About this time last week, I finished off one of the funniest, most enlightening, and most terrifying books I’ve read all year (and as many of y’ll know, I’ve read a lot).
The book was Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, and it was a humorous and engaging look at the way technology has affected the way people meet other people. It examined the way platforms like OKCupid and Tindr have affected the way we meet potential partners, and also the way swipes, tweets, IM’s, and emails have played into what happens after that initial meeting. To say things have changed a lot in a short amount of time would be putting it mildly…and considering I have been happily married the entire time, all of this electronic romantic engagement was news to me.
In reading it all, I found myself thinking back on Spike Jonze’s film HER – a film that was one of my very favorites of its year.
At the time that I wrote it, I thought of Theodore’s relationship to Samantha as a lifeline to the outside world; intimacy for a man who was terrified of intimacy.
Now I seem it as something so much more – a film not only of its time, but perhaps ahead of its time. It’s a film that understands technology’s place in our personal relationships is ways that movies like MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN could only dream. It’s not only a film about those of us who feel isolated, but likewise about those of us who are lucky enough to be connected. It sees the worlds we now inhabit are not exactly like the worlds we once knew, but that doesn’t make them any less real.
We used to pine for ringing phones and envelopes in our mailbox; now we wait for snapchats and right-swipes. The stigma of that gratification coming from our technology is slipping away…it was when HER came into our lives two years ago, and has slipped even further in the time since.
The reaction to expressions of love and attraction are the same, it’s only the medium that has changed through time.
To that end, HER grows in resonance with every passing day. It understands the ways our parents and grandparents hearts used to leap at the sight of a handwritten letter…and it fuses that into the way our hearts leap at the sound of an incoming Skype call, or the ping that accompanies an incoming photo.
I may not be using technology to look for connection the way Aziz details in his book, or the way Spike Jonze illustrates in HER…but I still rely on it to stay close to the people I care about most. It’s a development that is joyous, mind-boggling, intimidating, and nearly beyond comprehension. It would have been unthinkable one generation ago, but here we are – in an age where a kooky Spike Jonze idea is pretty darned close to the reality we inhabit.
Click below for my original review of HER, and feel free to leave comments with your thoughts on this film and its place in the decade so far.