Journalism Expert Unable to Tell Fact From Fiction

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Oct. 26 2010 10:18 AM

Journalism Expert Unable to Tell Fact From Fiction

Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, a well-credentialed


, has a piece in the New York Times

at the sexism documented in the movie The Social Network. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, she writes:

was a cocky but insecure 19-year-old freshman at Harvard when he vowed to settle scores with a girlfriend who had dumped him and — at least in the movie — social clubs that had slighted him.

That's some "at least." The movie was inspired by (or

) a book that was

. Zuckerberg disputes its accounts of his motives. But Torregrosa swallows them and keeps going:

In the movie, at least, the women are figurines in the background, one face melding into another, one lithe body identical to the next.

Again with the "at least." In the movie, which is a work of fiction produced by people with no access to Zuckerberg and no firsthand information about his life, women are figurines in the background. In real life, Zuckerberg is reportedly still involved with his college girlfriend. (This doesn't mean he's not also having shallow disposable relationships with women in the background—I have no idea, because I, like screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and book author Ben Mezrich and Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, know very little about Mark Zuckerberg.)

What else do we know about these women?

They’re sexy, seductive, willing and eager to serve and service the boys, not unlike the waist-cinched women in "Mad Men," the cable television show about the dominant and domineering men who ran the Madison Avenue advertising industry at its height in the 1960s.

It’s as if no time had elapsed in more than half a century — fashions have changed, and lip service (perhaps more, now) is given to women’s equality.

Amazingly, the portrayal of women in one fictional set of moving pictures produced in 2010 resembles the portrayal of women in a different fictional set of moving pictures produced in 2010. It is as if no time had elapsed.

On and on we go:

Few movie critics mentioned the blatant sexism revealed in the film — that is, sexism that apparently ran rampant at Harvard among highly educated, brilliant and bratty young men brought up in the age of modern feminism.

"Revealed"..."apparently"... This is a movie! It is a work of fiction! The things that are revealed in it are revealed because a bunch of well-paid people got together and staged them, with a camera pointing at them to record them. The people in the movie are sexist because the screenwriters wanted to attribute sexism to them, or because the narrative imperatives of Hollywood are sexist. And Harvard final clubs in real life are disgracefully sexist too, though Zuckerberg disputes whether he even wanted to join one, let alone whether his rejection by the clubs was the Rosebud that drove him to create his own parallel universe of rampant sexism, as depicted in the movie, which is a work of fiction.

I personally would be surprised to learn that Mark Zuckerberg is a very nice person. His ideas about privacy and the commodification of the personal sphere seem to be mostly opposed to mine. But the character of "Mark Zuckerberg" in the Social Network is not Mark Zuckerberg. He is a guy invented by Aaron Sorkin to drive an entertaining narrative about a self-centered, sexist asshole. In the end, Torregrosa gestures at recognizing that, then takes it back:

"The Social Network" is just a movie. It’s not a documentary. It’s not a biopic. We could leave it at that, but the harder truth is that, fiction or not, it reflects to a chilling degree a cultural reality.

You know what's a chilling cultural reality? That people who should know better don't care about the difference between made-up stories and real facts.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.



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