What do the films, The Social Network and the two Steig Larsson films – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire – have in common?
1. They are incredibly good films
2. Their main characters are both young, brilliant computer geniuses with a high degree of separation from others and a low need for the “graces” of social interaction: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) and Lisbeth Salander, one of the most compelling female roles in decades
3. Zuckerberg and Salandar are both Enneagram Fives
Both Zuckerberg and Salander display intellectual brilliance, the most obvious being in the arena of understanding the underlying construct of computers and how to use computers for emergent needs and possibilities. Starting out as “hackers” who are able to access the computer systems of other people for proprietary information, they parlay their substantial skills to areas of their need and interest.
Zuckerberg begins his career at Harvard by creating The Facebook, as it was originally called, a social connectivity structure that allowed people to relate, share, and keep updated – all without having to have any direct human contact. This is a perfect Five way of relating: no emotional demands, a window into the experiences of others where no one can see you, no direct human contact required.
Salander uses her skills to learn about people and events that either interest her or are crucial to her survival. In her case – and not to give away too much of the story – she needs to know all about those who have been persecuting her as a way to defend herself. She is also interested in love, but knows more about her lover from the computer than in person. So very Five-like: to be fully interested in life but engaged with it from afar.
In a sense, Zuckerberg and Salander possess a brilliance that, while not purely original – that is, they did not create computer logic; “hackers” exist by the thousands – they are both able to use in such sophisticated ways that they do, in fact, create something that goes far beyond their original skills. They are visionaries, but in their own worlds, holding firm to what they know is true and possible.
What is particularly fascinating about both “characters” is their ability to understand something that would be impossibly complex to the rest of us, to hold all this information in their minds as well as how it fits together like pieces of a vast puzzle, and then to use what they know for their particular purposes.
Without having the intention to harm others, both get in trouble with legal authorities. Their response: a calibrated, cerebral, and strategic way of outsmarting those who consider themselves upholders of right, wrong, and justice.
When Harvard officials challenge Zuckerberg about his trespassing into their computer systems, he suggests that he did them a favor by showing the weaknesses that made the information in them so accessible. He states the truth, does so with minimal emotion, and in doing so, makes it clear that the conversation is over.
When challenged by her boss, Salander walks silently from the room. When chased by authorities in a countrywide (wo)man hunt, she cleverly evades them, taking the law into her own hands to protect herself rather than to avenge herself.
As Fives, they neither respect nor disrespect authority figures and systems. Instead, they simply understand how authority figures think and behave. And both respond to high-anxiety inducing situations with authorities, in a way that would seem foreign to the rest of us; they are entirely cerebral, implausibly impassive, and highly effective.
Impersonal Interpersonal Style
In interviews with the real Zuckerberg, as well as reviews of both films, many writers and critics write about Zuckerberg and Salander as remote, unfeeling, and even arrogant characters. While this is not surprising – Fives can be experienced in these ways – this view misses the subtlety of Fives.
Neither Zuckerberg, nor Salander are “hot” emotional characters , but when you observe them, their emotional reactions are apparent, primarily in their facial expressions or verbal comments – for example, a sudden subtle smile and light in their eyes, the lack of any response, or a quick, short response to a pointed or rhetorical question. The meaning and response are there, just not in the form which some might expect or desire.
When Zuckerberg is being deposed for one of several lawsuits against him and the opposing aggressively states that he does not seem to be giving his full attention to the questions posed, Zuckerberg agrees, saying simply and clearly that he is under oath to be honest, even about this. End of conversation, no desire to please or be understood, no middle ground.
And when Salander’s lover asks about her painful childhood background, she also remains silent. But is this remoteness and impassivity (as some might interpret the behavior) or a clear statement that this is not an area for discussion? Is she not entitled to her privacy?
In my view, Zuckerberg and Salander are endearing, loveable, cool characters who dare to defy, defend, and dismiss, without concern for the consequences. Fundamentally honest and principled, they neither bend nor fold.
Motivation and Drive
What drives Zuckerberg? What was Salander’s motivation? We can learn a great deal about Fives from them both.
The storyline in The Social Network would have us believe that his drive was to prove himself important because of an early rejection from a “girlfriend” at a nearby college and the dismissive attitudes of Harvard students from upper class families toward the “lesser classes” from which Zuckerberg comes. However, other more factual reports of Zuckerberg indicate he has been in a strong relationship with a woman he plans to soon marry, a relationship that began before The Facebook emerged. The snobby Harvard students, while annoying and condescending, are also laughable, and it is doubtful someone like Zuckerberg would have cared enough about them. The film leaves the motivation somewhat ambiguous, though if you know Fives, it is more clear. Zuckerberg was (and is still) driven by the vision of an idea whose time was now. The idea was first mental, then emotional, and soon became a fully experienced or embodied knowing. There is no stopping a Five pursuing a fully integrated vision.
Salander’s motivation is also clear. Neither revenge or vigilante justice, Salander wants freedom. To understand this in more detail, you have to read all three books in the series or watch the films (now available in the Swedish versions). It’s such a great story; I just don’t want to spoil it.
Putting these together, the films illuminate what Fives know best. A real vision is freeing (Zuckerberg) and real freedom is a vision for us all.