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Mark Zuckerberg is the Kanye West of the Internet

October 27, 2010

Or Kanye is the Zuckerberg of the rap world.  I haven’t quite decided.  It’s even hard to tell which one of them came first.  Facebook (back when it was THE Facebook and limited to a .edu account) and Kanye (back when he was lamenting through a wired jaw that some of his “plastic still says Kayne”) are vivid memories of my college experience.  But either way, I think both of these characters are ushering in a new era.  The era of the hurting genius.  Moreover, a genius who comes across as an asshole. And more importantly, an asshole who is really, really cool.

I thought “The Social Network” was an exceptionally made film.  The acting was on point and we got to see the depths of male friendships in modern society that we seemed to have lost.  To what extent the portrayal of Zuckerberg in the movie is true doesn’t really matter. What’s more telling is that the story that came out, and that is currently doing fantastically among critics and at the box office, is one of a misunderstood genius who simply wants to fit in.  And when he doesn’t, he retaliates in some pretty antisocial ways including pushing his best friend to the brink (a.k.a. a lawsuit).  Ironically, he builds one of the biggest advances to our social experience since the internet itself, I would argue even the telephone. I think the best part of the film is that Zuckerberg is not a hero.  He is complicated.  I sometimes wanted him to be better than what he was being accused of, and at other times I could understand why he might want to do the things he did.  He was pissed.  I’d be pissed too.

And of course we have Kanye.  Kanye has long been portrayed as an asshole, largely by himself. But at some point he realized that playing the part of the asshole could only let him get away with so much.  His first “short film” was taken off of the internet because it came shortly after the Taylor Swift debaucle (that I still think did wonders for her career and she should be sending homeboy a gift for every anniversary of the mic seen stolen ’round the world).  But in it we got a little glimpse of the little monster he envisioned causing him to do all of the “douchebag” things he was doing, including sleeping with some random woman in the bathroom:

You can read what I thought about it at the time here. But importantly, with the new short film, we see that Kanye is trying so hard.   In a 34 minute music video we see that Kanye does consider himself to be an artist.  The cinematography is absolutely stunning.  The woman, Selita Ebanks, is striking and plays the part of a bird (we later learn she’s a Phoenix) rather well.  And Kanye pays respects to the concept of an album, since a handful of songs from the upcoming album are featured.  In the age of the mp3, the art of a conceptual album seems pointless but he is letting us know that we can’t understand him simply through one song.  You can watch the whole thing below.

It’s actually quite sad.  Kanye wants to keep the Phoenix for himself, she is beautful and obviously understands him in deep ways (we see this by her dancing to his music), but she can’t because she needs to return to her own world.  Kanye wants to act selfishly because all he wants is to be happy, he just doesn’t know how to do it in a mature way.  This strips away the idea of the one-dimensional asshole that we’re so used to seeing.  The man who simply acts like an asshole because he doesn’t care about anything or anyone else.  In fact, he does.  And it’s eating away at him.

Speaking of hurting, genius assholes…will the real Slim Shady please stand up?  Eminem got a lot of not-so-great responses to his video for “Love the Way You Lie” with Rihanna. Some people believed he was glorifying domestic violence, since you know, Megan Fox can make anything look good.  For the first time, we heard explicitly what goes through the mind of someone who wants to be with someone so badly that he gets blindly jealous and physically violent.  I’m not in any way saying that women (or men) who are abused by their partners should stick around simply because he’s “hurting” but maybe the way we deal with domestic violence as a society should be questioned.  The asshole in the situation may need something more than anger management classes or jail time.

I predict we’ll see more of these films/artists/songs in the near future.  It’s sort of a new look on the emo sentiment (is that redundant?).  And I for one kind of like it.  It’s high time it was okay for men to feel emotion, and these two characters do it in social groups that are supposed to be immune to it: computer scientists and rappers.  What I like about both is that they remind us that the social interactions we come from, and the ones we want to have, dictate so much more than we care to admit.  Even for, and maybe especially for, the assholes in the room.

I am apparently not the first to pick up on the connection, since Kanye’s “Power” is the theme song in the ad for “The Social Network.”

And finally, there is poultry cannibalism in both “The Social Network” and “Runaway.”  Whoa.

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