Slate Money Goes to the Movies: The Social Network

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Social Network episode of Slate.

S3: Money goes to the movies. I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. I’m here with Anna Shamansky. Hello. And for this episode, we have roped in the very best guests that sleep money has ever had. Mr Pulford. Welcome, Paul.

S1: Oh, my God. It’s good to be here. Bad to have watched that film. I’m excited to talk.

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S3: Paul, introduce yourself and try and explain how you’re the only guest on this entire season that was forced into talking about the movie. What is it about you?

S1: Well, you know, Felix, I don’t know why you asked me to talk about this film, but I’m going to assume that it’s because, A, I will complain. B, because I will complain about Facebook, although, you know, it’s a giant megastructure. We have to treat it with respect and understanding in order to figure out how to live under its shadow without dying. And see, I don’t know I don’t know why I’m here, man. I think I you know, I know how to program. I used to be a writer. I run a software company. I’m just figuring you were like you keyword marched me into this bad boy and you made me watch that movie.

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S3: It’s true. I apologize for that. But this is your opportunity to plug your podcasts, plural. Where do we find you when you’re not on state money?

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S4: Oh, God. Well, you know, let me market you know, if you’re someone out there listening to this, I would love if you checked out my my company post-flight dotcom, because we’re hiring. We’re growing, building a diverse team. Designers, engineers, product managers. You need to remember them. Always remember the product managers. We have a podcast. Check it out. I’m also in the Stack Overflow podcast. But, you know, just reach me if you need to complain, Paul, not for it at post.com. Always going to work to me on Twitter.

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S1: I love you. OK, I think that’s that’s brilliant.

S3: All right, Paul, I have to start this off with an apology to you.

S4: Good. That’s I like most of my podcast recordings. Do you start this way?

S3: That’s great, because you are one of my favorite people and yet you are, I think, the only person in this entire season who did not actually choose the film that they’re going to talk about. I mean, you it was just always it was just always so obvious that we needed to have Paul for the on to talk about the social network. I was not about to give you the joy.

S1: I’m so angry. So, first of all, I have a confession to make that I never finished this film before. Last night I watched I tried to watch it when it came out and I got so annoyed that I turned it off. But, you know, you asked me to do something. I’m going to do it. I sat down, I got this new TV. It’s Nalgae. My God, it’s nice. I just I’ve never had a good TV in my life. And I could see every little bit of sweat and annoyance on Jesse Eisenberg face. And I don’t think I’ve ever been as pissed as anybody is. I was pissed at you last night, Felix, for making me watch this ongoing The Social Network.

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S3: So you weren’t, like, just completely loving the beautiful attention to detail of David Fincher and on your amazing new TV and being, why do we worship him?

S1: It’s literally first of all, it’s just dark. Like David Fincher is literally like, hey, guys, it’s nine p.m. time to start literally everything. And then it cuts to a lawyer’s office. It was like going to a really bad like all hands meeting and then going out for a drink after. But it’s but it’s worse because it’s a drink in Cambridge. And you just know that the people next year are going to be talking about Harvard Business in a minute. It’s just it was it was too much anyway. The Social Network, right. David Fincher, beautifully shot film has a Nine Inch Nails or Trent Reznor. Atticus Ross soundtrack. Very good. Very nice. I just wanted to throttle every single person I saw on screen because they’re all terrible. They’re all terrible. And it’s also like the terribleness is kind of like the intervening years have not been kind of this film because that you get the sense the narrative is like, look at how awful these men are, but also how vapid these women are. And we’ll just kind of keep that rolling in there. You’re watching. You’re like, wow, they made Armie Hammer into two twins and now he’s known for cannibalism online. So like what’s happening here and everybody’s annoying. And Facebook went and ruined the world. Like they make it all about sort of Harvard annoyingness and just little little bits are OK. I’m so annoyed that I can’t actually make a point. You’re going to have to coach some points out of me.

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S5: I very much agree. When I saw this film in 2010, when I first came out, I actually remember liking it. So I when I went to watch it again was like, OK, I’ll enjoy this. And I similarly had a hard time getting through it. I was like, this is horrible. But in this film, if Twitter had really been moved oh, I mean, and what you noted is that the sexism in this film is just out of control. And it’s not just that. It’s depicting something that’s sexist. The film itself is sexist. The women. Are useless or psychotic, they know nothing about technology. Literally, there’s a scene where when the menfolk go to talk, the women have to go to the bathroom because they can’t be around for the business talk.

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S3: Are there any actually like.

S5: Two dimensional, let alone three dimensional women in this movie, I mean, you have the like Erika character, but she’s really not she’s just there to create this weird frame narrative around the Facebook creation story. And she’s apparently just has a pretty face, which is the reason he likes her, which he literally says she serves no real other purpose. She has no inner life. None of the women in this film do.

S3: Her main purpose, as far as I can make out, is to be the vehicle for one of those Aaron Sorkin monologues at the very beginning of the movie, which is probably like the high point in terms of Aaron Sorkin monologue in the whole movie. So you can watch the first two minutes and then you’ve seen the best of it, right?

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S1: Know the part where the fake Larry Summers yells at the fake Winklevoss twins? It’s pretty exciting when you just you do love to see a good dressing down in a film. So that that part was great.

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S6: I’m sorry, President Summers, but what you just said makes no sense to me at all. I’m devastated by what my brother means, as if Mark Zuckerberg walked into our dorm room and stole our computer. That would be a university. I don’t know. This office doesn’t handle petty larceny. This isn’t petty larceny. This idea is potentially worth millions of dollars. Millions? Yes. It might just be letting your imaginations run away with you, sir. I honestly don’t think you’re in any position to make that call. I was the U.S. Treasury secretary. I’m in some position to make that call.

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S1: When it’s funny, it’s funny. But the women are such props. And I think we’ve all been given an education in the last 11 years of just how properly they are. And then it gets layered on top of the Facebook ness of it. And you just want to you just hate everybody on screen and not in a fun way.

S3: Right. Because there’s an art to making good movies and cinema about bad people. Like this is why we all love succession so much. Right. That they’re terrible people. But it’s a great show. This is not that, I guess.

S1: Do you want to root for the Cadd? Right. And you I mean, that’s that’s what succession gives you a variety of cats to root for.

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S3: Right? You kind of hate yourself for liking them. Whereas in this movie, there’s no one you hate yourself for liking because there’s no one that you’d like.

S1: Yeah. And it’s funny because what it does is it gets every detail just right. I mean, they didn’t film it at Harvard, but boy, does it look like Harvard and they get all the tech jargon. Just try to be like I, my Apache HD convict violinist. And he does. OK, well that’s legitimate web spider, just what the audience needs to see. But then clearly, all of the actual business of it. Right. Like first of all, they make everything out to actually have involved sex, which Facebook did not like.

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S4: I mean, I know it was horrible and that it was all face Mashantucket, but it’s obvious that Facebook was just guys in rooms drinking, you know, monster drinks and eventually going out to California that there was no nothing cool happened to make Facebook or it would be a very different product or they just wouldn’t have made it.

S3: Was it? Actually, I mean, I wanted to ask you about this poll. I mean, one of the many reasons I wanted to talk to you in particular about this movie is partly to talk about the movie, but also a little bit to just talk about the early days of Facebook. What was it if it wasn’t sex or was it sex that made Facebook go viral in the early days?

S1: No, I mean, I think it was just the data aggregation. Really good. Then the social network was right there. Right. And it was really look, there’s two things I think going on in the movie. One is I think it’s just kind of Hollywood yelling at technology, like, how dare you? There’s there’s that there’s a subtext of sort of Sorkin going like, what would he. And he also didn’t he make that he made the the Steve Jobs movie. Yeah. He made one of two Steve Jobs movies, which is also kind of exhausting. And they’re technically impeccable, like they’ll go get the right next box and, you know, everything. But then the narrative is so sloppy. And then, you know, there’s always this like, well, you know, and I’m just sort of imposing my genius onto the narrative. I don’t need to hear the facts, but the facts are actually big and interesting. I mean, I think what is bizarre. So when I’m working backwards from is watching this is that this is actually one of the foundational narratives of our current culture. Like the the most important thing that happened in technology in the last 15, 20 years has been social media. And the narrative around it is fictional and sloppy. And Hollywood I in a way that isn’t really very instructive. And then it also just inherits all the garbage of bad Hollywood. All the women are tarted up and all the men are like just kind of really extra annoying. And look at this. Isn’t the world full of poison and terribleness? And that actually that’s not the root of a sustainable giant social platform effort like that. It doesn’t ring true.

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S5: I agree. I feel like the weird relationship frame narrative that they use really makes the story a lot smaller than it actually is. That’s right.

S4: This is a story about power. I have power over the people around me. By aggregating the information about them, I was able to get all the faces of all the people and put them into an app. And it was a database. And you could go and you could browse them and that that. Give me control and then, you know, the one part it gets right is like here he is, he’s at the center of that. And people are motivated and excited and connected to that. And money starts flying around and Sean Parker shows up and Justin Timberlake is here. It’s complicated. By the way, did anyone ever read about Sean Parker’s wedding?

S3: Oh, and in the woods, didn’t you have to pay, like, ten dollars million for mediation to sort of, like, put the woods back to how they were? And I remember like a sixty seven thousand word blog post he wrote trying to defend his wedding.

S1: It was a world class technology moment. I think they were literally married as elves. And then they built a bridge and they had a formal apology. And it was it was a real mess, you know. And I think you got to you know, Sean Parker in this film is Justin Timberlake. He’s just constantly having sexual intercourse with beautiful but underaged women while doing cocaine. And then, you know, and maybe who knows what’s real. But then, you know, the real Sean Parker, the when we get to know through the news is someone who dresses like an elf and gets married by destroying a forest. And I feel that that story is more revealing about the true nature of technology.

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S3: So can I just ask you the obvious question about Sean Parker, which I really ought to know the answer to, but which is you found Napster, which changes the culture in very profound ways. But ultimately, it doesn’t make you any money because the business goes bust because it’s all based on doing illegal things. And then you hang out in Silicon Valley having sex with coeds and then somehow you have enough money to buy yourself a five percent stake in the hottest social network startup thing.

S4: Yeah, I mean, that’s where, you know, that feels to me like that’s where Sorkin magic came in.

S3: But in reality, he did wind up buying a five percent stake for himself in Facebook.

S1: Like that did actually happen. Yeah. I mean, look, first of all, Sean Parker is in a world back then. And I mean, you know, Peter TEALS in the movie Your access to capital, if you’re in that cohort, is is essentially unlimited. Right? Like it’s like money just flies around you and you’re able to grab something out of the air. You get consulting fees and advisory stuff. And, you know, so, of course, of course, he’s going to he’s going to end up or you get involved in some startup with a name like Squiggle Plax. And then you somehow you get you get to acquire it. Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, the crowd shows up and you get 200000 dollars and some money. You know, it’s just money does what money wants to do. It’s good for money. You know, we don’t appreciate it enough, really. It’s just it’s having a great time. And so off he goes. And that’s the stress for me of this film, is that there is an actual urgent need to understand what has happened. And there are people, I think that our cohort of extremely online people, let’s just make fun of us for saying we have a lot of very, very mixed feelings about Facebook.

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S4: Two billion people, for the most part, don’t they’re just like, cool, it’s on my phone. Write. The story of that is actually a critical piece of cultural infrastructure that we need to all understand. Steven Levy has a good book about Facebook.

S3: That’s how I saw that just came out.

S1: And yeah, it’s very good. I mean, you know, he really was inside. But I mean, it’s also and he’s close to Zuckerberg and is close to key people. But I mean, it’s also just like it’s the same as trying to write about Amazon, same as trying to write about Microsoft or Apple. Now, there’s just such enormous nation states and the origin myths just don’t make sense, like they don’t actually scale up. Do you mean eBay actually ended up making up a story about wanting to sell Pez dispensers because journalists couldn’t understand anything else?

S3: Right. Every startup needs an origin story. And the weird thing about Facebook is it never had that origin story. Right? So this is where Aaron Sorkin comes in and just creates one out of whole cloth.

S7: People came to face fashion a stampede, right? Yeah, but it wasn’t because they saw pictures of hot girls. You can go anywhere on the Internet, see pictures of hot girls. It was because they saw pictures of girls that they knew. People want to go on the Internet and check out their friends. So why not build a website that offers that friends, pictures, profiles, whatever you can visit, browse around? Maybe it’s someone you just met at a party. But I’m not talking about a dating site. I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online. I can’t feel my legs. I know. I’m totally psyched about this, too, but, yeah, it would be exclusive, you would have to know the people on the site to get past your own page, like getting punched. That’s good, right? It’s like a final club except for the president. I told him I thought it sounded great.

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S4: Yeah, because the origin story is that Zukerberg like the spider Web site, and then he figured out how to make like a Rolodex that then everyone else could use for sex.

S3: So sex was the thing that helped it go viral. That was the thing why people kept on checking it and changing their relationship status and updating their relationships. I mean, I do remember the early days of Facebook and that it did seem to be that that was a large part of what Facebook was back in those days, long before it was an app.

S5: Yeah. This is one thing that seems very out of date when you watch this film now, because I think now when we think of Facebook, we think of like news and Russian bots. But I remember yeah, I remember Facebook in 2009 when the whole thing was whether you change your relationship status with a new person you were dating and especially in college, you know, yes, I do think that the film is getting at that. But I think in the same way that the film says, like, we don’t know what Facebook is yet, like, neither did the director of this film because Facebook became something very different than what it was in 2010. So that’s the thing.

S3: I mean, I think for all that, Paul is right that with hindsight, the film misses the mark more widely than we thought.

S4: Well, Facebook did have half a billion users when this movie came out, though.

S3: But like Facebook, it hadn’t gone public. It wasn’t an app. When it did go public, everyone was like, well, yeah, I remember Facebook. That was this really cool website, but now everyone’s going to be on their phones and they’re not going to use it because it doesn’t really work. Well, on your phone, no one saw back then like acerca when this movie came out or even a couple of years later, no one saw Facebook becoming the absolute world spanning monster that it has since become.

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S1: That category of world spanning monster didn’t exist. Our brains are little. How can you? I can’t imagine the next big thing. You know, everybody said it was going to be watching it just like it’s the movie is like, you know what’s cool?

S3: A billion dollars that Facebook could be a billion dollar company. Like no one said. You know what’s cool?

S4: A trillion dollars, which is seven hundred eighty billion dollars because that would be banana cakes. I like to think there’s a thing I say a lot, but I think it holds up here, which is that ethics don’t really scale right. Your personal ethics are tricky when you’re a manager of lots of people and then you get that hundreds of people working for you. And it’s even trickier now. You have an unbelievable amount of money and power. And the ethics that were guiding you 20 years ago really don’t function anymore because suddenly everything you do affects millions of people. And the effects aren’t just like first order, but second or third or fourth order. And you’re responsible for all of them. Facebook’s great problem rate has always been two things that it didn’t it would never fully own up to that, or he just could. And I don’t think it’s not alone in social media. It’s just the most successful Twitter can own up to it. And so, you know, we’ll give better moderation tools. We care about your privacy and security and all of that. So there’s there’s that there’s like we can’t really deal with it. And then the second part is that I feel that Zuckerberg and not don’t feel I don’t feel anything anymore, not after watching the film. But like I know that Zuckerberg really feels strongly that models of governance, like models of being a government, is what Facebook’s destiny is and that some of the he’s the president of Facebook, president for life with the ability to have that presidency inherited by his children if he so chooses.

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S3: That’s exactly right.

S4: And so, yeah, so I mean, he’s very interested in Roman emperors and things like that. And so and to me, that is just an absolute recipe for mess, just big, sloppy mess.

S3: But I think the reason why I maybe I don’t hate this movie as much as you did, I might defend it against your attacks. Is that when this movie is made? It’s not Cobourg is not like a boy and he’s a young billionaire. But as we now know, like everyone and their mother as a young kid, you know, these days, like a dime a dozen, what we’re seeing in this movie and the way that we thought of Facebook when this movie came out was as a story of cutthroat entrepreneurship and how you got rich quick at a very young age and sex and money and technology.

S1: So are you saying that we should understand cultural artifacts within the context of their creation? Because have you looked online lately? We’re not doing that anymore. It’s over.

S3: I’m saying it’s very interesting to remember that that was the narrative. But you’re right that it’s very difficult to watch this movie in the knowledge of what Facebook became and to see, you know, like the idea of selling advertising, being this like a punch line joke of what Eduardo Saverin is trying to do in New York, where is where the cool kids just like don’t worry themselves about that kind of thing at all without any kind of implication of this is how Facebook is going to, like, become. The biggest and most evil company in the world.

S1: Mm hmm.

S5: One of the things I do agree with is I think when this film was made in 2010, this was a moment when these figures, these kind of new tech figures were essentially like the new rock stars. And I do think this film is kind of tapping into that moment. We’ve obviously moved past that moment, except maybe Elon Musk outside of him. Like nobody thinks of these people as rock stars anymore. But I do think in a way, it’s interesting to watch this film less about the film itself, but more about that moment in history and what we thought about tech at that moment in history.

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S4: You’re correct. It’s a really valuable popular appraisal of what the tech industry means to our culture. And where gets it wrong is very illustrative. It gets like I say, it gets the details right. Like the actual the scene where they go to Facebook has offices and Eduardo Saverin comes in, you know, has a fight with Zuckerberg. But those offices are so real. And of the moment, like I remember going to offices like that in Silicon Valley, that looked exactly like that. So it nails that texture really well. And I think it nails this anxiety about young guys with computers just kind of running the world. And, you know, the problem is that the vibe it gives off is not is this going to be good for us? But it almost feels like Hollywood is looking at it and going, how do I get mine? Right. Like, it’s not there’s no ethical core to the film. There’s nobody who shows up. And it’s like, what do we really want in society? There’s the gross winkel. Why? There’s the roommate who’s kind of a little Pudsey and maybe was a friend, but also has his own issues. And then there’s a Cabourg in the middle and it’s all they’re all just grasping and grasping and grasping. And, you know, I mean, does a film have an obligation to show us a better and, you know, a better path? No, but you know what work is this thing trying to do? What’s it? What’s it.

S3: So if I had to answer that question, I would say that the tension in the movie is on the one hand, if Mark Zuckerberg was a human being, then he would have tweeted Eduardo Saverin a little bit less dreadfully than he did vs. on the other hand, that kind of laser focused ruthlessness is what it takes to become a gazillion. That’s like that’s that I feel like that was the tension that Sorkin was trying to aim at. And poor Eduardo, like you never really know what you’re meant to feel sorry for him or not.

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S4: Little pumpkin. OK, foundational challenge with all of this. Right, is that the numbers are vast. Everybody, even the Winklevoss twins, whose case is pretty sketchy, get sixty five billion dollars sovereign gets gets equity. And you know, that values him in the billions easily. Right. Friendships are destroyed over much less money.

S1: Friendships are destroyed over one hundred and fifty dollars loaned. Right. So it’s just like, OK, now how many of your friends from college do you talk to? Everybody’s going to be OK. I like the stakes are supposed to be really high and it’s like, oh, you’re all hyper wealthy Harvard people. Wow. I dealt with you when I first moved to New York City. You know, I don’t need to see you in a movie.

S5: Yeah, there’s there’s a part where the Zuckerberg is saying, like, I won’t go back to that. Like, I won’t go back to how the world is as though he was from, like, the mean streets or something. And you’re like you’re upper middle class kid. None of you, all of you are going to land on your feet, you know, like you’re going to get your bank, your Bitcoin billionaires, Eduardo Saverin going to renounce his citizenship. So we just have to pay capital gains taxes. And Zuckerberg is going to be the fourth richest man in the world. Yeah.

S1: And then literally, democracy will be smashed like. Right. Like somebody is making Guarch at the table. That’s what Facebook is to me, just like jamming that avocado of democracy into a into a paste. Yeah. You made me watch this movie. It has its value as a cultural artifact, but I really did get angry in ways I haven’t been angry.

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S3: So what were you angry at? Were you angry at like the movie? Are you angry at the way that the movie wasn’t angry enough at Facebook as a company?

S4: Here was an opportunity to capture the moral complexity of something going from little to really big. And the way that it did that was not the story of Facebook’s hyper growth is much more interesting than the drama of the Eduardo Saverin relationship. Right. The scenes where they go to offices, the scenes where people are badgering and trying to get their and ideas are flying around. And who owns the idea? There’s another story that could be told there about that growth that would have had to take a risk because it would have had to show Zuckerberg and Parker making genuinely complicated, more adult decisions in the interest of that growth. And how do you get to five hundred million? They showed us how you get to like fifty thousand. Basically, they got us to that first million. And so that’s one five hundredth of the way there. That was how much of the story? The cartel. I don’t know. I’m not a filmmaker. I’m going to pay.

S3: Cashier and like I love you are you are a technologist who thought a lot about growth and where in this world right now, probably every a few times a day, someone on Twitter asks me for a clubhouse invite. Oh, God, are you on that thing? I will say that the artificial scarcity strategy of trying to remain aspirational and not just opening these things up to anyone who wants to join is now just kind of built into the Silicon Valley model. But I feel that it wasn’t when Facebook was founded and that was something that they just kind of flicked in the movie when they’re like, oh, yeah, we should probably include Stanford next. But like that very deliberate decision to not just allow anyone to do it, but to roll it out very slowly from only use of the institutions. And you have that whole class at the beginning of the movie about how Zuckerberg wants to be a member of the elite institutions, even within Harvard, and the whole sort of elitism that was baked into Facebook in the early days and has completely disappeared at this point, I think is super fascinating. And I don’t entirely understand. Maybe you do.

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S4: Well, I mean, this is the great paradox and tension in the medium. Right, which is that you can create something infinite. And to me, that’s the joy, the joy of technology as you can make something and give it away to everybody. And then all sorts of interesting things happen. And that was this is a very, like, utopian point of view. But that ethos did exist in the world of blogging, like whether it was incredibly rose colored glasses or not. There was definitely that sense, like here we are. We’re going to give away our thoughts and see what happens. And that ethos exists in Wikipedia. That ethos exists in a lot of the things that we really, really value. Let’s give it away, the Internet archive. But to me, what I when I look at Silicon Valley, when I look at it, when I look at the sort of West Coast ethos of technology, it’s not so much scarcity. It’s almost like anything that we can do to create a market will be valuable. Google is a market. Google is is attention getting traded. People are buying advertising placement and it is unbelievably profitable. So that was a good one. Facebook is a market. Twitter is a market. And if you can’t actually create a market through sort of broad consumer need, maybe you could make this. And then everybody are really in the black chain, right? Because now we have a tool like a mechanism for absolutely enforced scarcity. The computer enforces it. And now we have a market for people trying to get access to the scarce objects. And it’s now happening again with art and it’s happening with in general. So I feel that like that narrative of like, am I going to its marketplace thinking like I need to get in the clubhouse early, I need to be there. I need to understand I I’m at a stage where if I don’t want to invite, I was offered one and I’m like, I’m not going to go ahead and give it to somebody else because I have a nine year old twins. Right. Like if I did, it’s not that high minded. I’m just sort of like, I’m not doing that. That’s not happening. But I feel that that mindset is always, always there, which is how do I create scarcity and then how do I build a marketplace on top of the platform so that I will be able to function as the middleman and make millions, billions and trillions of dollars, because that’s your fastest hockey stick, way more than making like software as a service and selling something people need, even like pure digital objects or or even shipping boxes to people, you know, once a month that have cool shaving equipment like that framework is so much in the mind. Right. And that’s how you get to the one hundred two hundred billion dollar companies or more.

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S1: So that when I look at clubhouse, I’m like this year they see and they can probably get it. There’s no way the clubhouse will involve billions of dollars. Right. It could involve tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, even though I’ve never used it. It’s just like, OK, what’s money, Felix? What is it like? I mean, you know, you you know, I don’t know.

S3: Yeah, it’s a fungible I’m in the middle of doing some thinking right now about non fungible tokens and artificial scarcity. And that is a subject for another time, the subject for this time. I the one thing I’m really fascinated in asking you to about is Mark Zuckerberg as a person and as a character, because that seems to me to be a very interesting and very large gap between the Mark Zuckerberg that we know, that kind of very robotic figure that we have learned to become familiar with over the past 15 years, who doesn’t seem really human at all on the one hand. And then the, you know, Jesse Eisenberg character in the movie who gets drunk and angry and stupid and cares about girls. And wants to get into final clubs and and is acted as a character who, even if we don’t like him, at least we can kind of look at him and go, oh, that is a character that I understand.

S8: I’m just saying I need to do something substantial in order to get the attention of the clubs. Why? Because they’re exclusive and fun and they lead to a better life. Teddy Roosevelt can get elected president because he was a member of the Phoenix, was a member of the porcelain and yes, he did. Well, why don’t you just concentrate on being the best you you can be? Can you really just say that I was kidding? Well, just because who’s trait doesn’t make it? I want to try to be straightforward with you and tell you that I think you might want to be a little more supportive. If I get in, I will be taking you to the events and the gatherings and you’ll be meeting a lot of people you wouldn’t normally get to meet. Well. You would do that for me? OK. I want to try and be straightforward with you and let you know that we’re not putting up dating anymore.

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S3: I’m sorry, is this a joke? No, it’s not. Was that a failure on the part of Sorkin and Fincher? I guess they just couldn’t imagine someone being as like unhuman. It’s like a bug really is. Or did they need someone to be human in that role?

S5: Well, one, I think that he sounds like the character in every other Aaron Sorkin film or television show like No. One. He is just that Sorkin figure. But then I also think it is a bit of a weakness. And it goes back to what we’ve been talking about, that this film is a little too small, is that it doesn’t quite see that, you know, Zuckerberg, his passion and his everything goes into like technology, like he likes this stuff. That is what is interesting to him. I’m sure he he has a wife and a child, and I’m sure that interests him as well. He is, in fact, an actual human. But this film can’t quite understand that mindset.

S4: I always make a joke around Hollywood, which is every movie is about how you need family, and it’s made by people who completely neglect their families to go work movies. So, you know, it’s just like there’s a fundamental hypocrisy in this. Look, I don’t think Zuckerberg is a robot. I think he is actually a human. I think that he is a smart, ethically informed human. And I think that he’s made a series of decisions that he thinks are right for the world and for Facebook. I have people in my life who have worked there or worked there, and I respect them. I think they’re very smart. I think the firm did an unbelievable amount of damage and the stuff that kept spilling out or, you know, Sandberg in particular and sort of the way that it behaved with the power it had is terrifying to me.

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S3: Did you think she is scarier than he is?

S1: Were there a one two combo of scary? My friend think those are two. They’re smart.

S4: He is a really good strategist. He has a really good thinker. And she is the best operator working in a large organization probably in the world, like one of the best. If she had not, she was going to be the vice president or the president or she was going to be the next Tim Cook like she got in a mess and it’s still still going to be taken out of it for a while. Right. But like, that’s a brilliant operator. Like, you know, you kind of wonder, what’s this going to look like where we were ten years from this movie?

S3: I mean, where where can we just very quickly, like, do a little asterisk here and remind ourselves that Sheryl Sandberg is a protege of none other than Larry Summers?

S1: Yeah, good point. She brought that in. See, that’s the good stuff. These are people who know how to make they have the levers in their hands to make the world work. And fast forward 11 years, like what do we think we’re going to see? I mean, there’s there’s a part of me that says this may all be temporary. Facebook is going to eventually kind of like the heated grizzly moment that we just came through for four years. I think Facebook will kind of clean house because it’ll be in its interest and there’ll be a lot of government regulation. And then Zuckerberg will give away one hundred billion dollars and he’ll get into climate.

S4: And I think 20 years from now, he’ll be thought of as like, you know, be done with Facebook. He’ll be remembered as like a really amazing philanthropist who, you know, they had their their ten years that were some of the worst that any company ever had. But look at it now. And it’s really it’s part of the fabric of tech and it won’t be quite the biggest thing ever anymore.

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S1: Right. And we’ll all be like our Facebook me. I can’t even believe that I like things like like Microsoft. You can’t tell me. Twenty years ago that would be like Microsoft. What an amazing company they’re doing such good work. And now Microsoft. Hey, good job, guys. GitHub is a hell of a research. Well, I just think it big buddy. And, you know, they used to be the most evil company in the world. And so I think, look, that’s going to happen because you can’t win with this kind of capitalism. This kind of capitalism is going to get Facebook’s in your soul. And eventually we’re all just going to give up and just accept it. It’s there. So, like, I wonder what, that it’s going to go in that direction. Right. So what is that path? Eleven years from now, where will we be on that path? Because it will be this again, we can’t have what just happened for the last five years. They can’t survive it. They can’t do that again. Where do you think where do you guys think?

S3: I think it’s a super interesting question. Right. And you’re absolutely right about Microsoft having become by far the least problematic tech giant. And it’s making just absolutely insane amounts of money in a way that no one seems to have any issues with. Everyone hates Amazon, everyone hates Google, everyone hates Facebook. And Microsoft is just like plugging along, being just as big and just as world spanning and utterly unthreatening.

S1: And, oh, no, big mike work is something like bigger than Spain. Right. And it’s just weird. And we’re just sitting here like, yeah, no, no worries. No, it’s got that nice CEO. He seems great. He likes poetry, but it’s also it’s also true.

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S3: Right. Like you can’t really point to Windows or Azure and say, oh my God, that’s totally scary.

S4: You know, what they did is they figured out like, look, there’s a point where you just can’t have the hypergrowth anymore. And if you keep chasing it, you’re going to do yourself some damage. And damage includes things like the federal. Government saying your monopoly or you have to go, you know, this point, I think where everybody gets caught in front of Congress just one too many times and they go like, oh, like, I won’t do it anymore.

S3: And now we have, like the Facebook Supreme Court, which has started handing down rulings. And it’s really organizing itself in a way that I think a lot of people genuinely believe, know a lot of knowledgeable people who’ve really looked at it, genuinely believe that we can’t have a replay of 2016, like hijacking an entire country’s election or at least hijacking the US presidential election was possible in 2016 and will not be possible again in the future.

S5: Do we think, though, that Facebook can become like the post Bill Gates, Microsoft while Zuckerberg is still there?

S1: That doesn’t tend to happen, but they do kind of go chairman of the board for a while. And, you know, it’s it’s never one day they pick up and leave it just like there are very, very few historical precedents because so much power still resides in the founder. And so you can’t create that new power structure unless someone else comes along and they would need to be someone else.

S3: Someone else. Like, it couldn’t be Sheryl. It would need to be some no side, you know, because it’s like Ballmer.

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S1: Right. And this is what’s tricky. What is so tricky, Steve Ballmer, you know, by by a standard metric, was just an excellent CEO.

S4: They just grew and grew and they did great. So but it was nothing like what came before. And then he just got his lunch eaten in places where normally Microsoft would have had a victory like mobile and then to see like Apple show up and Google show up. And really, you know, Microsoft used to be the way they would go and everybody else’s turf and just kind of elbow around and have its way. And and then Google shows up and, you know, Apple shows up and starts to say like that that was mind boggling, that Microsoft would just roll over on folks and then you get Nadella in and he’s just like, yes, things happen. And we sometimes we’re going to run Linux in our cloud. And it’s like Sanberg won’t see that. That’s not who you got. Right? She’s not going. The person is going to be like things used to be really different. I mean, that’s what you need. You need the person who stands up and goes like things needs to be really different at Facebook. And we were really focused on growth at all costs. And, you know, and that was sometimes that was really good and it helped us to bring the world together. And so now we have the whole world here and how are we going to knit them together and more exciting in positive ways. So I’d like to announce Facebook University free education for everyone. And it’s just it’s going to be stuff like that. And eventually they will batter you into a slow, warm smile of like, well, maybe it’s OK after all. And then they’ll destroy the twenty, thirty two election, if really bad, but they’ll be fine. Things are going to work out great. Every social media company. In retrospect, I actually don’t think they’ll be judged for the election. I think it’ll be like, wow, that was wild. I think history will go back and it’ll be like they didn’t put a banner on top of every post saying that climate change was real. That was the evil they didn’t like. I think history is going to be like, how could they have let that happen? They had every, I guess, the election stuff I get. But like that the climate stuff doesn’t make sense. They could have educated everybody.

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S3: So I want to go back to the movie and I just want to try and really nailed down this movie.

S1: Felix, I hate this movie. Why did you take me? I don’t want why you hate what is about the movie that you hate? Because I don’t think I understand it. The grisly sexism of the movie, it’s really hard to watch. And it really, I’m sure, you know, 10 years ago, just again, I looked at it like I well, but boy, do we all know a little better now and it’s hard to watch and it’s not edifying because it’s built into the movie.

S5: No, I agree. I mean, it actually kept literally taking me out of the film.

S1: That’s right. You’re like, how to help? What? And then and then you go like we’re any women. No, no, probably not. I also just feel it’s the same with the Steve Jobs movie, that there is a joy in technology that is hard to capture. Enemy in point, that I mean, Moneyball, you know, Excel, the movie like didn’t do it for me either. And they were trying they were trying so hard, like, you know, look at these rows and these columns and you’re like, no, no, no. And it’s Jonah Hill. And you’re like, oh, Brad Pitt just watching just fine. But that film is also about how everything is really about your family. Brad Pitt as a middle manager, looking over your shoulder as you watch Excel that you’re just like, yeah, my life is wrecked. That’s literally that guy is doing a lot better. I need to figure out how to get where he is. Like, I’m trying to think of movies that captured the joy of solving an engineering problem completely. And the only one I can think of is Fitzcarraldo. Get I think Fitzcarraldo is the greatest project management technology narrative that has ever been because they get that they have to take the boat over the mountain. They shouldn’t take the boat over the mountain. They do it wrong. They get the boat over the mountain and spoiler alert, it doesn’t really mean anything. And everybody dies and they fight and they it’s just a real mistake. And why the hell did they need to take a boat over about? Every product manager should watch Fitzcarraldo 25 times, that’s the movie I want to see.

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S3: What I hear you saying here, Paul, is that it’s not the fact that they made a movie about Facebook. That’s the problem. The problem is that the movie about Facebook was not directed by Ben Hertzog.

S1: Dude, I really do think Werner Herzog Facebook really would be a remarkable artifact. Yes, I just I mean, just I’m thinking of that voice engineer. You know, the Zuckerberg picks up the analytics framework, you know, just like him describing libraries and they create that virtual machine from assembly code. It’s so exciting. I don’t have a good Herzog impersonation.

S3: I have to say. That hurts. I just watched a wonderful little YouTube clip which will link to in the show notes. As they say, Evana hurts being interviewed by a skate mag and intuitively understanding skate culture in a way that, like almost no one does and really understanding like skate kids and how so much skate culture is about failure and repetition and this kind of thing in a way that you could you know, most people could spend hours and hours and hours watching skate videos and not understand what so picks up on in about three minutes. The guy is incredibly astute.

S1: No, you know, you love him. If he never cheats, he never cheats. He does all the work and it’s horrible. He does all the horrible work. And so he’s able that he knows more and he figures it out as weird as hell. And it’s he just doesn’t cheat.

S3: And that’s the difference with with Sorkin. Right. Who’s facile.

S4: He really is his Twitter ruined. Sorkin You can’t have two of those things, both in the world, because the drama and the excitement of that Sorkin dialogue has to be experienced alone in a dark room where you can like the shame isn’t apparently it’s so self-indulgent because you are those characters, you know, you’re just like, oh, yeah, that’s right. Tell them, tell them, tell them of the truth and speak truth to power. And then real life is so humiliating.

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S5: And so in comparison, it’s that whole idea that people in Washington think they’re in the West Wing, but they’re actually going to be.

S1: Oh, exactly. We’re all in Veep. All of is true. But hang on a sec.

S3: The veep veep is incredibly fluid. And the fact is that Washington is not fluent that way. People are not fluent that way. People don’t stumble their way towards unhappy endings in things like the incredible, perfect lines that everyone just spits out in both Sorkin and in Ianuzzi are so unreal that I think that’s part of what you are both reacting against, that there’s a myth making here and it’s not entirely clear what myth is trying to be made. But what is clear is that no one actually talks like this. You don’t have a Winklevoss saying something like, I’m six, five to 20 and there’s two of me. It’s like it’s a perfect line. And Cameron Winklevoss would never, ever in a million years say that because he’s not smart enough.

S2: That was your father’s lawyers, his in-house counsel. He’s going to look at all this. And if he thinks it’s appropriate to send a cease and desist letter, what’s that going to do? We even hire an IP lawyer and sue him? No, I want to hire The Sopranos to beat the shit out of him with a hammer. We don’t have to do that. That’s right. We can do that ourselves. I’m six, five to 20. There’s two of me. I’m whatever I’m saying. Let’s calm down until we know what we’re talking about. How much more information are you waiting for? We met with Mark three times. We exchanged 52 e-mails. We can prove that he looked at the code. What is that? On the bottom of the page was a Mark Zuckerberg production on the home page. On every page. Shit. I need a second to let the classiness waft over me.

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S1: Let me tell you something. You know, it’s not a cool one meeting. You know what is cool? A billion meetings, because that’s what it took to make Facebook. And so, like, you’re right. Right. Like, there were so many meetings about the dropdown box and there were so many meetings about. And then it’s just people going I mean, you know, Mark likes blue. That’s what Mark Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg is a mental model the thousands of young people could have where they could say Mark likes blue. And then that was Facebook. That’s actually how his power manifests. It doesn’t manifest through genius. It manifests through people internalizing and behaving along the lines that he’s outlined, because that’s the only thing that happens. Right.

S5: And it rolls up to him. I think that that’s right. I think that also goes back to something we were saying earlier about how this film is really about power right now. It’s not that he’s a genius. It’s that that he gains power.

S1: That’s right. And then what does he do with it? And that’s actually the part we don’t see. We just see him get some money and hang out with Sean Parker and they get a million users and he fights with his old friend.

S4: The really fundamental story of Facebook is they gathered so much power so quickly, it’s scale so quickly. This comes up in my life and I don’t know. That I would have made better decisions in that exact moment with that Bekker, like, I don’t know I don’t know what better decisions really look like. They’re very easy to superimpose, but it’s entirely possible that better decisions that we can committed 10 years ago, they should have done this at that scale. They could have had three or four follow on effects. It would have been just as murderous and bad, like who knows who don’t? You can’t. You can’t figure it out. And so here you got this guy. He gathered so much power without really having the tools and the framework to understand the power. He was at a center of power surrounded with people who are experts in the interpretation of power. They couldn’t recognize it. He went to California, where they do recognize that his particular kind, he met Peter Thiel. That is a hell of a thing, right?

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S3: I mean, that one like they totally missed the opportunity of that one. Like pizza. If you’re going to do an origin story for Facebook without pizza, still being a main character, like, wow, how did you miss she also like who knew why he’d be a main character like he is?

S1: I can’t blame Sorkin for not really knowing about the origin story of the dark enlightenment that was happening around 2008. That’s such a subtle lie. Like, you know, he wasn’t reading Mencius goldbugs blog and so he missed that. But it’s still like he saw that power and other people did, too. I think somebody tried to buy it for a billion. It was like MTV or somebody tried to buy it for Yahoo, wasn’t it? Mm hmm. We’ll see. Yeah. Yeah, maybe. I can’t remember.

S3: That’s like the real world dramatic decision point. Right. The I think of when I think Facebook is Yahoo! Comes up Mark Zuckerberg and says, we want to buy your company for a billion dollars. And he thinks about it and then turns around and says, you know, either it’s not enough or I don’t want to I want to stay independent. And it’s a really tough decision to make. And in hindsight, it was exactly the right decision and Facebook would have imploded if it had been bought by Yahoo! But you look at someone like Stewart Butterfield who always said, like, next time, I’m not going to make that mistake. And then eventually when Salesforce comes along and says, I’ll give you 20 billion dollars back, he goes, oh, OK. Then it’s really hard to say no to those things.

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S1: Yeah, well, it must be horrible just to be offered those those tens of billions of dollars and have to make that decision. I like, you know, the one I like out of all of them. I actually like Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, because I think that that guy figured it out like everyone else seems to have these very ambiguous personas. And he’s literally like has a collection of ukuleles and talks about family all the time. And he’s got to be an absolutely brutal operator. He learned at the, you know, at the feet of Larry Ellison and has built a company valued in billions, untold billions of dollars. And yet whenever he goes into the media, it’s just like I believe in business and ohana, that’s it. That’s Hawaiian for family. And I’m just like I look at him. And I think now that I’m more and more of a manager, I just go, Yeah, that’s right, man. That’s what you do.

S4: And Zuckerberg never got there. He never got his two sentences that he said over and over again. He never just crafted that public persona to say, like, here’s who we are. And it’s it’s actually surprising that he remained a little vulnerable. He’s smoking meats in the backyard and he remains himself instead of just packaging it up and saying, oh, is that what you want? Well, that’ll be good for market. Let’s just do it. But I just wonder if that’s the platform. Like, I think at some level, Facebook feels that humans need to represent themselves in some sort of complete and accurate way. And it seems like he’s still trying to do that with the platform. And I don’t think the world really wants that anymore. I don’t I think we’re like we’re no, we’re cool. Could you just not do those other things anymore?

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S3: You made the point at the beginning, which is absolutely true, that when you say the world, what you mean is extremely online media savvy, media elite, Gen X types. Your auntie in India, like five hundred million Indian aunt aunties are not in that mindset at all. They just have a place where they can share baby photos, unsolicited plug.

S1: There’s a website called Rest of World that that was started by Eric Schmidt. Stewart. That’s right. Sophie Schmidt. And she’s she’s great. And if you go read it, it’s about the technology and the rest of the world.

S4: And I know that sounds incredibly simple and reductive and maybe it is, but it’s all stuff I don’t know about how technology is working and being applied. And it is not narratives of Facebook and it’s not narratives of Apple and Google. They’re in there because they’re everywhere. But it’s people doing weird things with banking apps in Africa. And you’re just sort of like some of it’s positive and some of it’s negative.

S3: And they have a surprisingly positive article about clubhouse and how it’s being used.

S1: Well, there we go. Yeah, maybe maybe I’m going to need you to invite me, Felix, to get me in there.

S3: All right. Let’s come up with a verdict on this. I feel like I know where you’re going to come down on this one, but I need to ask, how do you rate this movie?

S1: Look, I’m going to just give it I’m going to give it like a three point five out of 10. Are we doing stars? Are we doing. No. I can give it whatever you want. Well, here’s what I’m going. I’m not going to give it a like I’m not going to click that little, but I’m going to poke it. I’m going to poke the movie of the pokes and nobody brings up postseasons. I think I wasn’t even in the movie. No, I think you can still poke to. But nobody pokes you. You know, what’s going to happen to Zoomer are going to start poking because it’ll be you know, it’s just instead of doing whatever it is that young people do on Facebook.

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S3: So three point five, I’m kind of getting the impression here that you want to give it three and a half out of ten.

S1: Let’s give it one and a half out of five. OK, OK. Just the TV. It’s that’s even lower. Yeah. And the thing is, it’s like I know when it came out it was a four star and it hasn’t aged well. I don’t like to be critical anymore. I’m trying to be a very positive person. So, you know, very, very bitter about this podcast. You’ve got to be filled with the spirit of Ahana. Seriously, dude, you’ve no idea. I look at Benioff and I’m like, yeah, ok, ok, that’s what you do. It’s also like a kind of beefy guy. So I’m like, ok, ok, ok.

S3: So so let me I’ll tell you my Benneteau story, which is that don’t you reckon for me he’s all I got.

S1: You looked at Twitter recently. I got nothing. He’s the only one left.

S3: Sean Parker famously took Davos by storm one year by renting out the basement of the Hotel Europe and turning it into this insane nightclub with like taxidermy animals with lasers coming out of their rise and John Legend performing. And it was like the hot ticket in town. And it was a very sort of Justin Timberlake, Keyshawn Buckett night. And it was this big, long, hot ticket with lines up around the door in these very impossible to get past clipboard people on the door. And then he disappeared and as far as I know, never came back to Davos again. And that party ever since has been hosted by Marc Benioff.

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S1: No kidding. He just knows how to throw like a girl. It became the Salesforce party. Listen, here’s what I see with Salesforce, which, you know, Facebook never got there. This is actually illustrative, right? Facebook isn’t that positive. It always ends up kind of negative. And we care about your security and privacy. And then they kind of talk about everything and really lofty terms. But it never that message never land. And you look at benefits like Dreamforce, Joe, we’re going to take over San Francisco and talk about customer relationship management. We’re going to take the whole city. And it’s like, no, don’t do that. But then they do. And it’s just like, hey, we got a little guy named Einstein. He does machine learning. You’re going to love it. My world as a software consultant is more and more like Salesforce is just more and more my world only about Slack’s like, that’s it. I’m like, OK, well, they’re going to they’re going to be they’re right. They’re going to be there for the next 30, 40 years. And we’re going to we’re going to learn to live with them, whatever the hell they’re doing today. And raw positivity. Wow. Like it actually really reads different, given how grumpy and sort of confused the rest of the software industry is.

S3: It’s true. It’s rare to find positivity, which is actually I think you could see it with Stewart, right. You could see it with Slack. And that is, I guess, a bit of a fit.

S1: He does. I think Nadella at Microsoft is really positive. Tim Cook does a kind of like, you know, we really care. He’s kind of slow and thoughtful, but it’s not it’s never cheerful. Right. Like, he’s he’s always he’s presiding over a very large and fractious nation. It’s just a little there’s a little. You’re inside of him.

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S3: Yeah. You can imagine like him just getting a tick tock. Tick tock is a good company. Tick tock is a happy at.

S1: That’s right. Zuckerberg just doesn’t want to be their favorite business. Like they like they have their hobbies and they want to do their thing and nobody wants to testify in front of Congress anymore. It used to be so much fun. I loved it. It’s it’s always my dream.

S3: And a competitive pool like the movie, more or less.

S5: Probably about the same. And if anything, I think because I went in with high expectations, because I remember liking it, it made me like it even less. So, yeah, I think I’m going to go like two out of five.

S1: I mean, let’s be clear. This film was good for its moment. People liked and respected it. Everybody went and saw it and everybody thought it was an interesting narrative. And it’s we’ve grown apart. Yes. It’s not the social network. It’s probably if we went back and watched all the movies from that year, we would have many similar disappointments and frustrations.

S3: I feel like there were a lot of good movies that year and most of them have held up better. I think I’m going to say that you have changed my mind. I’ll bring my ranking down from probably what I might have said if you’d been less negative. I don’t hate it in the way that you. Hated it, I didn’t react in the same viscerally negative way, I think I enjoy verbal pyrotechnics and like clever scripts and the way that he talks is very well written and the way that it’s directed is very tight. So I will give it a decent like seven out of 10. But you’re right that it doesn’t hold up as an artifact. It has massive holes and the biggest holes. You know, maybe it’s unfair to blame the filmmakers, but they’re there. And it’s impossible to look at this movie about Facebook in twenty, twenty one and not know what’s happened over the past five years and what Facebook has become and how important it is. And just sort of think like this is this is a pointless origin story. You’ve missed the story completely.

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S4: If you hadn’t had us watch a film where, like Bruce Willis went to a strip club for that exact same year, I think would be like, well, you know, that’s that’s what they do in those movies. But it attempts to be this sort of like we’re going to tell you what’s real. And even if we’re going to fix lives, we’re going to make it even more real. And instead, it was just sort of artificial and mean spirited and the parts where it could have captured something really compelling about growth and figuring things out and gaining power and abusing power, it didn’t. And the parts where it could talk about the people who got excluded, it really did. It really did. Everything that people complain about, about groups of white dudes building software companies was kind of embodied in the film and in the film.

S1: So it’s just. One day we’re going to get the narrative we deserve.

S3: I will say that as well, that I was a little bit since since I recently became a massive fan of Andrew Garfield, who is like the best actor I think I’ve seen in decades. Like, he was just he just blew it, blew it away.

S1: When you ask a question so that you know how cool I am. Who’s Andrew Garfield? Which one is Andrew go for? He’s Eduardo Saverin. Oh, OK. He’s handsome.

S3: And I was like, wow, you know, because I went to see Andrew Garfield, he had this just absolutely amazing stuff done on Broadway and Angels in America. And he was just an astonishingly amazing actor of incredible range. And then you see this movie and it’s just like it’s nothing like how.

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S1: Yeah, no, there’s no when men that good looking play kind of nerdy, whiny did it just doesn’t work at a certain point. You’re just. So why would you waste that. There’s some point where they drop him into a suit and you’re like, OK, well my goodness. And it’s just it’s kind of unfair. And then you’re just like, why are you having a Mboweni pain in the ass?

S3: Like the performance you you remember is really Justin Timberlake more than anything else. That’s the one he like, carves out an indelible character more than Eisenbeis.

S1: Oh, Andrew Harper. OK, I’m looking them up as we’re talking. I mean, he was in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which I guess I get it. I get it.

S3: Of course, I can tell you, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a good movie that he’s made, but he is very good on stage.

S1: All right. Well, I’m an Andrew Garfield fan now.

S3: Well, Pulford, thank you for coming on this show. Thank you for doing your homework and watching a movie that you hated just so that you could record the podcast.

S1: I thought I had a moment about halfway through where I was like, you know, does it serve the podcast for me to watch the entire film? Is it necessary? Because, you know, because a Wikipedia plot summary was one.

S2: Thank you for listening to sleep when it goes to the movies will be back next week talking to my colleague Nyla Voodoo about there will be blood.