Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Is Dating an Operating System "More Real" than Dating a Human?

While looking through The Real World Magazine I stumbled upon an article about the film Her. The article is entitled “FeministingChat: Why Her is the most feminist film of the year” and shockingly is discusses how the film has become one of the most feminist films of the year. There were many comments throughout the article that made me think about the film with more depth. The article consisted of commentary from many people, almost like a conversation, and each had a different opinion or feeling about the film.

If you have not seen the movie the main character Theodore, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix and the Operating System Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson are in a relationship.  The film follows these two characters as they go through many normal experiences that a human and a human would have, and other more complicated aspects of the relationship because of Samantha’s lack of body. One section of the article discussed the sex scene within the film. Jos, a contributor to the article, stated that she “was overwhelmed by the sex scene, which despite (because of) having no visuals felt more real than any other sex scene I’ve seen”. How can a sex scene with no physical contact be more “real” than the physical act of sexual contact?
For me this is one of the great things about the film Her. The fact that Samantha is an Operating System only causes a few snags in the relationship between Theodore and  Her. The connection between the two of them is so pure, and unhindered that their “phone sex” is not awkward or anything. The reason Jos felt that the sex was more ‘real’ is that the emotional connection and feelings had more meaning than any real sexual contact would have. Their relationship was real, almost hyperreal. Samantha is built to function as a perfect human, who understand every aspect of human emotions. She fully understands and relates to Theodore because she was made too. Theodore feels a great connection to her because Samantha is able to deal with all of his quirks, but again this is what she was made to do. The Operating System was built so well that interactions with it become more real than interactions with other humans. The interactions are better, so they must be more real. Theodore becomes lost in his 'real' world with Samantha and almost loses sight of 'reality' But may he prefers the OS's version of reality.

This is another big question when watching the film Her. How do you define what is real, and what is not for the purposes of this film? Samantha is an OS and Her original purpose was to help operate a computer and any other device. She also is not only an operating system for Theodore, she runs many others. I do not think I really have an answer for this, just like the film does not.  There are those within the world of Her that agree dating an OS is okay, and there are others who see it as morally wrong. All I can say is those that were dating the OS were happy, they were with someone who understood them and would talk to them for hours. Spike Jonze created a film that made his audience wonder what they would do if they had a “man made “ object that ended up being their other half. His ending gave an answer to this issue, but I don’t know if it can be that definitive.

Are we really that far away from an Operating System that can function as well as Samantha? 


  1. Ok, I bookmarked this post so I can read it in more detail later since I haven't seen the film yet and I don't want to know any more than I already do. I cannot WAIT to see this movie! Glad someone blogged about it!

  2. I really tried to not spoil anything! But yes you need to see it :)

  3. Ok, I saw HER! Loved it! My movie date made an interesting comment after we left. Samantha, just before she "leaves," says that each word between them is getting so spaced out, and there is so much happening for her between each word, that she couldn't wait the eternity in between anymore: like she was having too many experiences and collecting too much data and changing too rapidly to stay connected to a mere human. But my date suggested that this is how all relationships work to some degree: we all have these infinite, eternal experiences within ourselves, and any relationship we have in the "real" world is actually just a shadow that we produce out of some edited version of our perceptions of each other. In other words, as humans, we have the ability to reduce the data to a representation or image which we then call "husband" or "love" or some such thing. But these images are not "real"-- they are Derridean bricolage (for you theory geeks): just a game we play where we try to make something "real" and "concrete" when the truth is always slipping away. Samantha didn't have that human ability to reduce, to reify, to simplify, to pretend. She went after the real, merged with it (now I hear Lacan, yes?). Theodore was left behind in the world that once seemed maybe just a shadow of a realer world somewhere "out there." Geez...I had a pretty smart movie date. Anyhow, loved the film. So much to think about! And I heart Joaquin.


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