*WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
One of the most useful things I’ve learned in college is an interesting finding from the relatively new field of positive psychology: what makes people happy? Is it the glamour of material things, is it the fulfilling notion of success, or is it the soulful ability to express oneself through art?
No, apparently not. It is—as my teacher often reminds our class—the relationships we have with other people. The movie in question offers a perfect depiction of that fact. Once you get past the almost-silly notion of a fully intuitive operating system, you get to the meat of it all: people are happy with other people, and are less happy (at least, in the long run) with not-people.
I’m not trying to be racist here. I mean, if aliens do exist out there, I’m not saying it’s impossible to be happy in a relationship with them. In fact, the movie raises some very intriguing questions about this dynamic. What if you fall in love with your human-like computer? What are the limitations and what are the added benefits of that relationship?
'Her' shows us that getting together with your computer is very similar to getting together with your long-distance partner. Your interactions (and your sexual experiences) are fully dependent on wires, you're faced with threats from the 'physical presence' of other people, and you'll have difficulty going on double-dates with other couples.
However, unlike LDRs, you can’t actually look forward to seeing your partner face-to-face, you can’t take advantage of the added realness of video chat, and there’s a entirely new level of stigma that you have to deal with. After all, who in their right mind would date their computer? But then in the world of ‘Her’, who wouldn’t?
The film also explores the relationship cycle. Apparently, being in love with your computer does not exempt you from the conflict and conflict-resolution phases of human relationships. Samantha’s not-being-a-human gets in the way at times, jealousy strikes with other people and other OSes, and even if you’re dating a piece of technology, you still have to deal with the drama of ‘I need space’ and ‘I need time to think’.
These striking similarities are odd, but they are grounded in the intricacies of human nature. Because after all, Samantha, despite having superior mental prowess and having no real body, is programmed to connect with humans on a more personal level—and that drags her down to our level, that makes her human. Her relationship with Theodor isn’t any more immune to the complications of human relations than any one of us. Their ups and downs, their wonderful moments and not are familiar, if not similar. But does that merit them the happiness that positive psychology promised us? Does Samantha’s human-like nature make her a human being too?
The film tells us otherwise. Their relationship ends bittersweetly, with both of them off to (hopefully) greener pastures. Samantha’s non-humanlike nature played a significant part in their breakup, but it would be wrong to conclude that this trait was the cause of it all. Anyone who watched the movie closely would know that Theodor was genuinely happy with her, but short-term happiness is different from a sustainable one. There were also several things inevitably wrong with their relationship: Samantha’s predisposition to be romantically-attached to multiple people, their inherent difference in physical form, and the lack of, well, tactile interaction.
But these are mere problems, and what relationship doesn’t have them? Are they too unsolvable to threaten Theodor’s happiness, or will they be mere specks in the wider span of things as time goes by? I guess we’ll have to wait for the time when we have the privilege of interacting fully with technology to find out. Until then, we’ll make do with speculating on whether or not computers are counted as “other people”.
You showed me beauty and glare
In the little, hidden things
Of nature, of love
Of wonders and moments
That rolled off the top of my tongue
And set my eyes on a fiery blaze
You opened up colours and sound
And lent me a paint brush
To which I lightly formed the world
Around me and beyond
All the beautiful details and not
All the vibrant scenes and less
You pulled me in to a new set
Of orbs that could look beyond the mighty
Could see through the looking glass
With a match worthy of the books
A mix far above the spectrum
You set my spirits to frolick
Among the good, kind folk
Amongst lightheadedness and grace
And vividness, and faces
The beauty of all, the stillness
So bring this new soul to the spot
Where I grew up, where I found
The blend of careful crafting
And the splash of majestic artistry
That you pushed out from me
2013 was probably the most life-changing year for me: my age lost the ‘teen’ in it, I got my first full-time job, got my first real break as a writer, and learned the value of money, ambition, and time. I hope 2014 will be even more exciting!