TSR Blog: ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ vs. ‘The Social Network’

In honor of another invention from Harvard University that changed college life forever, the Sparknote, TSR is providing a concise-as-possible comparison of The Social Network to its first source, the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. This particular TSR Blog post aims to point out the differences between the two texts that tell the story behind the creation of Facebook.com, while also providing insight into how the two writers saw some of the same characters and events differently.

Opening this Friday is David Fincher’s The Social Network, a gripping true story that aims to undeify geek-genius Mark Zuckerberg and his creation that no longer broadcasts our lives, but instead controls them – Facebook. The process behind telling this inception has two parts. First, there was a book, The Accidental Billionaires, as written by Bringing Down the House author Ben Mezrich, which was released July 2009. Now there is a film, with the book being adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin of “The West Wing.”

It is worth noting that author Ben Mezrich and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin were sharing notes when crafting their respective texts detailing the story behind Mark Zuckerberg and “his” creation, Facebook. It should then also be mentioned that Mezrich gives special thanks to Eduardo Saverin in his “Author’s Notes,” saying: “Eduardo Saverin, without whom this story could not have been written.”

For whatever it may be worth, Ben Mezrich begins his book with this paragraph, which likely also explains where The Social Network got its information: “The Accidental Billionaires is a dramatic, narrative account based on dozens of interviews, hundreds of sources, and thousands of pages of documents, including records from several court precedings.”

Important Characters In the Film That Are Presented Notably Different In The Book

Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) – In Mezrich’s text, she does not exist. There is, however a girl who inspires Mark to do the Face Mash. The girl does not have a name, but she does have five asterisks – possibly the name Erica. For the rest of the book, there is no female like Erica who maintains a poignant relationship with Mark. (And for the record, Mark’s supposedly “real” girlfriend Priscilla is nowhere to be seen in either the book or the film.)

Marilyn Delpy (Rashida Jones) – As with the trial scenes that do not occur, this character does not exist in any form in Mezrich’s book.

The Winklevoss Twins (Armie Hammer) + Divya (Max Minghella) – In the book, they do get their own website, ConnectU to go live, despite the existence of thefacebook (and their reasoning that thefacebook stalled them for two months). These characters only appear in Mezrich’s text in the first half, and dwindle out of focus for the most part once Mark and thefacebook crew head towards California and meet up with Sean Parker. At the very end of Mezrich’s book, Eduardo comes across an unverified Winklevoss twin in a “nameless New York club.” Saverin says to the twin, “I’m sorry. He screwed me like he screwed you guys,”(p. 252) before disappearing onto the dance floor, and subsequently concluding Mezrich’s imagining of the story.

Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) – The book feels as if it is told from Eduardo’s perspective, with Mark Zuckerberg playing the role as sidekick/best friend. Mezrich constantly imagines Eduardo navigating through a party-like atmosphere, and with this, the author also gives Eduardo more background. In the book, Eduardo does even more traveling, and is also in New York City for longer periods of time. An entire conflict missing from Sorkin’s script compared to Mezrich’s text is the idea that Eduardo’s decision to stay at Harvard and graduate may have screwed him over. In the book, Eduardo is imagined at graduation, pondering if he’ll see pictures taken that day later on Facebook.

Important Moments/Scenes from the Film NOT In The Book

Just as there is no Erica in the film, there is also no exchange between Mark and any female that resembles the first scene in the bar.

The meetings that anchor the energy of the film, between Mark + lawyers vs. Winklevoss Twins + layers, along with Mark + lawyers vs. Eduardo + lawyers, are not in the book. To my recollection, lines like “If you were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook” are not in the entire book at all.

The scene in The Social Network that involves Mark having a revelation about the art of the relationship status is not in the book. According my scouring of the book, there is no such event in the text, at all.

Possibly created by Sorkin, the moment in which Eduardo and Mark discuss how thefacebook could be like a “private club,” is not in the book. While the party is used by Mezrich (to introduce the men to each other), there is no such scene in the book that has Mark pulling Eduardo out of a party to reveal such a game-changing revelation.

While the lunch with Parker does happen in the book, it is not explained with the amount of dialogue that Sorkin uses. Mezrich pictures the moment mostly from the perspective of Eduardo, so the presence of Parker becomes jarring and slightly frustrating. The idea that Parker came up with the idea to drop “the” from “thefacebook” is also not in Mezrich’s book.

The meltdown at the Facebook offices that has Eduardo smashing Mark’s laptop is beautiful, but not in the book. Instead, Mezrich imagines that Eduardo walked away from the meeting with the lawyer, with the peace of security. Mezrich’s idea of Eduardo, especially in this instance, is a bit more defeated than Sorkin’s. Eduardo’s most aggressive act in the book is the shouting of “NO!” while being escorted out of the office.

The debacle about the chicken cannibalism is indeed covered by The Social Network, but the end of the story in Mezrich’s text does not have Eduardo pondering betrayal to the extent that he thinks Mark ratted him out about the incident.

The Book’s Beginning

Eduardo is the character we first become familiar with in Mezrich’s book. At the same time, the Harvard grad author tries to give his audience an idea of what college life is like, especially with societies that are heavily exclusive. It is a few pages into the book that we meet a kid named Mark Zuckerberg, who becomes quick friends with Saverin after they decide to ditch the party together (this same “Caribbean” party would be used for a more revelatory scene in Sorkin’s screenplay).

(Without spoiling too much of the film, Sorkin’s film begins differently. Mark is the main attraction of the first scene, and the idea of the Clubs is not reinforced until a few scenes later.)

The Book’s End

Possibly lacking the same court information that Sorkin had, Mezrich ends his book with Saverin in complete confusion, but in a fighting mood (as mentioned above). Parker is taken out of the picture after the party, (just as in the film), and Zuckerberg is left with his thoughts and his business card “I’m CEO – Bitch.” The book also ends with a “Where Are They Now?” epilogue, one slightly less concise than that of Sorkin’s text at the very end of The Social Network.

VERDICT

Overall, Sorkin does a wonderful job in coloring in the areas that Mezrich usually tries to inflate. A lot of the book is spent trying to dramatize the entire situation, especially as it basically relies on the mindset of Eduardo to anchor the story. Mezrich envisions the events of this tale with lots of Harvard specific imagery, and his book is filled with inside jokes relating to the school, along with the usage of locations and traditions important to the university. Sorkin’s script uses Harvard, certainly, but has a more general idea of college life, and does not contain itself to just be a story about the prestigious college. And when it comes to dramatics, Sorkin’s are more poignant. Sorkin makes Eduardo’s diluted, laptop-smashing freakout much more interesting, along with other instances mentioned above.

One of Sorkin’s best choices when writing his own script was to bring the focus back to Mark Zuckerberg. Mezrich appreciates the genius of Zuckerberg, but sidelines him for a more dramatic perspective from that of the betrayed Eduardo Saverin. Sorkin realizes that the main focus in the Facebook story truly is Zuckerberg, and presents him with fantastic biting dialogue that is hardly imagined by Mezrich’s own narrative account. The idea of social acceptance is abandoned by Mezrich once Harvard is out of Mark’s eyesight, whereas Sorkin uses it as something to always haunt Mark, no matter how much money the twenty-year-old may make. Mezrich hardly sees Zuckerberg for the tragic genius that Sorkin knows him to be.

6 Comments

  1. Mil Johnson says:

    Paralleling Zuckerberg’s ascent, this book has climbed to the top of a Top Ten books for bathroom reading list. Makes you wonder where the movie will end up…

  2. Blah Blah says:

    Just so you know, Priscilla Chan is mentioned 3 or 4 times throughout the “Accidental Billionaires.” Once when they are testing the interns, once when Eduardo allegedly watched Mark leave a club with a Victoria’s Secrets model, and once after that, in the Facebook offices. In the second instance, she is referred to as his “college girfriend,” by Eduardo. In the third instance her name is also not given and she is referred to as the “girl he is dating.” In the first instance she is referred to as “Priscilla.” In all instances, the characters are clearing referencing Ms. Chan.

  3. Shari Dinkins says:

    On p. 205, it states, “Or, as the company was now going to be called–just Facebook.” Sean’s idea, because he’d been so damn annoyed by the the in the web site’s name, he’d finally gone and gotten Mark to slice it right off in the reorganization…”

  4. Shari+Dinkins says:

    Although there is no “aha” scene where Mark gets the idea for relationship status, his “adding a final touch,” “playing around with the features,” with Eduardo there is in the book (p. 93). On p. 94, Mark’s “addition” of “Looking for. Relationship Status. Interested In” is mentioned. So not as dramatic, but seemed to be describing his decision to include it while Eduardo is looking on.

  5. Shari+Dinkins says:

    If you’re curious, the Winklevoss line about “dressed as skeletons, chasing the Karate Kid around” is actually from page 190 of the book.

  6. Varun says:

    This article makes me recollect how I loved the movie. I haven’t read the book but I am quite surprised with differences in both. I have seen quite a lot of movies as well which are adapted from a book. The movies are usually not exactly same as the book and are dramatized to keep the audience engrossed.

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