“You’re good. You’re damn good. But you’re an asshole.” These words, spoken by Steve Jobs’ boss at Atari, ring perhaps the most true of all the things said about one of the major technocratic heroes of the later 20th century. But was Jobs really a hero? In Ashton Kutcher’s Jobs, Hollywood takes a look at a man the film’s marketing calls “the iconic Apple innovator and groundbreaking entrepreneur”. But an honest appraisal of the film reveals Jobs in a different light. This author argues that instead of a shining light equipped to lead America into a happier age, Jobs was, instead, a man with incredible intelligence who squandered his ability on shaping the world in his image-unsuccessfully.
The film begins with detailing Jobs’ process of dropping out of school to blaze his own trail in life. Jobs, clearly a very intelligent and gifted man, had seemingly limitless possibilities in front of him. He falls in love. He travels to India, the holy land, to get a broader perspective on life. He seems destined to lead the life of a hippie, a free drifter. But one day, something changes. Jobs has a dream. He visualizes his future head of Apple, a revolutionary computer company. The film’s opening scene shows Jobs delivering on this vision later in life, boasting that his company gives consumers “A thousand songs in your pocket”. But why the name Apple? This was both a reflection of Job’s spiritual training and a foreboding of the megalomania that would be his future: the apple was the fruit of creation which Jobs, seeing himself as a god, would be creating for man. This conceit would prove to be Jobs’ greatest asset in his business career, but tragically his greatest failing in the eyes of his spiritual God he quickly forgets.
From this moment, Jobs’ destiny was fulfilled. He famously started Apple in a garage before a shrewd businessman took a chance on the ragtag operation, only for this giver of good fortune to be met with an even shrewder counteroffer, the true hallmark of an entrepreneur. Jobs goes on to lead Apple to great heights, insisting that the company stick to his visions, his ideas. But his rise to fame and fortune comes at a terrible price. He spurns his lover and daughter, cruelly ignoring his love’s complaint that it wasn’t part of his master plan. He callously manipulates his employees and colleagues, flying into a fit of rage when someone interferes with his vision. But, one could say, he lived his dream. He set out to accomplish what he wanted to in life. Isn’t that what really matters? But this isn’t the real issue. Jobs clearly had the intelligence to accomplish whatever he wanted to in life. But somewhere in life he was led astray from the spiritual God of his youth to some false God. The true brilliance of Jobs is showing viewers where Jobs went wrong in a subtle and nuanced way. It’s a hint that may have been lost on most movie-goers: a portrait of Albert Einstein in Jobs’ study.
Einstein was, of course, himself a very intelligent and gifted man. But Einstein was a Deist, a determinist. His God did not play with dice-it was cold, calculating, and destined some for greatness, and others to weakness and failure. And this, indeed. was Jobs’ false God. Jobs saw himself as destined and deserving of all his wealth and success. But perhaps even before the half turn of the 21st century, Jobs will be forgotten. Any common smartphone today blows away the capabilities of Job’s Ipod. Microsoft’s computers have cornered the market. With the dawn of augmented reality, Job’s contributions to science will quickly become a footnote in college textbooks. The film ends begging the question to man. What’s worse: vainly imaging one’s self as a God or discovering, too late, that one has worshiped a false one?