One of my favorite R&B songs from the 1980s was a tune entitled, Computer Love. The former hit song was performed by Zapp and Roger. The song was very smooth and rhythmic. The lyrics were not too detailed or profound, but it was the first song that I could remember that involved talk about 'love' and 'computers' in the same song. At least a thirty second sample should have been used somewhere in Spike Jonze's new romantic film entitled, Her just for added spice and effect.
Speaking of the 1980s, I remember watching a film about a woman who falls in love with an alien. The movie was titled, Starman, and it starred Actor Jeff Bridges and Actress Karen Allen. Bridges actually earned an Oscar nomination for his role as the alien who not only looked human in its form, but more specifically, the alien actually resembled the female lead's (Allen) recently deceased husband in the story.
I remember prior to watching the film, I had an attitude of, "No way will I find it 'believable' for a woman to fall in love with an alien species ... even if the alien looks like her deceased husband." Director John Carpenter ended up proving me wrong. I will confess ... I actually got choked up at the end of that film. The execution of that story was excellent.
I will give similar props to Writer / Director Spike Jonze for his new comedy-drama, Her. Also, I have to give kudos to Casting Directors Cassandra Kulukundis and Ellen Lewis, in addition to Jonze. The only thing that really makes this story work, and seem reasonably believable, is because of the exceptional casting. Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, and Joaquin Phoenix provide stellar performances in this very quirky film that should easily be considered one of the year's top ten best films.
The story centers on Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a man who is going through the final stages of a painful divorce from his soon-to-be ex-wife, Catherine (Actress Rooney Mara). One day, after leaving work for the day (Theodore's job is to write letters for men and women who are not good at expressing themselves to their family members or significant others), Theodore passes an exhibit for a new computer operating system that is advertised as being intuitive and thoughtful like a human. It even communicates with the owner of the operating system (OS1) with a very human-like voice (the voice of Johansson).
Soon, Theodore begins to develop an 'emotional bond' with his operating system, and he begins to treat OS1 as if it were his girlfriend. Now on-paper ... the premise sounds absolutely ridiculous. Particularly for the average male moviegoer. But - similar to the aforementioned Starman - Jonze does an excellent job making the 'unbelievable' seem believable. In some ways, I would refer to Her as "Starman meets Blue Valentine."
I do not want to discuss too many of the story's plot points in specific detail, because I do not want to give away too many spoilers for those who have yet to see the movie (but be warned: there are two or three 'minor' and general "spoilers" below). I will touch on a few of the scenes that provoked either a) an interesting observation about modern day dating and relationships, and/or b) a question for you - the reader - to ponder as we progress further into the 21st Century.
1) Have you ever engaged in phone sex or cyber-sex with a man or woman without knowing what they look like, or anything about their background?
Comment: If the answer is 'yes,' then you will be able to totally relate to the personality quirks of Theodore Twombly very well. If the answer is 'no,' his character as well as the film in general is probably going to seem a wee bit 'weird,' 'eccentric,' or even 'strange' to you.
Side note: Kristen Wiig, of NBC's Saturday Night Live fame and the writer and star of the huge box-office hit, Bridesmaids, has an absolutely hilarious voice-cameo as one of Theodore's anonymous phone sex partners.
2) Can a human being develop strong emotional feelings for a non-human and/or an inanimate object?
Comment: Sure. I know men who literally cried when their favorite car got totally destroyed in an accident, or simply stopped working because of engine failure and/or transmission failure. Similarly, many women cry when their favorite dog or cat passes away.
When my Sony PlayStation 2 stopped working back in 2007, I was dejected for about a week. Okay, okay ... I am lying. Make that three weeks.
3) How much time do you spend per day, on average, actively using your desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet, and/or smartphone? How would you react if one or more of those devices communicated with you with the (sexy) voice of a man or woman?
Comment: In this day and age, human beings and their technological devices are almost inseparable. Many men and women have probably gone a number of days without the romantic and/or sexual companionship of another human being, but it's doubtful if anyone in today's society goes more than 24-36 hours without using their desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Just think about if those devices included the voice of a real human man or woman (I am not talking about a computerized-sounding voice like the iPhone's popular 'Siri' feature; but I am referring to a voice that actually sounded like you were talking to another person over-the-phone). My prediction is that many of us would become 'addicted' to conversing with our own devices.
4) At the risk of generalizing, the vast majority of men look at love and sex as two totally different entities; Consequently, it is very believable for a man to be 'in love' with his computer's operating system, even though that computer could never satisfy his physical or sexual needs.
Comment: There have been at least four or five articles that I have written for this column where I highlighted the difference between how men and women view the concept of "being in love." For many men, the thought of being in love, and the thought of satisfying their sexual urges is like apples and oranges. Conversely, for many women, being in love and enjoying themselves sexually with a man is like apples and apple juice or like oranges and orange juice.
I have conversed with many women who flat out conveyed to me that it is extremely challenging for them to open up to a man sexually if they do not feel like they are in love with that guy. On the other hand, the vast majority of men could have sex with a woman two hundred times and never, ever feel like he is "falling in love" with that woman.
As mentioned in my article on The Madonna / Whore Complex, the first and most profound relationship any man has with a woman is usually with his mother (dysfunctional relationships excluded, of course). A man's mother wiped his dirty behind as a toddler, bathed him, nurtured him, encouraged him, supported him, cooked for him, financially supported him, and really did not care about how he looked or what type of car he drove. For many men, that is their definition of 'love,' even if that is not at all representative of romantic or sexual love. That is unconditional love.
When a man thinks about a woman loving him ... truly loving him with no underlying agenda or motive ... there is a greater than fifty percent chance that he is going to think about how much love was shown to him by his mother. Because there is no sex involved with that relationship (dysfunctional and incestuous exceptions excluded), most men tend to develop the attitude that "sex is sex ... and love is love." In most men's minds, the two concepts are nowhere near being synonymous with one another.
Which leads me back to the film. Even if you take away the possibility of Theodore having sex with the computer (which we all know could never happen), "Samantha" (the name OS1 gave herself) is still very encouraging, nurturing, supportive, and non-materialistic. Samantha never says, "You're not handsome enough for me," or "You don't make enough money for me," or "Your penis is not big enough for me," or "You are not as educated as I would like you to be." What man - particularly one with self-esteem or confidence problems - would NOT fall in love with a woman (ooops! I meant computer) like Samantha? Men generally fall in love with women who are extremely loyal and supportive - the "ride or die" type chick.
When you watch the film, you will see that Samantha does have her flaws ... but being totally superficial or materialistic is not one of them. Just like most men's mothers.
5) Is there ever any benefit to bringing 'emotional baggage' from a past relationship into a new relationship?
Comment: Obviously, that is a rhetorical question. The reality is, many men and women tend to make that mistake. This is the first mistake that Theodore makes with Samantha. Theodore is still not completely over his soon-to-be ex-wife. Samantha can sense that. On the flip side, Samantha has no memory of a 'past relationship.' So she has no fears, doubts, insecurities, or 'baggage.' At least, not yet.
6) Women love having your full, undivided attention
Comment: As I mentioned in my very last article, if there is one thing that women want just as much if not more than money and sex from a man, it is flattering attention and entertaining social companionship. Even the OS1 named Samantha wants Theodore to pay her attention. Samantha loves listening to Theodore vent, explain, and entertain ... but she wants to vent, explain, and entertain too from time to time.
In other words, after a while, Samantha starts behaving like a real (human) woman.
7) Would you be motivated to remain in a relationship if your degree of personal growth has far exceeded the personal growth of your spouse or significant other?
Comment: There is a common saying that everyone comes into our life for a "reason, a season, or a lifetime." There are probably a few people in your life that you used to feel very close to (either romantically, sexually or platonically) that you no longer feel compatible with.
Many marriages end because the wife has evolved and grown intellectually and emotionally ... but the husband has remained the same as he was since Day One of the relationship (or vice versa). We as human beings are not the same at 18 years of age as we were at 8 years of age, and generally speaking, no human should be the same person at 38 years of age that he or she was at 18 years of age.
One problem that arises between Samantha and Theodore is that Samantha's "mind" or "conscience" is evolving at a much faster pace than Theodore's is. Actually, exponentially faster. Samantha is capable of absorbing knowledge and wisdom in a matter of seconds or minutes that it would take the average human being decades to comprehend.
8) For those heavily connected to modern technology, the days of maintaining a totally "private" and "discreet" life are slowly but surely diminishing
Comment: There are some who say the day is going to come when if you go out on a 'blind date,' you will be able to simply put that person's name in a computer app ("Google Date" maybe?), and a significant amount of information is going to be displayed about that person.
Because Samantha was connected to the information highway, she knew much about Theodore within a matter of minutes. There was not too much he was able to hide about himself and his past from her.
9) Even in a large city with millions of people, a man or a woman could easily find themselves feeling lonely and disconnected from people
Comment: Many people make the mistake of assuming that the only men or women who get lonely are those who have only a handful of friends, those who are extremely shy and introverted, and/or those who live in very small towns with small populations.
Not true. Right now, there is a certain percentage of charismatic and gregarious men and women living in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York who spend most of their evenings and weekends by themselves. Or, if not by themselves, they may share the company of a handful of purely platonic friends on a regular or semi-regular basis.
Even though in today's society, you have online matchmaking services and social networking sites, many men and women are still having a very challenging time genuinely connecting with others romantically and/or sexually.
10) Which is more important in a marriage or long-term romantic relationship: a) how loyal, considerate, and trustworthy your companion is as a true friend? b) how many pleasurable orgasms your companion helps you experience? c) how much your companion contributes to improving or maintaining your quality of life? d) how many hours per day your companion gives you their full, undivided attention?
Comment: In the 1950s and prior, many in society sought to connect with would-be spouses and romantic companions who would provide them with a + b + c + d.
In today's world, that is becoming more and more challenging. In 2014, consider yourself extremely fortunate to find a long-term romantic partner that provides you with simply a + b, a + c, or b + d. I know at least a few women who have at least one man who satisfies the needs of "a," "b," "c," and "d" individually for them.
For example, in the film Her, Amy (Actress Amy Adams) provides Theodore with the "a" component, and occasionally the "d" component, but not much else, which is why the two are not romantically or sexually involved.
That is the ultimate challenge for men and women. Most men either want a relationship with a woman that is both sexual and non-sexual, or if they can't have both, they will settle for a relationship that is strictly sexual. With the vast majority of women, they are both similar, but yet different. Most women also ideally want a partner who they can enjoy their companionship both sexually and non-sexually, but if they cannot have both, they will usually settle for a purely platonic friendship with a man.
Bottom line, this is why many men are known for having their "main woman," and then a number of for-sex-only women on the side, while many women might have a "main man" and then a stable of "play brothers" who provide them with anything and everything but sex (even though some women seek to emulate men in today's dating scene, and have their share of "for-sex-only" male partners too).
I would recommend Her to both men and women. In order to enjoy it thoroughly, you cannot look at the film or the situations as being totally real, but rather as metaphors for real life situations that have been experienced in the New Millennium, and more importantly, that will be experienced during the remainder of the 21st Century.
On a personal note, I am so glad I do not have my own version of "Samantha." An operating system that could send out e-mail messages to all of my personal contacts on my behalf? After a heated argument? No thank you.
I'll stick with Windows 7 for now.
Her opens nationwide on Friday, January 10, 2014
Alan Roger Currie is the author of a number of books, including Mode One: Let the Women Know What You're REALLY Thinking and Oooooh . . . Say it Again: Mastering the Fine Art of Verbal Seduction and Aural Sex. Currie's latest eBook, The Possibility of Sex: How Naive and Lustful Men are Manipulated by Women Regularly is also available exclusively on Amazon.com in their Kindle format. You can also download a copy of Currie's eBook on your iPhone, Android Smartphone, or other Smartphone.
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