Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and the husky voice of Scarlett Johansson, is out on DVD/Blu-ray today. In my original review, I described Her as a glum romance. Phoenix has the heavy task of carrying the movie, and he does it well. However, in terms of fun, Her has the minimum amount. You’d think a relationship, especially a virtual one, would allow you to enjoy yourself. Alas, Phoenix’s character never breaks from his pathetic nature and realizes that his virtual girlfriend (that he’s able to fit in his pocket) cannot commit to him the way he would to her. The near future created by Spike Jonze felt real, so real that even dream relationships aren’t meant to work out.
The following are virtual, imagined and digital relationships relationships that would not work out. In theory, every one of them should work, but something must always go wrong.
5 – Megan/Angela (Catfish)
At this point, the term “Catfish” is very well known. The Urban Dictionary describes it as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” That term was popularized by the original “documentary” (and subsequent MTV series) that followed Nev Schulman as he tracked down the model he met on Facebook and had been talking to on the phone for over a year. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you rent it now. Don’t read up on it. If you must, just watch the trailer. But go in with as little information as possible.
Catfishing became front page news with the Manti Te’o situation. Of the following selections on the list, a catfish would be the most likely, realistic threat. Just look at the success of Tinder. You may think you’re swiping right at the man/woman of your dreams, but it could easily be some mustachioed creeper wearing long-johns in the backwoods of Montana. If that sort of thing is your thing, then swipe and chat away. I think I would have appreciated “Her” more if Joaquin Phoenix found out that “Samantha” was not an operating system, but actually some chain-smoking middle-aged woman from Cleveland.
4 – Ruby Sparks
Bear with me here. Ruby Sparks is not exactly a foreboding tale of the science fiction future. It’s definitely an analog fairy tale rather than a digital one. Ruby Sparks tell the story of Calvin, a wannabe author writing his next book on his personal typewriter. (Magical typewriter?) He writes about his dream girl and one morning, finds that she has been written into existence. Once he gets over the fact that she is a living, breathing, corporeal woman, he realizes that she has every trait that he could possibly want. That works, except that he finds he has the power to rewrite certain character traits, if she starts getting too independent. She then loses her identity and control because she is a figment of his creation. Relationships don’t work well if one person is being manipulated, obviously.
I’m sure many of us have imagined the dream partner. Who wouldn’t want someone with all the perfect traits and without the flaws that befall us all? Predictability may feel safe, but would get boring very quickly. Also, there is something morally wrong with rewriting a person every time they show independence.
3 – Lisa (Weird Science)
If there’s one hard fact that scientists live by, it’s to always wear bras on their heads while performing dangerous experiments. Apparently the creation of Lisa only takes the use of a floppy disk and the world’s 3rd oldest computer. I’m no expert at writing code, but apparently the Apple 2 could create intelligence and differing chest sizes. Just add a barbie and jumper cables and you’re good to go. Long story short, Kelly LeBrock is created and she is a 10. Never mind that she somehow has magic powers to open the gates of hell. In the end, the boys don’t even end up with her. She walks out of their lives like the Cat in the Hat. It was probably for the best as both boys were 15 years old. There’s no need for Chris Hansen to interview Lisa (save that for the sequel).
Unless you want your siblings to be turned into demons or your grandparents to disappear forever, then it’s best to not open the gates of hell with your computer and create intelligence. Also, if you ever create the perfect woman, she will realize that she’s out of your league and disappear from your life in a puff of smoke.
2 – Mal (Inception)
Mal, or Mallorie Cobb, is the antagonist of Inception. Or rather, Cobb’s digital memories recreate her as a villain. Though Mal is a figment of Cobb’s broken mind, she is able to cause harm to people traveling through dreams. She manages to shoot two people and stab another. Fun fact: “Mal” means ill, bad or wrongful in French.
Many guys have nightmares about their ex-wives. She manages to haunt hers and cause him actual harm and stop him from completing his job. The original Mal is good enough to spend 50 years in a dream with. Sadly, she didn’t have enough mental stability to cope with reality. If you do somehow end up working heists in dreams, make sure you have a good relationship or good last memory of your significant other. Mal represents a former partner making a drastic choice between leaving dreamland or escaping from the monotony of her environment.
1 – HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
You don’t mess with HAL. This AI is known for being the malicious all-seeing red eye in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like any relationship, HAL starts out as practical. It guides the astronauts and directs them to any problems with the craft. However, HAL begins to malfunction and lies to the crew. In its “logical” mind, it feels that the entire crew needs to die so that it won’t have to lie to them anymore. Also, it doesn’t want to be shut down.
HAL can read lips and body language, which makes this sentient machine all the more terrifying. The crew was so dependent on HAL for survival, that the majority of them were killed off before they had a chance to resist. The only person to escape the calm wrath of HAL was David.
HAL feels more human than most of the human characters in the movie. After it kills the majority of the crew, it tells David, “Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.” If Her had HAL 9000 as the OS, instead of Samantha, the movie would have played out much differently. Every time Theodore would have made the same mistakes and reverted back to old, poor behaviors, HAL would have incinerated everyone bringing him down. Someone please tell me there’s a 2001/Her mashup somewhere out there.