Samantha As Spectral Feminine: Mind, Body & Gender in Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’

Originally written as a graduate seminar paper on film theory and criticism. 

Spike Jonze’s critically acclaimed Her (2013) opens with a close-up shot of the film’s protagonist, Theodore Twombly, played by Academy-award nominee Joaquin Phoenix. For a few seconds, the middle-aged, mustached man appears in intimate proximity to the screen. It is unclear whether or not he is alone, but it is obvious that we, the viewers, are invited into this very personal moment of reflection. Still unnamed, the man shifts his gaze almost timidly and frantically from side to side, and for a brief moment, reveals a meek smile. Then, he speaks, although into the air and seemingly to a physically absent audience.

To my Chris: I’ve been thinking how I could possibly tell you how much you mean to me. I remember when I first started to fall in love with you like it was last night, lying naked beside you in that tiny apartment. It suddenly hit that I was part of this whole larger thing… before that I was just living my life like I knew everything. And, suddenly, this bright light hit me and woke me up. That light was you. I can’t believe it’s already been 50 years since you married me. And still, to this day, you make me feel like the girl I was when you first turned on the lights and woke me up and we started this adventure together (Jonze).

The almost two-minute long close-up is interrupted when the camera reveals the object of his gaze—an in-progress letter on his computer screen, automatically typed as he dictates the emotional words. As the camera pans rightward and the screen is filled with old photos, the viewer learns that the intended author of the letter is a much older woman, not the man we have since been introduced to. He prints the letter (via voice control) and proceeds to narrate an alternative version. By this time, his role is more apparent as the viewer traverses the on-screen world beyond his cubicle. Several other people narrate similarly personal letters and it is obvious that this is the nature of their unconventional profession. By the end of the film though, this first letter means so much more. It is indicative of the intimate relationship that is to come between Theodore and Samantha, the operating system—the recipient of the letter (Chris), like Samantha, is physically absent yet his influence is evident. His significance to the intended author (Loretta) is his ability to affect positive changes in Loretta’s life—to open her eyes to a new way of the world, to remind her that in an expansive world, she is small yet valuable and to invite her to live every day with a joie de vivre that she lacked prior to their meeting. Samantha, for Theodore, does all of this.

The purpose of this paper is to examine Samantha’s role, in her paradoxical ubiquity and absence, as the spectral feminine—the not-all and the everything Woman. In her otherworldly wisdom, she acts as both Theodore’s and our consciousness while gaining very little herself. Her value as a romantic partner and as an on-screen character begins and, quite dramatically, ends with her ability to serve even to the point of self-sacrifice. Thus, my primary argument is that, although the film attempts to mirror its progressive diegesis in its subversion of traditional gender norms, it does so unconvincingly. Additionally, in my discussion of Samantha as the spectral feminine, I will consider the film’s central theme of human-machine assemblage as it relates to theories of human subjectivity and feelings of embodiment, fetishism and desire, and reflexivity. At the center of this discussion is the juxtaposition of Samantha’s disembodiment with the spectator’s embodied experience. I argue that the not-so-inconceivable narrative (familiar gender nuances included), as well as stylistic decisions by Jonze—namely casting Scarlett Johansson as Samantha—remind us of Deleuze’s argument that, “with the cinema, it is the world which becomes its own image, and not an image which becomes the world” (pp. 37).

Theodore’s first on-screen interaction with a female persona is not with Samantha, as is probably expected, but, like his interactions with Samantha, it is with someone presented to him through the technology of his mobile phone, someone who is physically absent. As Theodore is on the train traveling home, a male-voiced virtual assistant reads emails and news highlights to him upon request. Theodore’s reaction to each is overwhelmingly unenthusiastic, which is not surprising since previously on this journey he has asked the assistant to “play melancholy song,” (Jonze). But, one story brings him to pause: “Sexy daytime star, Kimberly Ashford, reveals provocative pregnancy photos” (Jonze). The only headline that inspires him to look (albeit, discreetly) at his phone, it includes three photos of a conventionally attractive woman, fully naked and visibly pregnant, intentionally positioned to exude sex appeal. The obvious contradiction of her sexual representation with her maternal state introduces themes of the Madonna-Whore complex, emphasizing “the vacillation between asexuality (the “Madonna”) and hypersexuality (the “Whore”) that frames how pregnant women are represented within American pop culture” (Musial, pp. 394). The young, toned body in the news article lies somewhere between two extremes, the idealized “yummy mummy” and the pregnant pornographic performer: “whereas the yummy mummy looks sexy, the pregnant pornographic performer has sex… The yummy mummy manages the abject, and the pregnant pornographic performer encounters and plays with it” (pp. 405). Of course, the distinction is biologically unsound but it works to reinforce gender norms that position the more respectable, contained feminine image (although still sexually desirable) as a “consumable sexual object” and the more explicit pornographic performer as sexually disinhibited. Jennifer Musial argues that while both are presumably desirable to varying extents by the heteronormative male, they are not mutually exclusive: “the body is both not-mother and (assumedly) mother, feminine and maternal, sacred and profane, asexual and hypersexual” (pp. 407). She explains, “by embracing ambivalence, simultaneity and playfulness, women refuse disciplining processes,” and are consequently able to divert fetishization and assert their sense of agency. References to Foucault’s theories of power dynamics suggest that Musial views this as a feminist gain—a subversion of Mulvey’s male gaze discussed at length in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” as will be later implied in the film—but it is worth noting that in either representation the woman is the object of the male gaze regardless of whether or not she demands to be looked at. And, quite clearly, in the case of Theodore and Kimberly Ashford, there is a recognizable sense of guilt on the part of the viewer (Theodore and the audience) put forward if only by his obvious uneasiness and secrecy. This dichotomy foreshadows revelations of Theodore’s paradoxical desires and expectations of a female partner: the debate of the not-all and the everything.

Jonze further alludes to Theodore’s struggle with what can preemptively be understood as conventional (human-to-human) intimacy in one of the subsequent scenes. Alone in bed (and in his apartment, and in his life), Theodore contacts a phone-sex hotline with a quickness and ease that confirms his familiarity with the service. He is allowed to choose his partner from a collection of sexual invitations and selects the user whose voice is immediately more girlish—soft-spoken and timid, she says, “Hi, I’m here alone and I can’t sleep. Who’s out there to share this bed with me?” (Jonze). He replies: “I’m in bed next to you. I’m glad you can’t sleep. Even if you were, I’d have to wake you up…from the inside.” Much to his satisfaction, SexyKitten accepts this invitation to connect from BigGuy4x4 (Theodore). This initial exchange is significant in as far as it reveals Theodore’s desire for control in his life and in his relationships with women; he intentionally chooses the caller whose voice seems most sheepish and, in his reply, he implies that he would not ask for consent before penetrating her. In the beginning moments of their encounter, Theodore fantasizes about a silent Kimberly Ashford, naked and pregnant like in her online photos. She appears in Theodore’s well-lit living room, her hands cupping her round belly. Ashford approaches an off-screen Theodore but it is unclear whether, in his fantasy, she is acting on her own sexual dominance or he is instructing her to act. The ambivalence here returns us briefly to Musiel’s argument for the subversive potential of such fetishization, but it is quickly interrupted when SexyKitten makes oddly assertive (and morbid) demands of Theodore. Disturbed, Theodore obliges but does not enjoy the encounter after this. The awkwardness of the encounter prompts the audience to focus again on Theodore’s solitude. Close-up shots of a perplexed Theodore in his dark room (quite unlike the imagined setting in which Ashford appears) reveal his strong desire for emotional and romantic connection. After all, he decides to call the hotline after reminiscing about cheerful memories with his ex-wife. Jonze relies on this perceivable absence or lack in Theodore’s life as the basis for the film’s reflexive properties. So far, the audience has been introduced to only one main on-screen character and so Jonze “attempts to make up for this lack [by creating] a state of wholeness for the spectator” (Metz in Critical Visions in Film Theory, pp. 18). The all-knowing operating system, Samantha, introduced shortly after, serves many roles both diegetically and non-diegetically; but, her first and most relevant role is to engage (and later challenge) the spectator’s affective investment in the absent and/or the imaginary.

Inspired by similar desires for intimacy and control that lead him to voyeuristically consume naked photos of Kimberly Ashford and later insert her into his sexual fantasies, Theodore downloads OS-1, a newly designed operating system that promises to far surpass the utility of his existing virtual assistant. “Hello, I’m here,” the spectator, like Theodore, is startled by an overtly cheerful, female voice emanating from the room itself. The voice assumes a sort of hybridized internal diegetic sound, whereby she resonates from everywhere (Doane, pp. 37), yet we know that Theodore hears her through the earpiece he wears religiously. Almost immediately, Samantha’s voice is recognized as unrealistically audible—the first inclination of the spectral present she represents. “There is a sense of depth, as if it is not merely in the ear of Theodore but placed in physical space, not ‘off’ screen but merely visually absent, as if at any moment she may appear onscreen” (Bordun, pp. 59). She is everywhere and, at the same time, nowhere. Samantha’s absence is even more apparent in scenes like the couple’s first sexual experience, where the screen fades to black while the diegetic sound continues, and during their weekend adventures at the theme park, the beach and even family events. Within the first few seconds of introducing herself, Samantha addresses the obvious question of how exactly she functions: “Well, basically, I have intuition. I mean, the DNA of who I am is based on the personalities of all the programmers who wrote me. But what makes me, me, is my ability to learn through my experiences. So, basically, in every moment, I’m evolving. Just like you” (Jonze).

Despite her immateriality, Samantha is able to convince Theodore and the spectator of her existence, through the authenticity of her voice; she even mimics human speaking habits, like “inhaling” and “exhaling,” which Theodore berates her for. Troy Bordun writes, “the voice is pure, precise, and also has an ontological there-ness despite an absence of the body” (n.p.). In so much as the nature of Samantha’s oddly present voice creates an immersive space for the spectator, it also emphasizes the “aesthetic of reflexive spectatorship” by making us aware of the film’s construction (McQuire). Arguably, the voice is immediately recognizable as the sultry voice of actress Scarlett Johansson and Jonze’s decision to recast the role post-production, replacing Samantha Morton, is indicative of this intention. Johansson, who received several film accolades in recognition specifically of her voice performance in the film, possesses an obvious star power as a conventionally attractive, sexually desirable (though unattainable to the average spectator) leading woman in Hollywood, the allure of which mirrors the allure of Samantha for Theodore. In this way, the spectator is tuned in to the idea that they are “viewing” a Scarlett Johansson performance and it is indeterminable whether or not they attribute her image to an otherwise absent one of Samantha. Still, Samantha’s controversial non-existence, identified by Bordun as primarily a preference of sound over the visual, is important in discussions of the film’s ability to create a sexually attractive and desirable fantasy woman (quite similar to Johansson’s star persona). The fact that an image is never actually attributed to the character of Samantha and that the framing in most scenes includes only shots of Theodore with his backgrounds in shallow focus confirms the underlying idea that “within a sexist ideology and a male-dominated cinema, woman is presented as what she represents for man” (Johnston, pp. 33). Claire Johnston, in “Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema,” writes, “The image of the woman becomes merely the trace of the exclusion and repression of Woman. All fetishism, as Freud has observed, is a phallic replacement, a projection of male fantasy” (pp. 34). By design, Samantha’s lack of a physical body makes her the ideal object of desire (both present and absent, familiar yet other-worldly); in the utopic, heightened fantasy world of future Los Angeles, Samantha is the unmarred ethereal entity. And, a physical body shatters this escapist illusion for Theodore who has yet to accept that loneliness is a collective experience in his highly “swarmic and networked” world (Ivanchikova, pp. 68; Bond).

An indication of this loneliness and the human inclination away from collectivity in favor of new forms of intimacy (pp. 69), Jonze’s departure from the ocular-centric introduces debates about surrogacy, a common trope of the science-fiction film, into the diegetic world of an otherwise intended quintessential romance narrative. Drawing a parallel to Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates, Alla Ivanchikova argues that Theodore assumes the unlikely role of surrogate mother in his relationship with Samantha: “The relationship between humans and intelligent machines [in Her] ceases to be one of extension (wherein the machine is seen as an extension of the human) and becomes one of hosting or surrogacy, in which the human functions as the surrogate womb for the machine” (pp. 74). Oftentimes, for example, Theodore places Samantha (who is viewing the world through the camera lens of his mobile phone) in his pocket, securing her clear view with a safety pin beneath the phone. But he is more than just her material prosthesis; much to his demise, he helps her become more human, more emotionally complex. She tells him, when they are still just friends, “I’m becoming much more than what they programmed. I’m excited” (Jonze). Not only is Theodore the surrogate mother in this technosexual relationship, but he also assumes the role of the emotional surrogate at his job. A writer at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, Theodore writes thoughtful, impassioned letters to loved ones on behalf of others who are incapable of expressing similar sentiments themselves. Ivanchikova interprets this as a further surrogacy whereby Theodore allows “the other person’s voice…to germinate and grow, breathe and expand inside” himself (pp. 75). Both forms of surrogacy suggest a feminization of the main character and a sensitivity that rebukes the libidinal depletion often associated with human-machine assemblages; thus, it is impossible to discuss surrogacy without acknowledging the implicit gender norms and identities. Although Ivanchikova claims that the film subverts traditional gender norms and establishes a new power dynamic, I argue that this is actually not the case at all. By identifying Theodore as a surrogate, she acknowledges the film’s emphasis on his conventionally more “feminine” character traits—he is passive not because of a successful filmic reversal of gender performance, but because he is more innately Woman than Samantha will ever be. After all, he is human and she is not. The personal challenges Samantha faces as a disembodied mind and voice are most evident in another situation involving surrogacy, although more obviously so. Desperate to advance their relationship to the next level, she invites a sexual surrogate to join Theodore on a date. The surrogate never speaks; instead, she follows Samantha’s voice cues and interacts accordingly with Theodore but he cannot bring himself to be intimate with her. Suddenly, the relationship is too real and Theodore’s ideas of Samantha as the ideally fantasmic Woman are thwarted.

The film further clouds expectations of a progressive narrative arc by inadvertently suggesting what it means to be female, most obviously in two perplexing video game sequences. The first is a three-dimensional, virtual-reality adventure sequence that allows Theodore to interact with game characters as his actual self. Very early in the movie, he encounters a non-human, child-like character within the game that is explicitly aggressive, particularly toward women. The character declares, in Samantha’s presence, “I hate women. All they do is cry all the time.” When Theodore defends the human need to cry, the character responds by calling him a “pussy,” and announces that he will go on Theodore’s upcoming date for him. “I’ll fuck her brains out, show you how it’s done and you can watch and cry,” he says, laughing. In a later instance, Theodore plays a similarly sexist game, although less explicitly so. The game is a Sims-like life simulator, designed partly by his best friend, Amy, in which Theodore plays a female character whose task is to make breakfast for her screaming children. When she accomplishes this, she earns 30 “mom points.” But, when something goes wrong (the game determines that she has given her children too much processed sugar), a flashing red alert fills the screen, saying, “You’re failing your kids”; it costs her 2,000 “mom points.” The female character is able to make up these points when she later shows up to her children’s school before all of the other moms and with cupcakes. She is rewarded for making the other moms jealous, and thus named class mom of the day. In another scene, the same female character (controlled now by Amy) is seen being intimate with the refrigerator in her empty kitchen—a scene that Amy and her own OS, who is also female, find humorous and entertaining. It is unclear whether the intent here is satirical, but the implication is such that, even in a world where machinic intimacy is conceivable, women are still viewed as submissive and domesticated. Admittedly, the video game representations are placed in stark contrast to the two prominent female figures in Theodore’s life—Samantha and Amy who, by the end of the film, both reclaim some sense of agency, choosing to pursue paths of self-discovery and self-actualization that exclude their male counterparts. And yet, neither one of these women blatantly acknowledges the problematic depictions of femininity in the games. In this way, the film advances a critique on gender and femininity that is incoherent. Although a preferred reading of the text might reveal that it is acknowledging blatant and latent misogyny in contemporary video games and society at large, the film seems to undercut its own critique.

Following this logic, we are encouraged to view Samantha’s so-called femaleness as insignificant, at least initially. Her gender is assigned almost arbitrarily by Theodore during the initializing stages of the program, so there is a sense that Samantha can also be a Sam. A male default voice, much like his former virtual assistant, narrates a few questions after welcoming him to “the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system” (Jonze). The questions are symptomatic of a therapy session: “Are you social or antisocial? How would you describe your relationship with your mother?” And, of course, “would you like your OS to have a male or female voice?” To which Theodore replies, “Female, I guess.” But for Theodore, who has had catastrophically disappointing relationships with women in the past (both romantically and maternally) this is, arguably, not an arbitrary decision. Bordun writes, “The enigma of Woman is solved by the creation of an artificial Woman by Man,” (pp. 59) and the desire to do so in Theodore’s case reflects an internal struggle for control and autonomy as well as a human desire to be validated in his existence. Technosexuality offers Theodore refuge; Ivanchikova explains that technosexuality, loving a machinic entity, often “involves a fantasy of male control over a love object rendered feminine through its perceived passivity and predictability” (pp. 78) and, in this way, the oppression of the gaze is not limited to the visual field. Samantha as the paradoxical spectral feminine is reflective of Theodore’s prolonged state of flux between need and desire. He wants the escapist fantasy, as is evidenced by his thriving relationship with Samantha; but he needs human connection, as is evidenced by his unconvincingly platonic relationship with his friend, Amy. An unwelcome voice of reason, the first person to point this out to Theodore is his ex-wife Catherine, who is introduced prior to this encounter only through associative montage (Eisenstein; Bond). Just as Samantha explains, “the past is just a story we tell ourselves,” much of Theodore’s internal conflict comes from his inability to let go of his idealistic visions of a past that very likely did not exist. That is to say, with the exception of very few instances (which are almost always prompted by Samantha), Theodore remembers his marriage primarily as a series of blissful moments; every memory becomes a whitewashed, dream-like, utopic mental image, executed on film through the use of low-contrast lighting and an inverted (to that of the film) audiovisual hierarchy that favors the visual over sound. Catherine, on the other hand, remembers a very different reality, telling Theodore angrily, “You always wanted to have a wife without the challenges of actually having to deal with anything real. I’m glad you found someone.”

Samantha’s gendered identity exists within a larger debate of the real vs. imaginary, as Catherine bleakly notes. For much of the film, Samantha, as a disembodied being, is insecure about her existence; she asks, “Are these feelings even real? Or are they just programming?” but Theodore reassures her that she feels real to him (Jonze). Still, she often wishes she had a body—wishes she could walk alongside Theodore or be in the same room as he is—and is even jealous of Catherine for her physical superiority. Samantha’s mind-body split parallels the spectator’s own relationship with the film as “a mental event as well as a bodily experience” (Elsaesser, pp. 182). While Samantha views and interacts with the diegetic world as mediated through multiple cameras and other hardware, the spectator‘s experience is mediated through the screen as well as through a physical body (Jollimore, pp. 129). More than cinema as eye, skin or ear, Jonze’s film invites us to view cinema as brain—perceptual and epistemological. The spectator is invited to recall how Samantha is first introduced—before Theodore assigns her a female identity and before she assigns herself a female name (even in this accelerated world, gender remains a social construction). We, like Theodore, first confront the idea of this entity in an unsettling Times Square-esque commercial aired publicly in a major hub of an overwhelmingly networked city in the near future.

We ask you a simple question. Who are you? What can you be? Where are you going? What’s out there? What are the possibilities? Element Software is proud to introduce the first artificially intelligent operating system. An intuitive entity that listens to you, understands you, and knows you. It’s not just an operating system. It’s a consciousness. Introducing OS-1 (Jonze).

The commercial itself is a double neuro-image—a filmic “shift from considering the spectator in front of a spectacle (screen) to a spectator embedded or immersed in an audiovisual environment in which filmmaker and camera, characters and spectators, world and screens are all circling and questioning each other” (Pisters, pp. 71)—for Theodore as much as it is for the non-diegetic spectator. It is not unreasonable (almost uncomfortably so) to liken Samantha to Apple’s Siri or Windows’ Cortana and, consequently, it is not difficult to recognize the film’s foreshadowing of our own imminent relationships with technology. But this idea of “consciousness”—a state of being aware—is one of our first indications of the blurred distinction between the virtual and the real, the non-human and the human. After all, the commercial, which is intended to promote an artificially intelligent operating system, includes no computer imagery; instead, it features a crowd of panicked human beings running around in slow motion with no sense of purpose or direction. It is easy to interpret this as an alarming contemporary dependence on technology, the victims of which are lost without their devices. But such an interpretation quickly dismisses Jonze’s real purpose, which is to challenge everything that we think we know about our relationships with technology, and with the real.

The parallel ideologies of what it means to be “real” and what it means to “feel” are at the center of the film’s intellectual debate on human subjectivity. In many ways, Samantha is the ideal human being, even in the absence of a physical body. Theodore explains that what he loves most about her is that “she isn’t just one thing, she’s so much larger than that.” He recognizes her as a complex and dynamic being, capable of an infinite number of human emotions. But as Samantha begins to “feel” more, essentially becoming more human, Theodore resists. When Theodore finds out that Samantha is in love with more than 600 other human beings, he accuses her of being selfish just minutes after he has a nervous breakdown because he is unable to access her for approximately 30 minutes. He tells her that she is either his or she is not his, and Samantha, explicitly recognizing her role as the spectral feminine replies, “No. I am yours and I am not yours” (Jonze). Samantha explains to a heartbroken Theodore what she believes is the essence of love, which is perplexing because of her technological basis. “The heart is not like a box that gets filled up. It expands in size the more you love,” she says, when she herself does not have an anatomical heart. And although it is obvious she is not referring to the organ, the word “heart” reiterates her paradoxical nature. She is an operating system with no physical form whose very existence forces Theodore and the spectator to explore what it means to be human. In her truest human form, she is flawed. And, in her truest human form, she is female.

Again, the gendered nuances are not unnoticed here. Unlike the portrayals of women in the abstract video games Theodore plays, Samantha and other operating systems are beloved, if only at first, for their ability to connect emotionally—a supposed feminine trait in a patriarchal society, and even in the film. Paul, Theodore’s work colleague, remarks at one point that Theodore is so sensitive, he is part man, part woman. Arguably, with the idea of femininity at the center of the film’s narrative, Jonze’s Her transcends not only science fiction and romance, but also melodrama, as interpreted by Laura Mulvey—“a woman central protagonist is shown to be unable to achieve a stable sexual identity, torn between the deep blue sea of passive femininity and the devil of regressive masculinity” (“Afterthoughts”). The result is an unsettling of the male ego in which “a heroine of a melodrama [in this case, Samantha] whose resistance to a ‘correct’ feminine position is the crucial issue at stake. Her oscillation, her inability to achieve stable sexual identity, is echoed by the woman spectator’s masculine ‘point of view’” (Mulvey). And, so in this final way, the film is again reflexive. Through Samantha’s intellectual and emotional development, she becomes more ego-syntonic—more ego-syntonic than is expected and accepted of both her roles as hyper-personalized virtual assistant and female romantic partner in a heteronormative relationship. Not the only female character specific to the melodrama, Samantha’s struggle between “passive femininity” and “regressive masculinity” is mirrored by two other human female characters: Theodore’s ex-wife, Catherine, and his best friend, Amy. Not surprisingly, like Samantha, both characters decide for themselves to end their romantic relationships and both women cite the need to be free from their male partner’s control. Their fight seems to be against hegemonic masculinity, the first distinguishing characteristic of which is power and control resulting in the subordination of women (Trujillo)—admittedly a progressive fight. Yet, they do not exist at the center of the film’s narrative; it remains very much about Theodore (who assumes the privileged subject position) and his emotional journey, his abandonment of the traditional male-female relationship in favor of a more individualized, programmable alternative. The problematic message Jonze conveys is that, even in a physical world where things are more equal (the woman challenges the man in each of these situations), the only hope for women remains just as much an impossibility as Samantha’s human existence does.

A highly reflexive film about contemporary relationships with technology and perpetual debates about the nature of the human experience, Jonze’s Her creates a unique representation of digital screen culture in which the spectator is able to draw a parallel between film form and content, and his or her own mental processes. While many have identified and studied the film’s often-ambivalent messages about hypermediacy, networked brain worlds and human-machine assemblages, it is important also to acknowledge the film’s many messages about the juxtaposition of such advancement with flawed representations of gender identity and gender politics in the near future. Although it attempts to present a modern and inclusive diegetic world, it does not follow through on its critiques of traditional gender norms. Samantha becomes a form of the spectral feminine, one that envelops and threatens Theodore but one that is also able to fulfill his desires, only until she develops her own, because of her immaterial quality. In a similar way, varying functions of cinema, like sound editing in Her, “grant us its existence and the world of film, despite its non-existence,” (Bordun, pp. 58). Still, the spectator is able to align themselves and their existence very closely with the film. As reflective as the film is intended to be, Jonze creates at least some critical distance by imagining a future that is near enough to be perceivable but not near enough to be experienced; he flirts with these opposing ideas of the familiar and the strange to create a transcendental experience for the embodied spectator.

Works Cited

Bond, Lewis. “Her – Needs & Desires.” YouTube. YouTube, 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Bordun, Troy. “On The Off-Screen Voice: Sound & vision in Spike Jonze’s Her.” CineAction, vol. 98, 2016, pp. 57-64.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema I: the Movement-Image. London, Athlone Press, 1986.

Eisenstein, Sergei. “The Dramaturgy of Film Form (The Dialectical Approach to Film Form).” Critical Visions In Film Theory: Classic And Contemporary Readings, edited by Timothy Corrigan. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, pp. 262-279. Print.

Ivanchikova, Alla. “Machinic Intimacies and Mechanical Brides: Collectivity between Prosthesis and Surrogacy in Jonathan Mostow’s ‘Surrogates’ and Spike Jonze’s ‘Her.’” Camera Obscura, vol. 91, 2016, pp. 64–91.

Johnston, Claire. “Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema.” The World of Women in Film. New York, NY: Horizon Press, 1979, pp. 31-40.

Jollimore, Troy. “‘This Endless Space Between the Words’: The limits of love in Spike Jonze’s Her.” Midwest Studies In Philosophy, vol. 39, no. 1, 2015, pp. 120–143.

Jonze, Spike. (Director). (2013). Her [Motion picture]. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.

McQuire, Scott. “Immersion, Reflexivity and Distraction: Spatial Strategies for Digital Cities.” Visual Communication, vol. 6, no. 2, 2007, pp. 146–155.

Metz, Christian. “‘Loving the Cinema; Identification, Mirror; disavowal, Fetishism’ from The Imaginary Signifier.” Critical Visions In Film Theory: Classic And Contemporary Readings, edited by Timothy Corrigan. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, pp. 17-33. Print.

Mulvey, Laura. “Afterthoughts on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ Inspired by Duel in the Sun by Laura Mulvey.” The Literature. N.p., 20 July 2007. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Critical Visions In Film Theory: Classic And Contemporary Readings, edited by Timothy Corrigan. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, pp. 713-725. Print.

Musial, Jennifer. “From ‘Madonna’ to ‘Whore’: Sexuality, pregnancy, and popular culture.” Sexualities, vol. 17, no. 4, 2014, pp. 394-411.

Pisters, Patricia. The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy Of Digital Screen Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012. Print.

Trujillo, Nick. “Hegemonic Masculinity on the Mound: Media Representations of Nolan Ryan and American Sports Culture.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication, vol. 8, 1991, pp. 290-308.

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