This was one of my favorite essays in the collection, and a good example of non-memoir-based essaying. It was actually originally a film review, of the ubiquitous film The Social Network, itself of course about the ubiquitous social network, Facebook.
I, for one, hated the movie. I thought it was a fairly typical Hollywood mythologization of recent history, with some pretty serious revisionism (if I were Napster co-founder Sean Parker, for example, I’d be suing for defamation). Smith, fortunately, has her sights higher than I in watching The Social Network, explaining the revisionism in relation to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:
To create this Zuckerberg, [screenwriter Aaron] Sorkin barely need brush his pen against the page. We came to the cinema expecting to meet this guy, and it’s a pleasure to watch Sorkin color in what we had already confidently sketched in our minds. For sometimes the culture surmises an individual personality, collectively. Or thinks it does.
Anyone who’s ever seen Mark Zuckerberg knows he’s nothing like he’s played in the movie, which Smith explains thus:
But would Zuckerberg recognize it, the real Zuckerberg? Are these really his motivations, his obsessions? No – and the movie knows it.
…Fincher’s contemporary window-dressing is so convincing that it wasn’t until this very last scene [where Zuckerberg sits in front of his computer continually Friend Requesting Erica, the girl who broke his heart in the movie’s first scene, to no avail] that I realized the obvious progenitor of this wildly enjoyable, wildly inaccurate biopic. Hollywood still believes that behind every mogul there’s an idée fixe: Rosebud – meet Erica.
There’s a lot more to this essay, but I don’t want to steer the conversation too much. I will say, though, that by the end of the essay Smith indicts us all (unless you’re one of the last 10 First- or Second-World inhabitants without a Facebook account):
The Social Network is not a cruel portrait of any particular real-world person called “Mark Zuckerberg.” It’s a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore.
You can find the essay online here.