With The Social Network ruling U.S. box offices for a second straight week while simultaneously enjoying some of the best critical reviews of any film this year, one might think that writer Aaron Sorkin would be indifferent toward what is being said about the film in blog comment sections. That is, of course, unless a blog commenter indirectly accuses the film’s script as misogynistic. That in mind, a commenter on television comedy writer Ken Levine’s blog recently left this post in response to Levine’s review of the film:
I love your blog!!
I also loved The Social Network, except for one thing– the lack of a decent portrayal of women. With the exception of 1 or 2 of them (Rashida Jones included), they were basically sex objects/stupid groupies. Even what you say here:
Jesse Eisenberg is what Michael Cera aspires to be. Justin Timberlake continues to be the most talented STAR SEARCH winner ever, And Rashida Jones is just great to look at.
… kinda makes me think that Aaron Sorkin (though I love his writing) failed the women in this script. Kind of a shame considering he’s written great women characters like C.J. Cregg!
To the surprise of many, Sorkin not only read the comment, but also cared enough about its claims to submit a fully developed response within the blog’s comment section (a refreshingly stand-up move, no doubt). Hit the jump to check out what the writer had to say.
In response to Tarazza‘s concern that women are poorly represented in his script, Sorkin replied on Ken Levine’s blog:
This is Aaron Sorkin and I wanted to address Taraza’s comment. (Ken, I’ll get to you in and your very generous blog post in just a moment.
Tarazza–believe me, 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 an equal. Mark’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.
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” (Erica isn’t her real name–I changed three names in the movie when there was no need to embarrass anyone further), “Do you think that’s because all B.U. girls are bitches?” Facebook was born during a night of incredibly misogyny. 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.
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 “F–k 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. (In the case of Christy, Eduardo’s girlfriend so beautifully played by Brenda Song, I conflated two characters–again I hope you’ll trust me that doing that did nothing to alter our take on the events. Christy was the second of three characters whose name I changed.)
I invented two characters–one was Rashida Jones’s “Marylin”, the youngest lawyer on the team and a far cry from the other women we see in the movie. She’s plainly serious, competent and, when asked, has no problem speaking the truth as she sees it to Mark. The other was Gretchen, Eduardo’s lawyer (in reality there was a large team of litigators who all took turns deposing witnesses but I wanted us to become familiar with just one person–a woman, who, again, is nobody’s trophy.
And Rooney Mara’s Erica’s a class act.
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.
Ken–Thanks for your really nice words and for giving me a chance to apologize again for my remarks back in 2005. Obviously a star writer on one of the best comedies of all time doesn’t need to prove his credentials as a “real” comedy writer.