Anyone who saw The Social Network this weekend noticed that a certain college rag got a fair amount of screen time. The Harvard Crimson acts as a lens through which the characters in this stylized version of the Facebook creation saga see the events unfold, suggesting that Aaron Sorkin treated the culture of the student-run paper and its influence on campus as one of the film’s most integral conceits. Certain stories act as plot catalysts, Mark Zuckerberg’s front-page presence raises his profile enough to get him and Eduardo Severin laid in bathroom stalls, and students are clued into the development of thefacebook.com by huddling around a copy of the print edition, reading off the articles to each other. Oh, print newspapers. So 2003.
But just how much of a role did the paper play in Sorkin’s whip-smart script? VF Daily’s Juli Weiner is on the case. She’s parsed through the two hours-plus of thriller-paced action to find every mention of Harvard’s student-run publication, and provided links to the original stories on The Crimson‘s website (which is probably sitting pretty from all the Social Network-related traffic swells.)
Not to give too much away, you sad holdouts, but the list of references includes the original Crimson story on Zuckerberg’s hastily made — and boozily coded! — Facemash site. The article mentioned that Facemash had racked up 22,000 hits by the end of its first full day. No, not twenty-two hundred. Twenty-two thousand.
In the film, the Winklevi and Divya Narendra decide to hire Zuckerberg to code their site after discovering him through this article.
The budding Harvard journalists go on to cover Zuckerberg’s progress with The Facebook, as it was originally called, tracking it from its launch to its expansion to other schools and beyond — events that were all covered to some extent in the film, and oftentimes introduced through an article that the characters either read or expect the next morning.
Though the film is more directly looking at a new information platform that would transform the lives of college students, it does make something of a showcase out of this college newspaper. In fact, The Social Network may be the first film to rely this heavily on the ink-stained staple of campus life — an accomplishment that may prove ironic if the social networking capabilities Facebook helped pioneer someday render the college newspaper unnecessary in print, or irrelevant in general.
Oh well. At least we’ll have The Social Network, a wistful look back to the newsprint-filled days of 2003.