Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Movie Review - The Social Network

First off , this post is not going to be about whether or not communicating via FaceBook is the best thing since sliced bread, or the worst bane to modern society since, well, sliced bread.  I don't give a Tweet whether or not the movie "got it right" about The Real FaceBook Story or the main characters and how they behaved in real life.

Let's assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that the movie is 100% fiction.   As I refer to the characters, below, they are as characters, and are not assumed to be real people, okay?

Okay.  Is it worth the watching?  Yes.  I'll want to see it again, and I'm not a big "movie" person.

The script was written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin, directed by the equally brilliant David Fincher, and acted impressively by Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin (the money, the business plan, and the one character you really like) though Justin Timberlake is great as the dissipated (and broke) boy shark behind Napster, who smells money in the water and finds a way to swim into the action. 

If you appreciate tall, blonde, handsome, well-muscled men, you'll enjoy Armie Hammer, who plays identical twin athletes with the help of make-up, outstanding computer editing, a stand-in, and major Skills in the acting department.  Seeing two slightly different versions of this man in one shot is truly no hardship.

The movie starts off with Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend.  Why? Because being a genius on paper does not always translate to "plays well with others."  Smart, attractive, confident women don't generally put up with being ignored, condescended to, and treated like garbage (at least at the front end of a dating relationship.)  They tend to call a guy an asshole, and move on.

The dumping led to a nasty blog about now ex-girlfriend, which led to a misogynistic if brilliant web program (based on an algorithm by Saverin) to rate the attractiveness of as many Harvard female students as possible, which led, eventually, to FaceBook.  Not without apparently stealing the ideas of Cute Twins & Partner along the way, using and discarding people without any apparent qualms, and facing two lawsuits.  The depositions in defense of said lawsuits form the device through which the story is told.

There was some controversy about the portrayal of most women in the movie as groupie-types.  Didn't affect how I saw the movie.  The story is told through the eyes of men who are, themselves, social misfits, who demonstrate in the first scene they may be computer programming gods, but they don't have the social brains or acumen to handle smart, attractive, confident women.  They tend to go for the kind of woman who will set one's bed on fire, which is realistic to those characters.

I've also read reviews in the general public arena which describe Zuckerberg as narcissistic, borderline sociopath, neurotic and an anti-hero (besides being an asshole) but only one which picked up on what I did.  His behavior, facial expressions (or lack thereof), his total disregard and non-connection with the feelings, emotions and even physical misery of those around him screamed AUTISM to me, loud and clear.  At the very least, Asperger's Syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism.)

Narcissist - sorry, not enough charm to qualify (though Justin T as Sean Parker certainly oozes it.)  Narcissists flatter and use what they've observed of the desires and weaknesses of those around them to reel 'em in.  Sociopaths (think Ted Bundy & other serial killers) destroy people deliberately, for the pleasure in seeing them go smash.  You got little sense of glee out of Zuckerberg, except when he'd cracked some tough coding problem.

Anti-hero, certainly, neurotic - you didn't see any neuroses.  You don't see Zuckerberg agonizing over any decisions or doubt, though the implication is made that by perhaps stealing their idea and leading them on, he's getting back at the Winklevoss twins for being everything he's not - tall, handsome, wealthy, popular, and in an elite "final club."  (Yeah, I never heard of a final club, either, and now that I understand what they are - still not impressed.)  Mostly though, you got the sense that people were like Kleenex to him - he blew his nose and moved on, never giving the discarded Kleenex a second thought.

I thought, briefly, that Zuckerberg might be OCPD, because some of the traits of autism and OCPD are very similar.  All consuming absorption in a project, black-or-white thinking, assumptions that others think they way he thinks, co-opting other people's ideas as his own, not liking to be hugged... 

But the obliviousness is a dead giveaway.  In the scene where Saverin has arrived in California, where Zuckerberg was supposed to pick him up at the airport, but forgot/overslept, and Saverin arrives at the door, dripping wet, exhausted and more than a bit peeved, Zuckerberg doesn't fuss at him for dripping water on the floor.  He doesn't conjure up excuses why it was actually Saverin's fault for not being at the airport at a more convenient time.  He doesn't snatch Saverin's briefcase and scold him for not keeping it dry. 

Instead, ignoring what any reasonable person would realize was exhaustion and major discomfort, he grabs Saverin's sleeve to tug him towards a nearby monitor, "You've got to see what we've been working on!"

See if you agree with me that Zuckerberg (in the movie, not necessarily the real person!!) exhibited many signs of Asperger's Syndrome.

Impaired Social Skills
Adults with AS have impaired social skills, according to the Adult Asperger's Association. They can have a hard time making friends and interacting with people in social settings. Adults with Asperger's syndrome may appear awkward, quirky and out of place at social gatherings. They may engage in lengthy conversations unaware that the person to whom they are speaking is trying to change the subject or exit the conversation. These individuals tend to talk at people instead of talking to people. Many times adults with Asperger's syndrome will make inappropriate comments because they are unable to understand voice tone, facial expressions and body gestures. Adults with AS often have a hard time "reading" people and understanding humor. They may not know the right thing to say or the correct way to behave, and may unintentionally upset the people around them.   <section shortened>

Intense Specialized Interests

According to the Better Health Channel, adults with Asperger's syndrome tend to have very intense time-consuming specialized interests. These individuals usually become experts in one or two areas and excel in their chosen careers because they choose jobs that best fit their interests. They are often referred to as eccentric, which sometimes causes social isolation. An example of an intense specialized interest would be someone who spends long amounts of time studying science and statistics, but has little interest in anything else.  (Read more:

I hadn't heard anything in interviews with Fincher or Sorkin about them deliberately making Zuckerberg autistic, but apparently the The Autism News agrees with me, too.

I guess the reason this hit me so hard is the similarities between OCPD and autism behaviors are becoming increasingly clearer to many:

It's not the same disorder; while some symptoms are identical, others are very, very different.  Both disorders are very, very difficult to deal with if you are the girlfriend, business partner, or, heaven help you, the spouse of an Aspie or OCPDr.

It not a case of "being an asshole," or "trying to be an asshole."  It's about being born with something missing (or damaged), about having to try really, really hard to behave in socially appropriate ways, while not really understanding them on more than a surface level.

And no matter how many billions of dollars you make, no matter how many people use your product, you can't buy a sense of empathy, or of connection with other people.