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The Social Network, Howard Hughes, and Mark Zuckerberg

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Since the beginning of the summer, there have been two books on my nightstand. Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” and Noah Dietrich’s “Howard The Amazing Mr. Hughes.” Both stories are told from the sidekick’s perspective; men who hitched their wagon’s to the stars of their day, Howard Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg. One sidekick hung on long enough to see his star burn out. The other watched his star slip away and go supernova.

Mezrich’s book was the main source of inspiration for “The Social Network,” a slick biopic from famed director David Fincher. The film follows Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg as he goes from social outcast to social god when he creates Facebook, the social networking phenomenon.

Two months before its release, dozens of articles on the film flooded the media. The New Yorker told us sweet stories about Zuckerberg’s home life; W Magazine clued us in to Sorkin’s sordid cocaine habit; New York Magazine pulled back the veil on the $40 million production. Every article was different, but they all tried to answer the same exact question: How accurate is the film in depicting Zuckerberg’s life?

After reading Mezrich’s book, watching Fincher’s film and reading almost every Facebook related article I could get my hands on, I can say that the film is a work of fiction. But that is nothing new. Just read this article from The Daily Beast. In it, David Kirpatrick highlights many of the inaccuracies and exaggeration in the movie.

What is new, and isn’t being discussed, is the concept of loyalty and fame.

Saverin was Robin to Zuckerberg’s Batman, his Sundance to Zuck’s Butch Cassidy. He is “a co-founder of Facebook and a former friend of Mr. Zuckerberg’s, who later felt that he was unfairly sidelined” when the company was moved to the Silicon Valley in the summer of 2004. In one scene, near the end of the film, Zuckerberg–who is masterfully played by Jesse Eisenberg–is on the phone with his friend, trying to find out why he froze the company’s bank account. There’s a lot of yelling, some pyrotechnics and a heartfelt plea.  The website is taking off and Zuckerberg tells Saverin to get his “ass on the next flight to San Francisco” because he needs his CFO, the same way Hughes needed Dietrich, his CFO.

At 19-years-old, Hughes became the majority owner of Hughes Tool Company. At 20, Zuckerberg created facebook. Both men were inventors who turned the mundane–airplanes, social networks–into something spectacular. Hughes built the largest airplane (Hughes H-4 Hercules), Zuckerberg built the world’s largest social network. Both are type A personalities who used other people to help them succeed.  The difference is, Hughes understood loyalty.

For more than 25 years, Dietrich was the backbone that supported Hughes’ empire. As director and vice-president of Hughes Tool Company, director and chairman of the executive committee of Trans World Airlines, chairman of the board of RKO Pictures Corporation and the director of Hughes Aircraft, Dietrich was the most important person in Hughes’ life. This is a something Hughes realized in the twilight of his life.

In a meeting on March 12, 1957, Hughes admits, “Noah, I can’t exist without you.” Dietrich writes, “It was the first time in thirty-two years that he had said that. They were the last words I was to hear from Howard Hughes.”

The ousting of Saverin, and the suspicious exodus of Facebook’s other founders years later, proves that Zuckerberg does not understand this concept. Maybe it’s a generational thing or maybe Zuckerberg is just misunderstood.

I do believe that a guy who makes a really good chair shouldn’t owe money to anyone who has ever made a chair. But I also believe if someone helps you buy the parts and tools for that chair, they should be treated with respect.

Horace Greeley once said, “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.”

“The Social Network” is everything you would expect from a Fincher film (“Fight Club,” “Se7en,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), powerful performances, arresting scenes and a spectacular soundtrack–thanks to Trent Reznor. Not to mention, Aaron Sorkin’s script is a thing of genius; 161 pages boiled down to two hours of cinematic bliss. Check this movie out. It will not disappoint.

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One Response to “The Social Network, Howard Hughes, and Mark Zuckerberg”

  1. TM says:

    Sure, what Mark did in the film was kind of shitty, but I still think we should stand in awe of Zuckerberg for his sheer talent. He may be portrayed as a huge asshole in the film, but when it comes down to it, he created something we use every day to connect with people, some of whom we’d perhaps never get to talk to again if it weren’t for FB … And he’s still not as big of a dick as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.