Aaron Sorkin has written an “explanation/apology” intended for anyone who was offended by his depiction of women in The Social Network. The note came in the form of a comment Sorkin posted on TV writer Ken Levine’s blog, after one of Levine’s readers wrote a post about how Sorkin had “failed women” with the movie because all the female characters were “sex objects/stupid groupies.”
In his response, Sorkin says he was just telling it like it is. He’s not the misogynist — the people this movie was about are:
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.
He was bound by the truth! You have to remember, Sorkin is saying, Zuckerberg and these other tech guys were total creeps:
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.)
Cuddly nerds! Remember those? What a golden time, when the nerds were cuddly, when they didn’t hate women so much.
But wait, what of Victor Frankenstein? Didn’t we establish in last week’s Observer that the loathsome, scary nerd is a trope that can be traced to the beginning of the 19th century? Who are these cuddly nerds and where can we get one?
For more insight into the matter, The Observer talked to our pal, nerd expert and author of sad, funny comics Daniel Kibblesmith, who argues that Sorkin is either mixed up or making this remark in bad faith.
The Observer: What is this cuddly nerd Sorkin is referring to?
Kibblesmith: It sounds like a weak reference to what he probably perceives as a bigger trend than it was.
Kibblesmith: And totally irrelevant to the kind of movie HE made. But maybe he’s thinking of Revenge of the Nerds? War Games? These are very different genres — there’s not really any reason for him to compare. It’s not like the 80s had a more crowd-pleasing corporate internet biopic where a young Steve Jobs saved his garage lab with a sweet skateboarding tournament.
The Observer: Sorkin isn’t just comparing his depiction of nerds with previous ones. He’s saying actual nerds back then were different.
Kibblesmith: I don’t know, it just reminds me of how that new Robin Hood movie came out, and it was all, “THIS ISN’T YOUR DADDY’S ROBIN HOOD!”
Kibblesmith: Is The Social Network not your daddy’s Revenge of the Nerds?
Kibblesmith: They just seem beyond comparison to me, just like the technology itself.
Kibblesmith: Our perception of these people and their role in our lives has evolved in such a way that he has no business referring to 80s movie nerds, who were basically Police Academy characters.
Kibblesmith: I don’t get why he was bringing it up, or what it has to do with defending his tone.
The Observer: It was part of a point about how nerds and jocks alike hated women at this time and in this place — that everyone behaved in real life the way he depicted them behaving in his movie, and that nerds used to not be misogynistic.
Kibblesmith: He probably means like the John Cusack sort of nerd. He’s still comparing a biopic to straight fiction. Of course the latter is going to be a more romanticized notion of the way the underdog would revere a girl.
The Observer: You mean, of course the fictional one would be less misogynistic than the one whose creator is trying to be realistic?
Kibblesmith: I mean that the fictional one would have no expectation to be anything but a Hollywood version of a loveable loser wanting his dream girl. Whereas a fictionalized true story could choose its route.
Kibblesmith: Aaron Sorkin is probably right, in that reality gave him tacit permission for a harsher approach.
The Observer: But it’s not like real live nerds in the world have actually changed from cuddly to misogynistic between the 80s and 2006.
Kibblesmith: Yeah. Nerds are pretty self-isolating and for better or worse the ones who don’t have experience talking to girls aren’t great at thinking of them as regular people. Unfamiliarity does not exactly create the best gender dynamics.
Kibblesmith: Nerds usually either want to put idealized versions of girls on a pedestal or have written them off as total bitches who could never love a guy who owns an action figure still in its box.
Kibblesmith: 80s movie nerds were basically as historically accurate as 80s movie ninjas.
Kibblesmith: Aaron Sorkin needs to own his shit or shut up.