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Guest Post: The Social Network or a Really Terrible Movie that Sucks by Dan Wilbur

2011 January 5

Awhile back I was told by an acquaintance (a former friend) that 500 Days of Summer was “our generation’s Annie Hall.”  Comparing generation-defining works is a silly notion in itself since (though Annie Hall “holds up”) the whole point of an emotionally wrought work of that kind is to take a snapshot of the human condition AT THAT VERY MOMENT which also applies to the past and (cross your fingers, screenwriters) our future world.  Annie Hall is our generation’s Annie Hall.  I only know the film in the context of its being from the past, yet still “speaking to me” as a person living in 2011.  Nobody says things like “Avatar: The Last Airbender* is our generation’s Odyssey.”  That’s dumb.  For one thing, Nietzsche wasn’t exactly sure how the Greek public felt about epic poetry or theater, and he was a lot smarter than people bullshitting today.  Furthermore, comparing these two works would be like saying “this show that is clearly influenced by the Odyssey is the the younger generation’s Odyssey.”  It begs the question.  Annie Hall clearly influenced several indie romance films, and saying any movie is our generation’s anything else is comparing apples to oranges.  Or, I guess, comparing a really great apple to a bio-mechanically engineered clone of that apple which tastes like an orange filled with poop.

What I think my oncefriend was attempting to say was this: “500 Days of Summer was a movie that, I think, everyone in my generation can relate to in the same way those who saw Annie Hall the day it came out relate to Annie Hall.  It is a generation-defining movie about love or the lack thereof.”  Fine.  This Imaginary Idiot is wrong again, since he has no idea how he or anyone else felt about Annie Hall when it came out.  He’s saying something tantamount to calling Obama a Nazi.  He’s not saying he thinks Obama’s policies resemble Nazism, he’s saying “I heard that what Nazis did sociologically is similar to Obama’s policies, even though I’ve never really read much about either.”  He’s saying “the way people felt about Hitler when he arrived on the scene is the same way people feel about Obama,” and that’s stupid a) because he just read that somewhere and b) history, though similar things often happen, does not repeat itself.  Furthermore, Obama-haters are hating something for the wrong reason!  People don’t hate Hitler because he was popular and brought Germany out of a depression.  People hate him because he was an egomaniacal murderer.  It doesn’t take a lot of research to figure out that a guy who wants to extend health insurance to everyone is not a Jew-hating murderer.  You have to hate Nazis for the right reasons: otherwise, you might end up liking something that’s as bad as Hitler later.  So, I hate 500 Days of Summer not because it’s ripping off Annie Hall (it is) or Amelie (big time and unnecessarily).  Rather, I hate it because it’s supposedly a film about my generation’s inability to communicate, open our hearts, be the people they want to be, etc. and it DOES NOT feature the one piece of communicative technology used by most people my age: Facebook.  If there is a movie that’s our generation’s anything, it’s not 500 Days of Summer, but The Social Network.

The reason The Social Network is a generation-defining work is because it self-referentially (IMPORTANT!) focuses on an ever-present, identity-supplementing, unprecedented privacy-stealing piece of media, while 500 Days of Summer features landlines.  Telephones that don’t even feature caller-ID.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!  THIS IS WHAT OUR GENERATION IS ABOUT?  Sitting by the phone on a Friday night?  We have SKYPE now!  Our generation has more in common with Star Trek villains than the people in this quirky romance.

I’m not saying great works necessarily have to mimic what is happening in the here and now (see: most Bob Dylan lyrics).  But THIS generation, this self-important, lonely, narcissistic, smartphone-using, iPod wearing, video gaming, internet stalking, celebrity-for-no-reason-other-than-we’re-rich-and-willing-to-show-our-tits generation REQUIRES a mostly unimaginative (in the sense that there are no magic elves or kids riding broomsticks, or a machine that erases bad relationships from your memory**) movie about itself.  People want to hear about the here and now, because they feel they are a small part of a huge structure that had (ostensibly) an exciting beginning.  Am I saying my generation is stupid and unimaginative?  No.  I’m saying if you like The Social Network, you’re admitting you like hearing about yourself, and a person who’s sort of like you who made a bunch of money thinking about love, sex, and status (and computers, which we grew up with).  If you like The Social Network you are saying to yourself: “That could have been me…and, in a way, partly is me because I’m a part of that thing that all my friends, and the creator of Facebook himself, use.”  If you like 500 Days of Summer, you like looking at pretty stuff, and then seeing people kiss, but only if the structure is reminiscent of other quirky movies that came before it.

You disagree?
Answer these questions:
Why does he work at a greeting card company?
Why does he quit to become an architect?
Why does he have stereotypical roommates who say funny things at awkward times?
Why is there a quirky narrator?
Why can’t I tell what city these people are in?

Answer to all of these questions: Because this movie is ripping what was good about movies like it in the past while adding very little of its own.  Exciting visuals, comic relief, and old communication conundrums, that’s all.  It gives you all the fun stuff without taking any risks of its own.  The narrator’s there not because the vignettes (day # included) need explanation, but because people like the narrator in the movie Amelie.  You’ve Got Mail did a better job showing day-to-day tension in relationships than a movie which features a pre-teen sibling knowing more than the main character about relationships.  Seriously, what year is it?  How many times have you seen this hackneyed joke?  A clever structure does not justify sloppy, contrived writing and nonspecific character development.

The Social Network isn’t perfect.  It’s got Aaron Sorkin’s quips dripping off every scene.  It is also supposed to serve as some type of historical document and the person who the movie is about has said the film is full of lies (although it would be great if Mark Zuckerberg thinks the only thing that can truly capture his identity is his own Facebook profile).

But, if you’re one of those people who think I’m dumb, too critical, too uneducated/overeducated because I don’t share in your enthusiasm (i.e. think exactly like you do) for a shitty movie like 500 Hundred Days of Summer, then guess what.  You’re a Nazi.

Notes:
*An awesome show!
** Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a great movie about love, and I am aware that it also features scenes with landlines, but it receives an exemption from suckitude since a) it’s an imaginary world which features a piece of technology we all half-wish were real, and b) it came out a month after Facebook was born.

Dan Wilbur is a 10.  That is, a 10 after adding up his three best features: Physique (3), Face (5), Personality (2).  Dan is a comedian, writer, and avid video game player living in Brooklyn, NY.   His writing is featured on CollegeHumor.com, McSweeney’s, The Onion News Network, The Huffington Post and online versions of EW, The New Yorker, NYT blogs and Esquire. He is the creator and editor of betterbooktitles.com.

21 Responses
  1. wkatzen permalink
    January 5, 2011

    Wow. You really hate two movies that nobody in the world feels so vehemently about. Your diatribe is childish and laughable. Between this and the defense of incest I really don’t understand what you guys are trying to accomplish with this website, but I guarantee you are failing to a spectacular degree.

    “Or, I guess, comparing a really great apple to a bio-mechanically engineered clone of that apple which tastes like an orange filled with poop.” <— Perhaps the worst thing ever written. Congrats.

    • January 5, 2011

      He doesn’t seem to “hate” the Social Network, and your takeaway seems to be the result of skimming, the worst trait of the comment-leaving class. If you read the article, instead of just insta-reacting to the title, you’d learn that he does’t think the movie is perfect and that he thinks that those who appreciate the film are a bit self absorbed, which is arguable. Tangent: I know many who have seen the film but do not have any online presence and sort of dislike that phenomenon, much like how the script taunts the generation which thinks that it’s asinine to think all your thoughts are Broadcast To The Public-Worthy. Something you might want to think about too.

      Comparing (500) to Annie Hall *is* tantamount to comparing genuine article art to cloned material, which doesn’t even come close to the quality of the original. How Dan chose to phrase his comparison might annoy you, but hey, you barely use punctuation, so you must be right about everything, with the literary know-how of a Joyce or Gaddis.

      The phrase “that nobody in the world feels so vehemently about” is over exaggeration to the point of revealing that you’re just another commenter who thinks that just because they’re writing a comment and not a post, they can be as lazy as they feel like. A lot of people did not like either of those movies, and I’m sure one of them is named Armond White, whose criticism of (500) is here: http://www.nypress.com/article-20093-(500)-days-of-summer.html

    • January 6, 2011

      How lucky for wkatzen that checking websites whose purposes mystify him is not compulsory. Surely the publication of any candidate for the worst thing ever written is sufficient grounds for avoiding the site. His readership will not be missed.

  2. wkatzen permalink
    January 7, 2011

    Just because my readership is not compulsory doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with posts I find specious.

    Sorry my punctuation wasn’t up to snuff Henry but you might want to spellcheck your diatribes in the future.

    I maintain: “Or, I guess, comparing a really great apple to a bio-mechanically engineered clone of that apple which tastes like an orange filled with poop.” <— Perhaps the worst thing ever written. Congrats.

    • January 7, 2011

      Glad to see you came back for another read, Cotty.

      • wkatzen permalink
        January 7, 2011

        I try to stay involved.

  3. JimmyMack permalink
    January 7, 2011

    I totally agree with Wkatzen is trying to say about the Bizy Signal.
    This site has become a haven for pretentious Bardee dweebs who like to hear/read themselves bloviate on their far-left bullshit and twee tastes in music/movies/gadgets.

    Guess what. Obama kicks ass. Blackberries pwn the fucking stupid iFone. And The Social Network is going to win Best Picture. So fuck a duck’s ass if you don’t like it.

  4. wkatzen permalink
    January 7, 2011

    Also, who “wears” an iPod?

    • January 7, 2011

      I’m guessing it’s one of those new clip-on models. They’ve had them around for a couple years now, but I’ve never seen someone actually wearing it on their clothing.

  5. wkatzen permalink
    January 7, 2011

    “But, if you’re one of those people who think I’m dumb, too critical, too uneducated/overeducated because I don’t share in your enthusiasm (i.e. think exactly like you do) for a shitty movie like 500 Hundred Days of Summer, then guess what. You’re a Nazi.”

    What if I don’t care at all about you and think you’re just stupid?

  6. January 7, 2011

    Henry, drop it. Cotty’s being a troll, and there’s nothing interesting about what he’s saying. He’s perfectly entitled to hurl bizarre criticism at Dan or us or the whole blog, if he likes. I say, until he makes an meaningful case for some position or other, we just let him chatter.

  7. wkatzen permalink
    January 7, 2011

    Why have comments if you are so upset by them? I’m not trolling I’m just genuinely befuddled by some of the content on this site. I do read it because of Jessie’s FB updates. Why is it trolling that I find something poorly argued? I just hated this post and commented. If you want a chorus of likeminded people then I’ll fuck off.

    • January 14, 2011

      Cotty, be straight up.

      Your comments are not meaningful, well thought-out disagreements, which this blog has always cherished and engaged with eagerness. The following is not the writing of a thoughtful gadfly, but of a troll:

      “Your diatribe is childish and laughable.”
      “I guarantee you are failing to a spectacular degree.”
      “Perhaps the worst thing ever written. Congrats.”
      “Also, who ‘wears’ an iPod?”
      “What if I don’t care at all about you and think you’re just stupid?”

      And let’s not forget, from Tom’s piece:

      “It just blows my mind that anybody could spend so many paragraphs working on such a diatribe.”
      “Also, cite your sources.”

      If you’d like a model for good oppositional commenting, take a look at what Justin wrote on Brian’s piece on incest or what Salome wrote on my piece about Hanukkah. Obviously, this blog does not strive to be or attract a chorus of like-minded people — recently, Akie and I published a pretty strident debate between the two of us. But it does strive to be and attract smart commentary.

      The insults you hurl are perfectly fine, if that’s what you want to do. They don’t upset me at all; I just wanted to caution Henry that they’re not worth responding to consistently. After all, we’ve tolerated much worse than you’ve put out (see what theaak92 wrote on Jacqui’s piece about her Jewish identity crisis). By all means, disagree. But do it smartly. Or expect to be held in contempt.

  8. January 14, 2011

    If you liked this, you’ll love the one time I debated some folks about abortion by constantly bringing up The Fifth Element (the GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME!):

    http://danwilbur.tumblr.com/post/42997233

    I enjoy a heated discussion as much as the next red-blooded American, but the apples to oranges metaphor redux is funny to me, and I would have liked to see some pertinent criticism of this piece like:

    The writer never argues why the Social Network is good structurally/aesthetically but rather writes about why the movie “fits” his own myopic view of his generation. He spends time trashing a movie when he really should be trashing the straw man that he refers to as his “oncefriend.”

    That, and, “I really like the movie 500 Days of Summer and I’m not dumb for liking it” is OK with me too. I was just writing about something personal and funny to me, which goes somewhat unstated in the article: I don’t like when people think I’M dumb for NOT liking something that everyone seems to like, or that I’m dumb for liking something that everyone seems to NOT like. OR, sometimes someone will go on a long diatribe about how you’re stupid for liking something that everyone likes and you just “joined the hype.” There’s no winning with everyone, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on a movie that seemed egregiously derivative and bad. I also thought that I’d make sure to list the reasons I thought it was bad. Next time I’ll make the piece really short: 500 Day BAD, Social Network GOODSHOWFUNTIME!

  9. January 15, 2011

    I guess it’s because I live in LA but I thought it was recognizable in 500 Days of Summer. Now, living in a loft in downtown on a greeting card salary? That’s fantasy right there.

  10. Sandy permalink
    January 15, 2011

    I hate the movie, Social Network. This movie just shows what you can do if you have not integrity; no sense of what is right and wrong; no respect for women; and, no problem with stealing from others.

    • February 12, 2011

      The movie is terrible, and I hate it. But, it’s because it was made up without the input of a single person it is based on. Almost all of them have said that the movie is basically all fiction, made up to make it all seem a hell of a lot more dramatic than it really ever was. Even Sorkin, the writer of the movie, said that the movie is more about his storytelling than real truth.

      I guess no one wants to pay to see a movie about guys sitting on the computer and ordering pizza while writing code all summer, then being sued by overprivileged kids. And I can’t blame them, that’s boring. But, dragging someone’s name through the mud and portraying them so wrongly and far from the truth, all for the purpose of entertaining teenagers, is pretty sad.

      He didn’t do it for the girls, or partying, or to be cool, or for money…he did it because he’s a nerdy guy who had an idea for a system to potentially connect the entire world. And, you can’t patent an idea, he did nothing wrong. And, you shouldn’t hate a person because of a work of fiction with their name slapped on it.

      THAT is why this is a terrible movie.

  11. lopli permalink
    January 16, 2011

    he is allowed to have his opinion he doesn’t have to like it just because everyone else does. Judging these comments you people haven’t seen them either, just going by what your buddies say

  12. BadMoviesWinAwardsAndMakeMoney permalink
    January 20, 2011

    I have no idea why people are gushing over this crap-fest. Fincher should’ve died in 1999.

  13. Leonard permalink
    January 25, 2011

    The movie is not bad. i just do not like it

Comments are closed.