Open Forum Friday: Is The Social Network Sexist?

I think it’s safe to say at this point that David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network has been a resounding critical success (the film is currently sitting at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes), and who knows, it may even get some recognition come Oscar time. However, there is at least one glaring issue that some viewers and critics have had problems with, and that is the portrayal of women in the film. It is a movie where all of the main characters are men, and many of them are borderline misogynistic, treating women as nothing more than objects. The few female characters presented in the film are either shallow groupies or psychotic bitches (or both). But is it wrong to write characters like this if it represents the reality of the situation?

Aaron Sorkin recently left a comment on TV writer Ken Levine’s blog, responding to some of these accusations:

“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. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)”

He goes on to explain that he used Mark Zuckerberg’s blog posts verbatim and that Facebook really was “born during a night of incredible misogyny.” Also, the attitudes of many of the members of these final clubs is not something Sorkin dreamed up, and Rooney Mara’s character Erica is not a pushover. I think he brings up many valid points. Personally I think that the movie does a good job of opening the doors for discussion about issues like this, and it certainly doesn’t paint Zuckerberg as a hero either. What do you think? Did the portrayal of women in The Social Network bother you? Should the movie have had more strong female characters? What is the responsibility of a writer when it comes to adapting a true story? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • Goon

    the Erica character is no gold digger, sees through him, sees his talent and future wealth but wants no part of it. from then on all the male leads tend to be kind of assholes, but we dont have articles that this story is about male self-hate :/

    i mean these characters have self-hating Jewish moments, is the film thus anti-semitic?

    I hate that people see the lack of female characters and the majority of female characters being not much of anything important, and thus jumping to the conclusion that this is somehow some male fantasy. anything but.

  • dotsnotfeathers

    Come on! People will complain about anything these days. When a movie is near perfect, that’s when you see the real haters come out. They start to pick apart the morals and ethics behind the story (something irrelivant to the actual quality of the film).

    The writer has no responsibility what so ever to please any one group of people. At the end of the day, it’s a film telling a story. You don’t have to like it, and nobody is forcing you to watch it. There is no moral responsibility held by the writer, or director for that matter, to portray woman in any certain way, or to include a stronger female role. You know what you signed up for before you go to see this movie.

    You may not like the way women are portrayed in THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE either, so don’t go see a movie about hookers.

    Bottom Line is this. When this movie first spawned, nobody thought it would be where it is today. Fast fwd a year and a half. Take into account amazing casting job, an amazing screenplay, talented director, an oscar worthy score, and an intriguing/ especially dark true story and you have one damn good film. Let’s stop looking for reasons to pick things apart.


  • This is a crazy controversy. People just want to find a problem with everything.

    Check this out:

    It’s the same with every hollywood film.

  • Brendan

    To quote Nigel Tufnel:
    “Well so what? What’s wrong with being sexy?”

  • Maopheus

    The author of the Facebook Effect has disputed the accuracy of the movie. Then again, the movie is first and foremost an entertainment, using Facebook’s origins as a basis for telling a good story. The author says that Zuckerberg had a steady girlfriend during the time period that the movie covers. She is still his girlfriend to this day and interestingly is also Asian, like the two groupies whom we see. I don’t know if the other girl, not Eduardo’s psycho girlfriend, is supposed to be this real girlfriend of Mark’s. So in some ways, you could claim that by not including this real girlfriend as a character it makes a certain statement about what the female characters in the TSN are all about. Then again, if she was included, I’m sure the overall movie wouldn’t have been as interesting. Sorkin and Fincher made a conscious decision about how they would approach the dramatization of this movie. The hyper eloquent dialogue is very unrealistic. But they knew had to hew to real events and timelines because all those are known and recorded. But I guess they figured that anything else was open to artistic license including deciding to include or exclude certain people as characters, Knowing that Mark had a girlfriend during this period may diminish the overall point of the movie that he still held a torch for Erica. The poignant scene at the end where he waits for Erica to accept him as a friend probably never actually happened. It’s funny that the topic of this forum is about the portrayal of women in the film. The portrayal of the men is even worse. But the point is that’s how it really was. So it all kind of balances out.

  • Oh my god… im sorry guys but seriously, who fucking cares. You could tack on a “sexist” accusation to any movie out there. Plus this movie takes place in COLLEGE for gods sake, of course there are gonna be some women who seem a little objectified in the film. The character of Erica Albright didn’t seem very sexist at all to me, I mean she was independent, and she stood up to Mark and left him, and by the end of the film all he wants to do is impress her. I think her character makes up for any other so called “sexist” representation of women in the movie.

  • I think Aaron Sorkin’s response to all of this is absolutely perfect. Case closed. Done.

  • KeithTalent

    Well the most annoying character in the film is a woman (the girl from The Office and I Love You, Man) but Rooney Mara’s character was probably the most grounded character in the entire film and was the entire motivation behind Eisenberg’s character.

    Anyway, I did not find it all that mysoginistic, but then again I tend not to pay too much attention to that stuff.

  • Sammy

    It is a little sexist. The girls are sideliners; the boys do it all.

    There’s an interesting breakdown of this movie on youtube: