Is it just me or is this film like an IT person’s fantasies in the flesh? Theodore develops a relationship with a new operating system (yes, you read it right). Her name is Samantha and she reminds us of Siri, iPhone’s witty voice programmed with artificial intelligence. Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson) responds to statements, analyzes personal data, performs operating commands, and communicates with users in countless ways whether it’s storytelling, music, drawing, or sightseeing, in a voice so sexy and friendly, you’d want to sleep with her. While undergoing the hard battle of divorce, Theodore explores being intimate, in every sense of the word, with Samantha who’s always with him since he always carries his smart gadget in a city set in a not so distant future.
It’s interesting to watch it on International Women’s Month, when women cry foul at reducing women into sex objects or a thing “programmed,” so to speak, to deliver pleasure to men. I will forgive Samantha’s/writer’s/human lust channeled through “renting” a real, sexy woman willing to bridge the spatial gap between Samantha and Theodore; without saying anything, the woman tries to make love with Theodore using Samantha’s voice and just relies on the ooohs and aaahs of the OS coming from the mobile phone (didn’t I tell you this is like a programmer or a developer’s dream-turned-into-film). But what’s creepy about Her is how fast the most advanced societies may actually be approaching this next-level individualism/technology dependence. If it is making us uneasy watching Her, it’s because it’s too honest showing us what could become of our human interaction when swamped in the most advanced gadgets, softwares, and systems. Also, it’s weird how an abstract thing—no body, no mind, no spirit, no nothing but codes and syntax—could simulate love and, weirder, make somebody fall in love with her.
Did I say it’s weird? I’m not sure, but two men seated beside me walked out halfway through the film. I guess I could tolerate different levels of weird.
Theodore’s day job is writing personal letters for others by dictating it to a computer as if he’s talking to it. This isn’t too far-fetched today because there are voice recognition softwares and OS that can translate sound bites to written words, though not as flawless as in the movie. Maybe the part that’s not easy to accept as a human being would be hiring someone to write intimate letters to parents, relatives, and partners. Last Valentines’ Day, if you noticed, Yahoo!Mail sort of did this when they featured template love letters you could choose from. They’re sweet, touching, and lovely, like Theodore’s letters, but, really? Our civilization has given up on letter writing—are we also gonna give up on thinking for ourselves?
To be fair (with the lovely soundtrack and cinematography) Her panders to the emotions a bit when Samantha “wonders” what it’s like to touch and be touched, to exist, to love. I really couldn’t get myself to liking what Theodore and Samantha were having, sorry, but their relationship can make us feel privileged as humans. We have bodies we take for granted; we have real communication that can get messy but can be beautiful at the best of times; we are entitled to feel the most wonderful feelings and emotions like the release of pain after crying or the warmth of knowing that somebody’s thinking of you. I didn’t quite like Her, but I wanted her to be like us. In the same vein, I wish women around the world all the privileges a free woman has.