrick: Why do you have trouble believing such women exist? have you ever seen those disgusting "Girl Gone Wild" video ads on late night TV? No one was holding a gun to those women's heads, as far as we know. And I have no doubt that there are plenty more where that came from.

As for Harvard, etc., I don't think it's unique in having bimbos. I'm just glad Aaron Sorkin held this ugly, unspoken truth to the light of day. And I say this as a women. The subjugation of women isn't possible without the cooperation of woman. The porn industry is an example of that.

I just read Sorkin's defense on Levine's blog. He really needs to learn how to spell use grammar correctly.

So in what year did they supposedly outlaw crude misogyny at Harvard?

I am a woman and would like to comment on this in defense of Aaron Sorkin. I found the girlfriend character played by Rooney Mara to be a smart cookie. She tires of Zukerberg's arrogance and condescension and dumps him instead of tolerating it. She makes no effort to run back and reunite with him when he becomes a success. The Rooney Mara character deserves better than him and she KNOWS it. She also puts him in his place later on in the film. I would say she is a positive female character for knowing what she wants and not accepting anything less. As for the other woman in the film--well this is Hollywood. Sexed up female groupies are all over the place and those types DO exist. Just hit any nightclub in the city and it is crawling with them. The Social Network is excellent and incredibly well written. It doesn't deserved to be diminished for portraying misogyny, which sadly still does exist in the world.

We are talking college students here. Anyone who expects mature behavior of any sort in that coterie is probably looking in the wrong place.

Ummm...when did The Social Network film get the honor of becoming the final word on the role of modern women on earth? It's a movie depicting a very specific time, in a very specific place, about a few very specific people. It's like a scientist saying he/she doesn't like the way "science" is being represented in the movie Inception. You're missing the point people.

Who cares if there isn't some strong token female. This film isn't about women in general, it's not about women's issues, and none of the main characters are women. News flash, there are a lot of horny guys who think college is the time when they are going to get laid. It doesn't mean all men are misogynistic douchebags and all women are sex objects but those people and emotions do exist. What do you think fraternities are about? And before women get on their high horse, fraternities wouldn't exist if there weren't drunk sorority girls partying with them.

Let's discuss the truth of the story but lets move on from what this film says or doesn't say about women because it's not the point of story. There are other films that will take that responsibility.

I agree with Karie Bible & Sophie's comments. Women, since the beginning of time have exchanged their bodies to be with rich, powerful men. Men do not seem bothered by it either. Yes, even in the year 2010 this still exists. I would defend the film for it's overall depiction of women because this is not the issue of the film. It is wonderful that we are even having this dialog; now, let's get the parents to educate and talk to their children about appropriate behavior so we don't have to have these kinds of discussions.

The woman that played Zuckerberg's girlfriend at the very start of the movie was a great and powerful female character in the film. She saw him for exactly what he was, and destroyed him in both her scenes. You knew that no matter how rich or famous he got, he'd still never earn her respect back. I'd say that's a pretty powerful female character.

1 2 3 4 5 | ยป


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Stay Connected:

About the Bloggers



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: