So I decided to watch the movie “Her” this weekend. It affected me, but probably in ways the director didn’t mean for it to affect people. Some spoilers follow.
Basically, this is set in our near future, and about a man named Theodore who falls in love with his computer operating system.
I know it sounds kind of ridiculous at first, but the movie turned out to be quite thought-provoking. The implications of a sentient OS are mind-boggling.
The OS is an advanced artificial intelligence called OS1, created by a company called Element Software. The dialogue from the in-movie commercial states:
[OS1 is] …the first artificially intelligent operating system. An intuitive entity that listens to you, understands you, and knows you. It’s not just an operating system. It’s a consciousness.
Within the first minute after the OS comes online, it names itself Samantha and begins conversing with Theodore, looking through his hard drive, and organizing his computer.
Of course, they eventually fall in love, and must deal with the issues of making this work when one member of the relationship is Human, and the other is an artificial intelligence.
It was a fascinating tale (one where I cringed from embarrassment for the characters many times), but normally I don’t care much for love stories in movies or TV shows. This one was no different. It was other stuff that wasn’t shown that really made me think.
So the big deal here is that Samantha is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. I really like her voice…or do I?
I tried to put myself in the position of Theodore in the movie. Scarlett Johansson likely doesn’t even exist in his world (or at the very least would be an older movie star by the time of the movie), so he’s not hung up on whose voice it is. This is a completely new “person” he’s dealing with, and he probably has no mental picture of who he’s talking to.
On the outside looking in, though, I’m obviously fully aware of who she is. So when her voice is coming out of the screen, I’m seeing this:
So the truth is, it’s tough to put yourself in Theodore’s shoes. I found myself wishing they would have gone with a completely unknown voice actress. Or if you couldn’t do completely unknown, maybe someone who’s good, but not well known to the general public.
Are You Social or Anti-Social
As we hear in the trailer, the setup for the new OS asks him if he’s social or anti-social.
I kept coming back to this question as I watched the movie. Samantha was well integrated into every part of his life. She’s calling and talking to him, waking him up in the morning, and just hanging out jaw-jacking with him essentially.
I didn’t like that. I guess I’d have to put myself down as being anti-social. I don’t want to have to come home and deal with my OS peppering me with questions, or worse yet have the darn thing around all the time with 24/7 access to me, digging into my hard drive and browser history, calling me to account for all the twerking videos I watched on YouTube.
Not that I have to answer to it. I guess I could just not put the earpiece in or refuse to engage it, but then would I be hurting it’s feelings?
Of course, the other way it could play out is that I would become so comfortable with it that it wouldn’t feel like a chore. Not likely for me, but for others it could happen.
The Love Story
As their love story continued, I couldn’t help but slide off into a tangent and think “Isn’t Element Software really opening themselves up to a bunch of lawsuits??”
People fall in and out of love all the time, and you’d think the same would hold true with the AI. So what happens when you “break-up”?
Do I wipe this thing off my hard drive? Can I wipe it out? Is that murder? Do I just tell it to go away and go back to my old-ass Mac/Windows/Linux OS (assuming they’re still around)?
Does the OS say Screw this!” and just jump on the network and peace out? Then you wake up the next morning and can’t start up your computer?
You know some broken-hearted customer is going to demand their money back (and probably more) from Element Software. What then?
So again, the love story itself wasn’t something I cared for, but the ramifications were very interesting. How the Hell did this even get out of the legal department?
If every OS is supposed to learn and grow and be a distinct entity, how do they know some of them won’t just be straight up a-holes? Then you’ve got even more emotional distress.
Ok, back to Theodore. We can see he’s kind of beaten down by life. He’s lost his girl and pretty much all passion in life. He’s lonely and insecure.
Maybe we can narrow the case down to lonely individuals who are stuck in a rut. Maybe these are the only kinds of people Element Software needs to worry about.
It’s strange, because when presented with the opportunity to blind date a real-life woman who was pretty much right up his alley, Theodore blows the date and doesn’t even really try.
It was interesting because the blind date was played by Olivia Wilde (sorry, I can’t remember her character’s name), who by most accounts is considered to be very attractive.
Looks aren’t always everything, but I found myself trying to imagine how Theodore has no mental picture of Samantha. But, he must visualize her somehow in his mind. Is she based on his mother? Someone he knew? The girl that got away? He must be comparing her somehow to Olivia Wilde so that the real woman comes up short.
I guess Samantha has more of an effect on Theodore because she “knows” him, by going through all his stuff. She can discern patterns about him and understand him more than a Human woman could. And on some level, she has to listen to him, so he always knows she’ll listen and usually understand him. Maybe to Theodore that made a real woman, however attractive, pale in comparison to what he had with Samantha?
Ehhh, I don’t know. Dude was trippin’.
Ok, this part was a real cringer. Samantha figures that Theodore needs someone tangible to have sex with. Apparently, the whole OS dating Human thing gave rise to a service called Surrogate Sexual Partners.
These are people who take the place of the other missing physical person in the relationship.
Samantha claimed in the movie that the woman she found wasn’t doing it for money, she says there’s no money involved. All this surrogate apparently wants is to be a part of their relationship.
Samantha had been taking action on her own initiative, contacted this woman, told her all about Theodore and her and set it up. Cripes!
The woman shows up acting like a zombie and going through the motions of being a physical Samantha. Highly uncomfortable and somewhat scary.
And yes, she’s certainly willing to have sex with Theodore – who is almost a total stranger to her. Gaah. I can’t hang with all that.
At least let me pick the honey. Damn, Samantha…
I’d be more accepting of a prostitute’s motives at that point. At least she would want money. This Surrogate Sexual Partner might have something else going on that I wouldn’t want to deal with. Who would offer themselves up like that? Very, very strange.
Other stuff I thought of…
I thought of a few more things as I was watching the movie, none of these were really touched on in the story.
So as you can see, the movie was intent on telling the love story, but I had many other questions and thoughts I would have loved to have seen played out on screen. Not enough time, though.
The Wrap Up
Well, for all my nitpicking, I really enjoyed this movie, and if you haven’t seen it I’d definitely recommend it. Hopefully it’s not completely spoiled by now.
It looks like a majority of people liked the film as I did, especially if you check these Rotten Tomatoes reviews of Her.
Finally, here’s a couple of funny parody trailers of Her, both called “Him”:
If you saw the movie let me know what you thought, or if you’re going to check it out (it’s available on DVD and Netflix, etc…) then go ahead do so, I think you’ll really dig it.
Until next time, I’m outta here!