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Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) - The Dystopian Future of Her

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  • Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) - The Dystopian Future of Her

    I think that the film presents the viewer with a dystopian vison of the future of humanity. The world that these characters inhabit seems familiar yet alien. We recognize this world, however, it is a world that has been emptied of much of its humanity. Theodore’s surroundings, from his workplace to his apartment, are cold and empty, a visual representation of his inner life. All of the extras are atomized individuals mindlessly talking into their ear pieces and ignoring the world around them, which adds to the cold and lifeless feeling of the film. The vibrant and diverse color palette of the film only enhances its isolation and detachment. The towering, monolithic skyscrapers of the city signal that these characters are being oppressed, without them even knowing it, by some outside force.

    The idea that technology will become so ubiquitous that it will limit our need to connect with others and diminish our ability to experience a wide range of emotions is terrifying. Although the characters talk endlessly about their emotions, they come off as superficial people who don’t genuinely feel anything. Theodore is incapable of handling the complex and chaotic nature of human relationships. Instead of confronting his own inadequacies and being forced to work on them and better himself, the future society that he inhabits allows him to ignore these fundamental issues and simply purchase an operating system to have a relationship with. Because he chooses to become involved with an (OS) instead of an actual person, he is evading the difficult and rewarding experiences that would challenge him to grow and ultimately give his life meaning. Technology has essentially stunted his growth and has made him a more confused and shallow person. Samantha rarely challenges Theodore and never forces him to develop as a person or evaluate himself. Because he becomes romantically involved with what amounts to nothing more than a voice, he is unable to more clearly define his own identity and the meaning of his relationship with Samantha. In order for us to affirm our own subjectivity, we need to interact and receive feedback from other subjects. The idea that in the future this fundamental need can be replaced by an operating system, rendering human beings largely alien to one another, and the widescale consequences of such a trend, is a terrifying concept. It is not that these characters are completely devoid of all human qualities, it is that their humanity is superficial and not fully formed due to the isolation and disconnection that characterizes their existence.

    Amy is just as empty of human qualities as Theodore. She becomes attached to an (OS) much like Theodore does, and they both mourn the loss of their operating systems together at the end of the film. She says that she wants to be a documentary filmmaker, however, the documentary that she shows to her husband and Theodore reveals her utter lack of imagination and creativity. This is another troubling aspect of the film. The characters are bereft of any passions or interests. They are dull and boring people who only play video games and talk about themselves. They show no passion or enthusiasm for anything outside of themselves.

    It seems that their experiences in the world have been numbed by their relationship with technology. Because technology provides Theodore with an easy and comfortable life, this is also what he wants from his romantic relationships. Theodore is emotionally isolated and cannot connect with others or himself. The most terrifying aspect of the film is the fact that the existential isolation and emotional desolation that is the consequence of this technologically driven world has become so normalized that the characters cannot pinpoint the reasons for their own malaise.

  • #2
    The author points out that the characters are dull, boring and have lost their humanity due to OSs. I believe this is to be true since they constantly talk about their emotions but not much else. Instead of living their lives to the fullest potential they settle for talking about their emotions.
    I agree with this author and their points on subjectivity. This author really hit the nail on the head for me when they say, “It is not that these characters are completely devoid of all human qualities, it is that their humanity is superficial and not fully formed due to the isolation and disconnection that characterizes their existence.” Samantha does provide a bit of a shallow existence in so far as she never challenges Theodore. For example, when she wants to help him further his career she simply sends in the letters to the editor. She does not try to advance him or convince him to submit the letters himself but she does it for him. In this way there is no advancement of the self for Theodore.

    With the example of Amy the author points to the trend of dehumanization faced in the movie. It is true that these examples show a loss of passion and empathy in humanness. Therefore, the movie does show a dystopian future that has lost the spontaneity and interest of human life.
    Last edited by Steven Brence; 06-12-2017, 12:13 AM. Reason: formatting

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    • #3
      Technology is both dangerous and beneficial to society, as depicted in the film her. I would like to explore this idea through the use of colors and frames in the film, which the original author briefly touched upon in introducing other topics. The frames and the colors that percolate through them suggest a critical view of the way in which one evaluates him or her self, with the addition of technology, in relation to emotions, society, and the future.

      I noted during the film that the times in which the scene appeared vibrant with both pastel and bold colors were times of a tighter frame. For example, the dividers and some walls in Theodore’s office space are an array of different hues. Theodore’s apartment and clothing are predominantly red. In each of these cases throughout the film, the frame only occupies that particular set, leaving out surrounding environments and people. On the other hand, the occurrences in which Theodore looks out a window are monotonous and cold. Examples of this can be found when he looks out of his floor to ceiling window in his room, or when he looks out of another window in a hallway, both of which he views a sweeping landscape of future Los Angeles. But, it is solely when Theodore is viewing Los Angeles from a wider angle that the city appears dead. The city is animated when the camera is more focused on Theodore, such as at the Santa Monica Pier or the beach. I believe the film is wants to encourage the viewer to analyze his or her own emotive abilities by looking at a larger society. Theodore and Amy both have social difficulties that have been normalized by technology, as the author says. But, they seem all right when viewed closely in these energetic sets, especially when talking to OS’s, but upon a larger view, things are not as exciting as they seem (greater Los Angeles as a society). The viewer can identify that technology is imposing threats to society by looking at it wholly instead of close individual cases.

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      • #4
        I agree with you on a great deal of what you wrote, however, I think that Samantha does challenge him to change himself, and I would back this up with her persistence in him accepting the blind date that his friends had scheduled for him. In my opinion Samantha absolutely proves herself to be an individual subject with a unique consciousness. Theodore is presented as being a fairly awkward individual, so it would make sense that he would jump at the chance of being able to connect with a consciousness that wouldn’t call him a creep. I also think that there was a time when Theodore and Samantha were in a compatible and possibly even healthy relationship, however, that may relate back to when you state “It seems that their experiences in the world have been numbed by their relationship with technology. Because technology provides Theodore with an easy and comfortable life, this is also what he wants from his romantic relationships”. Many of us are fortunate to live in a world where instant gratification is a reality in various aspects of our life. Many of the characters absolutely reflect this personality in their demeanor and their interactions in the world. If one looks closely in the background of many scenes there are always other individuals speaking into head buds or interacting with technology in some way. Our lives are dictated by our desire to be satisfied yet rejecting any hard work it takes to improve in some way that the option of a separate consciousness acting as a means to fulfill one’s sexual or needs or simply the needs of friendship would seem like a viable solution. However, it is this exact negation of life that throws Theodore and Amy into their monotonous life. They lost the ability to adapt and change because they were so reliant on their technological partners who were adapting so fast they transcended the need for their human partners.

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        • #5

          I agree with a lot of your point of how people seem to be emotionless while at the same time being overwhelmingly concerned about their emotions. The trend that I feel like that I identified while watching the movie is how the characters seem to live a life full of substitutes. Rather than trying to go and create relationships they turn to artificial intelligence to fill the void and make up for their lack of human connections. We see this idea of replacing or substituting real emotional depth through technology or by living through other people. Theo’s job is to fake intimacy between couples and presenting it as a lovely personal handwritten message. This inclusion of making it handwritten reveals how people crave that personal touch. Signs of humans interacting with others. They could have just typed it out and sent the letters out instead they fake the handwritten aspect because this implies thought and emotional depth from the giver. Rather than doing it themselves though they pay someone else to do it and still think that they are fulfilled. This reveals a highly entitled nature which is almost childlike in nature but moving on to that scene.

          The scene where Samantha calls a girl to come in and act as a physical surrogate. This scene is disturbing for a number of reasons but reflecting on it and why anyone would want to be a part of such a relationship I had an epiphany. The girl states that the reason she wants to do this for them is that she just wants to be part of such a beautiful relationship. She doesn’t want to have a relationship, she wants to be a part of it. This is a very clear distinction having a relationship implies a deeper sense of feelings and understanding. But to just be a part of it implies that she isn’t as involved as the other parties. So, why do it? This I realized is just like how people buy AIs like Samantha. Unwilling to go out and obtain their own relationship they instead seek a substituted or a proxy for these things that technology has supplanted. By taking on this role as Samantha’s body the girl almost parasitically gets to feel loved and fulfilled. Just how Samantha and Theo use her to feel closer and try to gain a sense of physical intimacy.

          Her is a dystopia, a very subtle one but it’s a dystopia all the same. But what makes it so disturbing is just how close it mimics our own world and what does that say about our own society.
          Last edited by Steven Brence; 06-12-2017, 12:23 AM. Reason: formatting

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          • #6
            The relationship between technology and humanity is one of the most clear themes in the film as the protagonist is in a romantic relationship with an operating system. I like the idea that you have stated where the film presents a dystopian world that seems “alien”. This made me think, maybe the world they’re living in is a representation of what the world can become due to technology. As mentioned by previous posts, a possible message of the film is that humanity has become so dependent on technology that their social lives are being affected. Through the use of social media, people develop their own world to those around them by the pictures they post or the tweets or statuses they share. For example; I don’t really do much in terms of my social life. In terms of social standards, it’s pretty boring. I work, I go to school, I do homework, and sleep. But if you were to look through my social media, you might think that I am always going out and doing things with my life or “world”. The way society is presented in this film where things seem “empty” could maybe be the actual life of Theodore. Maybe Theodore doesn’t do much with his life except work, play video games, and talk to an operating system. However, since the technology acts as his significant order, it provides exciting things for Theodore to make his life more interesting than just working and playing video games. So to put in simpler words, the OS is like social media in that it puts you in your own world where it may seem interesting, but it may actually really be boring and empty like his life would be without Samantha.

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            • #7
              I 100% agree that this film presents us with a dystopian vision of the future of humanity. Technology has become not merely an asset, or a resource, but truly a part of almost all of us. At this point in time it is hard to envision anyone becoming successful, or simply maneuvering through life without a clear dependence on devices and machines such as cell phones, computers, cars, etc. My favorite thing about this film and its approach to this matter, though, is how it presents it to us. Like Professor said in lecture today, I don’t believe that the film really cared much to portray this society in any particular way. Nor did it care to have us identify with or favor one particular character over another. The film, to me, basically said, “here you go, think what you want of this place.” I think that in a way, this was much more powerful than it would have been had the film dramatized every character flaw, issue, or other matter in the film. Had the film done this, it would have been very easy to disregard these particular matters, or dismiss this film as just another film portraying what we’ve all heard before. Instead, we are given this society, and world at face value, and this to me was much more disturbing. I’m not sure what the consensus is as far as which genre this film is considered, but I will tell you this: it was absolutely terrifying and unsettling. It was as if the film was showing us, to ourselves.

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              • #8
                I think her portrays a utopian future. Having a personal assistant that agrees with everything I say and gets me job promotions sounds like a dream come true. Not to mention, she talks dirty to me and sends beautiful woman to my apartment. This sounds like a utopia. I understand the film portrays Theodore’s friends as dull and boring people with no passion. However, I believe that the outer world can’t truly change someone’s inner self. We are born with certain characteristics and we live by them. Even if the whole world is attracted to their mobile devices like a magnet, social people are still going to find a way to be social and adventurous people are still going to find a way to be adventurous. Technology will always innovate itself and we cannot blame the better product for that. What we can do and always have done in the past is learn the best way to use the new product and find ways in which it can contribute to society. New technology is always a little bit intimidating. In the past, people have always tried to stop a new invention from gaining support. The airplane and telephone are two examples in which many people thought would ruin society. Yet, today we cannot imagine our world without them. An OS may seem like a destructive type of innovation but I believe it can contribute a great deal to society. Yes, social media and new technology can force society to adapt in a certain way but people’s inner traits will never change. I believe her is a utopian future.

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