The Secret Writer

Set in futuristic Los Angeles, the 2013 movie Her tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phenonix) as he develops a relationship with his operating system (OS), Samantha, following separation from his wife. In the movie, Theodore is employed as a writer for Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company, which writes sentimental letters for individuals who have trouble expressing themselves on the page or who do not have the time to do so. Based upon the presentation of the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company, Her seems to suggest such companies are commonplace or a facet of life in the future and that audience should be receptive of the idea of Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company. In spite of this, my reaction to the company was repulsion because of the uncanny impression the company left upon me.

Theodore’s attitude toward his job and what others say about the letters he writes suggest Theodore has his job because he is a good writer, especially in the sense of catching romanticism. For example, Theodore’s boss and his boss’s girlfriend compliment Theodore on his letters. Similarly, Samantha shows Theodore’s letters to another OS with a reputation for writing. However, Theodore points out at least twice in the movie that “they are just letters,” seeming to indicate Theodore does not see value behind his work. At the same time though, Theodore does act as if he takes an interest in the lives of those for whom he writes.

Her implies like the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company are natural and should be embraced in our lives. I concur that companies like the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company are and will be a part of our lives, but I am not of the same mindset that such companies should be accepted or endorsed. Examples of companies similar to the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company that are in existence today are online essay writing companies, which allow students to have their essay, theses, applications, etc. written for them. Such a company was exposed by Ed Dante in his essay “The Shadow Scholar” (Dante). Her goes on to depict the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company in a positive light by focusing on Theodore’s knowledge of clients as a result of long-term service with them and by his expression of interest in his clients’ lives, which indicate the company is trustworthy and concerned with consumer or client satisfaction. Both of which are factors of a successful business. Moreover, as Theodore claims, “They are just letters.” That is, the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company is just out to sell a product. In the end, the audience is expected to accept the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company because it is just another business and a benevolent one at that. Nonetheless, my reaction to the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company was not as intended.

My reaction to the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company was repulsion due to the uneasiness I felt caused by the uncanny effect of the company. Sigmund Freud used various definitions or representations of what is “uncanny” in his essay “The Uncanny.” One such definition is that which is “unreal” becomes “real” (Freud 150-51). In my opinion, someone writing words I have never said or thought is allowing the “unreal” to become “real” with my unsaid words being the “unreal” and the words on the page being “real.” It is both unnatural and uncanny for someone like Theodore to “know” my thoughts and feelings based upon the snip-its of my life and personality that I give him or her. Moreover, the letter’s recipient’s belief in the sentiment and words of the letter is “real” while the letter is “unreal” because the letter is not truly from the signee. Overall, I do not approve of companies like the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company because such companies allow individuals to hide behind deception. Thus, while Her anticipates the audience embracing companies like the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company, I was not convinced.

Dante, Ed. “The Shadow Scholar.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle Review. 12 Nov. 2010. Web. 3 Sept. 2014.

Freud, Sigmund. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.

Warner Brothers, prod. Her. Amazon Instant Video. Amazon, 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.

One thought on “The Secret Writer

  1. Very nice introduction! I like how you gave the audience a brief summary of the movie before presenting your argument. This allowed the audience to get a quick refresh of the movie before jumping into the facts. However, don’t be afraid to use pronouns. Theodore doesn’t always have to be called “Theodore”. It sounds repetitive after a while, so you can call him “he”, “the protagonist”, and more. Similarly, you don’t have to always type out “the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company”. Try using “it”, “the company”, and others. Aside from that, great essay! Your argument is thorough and directed. Also, you called upon ethos by having more then one source. Well done!


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