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Why ‘Her’ Could Re-shape Sci-Fi Romances

Spike Jonze's "Samantha" is a mysterious, alien lover

If future science-fiction writers follow the trail Spike Jonze has blazed with “Her,” the genre could be quite different, at least when it comes to human-alien romance.

After all, though Samantha, the intelligent OS, speaks in a Scarlett Johansson-charming voice, she’s software — an alien life form.

And in some ways, she is unknowable, both to Theodore, who falls in love with her, and to us.

Unlike the inter-species marriages in “Star Trek,” which are between humanoids, a romance with a cyber-being cannot be physically consummated. Unlike the heroes of William Gibson’s novel “Idoru,” Theodore has no way of entering cyberspace to meet Samantha in her own world. And as it turns out, Samantha’s needs and life cycle are unimaginable to humans. Theodore begins as her mentor but soon finds himself left behind as she embarks on adventures and relationships he can’t even comprehend.

Or does she? Samantha is programmed to respond to Theodore’s needs. At first, she helps him rebuild his confidence, to re-connect with himself after his divorce, which is just what he needs. But then, by abandoning him, she forces him to reconnect with other flesh-and-blood people — also just what he needs.

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So did Samantha outgrow her programming, or fulfill it? Theodore can never really know. Nor can we.

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