Friday, August 19, 2016

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is not a typical biopic that paints a glossy overview from birth to death. Rather, it’s a critical (and at times, scathing) documentary. While the film acknowledges Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s extensive contributions to technology, it also exposes his lifelong practice of alienating the people closest to him, including business colleagues and his own family.

The film opens with various people, both young and old, reflecting on the numerous products that Jobs introduced: perhaps most famously, the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Each of these products has become synonymous with the Apple brand and, in many ways, with Jobs himself.

When Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, there was an enormous outpouring of grief from all over the world. In particular, dedicated fans of Apple products turned Apple storefronts into makeshift memorials, leaving flowers and hundreds of notes. Some stood holding virtual candles displayed on their iPads and iPhones. On social media, users changed their profile pictures to photos of Jobs, some with no text except for the caption “iSad.” Although the vast majority of these people never met Jobs, many of them felt a great sense of loss when he died.

Filmmaker Alex Gibney sought to discover just what it was about Jobs that caused so many strangers to feel a deep connection with him. The film examines various periods of Jobs’s life, from co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak, becoming its CEO, being ousted from the company by its board of directors, founding Pixar and failed company NeXT, and eventually returning to Apple as its CEO, ushering in the hugely successful era of the iPod and later, the iPhone and iPad.

Throughout his life, Jobs was a brutally determined businessman and innovator. He was also a paradox: while simultaneously touting Apple’s core philosophical values, for many years Jobs did not acknowledge his own biological daughter, Lisa.

Immediately after his death, Jobs became somewhat of a mythical figure for Apple fans, who credited him with inventing the various products that forever changed the technology industry. However, Jobs wasn’t an inventor in the traditional sense of the word. Yet, many assigned him this legacy, even though what he really did was take products already in existence, improve them, and reintroduce them to the general public. Additionally, the great irony is that a man who was responsible for making such products commonplace—technology that, in many ways, brought people together—also kept his own family and friends at arm’s length.

Jobs’s detractors will appreciate the portions of this documentary that shed light on his ruthless behavior as well as his many personal failures as a friend, husband, and father. But despite the fact that Jobs still remains a highly divisive figure even in death, many continue to remember him with a sense of affection because of the enormously influential role he played in introducing technology that is—for better or worse—now part of everyday life.

Search the VBPL catalog for Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. If you enjoy this documentary, you might like Steve Jobs, the definitive and extensive biography written by Walter Isaacson. You might also like the feature film that was based on Isaacson’s book, which stars Michael Fassbender as Jobs.

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