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Sorkin Defends His Depiction of Women in The Social Network

I haven’t found much of Aaron Sorkin online (I promise, I haven’t been looking, “I was nowhere near Brooklyn!”) but he did post to writer Ken Levine’s blog (link provided by @progGrrl) in response to the accusation that its portrayal of women was sexist by a commenter called Tarazza. Next week he can take on the webdev community for their outrage that he didn’t give enough face time to the miracle that is Facebook.

Before we get to Sorkin, let’s just state, one more time for the record, that this film represented the points of views of its characters. It wasn’t presented as a template for how the human race should live its life. We are assuming that this is the real Aaron Sorkin, but this being the internet, one never really knows – but it sounds kind of like Sorkin — he says “final clubs” instead of “finals clubs,” for instance.

This is Aaron Sorkin and I wanted to address Taraza’s comment. (Ken, I’ll get to you in and your very generous blog post in just a moment.

Tarazza–believe me, I get it. It’s not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes an equal. Mark’s blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he’s sure he’s missing, came directly from Mark’s blog. With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark’s blog verbatim. Mark said, “Erica Albright’s a bitch” (Erica isn’t her real name–I changed three names in the movie when there was no need to embarrass anyone further), “Do you think that’s because all B.U. girls are bitches?” 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.

More generally, 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.)

And this very disturbing attitude toward women isn’t just confined to the guys who can’t get dates.

I didn’t invent the “F–k Truck”, it’s real–and the men (boys) at the final clubs think it’s what they deserve for being who they are. (It’s only fair to note that the women–bussed in from other schools for the “hot” parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)

These women–whether it’s the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo’s psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real. (In the case of Christy, Eduardo’s girlfriend so beautifully played by Brenda Song, I conflated two characters–again I hope you’ll trust me that doing that did nothing to alter our take on the events. Christy was the second of three characters whose name I changed.)

I invented two characters–one was Rashida Jones’s “Marylin”, the youngest lawyer on the team and a far cry from the other women we see in the movie. She’s plainly serious, competent and, when asked, has no problem speaking the truth as she sees it to Mark. The other was Gretchen, Eduardo’s lawyer (in reality there was a large team of litigators who all took turns deposing witnesses but I wanted us to become familiar with just one person–a woman, who, again, is nobody’s trophy.

And Rooney Mara’s Erica’s a class act.

I wish I could go door to door and make this explanation/apology to any woman offended by the things you’ve pointed out but obviously that’s unrealistic so I thought the least I could do was speak directly to you.

Ken–Thanks for your really nice words and for giving me a chance to apologize again for my remarks back in 2005. Obviously a star writer on one of the best comedies of all time doesn’t need to prove his credentials as a “real” comedy writer.

Both types of women are on display in this film – smart and (insert whatever word you’d like for women who sleep with men without getting engaged first).

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