Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Not Liking “Her”

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 6, 2014


“Her” is a Spike Jonze movie that seemed psychological and technological at the same time. What if artificial intelligence could produce a voice which was attentive, sympathetic, and seductive? What if the feelings elicited felt like love, even though there was cognitive dissonance to suggest that it is “crazy” to be in love with an operating system? So, the movie unfolds with a melancholic character named Theodore, who is brought to life by Samantha, the new “OS”. Unlike “Lars and the Real Girl” where a fantasy relationship felt to me to be moving and deep, the relationship between Theodore and Samantha, in my mind, proved to be shallow and predictable. Yes, if someone says everything you want to hear, then good feelings will ensue, but does this, or can this, compensate for the lack of an individual who has his own thoughts and needs? It was not that Samantha was an “OS” that was the problem, but rather the “OS” was limited in her ability to go deeper into Theodore’s psyche, such that her responses were predictable and trite. Theodore was too melancholy to have us laugh at the premise, such that he created pity in me, rather than connection. Similarly, Samantha was always polite and giving that, as with all unidimensional people, I began to wonder what else is going on. She had no layers. The best part of the film, and yes, that is not saying much, was a video game character who was programmed to be an adolescent, making us laugh at ourselves for enjoying the sarcastic anger that adolescents bring into our lives. The futuristic notion of an OS serving as a human companion seems reasonable and helpful as a tool for many folks who have, for a variety of reasons, have become islands of loneliness and despair. This movie, however, was not a good selling job for the future. I want my OS to have more complications. Of course you do- I hear my readers say aloud.

4 Responses to “Not Liking “Her””

  1. Jon said

    While I can understand and agree with your comments of not liking “her” (the “OS” of Samantha), I differ about not liking *her* the movie.

    Yes, Samantha was somewhat uni-dimensional, and yes, the arc of her relationship with Theodore was predictable, albeit I disagree about the characteristic of her responses as “trite”. However, I thought that this was a good exploration into relationships. What happens in good speculative fiction (science fiction in this instance) is the delving into possibilities by changing something of this world and seeing where it goes.

    Shirah, you comment, “This movie, however, was not a good selling job for the future. “ That is not the job of this movie. It is not trying to “sell” any future, but rather look at what one possible future might offer. As predicted, I, as one of your readers say (and type) “Of course you want your OS to have more complications.” However, that is not what Spike Jonze is doing. He is exploring what happens to his character Theodore interacting with a divorcing wife, neighbors and colleagues (some with complications), and “her”, as she was. I understand why you contrast *her* to *Lars and the Real Girl*; however, they are different looks into relationships. The latter movie looks into a man’s relationship with an inanimate object, while this movie looks into a man’s relationship with an interactive (if not conscious) one. Again, this is not a predictive movie, but a speculative one. As such, I was most pleased.

    • Thanks, Jon for a different perspective. I appreciate your point of view. I have learned, from my movie going experience, that generally speaking, my enjoyment, is narrow, in that I intensely want to experience a relationship with depth and nuance. Thanks again.

  2. Shelly said

    Shirah, I understand that you didn’t like the movie. However, from a psychiatrist’s perspective, some people live in relationships exactly like the one Theodore and Samantha have. One partner can be three dimensional and the other, trite and predictable. From the movie you can get how Theodore may feel by being in just such a relationship and the unfairness of it. No wonder Theodore was melancholy. How could he not be? I get it that that’s not the reason to go to a movie at all. But we learn something from life every day, and that can be something you “got” out of the movie.

    • I think that Theodore had a melancholy personality in that he tended to be serious and thoughtful as opposed to spontaneous and cheery. Added on to that he was getting divorced and now in a relationship with Samantha. Yes, I agree that even movies I do not like change me in some fundamental way, in that they expand my understanding and thinking about the world. Yes, some people live in very asymmetrical relationships, and as such, there is a sense of anger and resentment that can build quietly, over a long period of time. Mutuality is very important and without that, relationships feel painful and frustrating. Thanks, as always.

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