Embracing the cliché that the future is a mystery, Her makes attempts to show what the future may look like. In order to do so, the creators of this movie were challenged to imagine and display several different technologies and change several social norms. Two of these brainstorms include a new voice-responding operating system, utilizing an earpiece and small handheld device, and the inhumanity of interactions with others. Together these two innovations somehow make the future displayed in the movie Her impersonal, yet personal at the same.
Social norms are defined as “the customary rules that govern behavior in groups and societies”(Bicchieri 1). Social norms change over time as a result of the evolution of how people feel about certain topics or situations. For example, in the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States it would have gone against social norms to talk about sex. Today this is a much more acceptable topic of conversation and it has become a staple of advertisements, movies, and television shows. Social norms can be changed “by acting upon the expectations that support the norm we wish to eradicate” (Mercier and Bicchieri 62) or establish.
The movie Her envisions several changes to social norms in order to set the time period in the future and to make a point about how social norms can change dramatically over time. The two largest instances of a change in social norms come with the insincerity of technology in the future and how technology tries to become personable. These social norms may seem like they exist today but not to the level that they exist in the movie.
The main character in Her is named Theodore and he works for the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company. Theodore’s job consists of writing personal letters for people who he does not know. This job may entail writing a birthday letter from a daughter to a mother or a love note from a boyfriend to a girlfriend. As a result, Theodore has learned to write all types of letters with small amounts of information about the people involved. This impersonal way of writing letters would most definitely not be acceptable today, however this change is shown in the movie as an acceptable practice of the time period shown. The viewer is convinced of this by the fact that no one disparages this practice. If this job had been breaking a social norm someone would have had an odd reaction to this at some point in the movie. This innovative company creates an impersonal feeling throughout the movie.
Contrarily, the operating system that Theodore begins to use in the movie is much more personal than his job. As soon as he decides to get the operating system it asks him three very direct questions in order to make an artificial intelligence system that will work well with him. This operating system gives herself the name Samantha and travels with Theodore everywhere, gaining more and more knowledge as she goes along. Samantha would probably be considered creepy today because of the fact that she is so similar to a human in every way except for the fact that she does not have a body. This is a social norm has been changed recently thanks to Siri on Apple iPhones; however, not to this extent. Samantha is so life-like that Theodore falls in love with her.
We are expected accept these changes in social norms when watching Her in order to understand the world that the people in the movie are living in. The makers of the movie illustrate this fact very well. The new voice-responding operating system and the inhumanity of Theodore’s job show how technological innovations, either personal or impersonal, are influenced by the social norms of the time period.
Bicchieri, Cristina. “Social Norms.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 01 Mar. 2011. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
Mercier, Hugo, and Cristina Bicchieri. “Norms and Beliefs: How Change Occurs.” Norms and Beliefs: How Change Occurs. Iyyun, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
Her. Dir. Spike Jones. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy McAdams, and Scarlett Johansson. Annapurna Pictures, 2013. Film.