January 3, 2014


It hurts to be alone. It hurts to be rejected. It hurts not to be validated in the world. It is almost a painful realization of the vain aspects of one’s existence. Perhaps this is why the sting is so deep, and why countless artists try their hand at healing salves through film and song. On the other hand, to be loved is to be admired, to be cherished, to be valued. The worthiness of one’s action in the world is certified. The uncertainties of life that exacerbate its anxieties become relieved. Happiness is found through this medium. And all it takes is for someone to deem you significant. It’s probably why, apart from natural proclivity, so many people couple up. It is a way to shelter oneself from the tempest of living life. Of trying and failing and ending up with nothing in return.


In Her, we land smack dab in the middle of Theodore’s dreariness. He’s being dumped by his wife – actually for the last year – and he doesn’t want to confront his isolation in the world. He is much more comfortable burrowing himself in virtual simulations than having to quote deal. It’s no wonder then he is attracted to more virtual faire in the most sophisticated operating system on the planet. With one stone, he is able to solve both his loneliness and persist in a virtual realm.


The sophistication of the program is startling to him. What is most startling is how adoptive and understanding the program is to his personality. From the onset, there is no conflict between the operating system and he. It is only natural then that, like an opiate, he becomes addicted to the constant validation. It does not matter to him – or for the many others in that not too distant future – that it isn’t real. The simulation is so advanced that it might as well be counted as real.


And it is perhaps frightening that the culture accepts such intimate relationships between machine and man as genuine. Spike Jonze smartly paints a light-hearted dystopia, where self-indulgence through pleasure machining is valued over what Theodore’s wife would contemptuously note, quote reality. No one is bothered or concerned that people have turned inwards because of this new digital innovation. It just seems part of the times, which is alarmingly consistent with how consumer electronics are trending today.


When the addiction fades, all Theodore is left with are memories of his pleasures. Nothing has been built. He still has to face his loneliness in the world. He may distract himself from the sun, but it still shines through his window and onto his face, waking him up in the morning. How he faces that morning still remains a riddle that he and his culture cannot answer.


Grade: B+



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