In the opening scene we have Mark and Erica talking about knowledge of people in China, SAT and Mark's infatuation with getting into the Finals Club. How is this scene humorous? Someone told me they laughed but I cannot see the humor except for the awkwardness from Mark. But this humor I have incorporated into Mark as awkwardness that Jesse (the actor) is trying to portray as Mark.

For example, in this re-do of the scene by Devin Rice and Lauren Hamrick, I don't see any humor at all. What I do see is the realistic layout of how a break-up occurs.

Is the scene intended to be humorous? What elements/explanation shows how this could work? (subtleties in the script, surrounding atmosphere, camera positions or music)

  • 3
    I think asking about why something is humorous is like asking why you are what you are. We're all individual unique humans. :-P
    – Noldorin
    Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 0:35
  • Well... it seems we are seeing something different. Saying why would assume the scene is indeed humorous and thus a reason the director made the scene this way. I am asking was the scene intended to be humorous? And if so how the movie elements (the beer, eating the bar food), context (the fixation on Finals), the emotion (the fact that Erica became increasingly annoyed) set the tone of the scene. If the analysis of the film's tone via movie elements is not a valid question, I will concede this question is not constructive. @Noldorin
    – phwd
    Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 1:02

3 Answers 3


Having inside-depth knowledge nor references, I do not think the opening scene is intended to be humorous. To my opinion, the opening sequence serves foremost as an introduction to Mark's character and his intelligence, but at secondary level as a preview to the audience to what is be expected, namely the rapid pace of conversation and mind-switching. It is saying: "Pay attention!"

Some people label parts of it as being humorous, but that is just individual taste. This scene's calling up of different emotions is evidence of Aaron Sorkin's superb writing.


I do think the scene is intended to be humorous. Not only humorous - its real purpose is to give us a brilliantly succinct introduction into Mark, his personality and the factors that motivate him throughout the rest of the film - but it's definitely funny for two main reasons:

  1. There are just some flat-out funny lines, like when Erica tells Mark "[I can't talk any more] because it is exhausting! Dating you is like dating a StairMaster!"

  2. We're amused by people who are rude without realising it. Look at comedies like Fawlty Towers and The Office: almost all of the humour comes from a character who is breathtakingly rude to other people yet seems oblivious to the offence they're causing. In the opening scene of The Social Network, Mark plays that role: he does nothing but insult Erika (they're only there because she "slept with the doorman"; she doesn't need to study because she's at a less important university) or ignore her ("I wasn't talking about China anymore, I was talking about me") and then seems flabbergasted when she tells him their relationship is over. The humour comes from watching him dig his own grave, especially when he ignores all the warning signs (Erica's horrified reactions) and just keeps digging.

I'm not suggesting that Mark Zuckerberg is written as a comedy character: he isn't. But Sorkin is a hugely witty writer and there are plenty of funny scenes in the film without it being a comedy. (The chicken cruelty episode always makes me laugh out loud!)

  • I suspect the StairMaster joke was not Sorkin's contribution, but the advertiser's/invester's. But that put aside, both examples you gave I experience as being dead-serious; I simply like to empathize with characters and both are clearly not intended being funny by them. But like I said, that's just personal taste. Now, in comparison to The Office: that certainly is with no doubt intended to be funny, although some might not find it so.
    – NGLN
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 21:17
  • I also think you hit the nail by saying it's not only humorous. If a writer sees the opportunity to put something in that might be experienced as funny then he sure will, provided it fits. But like you say yourself: the film is no comedy, and even so isn't the opening scene.
    – NGLN
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 21:24

The opening scene in any movie is meant to be the before, and the closing scene is the after. So you see the progression the character takes, the arc if you will.

The opening scene of "The Social Network" is meant to introduce you to your protagonist. It's meant to show you a) he's smart, b) he's kind of a jerk, and c) he's motivated to do something big.

Do yourself a favor and actually read it - it's 10 pages long which is unheard of in screenwriting. Any writer who turned a script in like that, not named Aaron Sorkin, would've gotten laughed out of the room. Even though it's amazing writing, it's just not done like that. 10 Pages of two people talking is a play, not a movie.

So is it meant to be funny? Sure. Is it meant to make you kinda dislike your hero, sure. Is it meant to make you feel sorry for him because he has no idea how to properly talk to a pretty girl? Absolutely.

So how does the movie end?

Mark is now a billionaire, master of his own universe, yet still wonders about that girl. This doesn't show a complete character change as most films typically do. Again, it's Sorkin. He can do whatever he wants. He's the exception to the rule.

  • I'm in utter consent with you about Sorkin's remarkable achievement. But now that is meant funny because of it? -1
    – NGLN
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 21:44

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