'The Social Network' -- Hollywood's revenge on the nerds

Facebook's origin tale is inspiring the kind of debate usually reserved for its privacy violations -- but have we seen the real Mark Zuckerberg?

You may have been too busy having a life this weekend to notice but, the No. 1 movie in the nation right now is the tale of an uber-nerd.

"The Social Network," David Fincher's much-hyped film about the origins of Facebook, hit theaters this weekend to rave reviews (though if you spend most of your waking hours on the InterWebs, you might think otherwise). It's already raked in $23 million at the box office, or about the amount Mark Zuckerberg's personal wealth has grown in the last hour.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Is Mark Zuckerberg the cause of or solution to all of Facebook's problems? Cringely wonders if it's time to de-friend him. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Full disclosure: I too saw "The Social Network" this weekend (it's my yob, mang), and I liked it. I give it a solid thumbs-up for making the process of starting up an Internet leviathan -- and getting your assets sued in the process -- a lot sexier than it probably really is.

"The Social Network" is clearly a highly fictionalized treatment of Facebook's origins, and in a weird way it makes me feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg, something I didn't think was possible. Yes, he is portrayed as a supreme anus (am I giving too much away here?), but it's almost like he can't help it -- the same disease that makes him brilliant also makes him socially pathetic.

And in case you're wondering -- plot spoiler alert -- Zuckerberg did create Facebook primarily to meet chicks. Aside from one scene that takes place in the bathroom stall at a frat party, it's not entirely clear that strategy worked. (Yes, I know in real life he has a fiance, but I'm talking about the movie here.)

Interestingly, what people think of the film depends a lot on how old they are, says the New York Times' David Carr. He writes:

Many older people will watch the movie... and see a cautionary tale about a callous young man who betrays friends, partners and principles as he hacks his way to lucre and fame. But many in the generation who grew up in a world that Mr. Zuckerberg helped invent will applaud someone who saw his chance and seized it with both hands, mostly by placing them on the keyboard and coding something that no one else had.

Count me in among the old coots. And could you please hand me my cane? I have to go to the bathroom (again).

And though Roger Ebert calls it "splendidly well made" and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers names it "movie of the year," it's not all roses and chocolates from those who carry more sympathy for Facebook and its founder.

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