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"The Social Network" -- Pass the Bananas

The tribute to director Masahiro Shinoda currently underway at the New York Film Festival will naturally make you think about Japan. But there’s no obvious reason why another Festival selection, The Social Network, should transport you to The Land of the Rising Sun.


Unless David Fincher’s movie about the anthropoids who created Facebook reminds you of Iwatayama Monkey Park

At least that’s what came up for me.
Wild monkeys have free run of this nature preserve in the woodsy mountains of Arashiyama, just outside of Kyoto. There, as if to dramatize the relative moral status of animals, it’s the human visitors who are caged.
Not that people can’t wander around the grounds, but behind bars is the only place the Park approves for giving the furry tree swingers food. The rules go: “Don’t feed the monkeys outside: This encourages them to misbehave.”

Watching The Social Network, I couldn’t help but wonder, What encourages humans to misbehave? How do our behaviors of predation and bonding differ from those of our primate ancestors?
And what would Iwatayama’s macaques see peering in on the cage of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (played in a career-making turn by Jesse Eisenberg)? Would his impulsive cruelty toward a friend or colleague in order to feed his hungers make them recognize him as one of their own?
For Zuckerberg’s part, he might well claim his origins as a caged animal. In the Ben Mezrich book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex,  Money, Genius and Betrayal -- from which screenwriter Aaron Sorkin adapted the film’s rat-a-tat script – he describes Zuckerberg as a super-geek in self-imposed captivity. Here’s his take on “the kid with the mop of curly hair” at the Caribbean-themed party sponsored by Harvard’s Phoenix Club, an alpha pack Zuckerberg sought to join:
“...the kid had never moved from the corner; in fact, his self-defeating awkwardness had been so palpable, it had acted like a force field, carving out an area of the room around him, a sort of reverse magnetism, pushing anyone nearby away.”
Today Facebook is a $25 billion business, and Zuckerberg is the 35th richest person in America.
As the story goes, he got there by double-crossing Facebook partner Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and linking up with Napster founder Sean Park (Justin Timberlake), who brokered Zuckerberg’s entrée into Silicon Valley, cheating Saverin out of his share.
The movie begins with Zuckerberg trying to woo a comely coed, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), but instead creeping her out. Jilted, he hacks into the university’s computer network and uploads photographs of her and other female students to be rated according to their sex appeal. It’s not giving anything away to say that Zuckerberg’s attempt to “friend” Albright bookends the movie. In a happy ending for his assets, he's now valued at $6.9 billion, but until he achieves real connection, the film seems to be saying, what’s it all worth? Even Bonobos know the answer. (See "Bonobo Love" on Facebook.)


Amid the bog of current movies examining where we are today in primate evolution -- includingWall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Catfish and the documentaries Inside Job and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot SpitzerThe Social Network perhaps best captures human society in its natural states of aggression and affiliation.
To encourage more of the latter, maybe Zuckerberg could come up with some code for grooming.

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