What may be interpreted as SPOILERS follow. You have been warned.
Finally saw The Social Network last night. I had been hearing some complaints about how women, in particular, Asian women are portrayed in the movie. “Crazed, hyper-sexualized female stereotype” is one; “groupies, sexed-up Asians, vengeful sluts, and feminist killjoys” are another.
It’s true that Brenda Song’s character is sexy and has sex. But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Yes, she and her friend shallowly want to do the Facebook founders because they are Facebook founders – but you know what? There are women like that out there. (Um, heard of Founder Fetish?)
And yes, she is crazy (and wears WAAAAY to much makeup) – which I did have a problem with, not so much because it was offensive but because it comes out of nowhere, as Rebecca Davis O’Brien points out at The Daily Beast. What did her suddenly being insanely jealous and setting shit on fire have anything to do with anything, rather than as a sort of hateful comic relief? And hey, wasn’t she the one who set up the meeting with Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who streamlined their name from “The Facebook” to “Facebook” and got them their first angel investment? I was actually expecting her to demand a cut because of that.
As for the groupies, like I said, they do exist, but probably more so in people’s minds than in reality. Sure, I can see the really big guys having fan girls who’ll blow them in the bathroom, but for lower level, dime a dozen founder/CEO types , so prevalent here in the Valley, I think groupies and the slinky, slutty Asian trophy girlfriend mostly exist in their imaginations (and in rumors).
More likely than not, Asian women in the biz are as smart and nerdy as the guys are, at least as far as I’ve seen. The actual programmers I’ve encountered seem as Aspy and dowdy as the next guy.
So yes, The Social Network was missing that type of woman, but then that would have been a different story. I guess it would have been nice to see at least one Asian woman coder, but I don’t know if there were any at Facebook at that time. The programming/coding world was and still overwhelmingly male.
As for the “feminist killjoy,” Zuckerberg’s ex Erica, to me she was simply really smart and unafraid to call Zuckerberg out on his bullshit.
As O’Brien points out, Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, admits that in the film, the “women are prizes, basically,” and that “it really doesn’t speak to the entire female population of Harvard.” This was the way, if not Zuckerberg in reality then at least his character in this movie, saw women, which isn’t really surprising. They were something to obtain, like good grades, an exclusive club membership, a million users. Zuckerberg wasn’t in a frat in college so he created his very own frat of which he was founder and president, and perpetuated those frat-like behaviors (which are perpetuated in reality at many start-ups now).
What that says to me is if you’re a woman or a man who doesn’t ascribe to that frat mentality, you might have a hard time fitting in at any start-up around here.