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The (Homo)Social Network

The (Homo)Social Network (photo)

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Women in “The Social Network” are “less prizes than they are props,” writes Rebecca Davis O’Brien at The Daily Beast, “buxom extras literally bussed in to fill the roles of doting groupies, vengeful sluts, or dumpy, feminist killjoys.” “What are we to do with a great film that makes women look so awful?” she asks, going on to target the film’s portrayal of Asian women and its “shots that linger on women’s bodies.” Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon claims that “Ultimately, the question becomes whether the film’s sexism is intentional and, if so, whether it accurately reflects reality.”

Does “The Social Network” have a problem with women? I wouldn’t say so, but its characters sure do. Are women underrepresented in the film? Sure. It’s a story about guys! Desperate, socially inept guys. It’s a cinematic sausage fest. Of the different arguments being floated on this topic, the one that I find the most troubling is voiced by O’Brien’s sarcastic “who wants a brilliant movie marred by some obligatory ‘strong lady’ type-casting?” Who wants a movie marred by obligatory casting of any sort?

The suggestion that Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher had an obligation to insert a token “strong lady” character in order to make their film more demographically friendly or underline how their own intentions are separate from their characters is condescending to audiences. The film world still leans incredibly toward male perspectives, male characters and male audiences, and the way to fix that is by supporting and encouraging women making and working in movies, not by implying the need for an artificial quota of “go girl”ness.

09212010_socialnetwork2.jpgWe don’t see women involved in the running of Facebook because we hardly see the company once it has actually become one, with an office and a more gender equitable mix of staffers, much less when it got around to hiring Sheryl Sandberg as COO in 2008. The film’s about Facebook’s dorm room origin story, not a treatise on the tech world at large. It’s about the gap between the pursuit of success and the pursuit of happiness.

We don’t see women around much in general in the film because our main characters have no idea how to meet or pursue or talk to them. The smart, grounded girl the film starts out with — Rooney Mara’s Erica Albright — walks out on the asshole she’s been dating after he simultaneously ignores and talks down to her. It’s an affirming moment, but we don’t go with her, because it’s the asshole that “The Social Network” is about.

Mark Zuckerberg, or at least the Mark Zuckerberg of the movie, embodied by Jesse Eisenberg, finds the seeds of his company in the type of obscurely vengeful thought we’ve all found consolation in at one time or another — “You’ll be sorry when I’m famous/dead/beautiful/successful/rich!” What’s tragic about Zuckerberg is that even as he builds the company that will become a part of the lives of half a billion people, that will make him the world’s youngest billionaire, he’s still just a closed-off workaholic who has trouble relating to people, and his ex isn’t going to come crawling back because of his achievements.

Zuckerberg starts the film off wanting to distinguish himself, beyond getting into Harvard — he wants to get into a final club “because they’re exclusive,” and, as an afterthought, “they’re fun and they lead to a better life.” He wants the trappings of success because he thinks, like membership in a final club, they somehow lead to love and happiness, but he doesn’t care about money and the people who seek him and Eduardo out because of Facebook’s rise are, unsurprisingly, parasitic and unstable — like Brenda Song’s Christy character, certainly, but also like Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker, the dot-com rock star who’s all hot air.

10052010_socialnetwork4.jpg“The Social Network” doesn’t present a world in which women are all “gold-diggers, drunken floozies and that ‘bitch’ who got away,” it presents one in which those are pretty much the handful that cross the paths of our main characters, who do everything possible to meet girls except actually go out and meet them. That ridiculous party that’s juxtaposed with Mark’s assembling of Facemash.com isn’t meant to be a feasible depiction of what life in the final clubs is like — the members order in kegs of beer and kegs of ladies. It stands for everything Mark thinks he’s missing out on, the debaucherous good time the elite are surely having while he sits at home stewing in his own self-loathing. What would he even do if he was invited? He’d just sit in the corner with his laptop.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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