I’ve had this theory about the fantastic Spike Jonze movie HER for a while, but haven’t ever seen it discussed.
To explain this, I have to go over Spike Jonze’s personal relationships before he made HER. Spike Jonze was married to fellow director Sofia Coppola. They met in 1992 and were married from 1999 to 2003.
[As a side note, which many people may already be aware of, it’s pretty clear that Giovanni Ribisi’s character in Sofia’s 2003 film LOST IN TRANSLATION was based on Spike Jonze. They even run into Anna Farris’ character Kelly, who’s clearly a riff on Cameron Diaz (whom Spike directed in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH), as Kelly promotes a CHARLIE’S ANGELS-style film.]
After they divorced in 2003, Spike began dating Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. At the time, Spike was 34 and Karen was 25. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their debut album “Fever To Tell” in 2003 and became well-known very quickly. Touring and doing lots of promotion.
Karen and Spike broke up in 2005, but stayed creative collaborators, with Karen doing the songs for Spike’s film of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and co-writing with Spike “The Moon Song” for HER, which got them both Oscar nominations.
Most of the pieces I’ve read about HER are about how a relationship with technology would work and how AI would evolve past us and so on. But I don’t think HER is about dating a “Siri” type AI. It’s about Spike Jonze, freshly divorced, dating a much younger woman, Karen O, as she becomes a world famous rock star. Since Karen is constantly touring and doing promotion, most of their relationship occurs over the phone.
And as Karen, who was in her mid-20s, met tons of interesting people and grew, she naturally changed over time. To the point where she and Spike’s relationship met a breaking point, although they clearly still have a strong relationship creatively. Just not a romantic one.
This all would sync up pretty closely with the evolution of the relationship in HER where, at first, Theodore is the one showing and explaining the world to Samantha. Spike is a world famous music video and film director who would know all the most interesting people and places.
But as Karen travelled on tour, she’d meet her own network of cool and interesting people. Late in the movie, near the end of their relationship, Samantha introduces Theodore to an interesting AI, Alan Watts, that she’s met. Samantha and Alan try to explain to Theodore what it’s like to be changing so fast that you don’t even understand it yourself.
Which sounds pretty much like what it would be like to be in a small indie rock band in New York City one day and the lead singer of a world famous band touring the entire world the next day.
As well, there’s the scene where Theodore meets up with Catherine, his ex-wife: https://youtu.be/Ewq5tStHmdk?t=163
Instead of Theodore telling Catherine he’s dating an operating system, imagine him telling her he’s dating someone nine years younger than him. Sofia was two years younger than Spike, 32. To hear that your ex-husband is dating someone only a few years out of college would seem pretty immature of him.
Certainly, it would seem like he was dating someone easier to control or less mature, which is what Catherine’s responses are about. “You wanted to have a wife without the challenges of dealing with anything real.”
But hey, there is a happy ending.
It’s the fact that Karen O and Spike wrote “The Moon Song” together. Check out the video for “The Moon Song,” which has a note from Karen O: https://youtu.be/CxahbnUCZxY?t=33
The note reads, in part, “The song was 10 years in the making according to Spike and a testament to a beautiful friendship and creative chemistry we’ve shared over the years.”
And of course, in the movie, “The Moon Song” is written by Samantha. Ten years after they dated (as they began dating in 2003 and HER came out in 2013), their friendship and collaboration continues. Which is pretty incredible and resulted in both “The Moon Song” and the awesomeness that is HER. A movie about how a relationship could evolve beyond a romantic relationship, but still have love and collaboration