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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Social Network

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg star in "The Social Network."
The founder of Facebook gets unfriended big time in "The Social Network" (Columbia).

While the fact-based story of socially inept but technically gifted Mark Zuckerberg—convincingly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg—and of the online empire he created makes for an engrossing drama, it also includes strictly adult material not at all suitable for the youngsters whose enthusiasm has helped fuel the digital juggernaut Zuckerberg set in motion.

Drawing on Ben Mezrich's book "The Accidental Billionaires," director David Fincher uses a series of competing and conflicting flashbacks to weave a subtle narrative of shifting personal loyalties and ethical uncertainties. Structuring these glimpses of the past is Zuckerberg's testimony in two separate but simultaneous lawsuits, one brought against him by a pair of former associates, twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence), the other by his ex-best friend, and first investor, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

According to the Winklevosses, while they were all Harvard University students, the siblings invited Zuckerberg to serve as technical guru for their nascent social networking site.

Instead, they claim, motivated in part by resentment of their wealth and social success—their initial meeting with Zuckerberg took place at Harvard's most exclusive club, the Porcellian—Zuckerberg stole their idea. He also stalled their progress long enough to get the jump on them by launching what was originally called thefacebook.com.

For his part, Saverin asserts that both his friendship and his partnership with Zuckerberg were torpedoed by the reckless interference of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Parker's revolutionary impact on the music industry via the Napster website he established, so Saverin maintains, made him a source of fascination to Zuckerberg, and Parker used his sway over the rising tech star to cut his co-founder out of the picture.

Zuckerberg, needless to say, has his own version of events, and the resulting portrait is not so much the caricature of a villain as the profile of a man so focused on achieving his dream that, like many a mogul before him, he feels compelled to throw anyone overboard whose presence he no longer feels is contributing to speed his journey.

Early scenes of student life at Harvard do nothing to enhance that seat of learning's vaunted reputation, portraying its campus instead as a morass of excessive drinking and meaningless sex. Female undergrads in underwear writhe on the dance floor with their shirtless male partners, while two of their peers steal off to a corner to dabble in lesbian kissing.

Closer to the core of this brave new world, the immature, ill-adjusted male characters, with Parker in the lead, treat women like so many disposable accessories. The one notable exception is Zuckerberg's enduring crush on a Boston University coed whose split with him was the indirect catalyst for his breakthrough.

The film contains nongraphic casual sexual activity, same-sex kissing, brief partial nudity, drug use, some sexual references, several uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and much crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.




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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

The Passion and the Cross Ronald Rolheiser

 
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