Yes, The Social Network is Sexist. Against Men.

Our friends over at Merriam-Webster define the term "sexism" as such:

1) prejudice or discrimination based on sex;

2) behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

Which leaves me scratching my head over the entire "Social Network is sexist!" argument. The general vibe of the argument seems to be something along the lines of "The entire story is about this boy's club where women have zero character development or input."

This, on the face of it, is somewhat accurate. But as to what it adds up to, well, that's where folks have it entirely wrong.

Consider for a moment the males represented in The Social Network.

*spoilers from here on out*

Mark Zuckerberg: Gets dumped by a girl, develops FaceMash to get back at a girl, wants an article placed in the Boston University paper so that a girl notices him, asks Sean Parker about dealing with a former flame, "friend requests" former girlfriend at the end of the film.

Essentially, Mark Zuckerberg's entire character arc "fosters stereotypes of social roles based on sex". Without a woman's scorn fueling him, Facebook doesn't get created. Nothing Zuckerberg does is organic, or for a sense of accomplishment, or to make the world a better place, or based in anything approximating positive motivations. No, Zuckerberg is seen as Cro-Magnon man, him want woman, though he's hunting and attempting to impress with his keyboard instead of a club.

Next up, Sean Parker.

Parker is introduced to us after a one-night stand with a girl. He dates a Victoria's Secret model, he acts vengeful and petulant to those who have slighted him in the past, and we end his character arc with him as a tragic disaster; sexually harassing minors while the cops bust him for drugs. Is this a fully evolved male? Is this the world most men inhabit? Is this a positive take on the modern man?

Sean Parker's entire life is based upon sex and anger.

But what about the most "kind" member of the leading men, Mr. Eduardo Saverin? He at least attempts to be a friend, though you could make the case that his complete and utter lack of awareness led to his separation from the company. He doesn't even know how to update his relationship status, and he signs documents without reading them. He's also clueless in the ways of women, happy to know a girl, any live girl, who wants to have a beverage with him. Sure, Saverin's character is the most redeemable, the one you'd hang out with. But he's portrayed as flash over substance, a silver spooner, extremely lucky over intelligent. Again, this is not a positive portrayal of a fella.

So far as the lesser leads go, the crew-rowing twins are routinely shown to be frustrated elitist meatheads, even though they go to Harvard. Their buddy Divya Narendra is a spiteful and angry male who can't create anything for himself. In fact, the entire gang of three needed Mark to execute their ideas, as Mark makes painfully and perfectly clear in the deposition scenes. These aren't men of intellectual accomplishment, and two out of three of them are defined routinely by their physicality. "I'm 6'5, 220lbs, and there are two of me!" one of the twins shouts in a fit of rage. Are these the musings of a highly evolved male? Are these the guys keeping women from achieving their dreams?


On the female front you've got:

1) Rashida Jones: Lawyer, jury expert, calls Mark out in the last scene of the film.

2) Rooney Mara: Ex-girlfriend who Mark is trying to impress, remains calm, determined, and resolute throughout. Doesn't care about Mark's accomplishment.

3) Brenda Song: She's indeed crazy, but she's not crazy because she's a woman, she's crazy because she does crazy things. At no point does the film take a moment to shout "women be shopping!" about her. If anything, she's meant to serve a reminder of Eduardo's incompetence. He couldn't handle his relationship with Mark, he couldn't handle the business side of Facebook, he had awful ideas about advertising, and he has bad taste in women. Eduardo makes bad choice after bad choice in the film. Why would his choice of a girlfriend be any different?

The women of The Social Network are two-thirds honorable. They are creatures of intellect, while the guys are off attempting to relate to anyone or anything. The Social Network is not a story that glorifies the objectification of women. It's a film that shows three lost boys, each deficient in their own way, each fumbling around in the dark for meaning in their lives.

Now back to reality, and the takeaway. The Social Network is not espousing a world view, it's simply telling a story. And it does that part pretty well, veracity issues aside. The film is the dramatization of real-life events that seeks to push forward an idea, the idea that perhaps the people creating all these shiny new technologies aren't the most empathetic of our generation. It's not a message of hate or discrimination; it's a warning flag about the choices we make with our freedoms. That's a story worth telling, and worth talking about.