Corporate Takeover: Reflections on the Movie “Her”

Corporate Takeover: Reflections on the Movie “Her” March 3, 2014

In a slightly futuristic Los Angeles, a recent divorcee who makes his living writing personalized love letters for customers enters into a romantic relationship with the voice of his new operating system. I am alluding to the movie “Her.”

What is the movie “Her” about?  Technology’s impact on our relationships? The merging of the real and virtual? Mind-body dualism or immateriality and materiality? Broken relationships and the difficulty of getting close and sharing life with people, especially those one loves? Something else? Something more?

Could it be that one of the story lines is the corporate takeover of our lives? A review of “Her” in the New Republic focuses on the moneytizing of our emotions that the corporate world achieves in the film. The review reflects upon the occasional background images from Shanghai in China, which the movie critic takes to be allusions to China’s “capitalist authoritarianism.” Futuristic LA looks a lot like Shanghai.

What will we look like in the future? More importantly, what will we be like? Will we sell our souls and emotions to the corporate world of technology (for which we pay the monthly fees) for a little bit of virtually framed pleasure? Even if the voice of the OS is Scarlett Johansson’s, would it be worth it? Will corporations not only own our sweat and labor, but also our range of emotions, including our desire for pleasure and love?

To borrow a line from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, will Aldous Huxley’s demise by desire and pleasure for the technologies that oppress us and remove our ability to think win out over George Orwell’s demise by an external terror of painful oppression?

Is the future already here?

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