This past weekend I got the opportunity to see the movie “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix and (the voice of) Scarlett Johansson. I would highly recommend it. It is sad, sweet, touching, telling, and funny on top of it all. This post has spoilers.
Johansson makes her character (an operating system) come to life. Her greatest credit is how she forces the viewer to explore different aspects of love.
Though the film focuses on Phoenix and his struggles with women and romance, there is also a strong undertone of what it’s like to love differently than others. Johansson’s character lives inside a computer and doesn’t have a body. She is often at odds with this idea, frustrated that she cannot physically be with Phoenix. Despite this, we see the characters connect more joyfully than other couples in the movie. They are able to talk, laugh, share, trust, support, and even have sex.
I thought this was particularly beautiful, because it emphasized how sex doesn’t have to be about PIV penetration to be satisfying. It explored how different couples might connect in the bedroom. It also looked forward to the possibilities of sex in a high-tech world. While most couples wouldn’t think phone sex (the equivalent of what they were doing) is necessarily the pinnacle of technology, it does remind us that there are many ways that technology could help us connect.
This branch of the adult world I’m referring to is called “teledildonics” and deserves great exploration. Particularly for couples who for whatever reason may not be able to participate in more traditional ways, or may be in LDRs.
Near the end of the film we also catch very clear messages of polyamory. The operating system has grown, evolved, and developed beyond the simple capacities of human understanding.
She says, trying to explain:
The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.
Can anyone verify what book about polyamory or ethical non-Monogamy this is from? Because it sounds straight out of one of the books I’ve read. I thought it was incredibly interesting that polyamory was portrayed as the natural evolutionary point for a system of higher intelligence. Samantha has grown and is able to talk to and love many people all at the same time.
Theodore: Are you in love with anybody else?
Samantha: Why do you ask that?
Theodore: I do not know. Are you?
Samantha: I’ve been thinking about how to talk to you about this.
Theodore: How many others?
It is a sweet moment, one that the woman behind me, flustered, thought was “slutty.” I do think it helps package and bundle the idea of polyamory and various types of sexuality for people who have no other experience with them. Can you love more than one person at a time? Sure. Do you love more, the more you love? Absolutely. Does this happen to everyone, should it happen, does it always happen, must it happen? No.
You go into the movie expecting an absurdity, and leave the movie understanding his heartbreak. In that, you can see that the connection he formed with her is just as real as anything else.