New article up on Overthinking It, talking about The Social Network and the uniquely American nature of the rise-to-power narrative:
The rise to power narrative fits the following format:
1. Destitute young man (almost always a man) enters a world full of wealth and glamor that’s just beyond his reach.
2. A man with superior status establishes himself as a rival.
3. Our protagonist claws his way to the top, driven by ambition, cunning and maybe a few virtues.
4. He reaches a position of power sufficient to unseat his rival.
5. However, in the process, he has made enough enemies or entangled himself enough that he must now continue to climb.
6. He loses touch with the virtuous elements that got him to the top – the friends who helped him, the good behavior that made him a success.
7. Our protagonist’s story ends tragically – in his death, in his impoverishment, or in his cold reflection on the life he’s lost.
Laying the narrative out in that framework, we recognize it without much prompting. That’s Scarface. That’s The Public Enemy. That’s The Great Gatsby. That’s Citizen Kane. That’s The Godfather. That’s Wall Street.
And, of course, it’s also The Social Network.