Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg is not unlike an axe murderer. He brings to mind an idea I disagree with—that is, the idea that there must have been something innately cruel and amenable in the ethnic makeup of Germans that turned them so easily into Nazis. It is my opinion that anyone can be a Nazi. Unloved, devalued, dismissed, hurt people hurt others. Eisenberg’s character is so sociopathic, abused and cruel, pitiless and desperate for the ‘success’ or basic respectful mirroring he almost certainly lacked as a child that his strained face, narrowed eyes, immoral, violent and paranoically insecure, manipulative and destructive behavior leads me to believe that if he hadn’t founded Facebook in 2004 he would have been killing Jews in 1939-1945 (or any other time in history.. you get my analogy).
So I’m reading a fine book called Becoming Attached which limns the correlation between cold, impersonal parenting and subsequent internal and interpersonal blocks (sexual aggressiveness, clinginess and isolationism, physical and mental abuse, etc) and I wonder if Zuckerberg’s infant emotions were so improperly mirrored or attended to so infrequently or inconsistently that this insecure attachment to a base parental figure has left him aggressive, desperate, sadistic, superficial and unable to plumb below his turbulent surface emotions. In the movie he is a mean-spirited little twerp and merciless social climber who finds joy or feels nothing when people get hurt and is emotionless in regards to the plights of his friends. In essence, he lacks empathy–like an autistic child, like a traumatized concentration camp victim, like an abused baby-turned-abusive adult. He has no ability to connect with his (only) friend’s happiness or any woman’s unhappiness. All he sees is himself–his ugly, execrable self that he hates so deeply he’ll stop at nothing to (temporarily and futilely, since he sabotages himself at every turn—except in turns of money and fame) elevate himself.
“I have it under control.” “No, I have it under control” shout Zuckerberg and Sean Parker to each other in a verbal wrestling match to see who can pretend to be less humanly weak. I am reminded of a quotation in Women Who Love Sex about how admitting to your fundamental powerlessness renders you full of REAL power, the power to see yourself, the power to change, the power to not be rigid, the power and strength to admit you do not know. Perhaps I am less interested in worldly success than emotional relatedness and self-conception. For example, when Zuckerberg’s best friend excitedly tells him in regards to their project with breathy, emotionally charged weight: “You have no idea what that’s gonna mean to my father” Zuckerberg glibly, earnestly and fatuously replies “Sure I do.” And in fact, in his mind, he may. He understands the basics but lacks awareness and depth of emotions. He doesn’t have the capacity to register and hence respond to this show of feeling. He knows what the individual words mean but he doesn’t have the mental capacity to consider, tolerate, explore origins. He talks fast; he thinks he can talk himself out of situations, away from people, scary, unknown contretemps like dealing with an angry best friend who doesn’t instantly bend to whatever his demands are. He uses people and barely tries–for he barely even knows how–to disguise his completely mercenary ways. He belittles, dismisses, devalues and makes people look stupid because he feel all these things himself. Around him are pompous, self-righteous tunnel-vision babies who can’t accept anyone else’s happiness that isn’t their own, can’t accept anyone else’s opinion, can’t acknowledge differences. (As said Fritz Perls said: “Contact is the appreciation of differences”)
He is highly skilled at self-sabotage. He wants so much to be part of exclusive clubs and wants so much for girls to like him yet he insults everyone he wants to like him, testing their love by pushing them away. His blind obsession with exclusivity and rules and social structure seems a pathetic displacement of energy better spent analyzing WHY these superficial indicators have personal significance to him.
On the movie’s notorious misogyny, I must say I found the treatment of women to be less actively offensive (much less so than your average Hollywood man-centric buddy movie i.e. Hot Tub Time Machine where the women are actively portrayed as sex-crazed idiots, spoilsports and castrators) than sadly and quietly pathetic in its absence of any female character (save the brief girlfriend) who exhibits the full spectrum of being human. The women in this movie are mere scapegoats of powerful, self-hating men who project hatred onto the Other so as not to experience the acuteness themselves. There was much (accurate) talk in this movie about how the heart of the enterprise, behind all the money and fame was the primal desire to get the girl, get female attention (procreate, ensure the continuation of the species, etc.). It was all abstractly about The Girl who broke your heart, the girl who did this, the girl who did that, etc. The women are figurines, scapegoats, mannequins, ideas; desired as empty shells, penalized when something goes wrong. The mythical girls the whole project is over don’t actually figure in any way that isn’t symbolic. They’re just ideas. This is a movie about desperate and unhappy men.
Actually, a worse (and to my subjective mind, much more apparent) stereotype in this film was not the much maligned, blamed and can’t-do-anything-right female but the malicious, manipulative, self-serving, Shylock, Jesus-killing Jew. Zuckerberg is ungracious, defensive and aggressive. He can’t accept compliments because he can’t compliment himself. When his supposed best friend suggests ideas, he attacks him. He is without pity or self-reflection. Action, not cogitation. A sniveling, conniving, hard-hearted Jew. Ruthless, heartless, tiny boil-ridden half-human parasite haunting the hallowed Harvard halls, angling to reign victorious over the moneyed Aryans. Assuming that everyone is condescending to him, he preemptively and virulently condescends to everyone first! He projects his self-hated onto other people and turns them into the perpetrators and himself into the honorable victim.
Unsympathetic, he doesn’t hear other people. For example, in his attempt to make amends with his ex-girlfriend Erica, he speedily and greedily repeats his desire several times (“If we could just talk somewhere… if we could just talk somewhere”), apparently not listening to (or having the ability to hear) any of her reasons for why she would never talk to someone who publically insulted and slandered her. He repeats his question (always in demand form, how could anyone have the NERVE to refuse him?) unthinkingly. He has no sense of decorum. His friend asks “That was the right thing to do, you apologized, right?” as if giving of himself, giving an apology would ever cross his mind.
Another thing of interest: The idea of intelligence. I am reminded of a time when I might have thought of someone mean and uppity that because that person was so “intelligent,” their arrogance was merited. This irks me now. Cruelty is never merited; real strength can be expressed gently and kindly (and not merely because gentleness and kindness are stock positive values but because, ideally, after one grows up, sees how much pain and internalized self-hatred everyone, to various degrees at various points in their life feels, there’s less need to pretend you’re better, less urgency and conviction in the idea that you’re special and everyone else is not. You see how essentially fragile (and capable of great ethical strength) everyone is. Additionally, exhibited in this movie was the least interesting, most common, pathological kind of quote-unquote intelligence. Cold, academic, non-analytic, unreflective “intelligence.” Boring and fundamentally unimportant.
Also: the idea of code, crypticness, indirectness and manipulation. Mark accuses his girlfriend at the beginning of the movie of speaking “in code.” A common and depressing enough case of projection and hypocrisy, for Mark is the real obfuscator and prevaricator. In this movie the only consistently forthright character is Eduardo. Everyone else, for the most part, (except the accused girlfriend, of course) is to some degree ‘speaking in code.’ No one speaks directly, honestly, expressing vulnerabilities as well as true strengths. Everything Mark does is unconsciously designed to alienate and disgust people. Fundamental self-hatred colors all his interactions. He laughs in peoples faces (all without having a sense of humor), tricks them and hates them for not loving him. The only thing he’s good at is indirect language and computer code, two kinds of ‘cryticness’ he apparently decries.
It’s unsurprising that he would gravitate towards someone like Sean Parker, for he is just as narcissistic and self-centered as Zuckerberg. Unlike Zuckerberg, Sean has social skills and charisma, but the self-centeredness is the same. They belittle everything. Nothing and no one is good enough.
In essence! In this stylistically and sonorously beautiful man’s world, weird, self-exalted and self-loathing (two sides of same coin) clubby braggarts reign. By watching them, I realize how much I want calm, humble realists; passionate, compassionate people who are aware of the universality of human pain and not unaware, blindly cruel misanthropes like Zuckerberg. This movie, to me, brought to view a smug and shakily, dangerously nervous world of speedy men competing with other speedy men ostensibly and superficially for the idea of getting girls but more, to my understanding, to prove to other men and finally and futilely to themselves that they are worthier than the pieces of shit they consider themselves to be.