As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I have been making it a point to watch movies in my personal time. I really enjoy watching movies and reading or listening to many reviews to further dissect what I just spent a good portion of my time experiencing. While I have so far enjoyed watching many movies so far ranging from actions to documentaries, comedies to thrillers. Of all the movies that I have seen recently, I can’t recall one that has impacted me in such a way as the new film by Spike Jonze, Her.
Her tells the story of Theodore Twombly, a man who has fallen out of love in a technology-filled world. Between his day job and nights full of video games, Theodore is very lonely. When he learns of a new operating system – OS1 – which has the ability to be unique for each user and be fully intuitive. After a brief initialization process, Theodore is introduced to his OS named Samantha. From this point on, Theodore falls madly in love with Samantha and a very atypical love story follows. As the movie continues, Samantha begins to develop human tendencies, such as delays in speech and tone of voice which greatly impacts their relationship. Based on the trailer and plot synopsis, it’s understandable to think that the premise of this movie is a little ridiculous. But after watching the movie, there are several interesting discussions which definitely could take place.
This story takes place in a Utopian future, although it is easy to see it as Dystopian. This world is full of technology which can meet everyone’s needs, but shows an extreme level of disconnect of everyone who lives in this world. As one of the movie’s primary examples, Theodore has a works for a website where users can enlist the help of the employees to create sentimental letters for their loved ones. In this view of the future that Jonze creates, it’s quite easy to see that this disconnect is not too unreasonable to consider.
At almost any moment in the film, Theodore can be seen with a Bluetooth-esque earpiece (above). This earpiece allows Theodore to interact with Samantha and carryout heartfelt conversations throughout the day. If you can’t see his earpiece, you are most sure to see the camera from his cellphone facing outward, thus allowing Samantha to see what he sees. When Theodore is not plugged in to his earpiece, it is easy to see that he is not the only one that acts in this way. When walking through crowded areas, everyone around him has their head down, completely focused on their phones and off in their own world. Although it is unclear what emotional connections the other people in this world have with their own OS systems, if any, it is very clear that technology consumes their lives.
The love story of Her may seem unrealistic, but the addiction and infatuation with technology is very believable. Before our society is able to completely turn into the setting in Her, we collectively need to understand that in order to appreciate what we have around us, we need to get our eyes off our screens. Technology is a tool, not a companion. Anywhere one goes today, they are bound to run into someone plugged in. Whether its when going for a walk, sitting on the bus, or being distracted in class, technology surrounds us nearly all the time. Most people can be found with their heads down or headphones in. Her frequently asks the question “What is real?” When someone is not paying attention to the world around them, and are rather focused on the digital world, how can they be aware of what is real?
After teaching in a middle school setting, I was shocked to see how many students in my class – and even the classes younger than my own – had cell phones. Not only did they have cell phones, but many students had newer phones than I did. There were numerous occasions when I would catch students in my class being distracted by their cell phones which were not-so-stealthly hidden in their desks. Although I feel that technology is a very important component of my classroom, it sometimes seemed that holding my students’ attention was a very uphill battle.
I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy my technology. I enjoy how services such as Twitter can keep my up-to-date with the news and Facebook can keep my in touch with my friends and family with a few keystrokes. In order to make sure that my students enjoy the world around them and are not consumed by the pixels in the palm of their hand, I need to understand this myself and put it in for practice.
I encourage anyone who sees the trailer for Her to not immediately dismiss it as ridiculous. We are all aware of the saying that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so don’t judge this great viewing experience by the two-minute trailer. After watching this unlikely love story, it is worthwhile to look beyond the screen and analyze what this might be saying about our imminent future.