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Diego Goentoro
Dr. Erin Dietel-McLaughlin
WR 13300
10 October 2014
The Use of Rhetoric in the Movie The Social Network
The movie The Social Network is based on the making of Facebook and Mark
Zuckerbergs turbulent journey in achieving the success of becoming the youngest billionaire in
the world. It is based on a book by Ben Mezrich called The Accidental Billionaires: The
Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal. The movie is directed by
David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. It was first released in the United States during the
New York Film Festival on September 24, 2010 and grossed $22,445,653 just in the opening
weekend in the United States alone (IMDb.com). The movie also received numerous honors
including Academy Awards, Golden Globes and BAFTA Recognitions. Mark Zuckerberg,
founder and creator of Facebook, is played by Academy Awards and Golden Globes nominee
Jesse Eisenberg who in appearance and physique is identical to Zuckerberg himself. The movie
is predominantly set at exclusive locations such as Harvard University and Silicon Valley to
essencuate the status Facebook is related to and associated with. According to Lunsford, the art,
practice and study of human communication (UWP Website 1) is rhetoric, David Fincher,
director of the movie The Social Network, and Aaron Sorkin, writer of the movie The Social
Network, uses rhetoric in both historical context and social context, as well as the
characterization of Mark Zuckerberg, and setting to make social media, Facebook in particular,
and social networking more appealing attractive than it really is.

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Fincher and Sorkin make social media and social networking more attractive to a younger
audience by presenting Facebook as a success and a catalyst for Zuckerberg's achievements.
Even though it is important to note that Finchers and Sorkins objective is to appeal to as large
as an audience as possible to earn a larger gross profit for the movie, it is more important to
identify and understand that a more critical and intended target audience (Herrick 8) would be
current and potential Facebook users in the age group between adolescent and young adults
approximately from 13 to 25. This is evident from the movie because the actors are interpreted to
be in that age range; the main protagonists are college students in a college environment and
atmosphere and the consistent scenes that strengthens this idea are the college frat parties and
scenes set in college classrooms and dormitories. The importance of using Facebook as a tool of
building a large and successful social network in order to become more successful was greatly
advertise in this movie to appeal to the young ambitious and social people. This is evident in the
movie when Facebook is the primary reason Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, an established multi
millionaire entrepreneur that helped stimulate and invigorate Zuckerberg billion dollar idea, to
connect with one another. Thus, audience adaptation (Herrick 10) was clearly utilized by Fincher
and Sorkin by carefully arranging scenes in the movie to appeal to the intended audience to
make social media and social networking as a tool to become successful people.
The historical context and social context of the movie benefits by Fincher and Sorkin
ability to exaggerate the importance of social media and social networking to the intended
audience. The historical context is set during a time when social networking, particularly
Facebook, is booming to the point that it has revolutionized human communication and
interaction forever. Even though Facebook is a successor of social media such as MySpace and

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Friendster, Facebook is the first social media that was based in a movie. This enable Fincher and
Sorkin to focus on more of the appealing aspects of Facebook and ignore the negative aspects. In
addition to the desirable conditions of social media and social networking, the release date of the
movie is highly favourable as well. Facebook had a staggering 400 million active users (Digital
Buzz Blog); this ensured that it will become a blockbuster movie and not a niche movie whereby
a very limited audience to relate to. In addition, the movie was not released late enough for it to
either be a documentary or irrelevant. Fincher and Sorkin utilize the social context of the movie
which are the rising in globalisation activity, growing movement of internationalism and
increasing demand of a wide and strong social network very effectively and implied in the movie
throughout. The popularity and increasing trend of Facebook was portrayed multiple times in the
movie: the first one was when Facebook me became a phrase in the movie, the second time is
the increasing activity to the site caused Harvards computer headquarters to over capacitate and
crash and thirdly when Zuckerbergs brilliance was compared to Bill Gates. The movie not only
highlights and emphasized the popularity of Facebook but the necessity and importance it has
become for college students to remain social and relevant. Hence, Fincher and Sorkin
successfully took advantage of both social context and historical context to present Facebook and
social networking much more important and useful than it really is.
The characterization of the main protagonist Mark Zuckerberg is indicative of Fincher
and Sorkin implication to make him more likeable as a character. Zuckerbergs representing an
underdog and victim throughout the movie has a positive correlation with the audience
inclination to like Facebook. With the use of consistent thoughts on his head instead of music,
shots of him alone coding and overall presentation of Zuckerberg, we are emotionally influenced

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and sympathise Zuckerbergs situation. Moreover, Zuckerberg inability to be socially acceptable
or functional in society deliberately by Fincher and Sorkin given to the audience as a first
impressions implies the struggle and situation Zuckerberg had to endure in. This is then further
emphasize tin the movie in the end that despite the fact all of the success he achieved, he is in a
completely helpless and desperate situation to get the girl of his dream Erika Albright. Marylin
Delpy said to Zuckerberg Youre not an asshole, Mark. Youre just trying so hard to be this
insinuate Zuckerberg inability to find an identity and resonates to the audience because it makes
the audience sympathise or even empathise what Mark is going through. Another method Fincher
and Sorkin makes the Zuckerberg difficult to hate is the sense of injustice and inconclusive
ending that was given. Even though he made billions of dollars, his ability to connect so many
people with other people does not translate to his ability of connecting himself to many people.
Therefore, Fincher and Sorkin capitalise rhetorical techniques and the use of pathos through
multimedia techniques to shape Zuckerberg into a likable character.
The director made the setting more opulent and prestigious through scenes that portray
the dazzling and lavish lifestyle that resulted from Facebook. The first half of The Social
Network is set at Harvard University, actually John Hopkins University, to represent the
prestige even from the beginning. The exclusivity and prominence was first heighten when
Fincher and Sorkin capatilizes on the technique of repetition to continue stating that you need a
Harvard edu email for you to sign up for Facebook. Another sign that that setting was used to
represent the opulence and prestige is when Facebook was being introduced to schools
surrounding Baylor before introducing it to Baylor first because they have a social network of
their own. The second half ofThe Social Network is set in Silicon Valley; Silicon Valley is

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renown as the capital of anything and everything to do with technology. With that understanding
taken into perspective by the audience, Facebook as a whole looks more advanced and
compelling than it actually is. With this in mind, the credit and celebrated success of Facebook in
the movie is instilled the exclusivity and prestige of the setting.
However, since the intended target audience of the movie The Social Network is
relatively narrow it is almost certain that people will have differing and contradicting opinions of
the movie; in fact, some people will almost certainly say that Fincher and Sorkin make social
media less appealing and attractive than it really is. A contrasting understanding of Finchers and
Sorkins intention can happen when the audience interpret the rhetoric including context,
characterization of Zuckerberg and setting differently. Even though there will be many
disagreements such as what would be the perfect lighting, music and camera angle or the release
date of the movie and even the most appropriate setting, the most significant yet often
misconstrued is the characterization of Mark Zuckerberg.
A different approach to Zuckerberg characterization could be that he is portrayed to be a
unfavorable character suppose to a character we sympathise and admire. There are many
implications in the movie that may suggest this idea but the three main ones are backstabbing,
his lack of networking and dropping out of college. A questions that always and needs to be
brough up is that Does the end always justify the means? when discussing ethical issues and
dilemmas in celebrating success. Zuckerberg did not only jeopardize his relationship between his
partners, winklevoss twins, but also abandoned his relationship with best friend Eduwardo
Saverin. In addition to being arrogant and rude at times, the movie highlights his disloyalty to
achieve his selfish wants. Secondly, the irony that Zuckerberg is able to connect people with

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hundreds other people and he himself is struggling to make friends should say something
about his character and personality. Thirdly, and finally, an older audience may say dropping out
of college was a foolish thing for him to do because the chance of succeeding was low. However,
a younger audience will likely view this completely opposite and say it is jaw dropping that a
person does not require higher education to achieve the success he achieved. While these are
plausible arguments, people outside the intended audience are not likely to understand the
functions of Facebook as much.
In conclusion, the makers of the social network utilize both social and historical context
of the times, the characterization of Mark Zuckerberg and the locations where the movie was
filmed in order to explain Facebook importance and significance. The makers of the movie also
clearly tried to discard and ignore Zuckerbergs wrongdoings when it uses You dont get 500
million friends without making a few enemies as the movies tagline. Rhetoric is a very
powerful tool and everything is not always what it seems.

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Works Cited
"Box office / business for The Social Network." IMDB. IMDB, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2014.

"Facebook: Facts & Figures For 2010." Digital Buzz Blog. Digital Buzz Blog, n.d. Web. 9 Oct.
2014. <http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/facebook-statistics-facts-figures-for-2010/>.

Herrick, James H. "The History and Theory of Rhetoric." The History and Theory of Rhetoric.
2nd ed. N.p.: n.p., 2001. 1-25. Rpt. in The History and Theory of Rhetoric. N.p.: n.p.,
n.d. N. pag. Print.

"The Ethical, Rhetorical, and Practical." University of Writing Program. University of Notre
Dame,n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2014.