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Film and Philosophy

Volume 24, 2020

Jan Maximilian Robitzsch
Pages 120-133

Real and Simulated Relationships in Spike Jonze’s Her

This paper is dedicated to Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her and reads the film as an exploration of whether traditional human-human relationships could be replaced by relationships between a human being, on the one hand, and an intelligent machine or robot or – more precisely – operating system (OS), on the other hand. It argues that the movie offers three different possible criteria for dismissing a relationship with an OS: (1) that an OS does not have a body, (2) that an OS is of superior intelligence, and (3) that a relationship with an OS is, in an important sense, not ‘real’ or ‘genuine.’ However, the paper concludes that Her ultimately leaves open whether any of these criteria are decisive; at the end of the movie, it is unclear whether the protagonists, the professional letter writer Theo (Joaquin Phoenix) and the OS Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson), have had a real relationship, prompting viewers to reflect more on the existential implications that may result from romantic relationships between computers and human beings.

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