Most people who’ve read my work for a while know that I am getting tired of Hollywood’s addiction to sequels and the serialization of every successful film of the last fifty years. But that doesn’t mean I’m reflexively opposed to all sequels. More that I believe the vast majority of them don’t justify their own existence with a story that says anything its predecessor didn’t already cover more than adequately. I’ve already expressed my exasperation with the notion of a sequel to Enchanted, a “final-but-let’s-be-honest-not-really” sequel to Halloween, a sequel to Jurassic Park nearly three decades after the first one was released, and a sequel to an embarrassing prequel
What makes them even more frustrating is how studio executives keep bleeding these long-ago-concluded stories dry while leaving several tantalizing sequel ideas on the table, their potential unrealized. Remember The Social Network? That cooler-than-it-had-any-right-to-be semi-fictionalized depiction of how Mark Zuckerberg expanded what was originally a hotornot.com rip-off into a globally-dominant, world-changing social networking website that made him the youngest billionaire in the world, at the cost of his friendships and anything approaching a normal life? It made over $200 million at the box office (good lord, how things have changed…) and was nominated for a bunch of Oscars that I think most of us agree it deserved to win over the forgettable, low-stakes royal hagiography that the Academy adored back then for some bizarre reason. Then again, if Tom Hooper stealing David Fincher’s Best Director Oscar led to the chain of events that resulted in him eventually gifting us the all-time so-bad-it-is-amazing classic that is Cats… I kinda see that as an acceptable outcome in hindsight.
One of the Oscars it did win was for Best Adapted Screenplay, when Aaron Sorkin expressed this ridiculous mea culpa in his acceptance speech:
“I wanted to say to Mark Zuckerberg tonight, if you’re watching, Rooney Mara’s character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary, and an incredible altruist.”
With over a decade behind us since that speech, Sorkin’s description of his Oscar-winning screenplay’s main character has aged about as poorly as any ever delivered in a televised awards ceremony. If anything, The Social Network was far too generous in its depiction of Zuckerberg as a socially awkward, misunderstood, but admirably driven genius instead of the narcissistic corporate tyrant who stole all of his most successful creations and possesses zero awareness of or empathy for other human beings that he actually is in real life. This is why I can’t think of too many sequels I would rather see right now than a follow-up to The Social Network that focuses on his downfall as a misbegotten tech industry Übermensch.
The possibilities are endless: a great movie about the unconscionable crimes against humanity his flagship company has been responsible for since the canonical end of the first film is certainly possible: you could tell the story about Facebook’s irresponsible inaction to its misinformation escalating the violence of the civil war that gripped Ethiopia very recently, or its unexpected hostility towards the Kurds, or its entirely expected hostility towards Palestinians. An estimated one billion more people in the world today live under fascist dictatorships than they did before the invention of Facebook, and I’m not saying Zuckerberg’s hellsite is the main cause of this terrifying global trend … but I’m not not saying that, either. Sorkin, in fact, has expressed interest in teaming up with Fincher for a sequel exploring this exact phenomenon.
If you want to keep a sequel to The Social Network more local, the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal was a massive uncovering of the company selling our data to political manipulators and election fixers, the consequences of which we’ll be reckoning with for decades. This would be a bit more difficult to depict cinematically, but I do think a good movie is possible that dramatizes the harmful mass psychological effects of websites like Facebook ushered into this generation: addiction, suicidal ideations, pervasive resentment, stress, antisocial behavior, bullying… I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if future young people look back on our use of Facebook the same way we look back on our parents and their lead exposure.
But if I had to pitch just one narrative focus for Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca,
Scott Rudin, and Ceán Chaffin to run with for a sequel to The Social Network, it would be about this still-ongoing clown show:
I mean, really, what a jaw-dropping farce. $37 billion-with-a-“B” and that Nintendo 64-looking disaster is the result. Faceb-oops, sorry, I mean “Meta” has lost about 60% of its shareholder value over the course of this year alone. Granted, there are multiple factors contributing to this cratering: TikTok has been crushing the social media market lately (which I discovered firsthand when I finally bit the bullet and made the leap to the platform myself earlier this month; seriously, Facebook and Twitter are ghost towns by comparison) and Apple’s recent app store change allowing users to opt-out of having their data mined by platforms like Facebook blew a $10 billion-sized hole in their revenue stream.
But the main cause of the company’s suffering right now is, inarguably, the “Metaverse.” Ol’ Zuck was so certain the future of the internet was in a hideous-looking virtual space where people would live, work, play, engage in commerce, and socialize with their friends all the time. Yes, I know that sounds like the premise of a terrifying Black Mirror episode, but don’t worry, it’s broken and no one is using it and they haven’t even been able to animate legs yet.
Imagine the dark comedy classic that would emerge from Jesse Eisenberg awkwardly standing in front of a green screen, selling a version of his stupid VR world that he knows his technology isn’t capable of, buying out competitors like Instagram and WhatsApp and ripping off other competitors like Snapchat because Divya Narendra was actually 100% correct when he accused Zuckerberg in the film of being a thief who built his empire off of other people’s creativity.
And in… let’s call it The Meta Network as a working title, we see him setting out to create something totally original for the first time in his life, and it ends up being a failure so catastrophic that it guts his entire company. It’s already ruined the lives of 11,000 of his former employees who are paying for his hubris.
We’ve seen The Social Network thrillingly depict the rise of this arrogant dweeb. It’s long-past time we got a sequel depicting the fall.