I Want to Live in Spike Jonze’s Future
Great pants. A reassuringly familiar undertone of melancholy.
Warning! This piece contains spoilers for Spike Jonze’s new movie, Her.
The near future is usually an appalling place, where designer babies are delivered via drone and preschoolers learn Java via brain wave–reading headbands and private security forces of headless mechanical boars stalk our office parks at the behest of a Google–National Security Agency behemoth and the moon is always full. I don’t want to live in that future, although sometimes I fear I already do, the cryogenically preserved brain of Jeff Bezos having reanimated millions of zombie laborers like me for the vast Amazon warehouses he’s built atop the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has acquired its own weather systems and gross domestic product.
But the near future of Spike Jonze’s feature film Her, in limited release this week, is a warmer, gentler, more pensive destination, where even the engines of romantic disenchantment are at once new and familiar. The guys of the future, in their beltless, high-waisted trousers and wistful mustaches, are a Greenpoint-ified vision of an early-1980s Apple engineer. Los Angeles, which has painlessly transformed into a cousin of the Pudong district of Shanghai, has a public transportation system as clean, pleasant, and smooth running as an Apple Store on a weekday afternoon. Smartphones are slender and impossibly tiny, bringing to mind an elegant carbon-fiber case for business cards or maybe Don Draper’s cigarette lighter. There are no drones anywhere. The only apparent big problem is Arcade Fire is still around.
Jessica Winter is executive editor of newyorker.com and a former editor at Slate and Time. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives with her family in Flatbush, Brooklyn.