I know it’s cranky to have an opinion on a film I haven’t seen, but I have a fundamental problem with ‘Her’. Not the film– maybe it’s wonderful– but the concept.
Heartwarming family dramas like Lars and the Real Girl just don’t tempt me to the cinema.
I grew up watching the 1957 series ‘I Love Lucy’ and winced when Lucy cried like a baby, played dumb, got punished like a backwards child. The real Lucille Ball was smart, innovative and ruthless. She sneaked an interracial marriage past the censors. I like her much better than the shucking and jiving Lucy she played on TV.
In 1964, Julie Newmar starred in My Living Doll. Newmar, who was way bodacious and later played Catwoman, got the role of a blank slate waiting for a man to tell her what to do.
I got hooked on pulp science fiction, and it was still a very male game. Ursula Le Guin had to sign her stories U.K.Le Guin so she could get published. Lester del Rey’s 1938 story
Helen O’Loy was typical of the golden age take on relationships. Man builds robot, man falls in love with robot, robot has nothing to live for when man dies so she pulls the plug.
Since the myth Pygmalion, men have been building new and improved women.
I just read David Mitchell’s science fiction novel, Cloud Atlas, and watched the DVD. One of the characters, Sonmi 451 is a ‘fabricant’, manufactured to serve in a fast-food restaurant, naive to the outside world. Though the actress Doona Bae makes Sonmi very affecting and sympathetic in the film, there’s a change of perspective in that medium. In the book Sonmi’s story is told in the first person–you see her world through her eyes and think her thoughts. You become her. In the film you’re on the outside watching a woman in peril at the mercy of real men.
I can’t think of a movie where a woman creates her perfect man and teaches him everything there is to know about the world. I don’t think it’s a particularly female fantasy.
In the paperback young adult novel, The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee, a lonely teenage girl falls in love with a perfect cyborg man. But Silver is not a naive plaything. He’s kind of a combination of Google, GPS, bodyguard and psychologist.
In the novel He, She and It by Marge Piercy, the cyborg, Yod is created to be a weapon and fulfills his destiny in a suicide bombing. He’s not someone you can make a playmate of.
There is definitely a gender thing here. Maybe women spend more time answering questions like, ‘why is the sky blue? why can’t I feed the dog peanut butter? where did I leave my keys?’–it’s all too real. I’m not a gender studies major, just a regular woman who thinks that there’s a lot of this going around and something ain’t right here.
In related news, this woman put the world’s worst dating profile on Craigslist and still got a ton of messages from guys. I think the combination of attractive picture and deranged answers to the questions gave the impression of an impaired woman who could be easily persuaded. Kind of the blank slate fantasy?
Image from Sitcoms Online