Monday, January 13, 2014

Spike Jonze' "Her" Raises Some Interesting Questions About the Future of Relationships

Being born into a certain generation is like being chained to a certain train of thought or set of ideals. Today, people can’t be expected to live without computers or cell phones. In the Middle Ages, it was caste systems and disease. If I spend too much time thinking about this, I’ll only get depressed because I realize that freedom is only an illusion that can be attained within a certain set of rules.

But sometimes I can’t help it. I often find myself wishing and daydreaming about living in the past. I think that part of this has to do with the fact that I’ve been watching people slowly drifting apart because of technology for my entire life. I’ve seen marriages- the ultimate of all intimate relationships- end because partners no longer live with their spouse; they live with their phone and their group of friends on Facebook. I’ve seen entire families sitting in the same room, all on their phones, barely noticing each other. These people spread their time thin over a hundred or a thousand people, instead of investing it into the person or small group of people that they really love. It’s not that they are trying to place distance; it’s just the world that they are chained to. 

Beneath the cool new shit and crazy special effects, movies almost always re-enforce this problem with technology, too. I remember one disturbingly funny scene in Demolition Man in which Sandra Bullock says she wants to have sex with Sylvester Stallone’s character. He agrees (duhhh) and gets ready for her to get naked. Instead, she hooks them up into a computer????? It’d be funny if it wasn’t so real.

This weekend, I watched Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams. The movie was funny at moments and incomplete in others, but its main focus is the role of technology in interpersonal relationships. Theodore Twombly- played by Phoenix- is an isolated, recently divorced man that leans on his operating system for comfort in the face of loneliness. Over time, he evolves with the “consciousness” (as it’s called in the movie) and falls in love. A pretty wild concept?

As I watched the film, I could hear other members of the audience scoffing at Phoenix as their laps lit up from cell phone lights. Other characters in the film roll their eyes and give him dirty looks as they have an earpiece in and they talk to themselves. It was surreal and funny and ludicrous all at the same time. The movie was mocking the audience and their destiny.

Today, people are already in relationships with their technology. Sure, for some, there are people on the other end of that line or computer screen. But this is superficial and distant. As people become more comfortable with technology, it’s going to take up more of their time. As technology is perfected, it’s going to become the tool that they rely upon for comfort. After all, why would anybody get too close to another person that is only going to hurt their feelings or make them confront something that they don’t like about themselves? Nobody. We’re a species that is all about minimizing pain. Why wouldn’t we cut that out, too?

In the end, Jonze’ film spends most of its time showing that getting too close to anything (computer or person) will only leave a person wounded. Everything is just evolving too fast and in too many directions for two beings to stay on the same path for an extended period of time. What Jonze says is a good point, but he seems to be of the group that is overly in love with technology and thinks that this destiny is inevitable. I, however, think that that is just a cop out. But who knows? I might just be too in love with the past.

Movie Grade- B


  1. The Coneheads use almost the exact same sexual system that is seen in Demolition Man, and not only are they madly in love, but they're totally kinky. If I remember correctly, that same sexual system blew Chris Farley's mind. the issue is not with technology, but with the fractured and weak people that define their lives by technology. furthermore, the role given to technology in HER could easily be substituted for a living, breathing mistress or introducing a 3rd person into a sexual relationship; both wreak as much havoc, if not more havoc, than technology. also, back to The Coneheads, which were truly just two people in a longstanding relationship, which is significant to point out in relation to technology because plenty of people use technology-- sex toys, Skype, etc.-- to enhance their sexual relationship, and it isn't a substitute. it takes a deal of trust, intimacy and love to continue growing with your partner. you have to be fearless when your in love, and Twombly isn't; he fought for nothing. all this is mostly to say that one does not have to be defined by his/her generation, only fragmented lemmings can fall into that pattern; one has to be fearless, an innovator and a thinker, to keep from falling into that death hole.

  2. That is a great point. Technology can definitely be used to amp up great aspects of a relationship. I hope people (including myself) stay aware of the potential- both good and bad- of technology. Coneheads is a great example and counter point, too (especially since it is a more enjoyable movie). It's also interesting that you discuss other replacement techniques because this very well could be less about technology and more about monogamy and dedication to loved ones.

  3. I've been wanting to see this one for a long time. J Phoenix is always an enjoyable watch for me, and if anyone can pull this off, it's him.

    Nice observations about the suckers and their hypocritical scoffing at technology. 

  4. Thanks Mote. I appreciate it. I know some ppl like it more than others, but it's definitely worth seeing for yourself