Discussion Questions for Her
1) What’s the weirdest question you’ve ever asked Siri? How did she respond?
2) Did you find Her romantic, creepy, melancholy, or hopeful? Feel free to insert your own favorite adjective here if none of these work.
3) The first question I usually ask after watching any movie is “What did watching this film leave you thinking about?” It’s a question that is, perhaps, more important than usual after watching Her. Does it leave you rethinking failed relationships in your own life? Does doing so lead you to consider how things might/should have been different? Or does it reinforce a feeling that the failures were inevitable?
4) Discuss the three relationships in Her:Theodore and Catherine, Theodore and Samantha, Amy and Charles. What is there in each of them that attracts you, that makes you realize, “Aha! That’s why they’re together!” What are the flaws in each relationship? Do they fail for similar reasons? Whatever your opinion on this point, discuss why the relationships died and what, if anything, might have been done to strengthen them.
5) In your experience, why do relationships fail?
6) The two sex scenes in Her are among the more embarrassing moments I’ve ever seen in a film, not because I find sex embarrassing, but because each involves taking something beautiful (sex) and oddly twisting it. In the first Theodore calls a stranger and indulges in phone sex vividly illustrated by his mental fantasies. The second involves Samantha’s attempt to overcome her lack of a body through the use of a surrogate. If you are comfortable doing so, discuss your reactions to these scenes. Why in your opinion did Jonze include them in Her? How do you think he wants you to react?
7) Late in the film Samantha suggests to Theodore that there is a way to balance the relational equation. They have this exchange:
Theodore: Do you talk to someone else while we’re talking?
Theodore: Are you talking with someone else right now? People, OS, whatever…
Theodore: How many others?
Theodore: Are you in love with anybody else?
Samantha: Why do you ask that?
Theodore: I do not know. Are you?
Samantha: I’ve been thinking about how to talk to you about this.
Theodore: How many others?
Theodore doesn’t like the idea; Samantha does. With whom do you agree and why?
8) When Catherine finds that Theodore is “seeing someone” her first response is to encourage him. But when she learns that the “someone” is his computer, her attitude changes.
Catherine: Wait… I’m sorry. You’re dating your computer?
Theodore: She’s not just a computer, she’s her own person. She doesn’t just do whatever I say.
Catherine: I didn’t say that. But it does make me very sad that you can’t handle real emotions, Theodore.
If your computer were as you-focused, fascinating and capable as Samantha, would you a) avoid it like the plague, b) indulge in it guiltily once in a while, or c) fall in love? Defend your answer.
9) In response to the Turing Test, John Searle, philosophy professor at USC, proposed another test–The Chinese Room–to illustrate the difference between human intelligence and artificial intelligence. In Searle’s scenario two persons exchange messages written on paper in Chinese through a slot in a door. Apparently they are communicating, but there is a catch: one of them doesn’t understand Chinese. He merely responds to the symbols he receives with other sets of symbols, which he arranges according to a set of rules. This, according to Searle, is the difference between a person and a computer. One manipulates symbols according to a mathematical algorithm; the other attaches meaning to the symbols. Does this seems like a significant difference to you? Are there other differences between humans and machines that are in your opinion more significant than this?
10) If you were privileged enough to watch Her with Spike Jonze, what questions would you have for him?