Post-humanism. People are fiction (Her movie review)

How does solitude in the time of post-humanism looks like. What’s a definition of post-human love? Can a machine fall in love? Are cyborgs’ hearts warm? If you are able to create your alternative self that exists in the virtual reality, can you also create a virtual lover? And – last but not least – can a virtual creature love you back?

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) could answer most of these questions. Spike Jonze, the director of ‘Her’, blurs the boundaries between the virtual world and reality. His movie could be described as both – utopia and dystopia. In fact – it’s a utopian story that slowly turns into a dystopian horror.

 Of course the word ‘horror’ is used here as a metaphor, because the only truly scary thing here is a newly-purchased operating system. Theodore’s horror is a horror of disappointments, and of painful aware of not being able to project the ideal life, and never-ending love. In ‘Her’, the perfect construction of a being that would be both – invisible and existing becomes the project of a non-human phenomenon that crosses the borders of its projected destiny and becomes independent. For this reason ‘Her’ is not only a dystopian story of love between human and non-human, but also a parable that is composed of our post-human fears and hopes. The director seems to criticize the blind belief in the never-ending possibilities of new technologies, but on the other hand – he clearly uses the richness of the post-human imaginary.

What’s interesting, the voice of Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) could be replaced by the real person. Then we’d get a typical story about a poor guy who trusted too much and an ungrateful woman. Samantha seems to be a post-human incarnation of femme fatale. She is even more powerful and destructive than her older sisters, because the status of her existence is not clear: her actions affect reality, but her body has no shape. It exists only in Theodore’s mind. Samantha is a highly developed fantasy that has left the area reserved for fiction and inhabited in the space of reality. 100 hundred years ago she would be a proof of Theodore’s mental disability. The director highlights here the biggest absurd of post-human world – we create a self-made schizophrenia and share our selves with fictional creatures (avatars) and we believe in their authenticity.

Samantha could also be a metaphorical incarnation of a digital god that controls life on earth from its digital kingdom. The problem with god is – he listens to human prayers only when he wants to, and so does Samantha – she gives Theodore’s pieces of illusion of love only when she is in a good mode. Jonze movie seems to be a camouflaged praise of humanity itself – we need neither digital nor religious gods to earn earth happiness. The problem is – we have to accept the possibility of failure.