Volume 24, 2020
Jan Maximilian Robitzsch
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.