It is easy to forget (while watching or afterward) that Her is a science fiction movie.
Having recently viewed Gamer and Her, I would argue that these films, at their core, aren’t entirely different – both attempt to create technological futures. However, I believe, for the most part, audiences would quickly classify the future depicted in Her as “more realistic” than that of Gamer. Many of the technologies in Her are available today – wireless bluetooth headsets, Siri-like intelligent personal assistants, word-to-text computer programs, and an endless supply of companies who do things that us as a society have become too lazy to do ourselves (i.e. write handwritten letters). Gamer, on the other hand, claiming to take place in 2024, includes technologies that are still foreign to us (and likely are more in the future than just 8 years), such as completely immersive and interactive 360-degree “room screens,” chips implanted in humans for wireless control, agreements with prisons and violent sports video game companies, and Ludacris as the leader of a rebel movement (to be honest, I think that’s the most unrealistic aspect of the film).
Though both films present us with utopian/dystopian (depending on your personal views) futures, neither is necessarily “realistic.” Are we arguing that the OS 1 system developed in Her that has the ability, at the end of the film, to be aware of its existence and leave into some technological higher plane (aside from the endless ability to adapt to its particular ‘user’ and have relationships with a plethora of people simultaneously), is “more realistic” than the immersive room that we see Logan Lerman in? In today’s (or at least, myself living in New York) world, where people don’t interact anyway, a future where everyone is plugged into their individual headsets sorting through emails, talking to digital girlfriends, or ordering personal handwritten letters by other people may seem more likely. However, these two films both fit nicely into all of the aspects of the science fiction genre.
So let’s quickly run through a checklist of things that make a science fiction movie:
1 – Science! – (“Yeah of course science you idiot.”) – Specifically, science fiction films must have some element of science and technology.
2 – Fiction! – (“Oh wow he just used the second word.”) – Sci-fi’s treatment of reality must always, in some way, be untrue/unrealistic. This is not reality, but instead a story about something going on currently, or that might go on in the future.
3 – Fantasy Stories – Sci-fi must take advantage of the mode of fantasy story-telling, a symbolic treatment of the real world that seems to be about escapism, but is really about social commentary (using science and technology to do so).
4 – Speculation – This genre is always about the meaning of current trends and developments in society, speculating on what possible future they might lead to.
5 – Philosophy – Some philosophical question must be raised, most commonly that of human nature. Specifically in both Gamer and Her, technology is used to explore the depths of the human psyche. A major sci-fi characteristic is the fact that these films are never ABOUT technology, but use it to instead explore other philosophical issues.
6 – Special FX / Sense of Wonder – These films’ production design have to be made to look ‘futuristic,’ able to de-familiarize the audience but still present a “realistic” future.
7 – Post-Modernism – Science fiction films articulate and illustrate a new kind of life that the world is living in post-WWII (“We’re all going to die!”)
So! Both Gamer and Her check off each of these generally broad science fiction categories. Sure, one is about a guy who falls in love with a computer program and the other is about a prisoner who actually isn’t a prisoner and was framed and is actually an avatar for a teenage gamer and well, a lot more complicated. HOWEVER, they each present futures that aren’t that far off and technologies that are both feasible, though some may argue one more than the other. Sure, Her ‘looks’ more realistic, with its futuristic depiction of Los Angeles and very personable characters and romance storyline, but both of these films have an inherent unrealistic quality that is used to explore questions of human nature.
Lastly, and most importantly, I’m frightened for everyone if this is predicting a future fashion trend in bottom-wear. In the words of teenage boys everywhere – “What are those?!?!”