The Social Network juggernaut proved itself at the box office, taking the top spot and generating $23 million its opening weekend. With wider exposure, though, came a mushrooming backlash for the Facebook movie, led by two of its journalist friends.
Though the movie has been largely celebrated by establishment movie critics, its wider audience isn't as uniformly welcoming. The Daily Beast's Rebecca Davis O'Brien, for example, criticized the movie for portraying women as "doting groupies, sexed-up Asians, vengeful sluts, or dumpy, feminist killjoys." O'Brien's not been blessed by Facebook with special press access, and TV satirist Stephen Colbert would appear to agree with her analysis.
But another outspoken critic, Jose Antonio Vargas of the Huffington Post, was granted coveted access to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook exectuvies for his recent New Yorker article on the company. He now writes that The Social Network "misread Facebook.... as one of the few journalists who's interviewed Zuckerberg numerous times and is familiar with the history of Facebook's early founding and continued growth, seeing the movie is a jarring, disorienting experience... The real Zuckerberg... has a much more varied personality." Well, of course he does. You don't really need to meet the CEO to know that; a simple review of what Sorkin and other participants in the movie have said in the press repeatedly — that the movie is a riff on what actually happened, not a faithful reproduction — would reveal that much.
Like Vargas, David Kirkpatrick was recently blessed with access to Zuckerberg, in his case for a book on the company. And, like Vargas, he has published a long piece of writing defending the company, contributing an op-ed to the Washington Post that dispelled "five myths about Facebook," like "Facebook users are up in arms about privacy." That's a myth? Apparently. Wrote Kirkpatrick: "Even before Hollywood got involved... Facebook was the subject of quite a bit of lore — not all of it true."
The backlash against The Social Network clearly goes beyond access journalism, though. The New York Times' David Carr, who likes the film, today wonders whether the movie might nevertheless "divide generations." Yesterday the Times, quoting Kirkpatrick, wondered whether there was any legal recourse against the film, and concluded there was "no stopping" it.
Which sounds about right. Backlash or not, $23 million is just the beginning of what this movie is going to take in.
[Pic: Social Network Paris premiere, with (starting at left) Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. Getty Images.]