The Stand: The Social Network or Catfish?

By: Mark DiStefano

One year ago, The Social Network was nominated for awards across the board, including several Best Picture nods. This film not only depicts the rise of Facebook, but it also shows how our generation began to depend on social networking as a substitute for verbal communication. However, can The Social Network really be the ultimate film that not only represents current technology, but the status of the current generation as well? Another film, Catfish, a documentary released in August of 2010, is up to challenge the popular counterpart. Which one is the real Facebook movie?

The Popular One

The Social Network, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, is arguably one of the best films of the year. It is also one of the most relevant. The film is about Mark Zuckerberg and how Facebook came to be. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), is a metaphor for every single kid out there that doesn’t connect well with others. Zuckerberg, in the film, gets dumped by his girlfriend right off the bat. So what does he do now? He vents by blogging about her. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook for interacting with others, but at the core, it’s a way to talk to people without the worry of embarrassing yourself or saying the wrong thing. In one particular scene in the film, Mark Zuckerberg visits his ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page and adds her as a friend, and then waits there, staring at the screen. How many of us stare at a Computer screen for hours on end? Far too many. The Social Network is based upon “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, but that does not mean its 100% accurate. The film may be exaggerated in terms of what really happened between Zuckerberg and his colleagues, but its message is one that will be around for a long time to come. The film is one that garners much attention, but does its punch leave you speechless?

The Challenger

The tagline for Catfish reads “Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What It Is”, and it’s right. The film, opened and Sundance in early 2010 and was released domestically in the fall. This documentary was directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The filmmakers documents Nev Schulman, a New York City photographer who begins a long-distance relationship with Megan, a girl he met on Facebook. He meets her younger sister, her mom, her dad, and her friends through the social networking tool. At one point, Nev even refers to them as “The Facebook Family”. However, when it seems the relationship couldn’t get any better, Nev discovers that not all is what it seems to be. Nev then decides to travel to Michigan (where they live) to set the record straight. However, what they find out in the last 30 minutes of the film will leave you speechless minutes after the credits end. Here’s where we come back to the tagline. For the sake of preserving the ending of this film, I will not spoil it. Don’t find out what happens before you watch it. What I can say is what happens in the end is a direct relation to the complexities of social networking. Catfish is a small film that was overlooked by many, and deserves to be watched. However, is it capable of taking on a mainstream film like The Social Network?

The Winner

Both of these films look at Facebook from different angles. The Social Network looks at Facebook from a biopic and cultural standpoint, whereas Catfish looks at Facebook from a brutal first-hand account. What connects them however is the realism that each one entails. There can be only one movie though that can accurately depict Facebook. The winner in this debate would have to be the underdog, Catfish. What makes Catfish the superior over The Social Network are two details, the fact it is a documentary and the incredibly strong ending. Catfish is a documentary, meaning that 100% of what you see is real. It’s not a mockumentary like the films of Christopher Guest or a fictional story with the shaky-camera style like Neil Blomkamp’s District 9. This film is as real as it gets. It’s hard to understand, since the winner is picked even though the ending can’t be revealed. I assure you though; Catfish is a film that must be seen in order to fully understand this point of view. Both of these films though are a testament to how people communicated in the 21st century.

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