Posted byat 10th February, 2011
Last week I finally got around to seeing “The Social Network” which my campus was screening at no cost to students. I sat down, one of two people in the small room, excited to be alone and seeing a movie I had been excited about for so long. Midway through I started to be irked by what I was seeing. Trying to brush it aside I focused on what was going on. But the more I tried to ignore the representation of women in the movie the more the problem rose to the surface. Why wasn’t I seeing a single positive portrayal? According to the movie women are strange, on the sideline, and/or psycho. Many scenes showcased the “stupid slut” archetype sometimes combining it with underage. Others showed females in a more positive light, if you consider barely present and barely paid attention to positive.
The scene that finally got me whipping out my notebook, convinced that it wasn’t “just me” seeing sexism in the movie, was watching the character of Mark Zuckerberg throw a beer bottle to a girl (of course she didn’t catch it because she didn’t expect it) followed by him throwing another beer at her which also met its fate against a wall. Her squeamish helpless body language made the scene as unbearable as it was pointless. Comical? Maybe, but she never does get a beer. The guy she came by with never shows any interest (he had caught his own beer right before her.) Zuckerberg never offers another, but why was the second one thrown anyway? Seconds later I was left aghast because there hadn’t really been a point to the beer scene, especially since in the end she had no beer let alone a voice. As the scene progresses the programmers at the house are working while the girls, or tag-a-longs there solely for entertainment, are on the couch getting high, drunk, and playing videos like girls do: shooting anything because they don’t “get it.”
Then of course we have the psychotic girlfriend archetype, described as jealous and irrational. She sends Eduardo 47 texts, and of course is in his apartment waiting to give him the third degree and to set fire to the present he got her. Really? Aside from Zuckerberg’s ex, who we see from a lens sympathetic to Zuckerberg, this is the only depiction of a girlfriend in the movie. I don’t even know how to respond to this. Yes, there are women who do this but women are capable of being rational. But maybe that’s not the case in the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
The rest of the movie we have women who are undeveloped as characters and act more like wallflowers. The female attorney at the very end of the movie is not especially offending, yet at the same time she lacks a certain femininity. While she is well tailored and obviously female, her reserved legal personality makes her almost gender neutral and does little to vindicate the last two hours of questionable female portrayal. Quite honestly her character can be read as the “career woman who needs to get laid”.
While the movie was unnerving in its depiction of women what unnerved me more is that the archetypes aren’t uncommon. We are familiar with them. Honestly nothing shockingly new came out of the way women were depicted. I walked out of there thinking about the Jersey Shore, Housewives of wherever, entertainment television and my own experiences throughout high school and college. Is media encouraging women to act stupid, and put on a show? The stereotypes are out there and we are accepting them, and in many cases owning them. It’s nice to know that the “Social Network” has already received heat for its sexism. There was an article published by the New York Times recently, quite appropriately titled “New World, Same Old Gender Roles.” One can only hope that we will consciously start to question pop culture representations of females and not just accept them as a “norm”.