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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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