In the two weeks since The Social Network was released, constant and relentless praise has given way to accusations of sexism and misogyny. Some say it “create[d] a world so hostile and diminishing to women, where…the choices are being a stern bitch (like the ones in the administrative board hearings) or dropping your panties at the sight of power.” Others ask, “What are we to do with a great film that makes women look so awful?”
As a woman, a feminist even, I so disagree. Seeing it opening weekend, I didn’t pick up on the slightest hint of misogyny by the filmmakers. There was misogyny within the characters, but to me that was a very obvious writing choice, not a greater statement about females in general. And some quibbles are really reaching. That administrative board-hearing scene was going to happen anyway; would you rather the board was all male? Also, I can’t help but notice that every article I read calls out Brenda Song’s character as a sexed up Asian. Her Asian-ness was not an overt part of her character, so why keep mentioning it? Why not just sexed up college girl? The film doesn’t fetishize Asian women; the critics are inventing an implication to further their point.
What I would like to understand is this: where would they prefer these fantastic female characters go? Would people be happier if a sister character were shoehorned in to suggest helpful ideas in between scenes of the Winklevosses losing their rowing competition? Would the movie be better if COO Sheryl Sandberg stood, head held high, as Eduardo was thrown out of Facebook HQ? Should Eduardo’s girlfriend Christy have been a perfect angel dream, thereby lessening the tension of losing everything later? I want women portrayed well in film, but I also want a good movie with a tight script and a decent story, and this was that, and to throw in unnecessary females just for the sake of gender empowerment isn’t just bad writing; it’s tokenism.
Yes, there are some smart and talented women who had a large role in the creation of Facebook. But as it’s been stated a million times, this was not a historically factual film. This was a movie about two college friends, both male. You’re going to deride it for showing girls partying? Name a college movie that doesn’t. You’re mad it focuses on the men? It’s about the men. The two MEN who created Facebook and the MEN who sued Mark Zuckerberg. College-aged men with poor relationships with women. Nevermind that Rooney Mara’s character is the most sympathetic individual in the film, because Zuckerberg calls her a bitch (which he actually did in real life) and that discounts her.
Stand By Me didn’t have any good female characters either. It doesn’t make it less of a movie. I’m so much more offended by 90% of films marketed to women that I can’t really get it up to be upset about this. Not every movie or TV show needs to be a rainbow Sesame Street coalition of diversity. The women were flawed, but the male characters were a) a minor sociopath, b) snooty rich kid jocks and c) a cheesedicky cokehead who slept with teenage girls. The critics are missing the point in the same way Heigl missed the point when she whined about how Knocked Up featured nothing but shrewish women, ignoring that the men were just as, if not far more, vile.
Not all women are fierce, fabulous beacons of strength. Some are crazy, some are easy, and some were once 19 years old and both of these things. If you made a movie about me at 19, guess what, you wouldn’t get the greatest portrayal of woman-kind there either.
As EW said, “We need more movies about cool, strong, complicated women doing stuff. The more girls see that, the more they’ll feel like they can be the ones making the next Facebook. And the more boys see that, the less they’ll act like sexist tools even if they make the next Facebook.” And that is absolutely, unequivocally true. I want that movie made. But it didn’t need to be this movie. And to hold it to this standard of politically correct perfection is neither fair nor realistic.
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