Fidelity with the truth

Sam took me to watch The Social Network on Wednesday night as a treat for my birthday (yes, going for a movie is a huge treat when you have a 7 month old baby). Having been vaguely aware of the roots of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg‘s student history at Harvard, I was keen to look into the story of Facebook a little deeper. I walked out of the movie house surprised. Zuckerberg waste caste as an ego-driven, conniving geek who screwed his closet friends in the pursuit of his ideas. It seemed pretty clear that Zuckerberg had stolen the idea on which Facebook is based from fellow students who had entrusted him with the concept. So, when I got home I started doing some research into the movie, the actual story of Facebook and Zuckerberg, and discovered that The Social Network is quite divergent from the truth.

When asked about the way the movie diverges from the ‘truth’, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has been candid about his objective: to tell a compelling story, rather than slavishly following facts. He is quoted as saying, “I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling.”. He went on to say, “What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?” From a narrative perspective, these comments disturb me …

Sorkin’s statement intrigues me. That he is less concerned with the truth and more worried about telling a compelling story. This kind of sentiment really blurs the line between fictional and non-fictional approaches so storytelling across mediums.

As a stand alone piece, The Social Network is a very compelling story. The problem is that it is a story rooted in the daily experience of over 500 million users of Facebook, and is as such rooted in reality. The liberal application of fictional licence by Sorkin is misleading, distorted and manipulative.

Fidelity to the truth is critical when telling a story rooted in non-fiction.

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