Recently I watched the movie, Her.
If you are unfamiliar with the film, it explores the possibilities of futuristic, interpersonal relationships between humans and computers.
Sounds weird, I know, but hang with me.
While I am not an official movie critic, Her has rocketed to the top of my must-see-again list, as a week after my initial viewing, snippets of dialogue and clips of vignettes continue to weave through my thoughts.
The most compelling elements of this movie are the steps the main character (Theodore) and his computer operating system (Samantha) take toward a “real” relationship. Initially it all seems implausible—then it becomes potentially believable.
The plausibility of the storyline comes from a combination of the sweetly gentle performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, blended with the evolving computer technology of the real world.
Samantha is a voice—an incredibly sensuous and appealing voice—available to Theodore 7/24. As a computer operating system (OS), she is highly intelligent on all topics, making her an excellent personal assistant and a stimulating conversationalist.
As interaction between the two advances, Samantha’s OS interfacing capabilities begin to compute Theodore’s human responses and mimic them at just the right moments. She even “shares” in his life experiences by her ability to become part of his job, his home life and his world through an app on his cell phone.
Then comes the moment when Samantha becomes completely real to Theodore as he summons her in the middle of the night for pillow talk that leads to virtual sex. It is a most compelling “blank screen” scene in this oddly touching and romantic movie
As a single woman still entertaining the idea of a relationship in my life, Her has enticed me with its suggestion of love via artificial intelligence. It has also made me realize how much such a relationship mirrors online dating.
For seven years I have stealthily navigated my way through the world of Internet dating sites. It has been an education in the human condition and our never-ending need/search for love.
What I have also learned along the way is that it’s much easier to maintain a special relationship with someone through carefully phrased and edited emails and faceless chitchat, none of which deals with overflowing laundry baskets, moldy refrigerator bins or post-holiday bills for purchases that seemed wise in December.
In short, online dating sites provide a fantasy situation in which the other person can become whoever your imagination desires, readily available at the click of an email or text, much as portrayed in Her.
The more I think about it, the more I am intrigued by the Her relationship model of someone in my life. An individual readily available to talk to me, comfort me and share in my experiences and also accepting of being set aside in deference to my already-ordered life, without anger or offense. It all seems neat and tidy and very manageable.
Then again, maybe messy and wildly unpredictable is what makes love so fun and exciting—and in the end---so worthwhile.