I've been reading a few reviews of that The Social Network, just because it's hard to believe that a film about a computer thingy can be that good. (I still remember The Recruit, with a thrilling scene of Colin Farrell trying to carry his open laptop as he runs away from Al Pacino.) So disclaimer here, I haven't seen the film and am not going to comment on its quality. I'm just going to use this as an opportunity to ask: Authenticity or story excitement-- if you can have only one, which is better? (And I'm sure that's sometimes a false dichotomy, but really, no college is likely to be authentically an interesting film opportunity.)
Anyway, the reviews all seem good except for those written by Harvard people, like a law school professor who points out that Harvard undergraduates do not, in fact, talk in witty GB Shaw patter. And then there's this article (with a truly clever headline) by a fellow who actually knew the Facebook founder and lived down the hall from him.
So the article writer points out that the Harvard of this film owes a lot more to old movies and TV shows about Harvard than the reality, that dining clubs are not in fact the only places to meet future important people, that the WASPs don't really rule, that no one wears madras.
And I'm sure he's correct. There have been films made about one of my alma maters (U of Chicago), and they never get it remotely right, not the culture, not the ethos, not the ethnic mix, not even the weather. They're always presenting the school as one filled with rich upper-class kids, you know, like a Midwestern Brown, and in fact, probably the #1 parental occupation there is the low-paid college professor. It is an expensive but not rich place. :)
So I'm willing to accept the writer's assertion that the Harvard of the film isn't much like the Harvard he and Zuckerberg (the FB founder) attended. But what if Sorkin (the filmmaker) has the more filmable version of Harvard? What if his "striving Jewish kid up against an entrenched
WASP establishment" scenario provides more conflict than the real story would?
What do you all think? If you're writing a historical novel, how authentic does it have to be? Okay with no B-52s at the Battle of Waterloo, but what about inventing an argument among Napoleon's generals that distracts him so that he can't focus on the battle plan?
I remember reading that the Apollo 13 astronauts (no, that wasn't just a movie :) said that the disputes the film shows them having never happened, that they were unified in their decisions and didn't argue at all. Well, that's great, but three guys agreeing doesn't make for a great dark moment in a film.
But is there a point where you'd draw the line? Let's talk about the issues here. Is it okay if the Harvard of Sorkin's film isn't the real Harvard? What do you do when you're writing about real places and times?
Oh, and something most of us don't worry about because we make up our people. But Zuckerberg actually exists, and his friend down the hall says that the "Z" in the film is not like the real guy. Is that a problem? Do we have an ethical responsibility here?
Over to you! I don't know the answer, but as I was reading the review, I found myself thinking, "Yeah, but Sorkin's vision is probably more interesting than reality!"