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« Berlinale Closes Pt. 1: Jury Prizes, Teddys, and More | Main | Best Actress. Final Notes »
Saturday
Feb192011

Mix Tape: "Baby, You're a Rich Man" in The Social Network

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with another look at the role of song choices in films. I'm gnerally dissatisfied with The Social Network's ending: first, the film's final line, with the legal associate Marilyn echoing the "asshole" comment made by Erica during the opening breakup scene, feels like forced parallelism. Second, Mark's attempt to friend Erica on Facebook (and his constant refreshing) suggests a pat, reductive explanation for his actions—he did it all for the girl that got away—regardless of how ambiguous the expression on Jesse Eisenberg's face is. Between these incidents, it's an ending unworthy of the layered, hyperactive film that preceded it.

However, the ending is somewhat redeemed and rendered a lot wittier by the choice of song that accompanies it, The Beatles' "Baby, You're a Rich Man." Of course, it's superficially appropriate to the film's last superimposed piece of information ("Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world"), but it's also laced with irony. Like, for example, how the tone of the song (warm, jingly, full of Beatles goofiness) clashes with the gravity and somberness of Fincher's film.

Just listen to it back-to-back with "Hand Covers Bruise," the first track from The Social Network's Reznor/Ross soundtrack, and the incongruity becomes painfully clear. The irony goes deeper, though, for while The Beatles' giddy attitude toward wealth and status may have felt suitable earlier in the film, like around the time Mark's buying his "I'm CEO, Bitch" business cards, the ending finds an older, sobered Mark who's realizing just how successfully he's cut off everyone else. The refrain "Baby, you're a rich man!" now sounds more like a prison sentence than a cause for celebration.

Most ironic of all, we've got that first line of the song: "How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" This recalls another possible explanation for Mark's behavior: his "Finals Clubs OCD," as Erica calls it, and his attendant rivalries with the ultra-Aryan Winklevii and his best friend Eduardo, who gets into the Phoenix. Mark—nerdy, insensitive, awkward, and yes, Jewish—has spent the whole film trying to move up the ladder of the Harvard community, to join the ranks of those "beautiful people," but now that he's among the richest people on earth, he's still compulsively, pathetically pressing the refresh button, pining for something (Erica's friendship) that he just can't have.

So with merely a four-decade-old song and the sound of Mark's clicking finger, Sorkin and Fincher's ending evokes all the inherent contradictions in the ways that Mark (and the film) view money, power, and friendship. He may be a rich man, but as they say, money can't buy you love.

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Reader Comments (11)

this has nothing to do with the post and everything to do with a video of jesse eisenberg singing when he was like, eight.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercici

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercici

@cici

what the hell are you even talking about?

Anyway, these nuances in TSN just make it a greater film. I believe it will age well.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjuicy

"feels like forced parallelism" - Yep, i agree.

"clashes with the gravity and somberness of Fincher's film" reminds me of Happy Together in Adaptation.

Cool post :)

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I think cici tried to post a link to a video twice but didn't succeed.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I loved loved loved the ending

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA.J

Nice piece. I love the ending. It may be a forced parallel of a sort but the contradictions you mention in the sound mix and Eisenberg's performance and even the open ended act of "refreshing" a screen AS a closing of a film all soften any awkwardness of forcing that i think.

such a great movie. juicy you are correct.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

yes, it was a youtube video thats been making the rounds on tumblr - a video of jesse eisenberg in a production of "oliver twist" when he was precociously young and he's singing the entire time. the chin is undeniable. sorry for the confusion. it's ADORABLE, though. you should all check it out and have a good laugh.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercici

I guess you can see Mark's friend request to Erica as a reductive explanation for his actions, but I rather thought Erica serves as a metaphor for the general social recognition Mark's always desired, something that Mark has lost forever and is thus unattainable (hence many critics liken Erica to Rosebud). On my first viewing I also thought this was a bit forced ending, but on a second viewing (then on DVD for the third time) I was like, What else could Fincher and Sorkin have done with the ending? Then I accepted this as a somewhat appropriate, handsomely done ending. lol

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDalurae

Hey I forgot to mention your post is a great read. Especially "The refrain "Baby, you're a rich man!" now sounds more like a prison sentence than a cause for celebration."

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDalurae

Andreas, you're awesome.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex
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