Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
In his signature black turtleneck and blue jeans, shrouded in shadows below a milky apple, Steve Jobs' image was ubiquitous. But who was the man on the stage? What accounted for the grief of so many across the world when he died? From Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, 'Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine' is a critical examination of Jobs who was at once revered as an iconoclastic genius and a barbed-tongued tyrant. A candid look at Jobs' legacy featuring interviews with a handful of those close to him at different stages in his life, the film is evocative and nuanced in capturing the essence of the Apple legend and his values which shape the culture of Silicon Valley to this day.Written by
Apple senior executive Eddy Cue was quick to express his disappointment in this documentary, describing the film on Twitter as "an inaccurate and mean-spirited view of my friend" and "not a reflection of the Steve I knew." See more »
The expression of a very personal view on the man and the company
It seems like Gibney's approach to this film was to first answer to himself the question "what do I think of Steve Jobs and how do I feel about Apple?", and then set out to find material that fit the narrative he previously decided on.
Music score, interviewees, aspects of his life, all meticulously chosen to paint a very particular picture of SJ, and not a flattering one at all. Not that the man wasn't an a-hole, of course, as there is a plethora of evidence to that assertion. Stealing from Woz in the Breakout deal, denying paternity, throwing Fred Anderson and Nancy Heinen under the bus in the backdating scandal are some of the most poignant examples, to be sure.
But then you see Bob Belleville's testimony, a heart-wrenching interview with so much grief and sorrow. His reading of the text he published when Steve died almost drove me to tears, so much sadness, hurt, love, hate, despair was packed in the feelings he was projecting as he read those lines. My first reaction was to think something along the lines of "how could Steve have willingly or simply casually have caused so much pain to this man (and, by induction, to so many others)? But the deeper understanding that has to come from this is the fact that Mr. Belleville never had a gun to his head preventing him from leaving Apple and Steve at any moment he chose. He always had a choice, and he made the choice over and over to stay aboard. Yes, Steve, it seems, was charming, and could supposedly charm people into doing his bidding with an almost Jedi "these are not the droids you are looking for" ability. And yet, in the end, there is always the choice to put on a scale everything that is happening—on one hand, the unique opportunity to work on a revolutionary computer, on the other, the damage it is causing to one's personal life—and choose a different path. Personally, I have been submitted to a similar treatment, by a mercurial boss—albeit one admittedly a couple of orders of magnitude less intense than Steve Jobs—and I somewhat know how it feels. I learned a lot, I got tons of experience, I got hurt a lot. I am a better professional today because of such experiences, but in the end I decided to leave, when balancing everything out I found it wasn't worth it. And that extremely important facet of what happened to Bob Belleville is never even touched in the documentary. Neither are told the stories of Bob Mansfield, Scott Forstall, Jon Rubinstein, Eddy Cue,Tim Cook, Jony I've and several other Apple executives who worked under Jobs for several years and were able not only to "endure" it, but to thrive.
And then there the blatant double standards: working conditions in China, that every single company that designs in their own country and outsource manufacturing incurs; tax dodging schemes that every single multinational company avidly seeks and implements; and the most absurd and pernicious of all: the sense of alienation supposedly provoked in the users of modern electronic equipment. All of these traits are by no means exclusive to Apple, but they are treated as if Apple is not their sole perpetrator, but also their inventor. That approach is simply not fit for a documentary aiming at the truth.
On that last point, the thesis that Apple's products foster alienation, it's particularly pernicious because it aims to vilify what actually is one of the best characteristics of Apple products: they are exceedingly good at their jobs. We want to use these products—and supposedly alienate ourselves while doing it—because they make our lives so much easier. I can do my job better; I can be in better contact professionally and personally with people around me; I can be more productive; I can be more well informed; I can be more creative. The list goes on and on. Alienated? I never had the opportunity to be in so much contact with so many people before I started carrying a smart-phone with me all the time. I constantly message friends and family that live hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometers away at a negligible cost, thanks to modern communication technology. Is Apple better at all of these things than the competition? Although I have an opinion on the matter, of course the subject is absolutely debatable. And if, say, Android's users aren't so much into their own devices as Apple users, that is not an advertisement point for Android. "Our products are better because they are crappier and you won't be drawn to them so much" is not a viable campaign motto.
If we use the "bicycle for the mind" analogy, it's as if Apple invented the best possible bicycle (to date), and the critics are ranting about how nobody walks anymore. Yes, everybody is getting everywhere faster and more efficiently, but very few people are going out for strolls anymore! Not a valid complaint at all, IMHO.
OK, this is a long rant, and I apologize for it. Go see the documentary for yourself and reach your own conclusions.
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