The Social Network opens with one of the more memorable exchanges of dialogue that I’ve seen. The conversation—where Jesse Eisenberg (who plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) obsesses to his girlfriend over his chances of getting into one of the elite final clubs at Harvard, blatantly insulting her in the meantime—sets up a subtext that runs throughout the entire film. Whereas the opening conversation makes the viewer want to cuff Zuckerberg upside the head, by the time we get to the climax of the film you find yourself rooting for him—whom his girlfriend rightfully calls an “asshole”—to beat those nasty, elitist Winklevoss twins.
The key quote in this changing of loyalties comes when Eisenberg responds to his lawyer’s suggestion that he must really hate the pair of establishment types who are suing him for all he’s worth. His response describes in a nutshell the major conflict running throughout the film:
“I don’t hate anybody. The “Winklevii” aren’t suing me for intellectual property theft. They’re suing me because for the first time in their lives, things didn’t go exactly the way they were supposed to for them.”
The viewer has moved from a point where Zuckerberg is the “asshole” to a place where she is asked to sympathize with Zuckerberg against the seemingly invincible connections, wealth, success, and arrogance of the Winklevoss twins. Moreover, you’re asked to do so while dealing with the fact that Zuckerberg is still the same guy who acted like a child in the film’s first exchange.