Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin responded earlier today to a criticism voiced by a female reader of “By Ken Levine” — criticism which basically echoed general dissatisfaction among women that Sorkin’s female characters are too bimbo-ish and groupie-like.
Sorkin starts out by saying “I get it…it’s not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about…women are both prizes and equals.”
But his strongest point, I feel, is that there are three mature, together, super-sharp female characters in The Social Network, and that it’s these three who make the strongest impression. First and foremost is Rashida Jones‘s Marylin, the youngest lawyer on the team who has the films final line — “You’re not an asshole, Mark…you just try so hard to be.” And then Denise Grayson‘s Gretchen, Eduardo’s deposition lawyer “who, again, is nobody’s trophy,” Sorkin remarks. And Rooney Mara‘s Erica — an intelligent straight-shooter and “a class act,” he says.
Obviously Brenda Song‘s Christy starts out as Eduardo’s hot-to-trot girlfriend (sex in a bathroom stall), but she evolves into his girlfriend/partner without a pushover bone in her body. She may act in an irrational and excitable manner in her final scene (lighting his scarf on fire in his bedroom), but she certainly doesn’t seem bimboish — not at this stage. She’s very angry at Eduardo and letting him have it for calling himself “single” on his Facebook page.
There’a also Caitlin Gerard‘s Ashleigh, the Facebook intern who appears near the end. Not much of a part, but she seems to convey integrity and level-headedness, and is no bimbo by any standard I would apply.
So we’re really talking about five strongly defined female characters. Okay, four and a half. Okay, four. (Christy being a bit compromised in the beginning and Ashleigh not having enough screen time or dialogue to be called a character.)
So who are the Social Network bimbos and sex objects that stand out exactly? The girls in the Harvard “fuck truck” in the beginning and the party girls hanging out with Justin Timberlake‘s Sean Parker in Palo Alto and…who else? And none of these bimbo ladies are developed characters. And yet the Ken Levine commenter (named “Tarazza”) who took Sorkin to task feels that “he failed the women in this script…kind of a shame considering he’s written great women characters like C.J. Cregg.”
“Facebook was born during a night of incredibly misogyny,” Sorkin replies, agreeing with Tarazza in general terms. “The idea of comparing women to farm animals, and then to each other, based on their looks and then publicly ranking them. It was a revenge stunt, aimed first at the woman who’d most recently broke his heart (who should get some kind of medal for not breaking his head) and then at the entire female population of Harvard.
“Mark Zuckerberg‘s blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he’s sure he’s missing, came directly from Mark’s blog,” Sorkin explains. “With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark’s blog verbatim. Mark said, ‘Erica Albright’s a bitch. Do you think that’s because all B.U. girls are bitches?’
“More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren’t the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80’s. They’re very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)
“And this very disturbing attitude toward women isn’t just confined to the guys who can’t get dates.
“I didn’t invent the Fuck Truck — it’s real. And the men (boys) at the final clubs think it’s what they deserve for being who they are. (It’s only fair to note that the women — bussed in from other schools for the ‘hot’ parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)
“These women — whether it’s the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo’s psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real.
“I wish I could go door-to-door and make this explanation/apology to any woman offended by the things you’ve pointed out but obviously that’s unrealistic so I thought the least I could do was speak directly to you.”