Women are mystifying to men. Freud once suggested that women appear peculiar to men because they look like men that have been castrated. That argument is a bit of an exaggeration, however, certain men struggle when they must converse and interact with women. What Freud touches on in his theories though, is the idea that after some traumatic incident certain individuals lack the ability to partake in “normal” relationships with friends and sexual partners in society. Both the film Her and the short story “Sandman”, written by Hoffman, explore the struggles of 2 men and their relationships with “uncanny” women and their disassociation from society.
While Theodore, the leading man character in Her, and Nathaneal, the main character in “Sandman”, share attractions for women that are not human, there are significant reasons as to why they are not attracted to real women. In Theodore’s case, he had recently been dumped by his wife. In Nathaneal’s case, Nathaneal witness the death of his father at the hands of a notorious man. Both of these instances paralyzed Theodore and Nathaneal with overwhelming fear. Fear holds back Theodore and Nathaneal from having healthy relationships in society. Relationships require trusting a stranger and becoming committed to that individual, with the possibility of being abandoned and broken by the person that had become so involved with. For Nathaneal and Theodore, their fear and knowledge of the consequences from the fallout of a relationship keep them wary of human relationships. Instead both men find comfort and feasibility in connections with non-human human, which the men naively believe they will not be hurt.
As well as being incapable of intimate sexual relationships with women, Theodore and Nathaneal becomes estranged from society and are unable function in social events. These men find greater comfort being solitary rather than amongst festivities. In the writings that both men develop, audiences can ascertain an examples of Theodore and Nathaneals’ social inequities. In Theodore’s profession he composes passionate personal letters for relatives and loved ones who themselves cannot or are too lazy to write. The fact that Theodore can write about and be so immersed in others’ relationships, but not form his own shows a heart wrenching fact. Theodore is capable of beautiful human emotion, but his overwhelming fear of intimate relationships does not allow him to reveals his talent to other humans. Nathaneal attempts to impress others with his writings, but actually does the opposite. His writings repel a woman his tries to court, and identified to a greater extent as peculiar. Theodore and Nathaneal are the embodied of the archetypal conflict of man versus society.
Even though Theodore and Nathaneal find normality and comfort with their “uncanny” women, these unnatural relationships serve nothing more than a delay to their awareness that they do not have a place in society. After comparing Theodore’s and Nathaneal’s misadventures, it is illuminating to see how impactful past events play in an individuals ability to function in society. Her and “Sandman” serve to explain that the inability to have intimate relationships and interact in society make individuals more vulnerable to unhealthy relationships that thrust them further away from connecting with humanity.
Her. Dir. Spike Jonze. By Spike Jonze. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. 2013. Film.
Hoffman. E.T.A. “The Sandman”. United Kingdom. Dodo Press. 2008. Print
Freud. Sigmund. “The Uncanny”. New York. Penguin Classics. 2003. Print.