Day: November 18, 2010

Adaptations: The Accidental Billionaires & The Social Network

The Accidental Billionaires (2009)
The Accidental Billionaires (2009)

Watched The Social Network (2010) over the weekend… more excited that it was the new David Fincher (psst – Fincher will be directing “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” which is slated for release next year) movie, than a movie about Facebook, and even more excited to know that Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing, had written the screenplay. The movie follows the story of the beginnings and subsequent blow-up of Internet phenomenon, social networking site – Facebook and is based on the controversial ‘nonfiction’ novel, The Accidental Billionaires by author Ben Mezrich. You might remember a god-awful borderline teen-flick called 21 (2005) telling the true story of a group of MIT students who found a loophole in Las Vegas’ black-jack tables and went on to take the casinos for over $3 million. The movie was based on Mezrich’s novel, ‘Bringing Down The House’ and while the movie isn’t really worth talking about, the book found almost cult like status, as the story of MIT geniuses taking down Vegas had become an almost urban myth.

Mezrich obviously has a great deal of experience writing about college geniuses who have gone on to earn themselves millions and millions and it seems appropriate that it was his book that was used as the inspiration for Fincher’s The Social Network. The Accidental Billionaires focuses on Mark Zuckerberg’s stint at Harvard and the proceeding law suits that followed. A sharp and witty narrative shedding light on the time in which he conceptualized Facebook, or rather TheFacebook and how he was eventually scrutinized from every corner due to its immense popularity and possibly because his practices were a tad bit unethical.

Both the book and movie dive deep into a pivotal and ultimately bumpy relationship between Zuckerberg and his former best friend and FB co-founder Eduardo Saverin. It narrates how Zuckerberg, an extremely socially awkward personality, may have lost his one true friend as he made millions of online buddies through his website. It was Saverin who had approached Mezrich and provided the author with the ‘inside-scoop’ after being shafted by Zuckerberg and his new investors from his original stake in the company. The moment a settlement was reached, Saverin immediately cut all ties with the author. The book and the movie also focuses heavily on the possibility that Facebook might have been a stolen idea, originally conceptualized by three Harvard students who had approached Zuckerberg for help, but were eventually left stranded as Zuckerberg modified their idea with a more mass appeal and better usability.

In interviews, Mezrich is extremely candid when he says Zuckerberg and his team had absolutely nothing to do with the book, yet he maintains what’s presented is factual with hints of author inference in terms of making it a more fun read. The book (and movie) is supported by multiple points of views by people who played an integral role in the start of Facebook. While Zuckerberg and Saverin are the central characters, the collection of personalities such as the Winklevoss twins (the Harvard jocks who to this day claim Facebook was originally their idea), Sean Parker (Napster co-founder, who took but a second to jump on the Facebook bandwagon) and few others in the form of groupies and lawyers, all add to the allure of the Facebook story. At the heart of it, this really isn’t a story about a website, it’s more a story of a misunderstood genius who quite literally revolutionized the use of the Internet.

It’s been about a month since the release of the movie, a year since the release of the book… just this week Zuckerberg launched his new mail services (Google, watch out!),  last month he donated $100 million to the educational system of New Jersey – some say in response to the negative image portrayed in the movie, but I highly doubt that. Facebook is now a marketing tool, a way to stay connected with friends – old and new, a mode of expression, it’s not just a website, it’s almost become a way of life. It seems important to know the story, because I have no doubt, in time, The Accidental Billionaires and The Social Network will be considered a piece of history…

Buy David Fincher’s The Social Network (DVD) on Flipkart

Buy Ben Mezrich’s “Bringing Down The House – How Six Students Took Vegas For Millions” on Flipkart

Buy Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” on Flipkart

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