I spoke about Change in my previous post and while I’ve mostly tried not to be someone giving pointless, free advice on this blog, sometimes it comes down to just that. Desperate times, you could say.
Yesterday I got rid of one of my social media networks. The biggest change I’ve made to my life lately. If you know me, you’ll realize how much thought must’ve gone into it and courage, too. I was, somewhat of an addict at one point. I tried to rid myself of it many years back but rebounded a few months later and there’s never been a moment of silence or separation ever since.
What comes with social media is a constant virtual connection without having to step out of the boundaries of your residential territory. But it was invariably clouding my normal life and time and again I ignored the warning signs. It’s not a bad thing if you’re a social pariah but when everything you actually know about your friends is only stuff you’ve glanced at on their walls, it’s time to question where you stand.
For some of us, powering down is easy. We forget where our cell phones are, we lose touch with our online personas because we’re so busy actually going out and making memories. But for others, it’s the only medium of any kind of human interaction. Even looking at pictures of our friends having a good time or knowing where they checked in is the best we can do to feel strangely reassured that it’s too much of a struggle and we’re better off in the virtual game of life. But for the sake of introspection this question begs to be asked, when do we really power down? Switch off completely? The answer is never and don’t lie that that doesn’t scare you sometimes.
I need to focus on invaluable interactions and moments of my life other than sharing links and finding the best sized picture for my cover photo. While I sound like a complete hypocrite and I know that this rehab I’ve gone into might only last a while, I would like to pride in the fact that I did it anyway. Most people I know can’t claim to do even that.
If you followed Sloppy Etymology in the past, you’d think deleting digital footprint is something I always do when the going gets tough. However, this compares nowhere to deleting my blog (or should I say blogs?) That felt like brutally chipping away a physical part of me. This feels as though I’m being pieced back together and rejuvenating myself with a strangely uncommon
If things matter they’ll matter enough to make you hold onto them firmly with both hands. If they don’t, you can honestly press Delete with the swift movement of one finger and I promise, you won’t feel a thing. I may have lost a blog audience of over a thousand people who next to never read my blog. So that’s not even a problem. But I’ll admit that a certain amount of effort had gone in building that network and it stings just a bit to lose it all at the click of a button. I’ll reassure myself by guessing that the ones who still care about reading what I write will not require a Facebook share and maybe that speaks more than enough about my reason to delete it and thereby redefine me and my territory.
Oh and here is a song that I heard on a show and makes me feel pretty awesome about everything.
I decided it’s better to share a song and distract you than let you click on the stupid ads that sometimes pop up here below my blog.
I never thought that the first time I’d write about anime would be in such a terrible light. Believe me, it pains me a great deal to do so but sometimes writing helps get rid of residual emotions that you have no use for. If I manage to make it through this blog without breaking something, I’ll reward myself with a gummy bear.
Let’s get this straight, I have loved anime since as long as I can remember. All sorts of animations made by Walt Disney, Pixar, Tim Burton and DreamWorks have caught my attention and had me hooked since I was a little kid. For most people that kind of attention wavers and recedes once you mature. For me, it never did. For me, it heightened to obsessive levels. Anime, (by that I mean Japanese animation) itself was my biggest influence as a child and one that I couldn’t ever get enough of. What most people mistake for cartoons, true anime fans know is definitely more than just animated figures chasing each other around the screen like cats and mice. From a very young age, we realized what good shows should be made of (not just sugar and spice and all things nice), we knew what is a plotline, character development, complex emotions, sarcasm, satire, humour, love, desire, death all those things that many claim only a television show with living, breathing humans could display.
By now you can tell that I’m a huge anime fan and I feel like I have achieved a considerable level of fangirling with which I can discern and nitpick the good from the bad. Yes, there are some rotten ones as well so we can appreciate the plenty good ones. For many years I was a closeted anime lover. No, I wasn’t ashamed or actually hiding my obsession I just didn’t know anyone else who shared the same interest. Honestly, even right now I only know one person who has watched more anime than me and I should have listened, should not have watched Hell Girl: Jigoku Shoujo, should have saved myself the torture… should not have been so adamant… should not have… Groan.
A lot of anime I’ve watched in the past aired on the cable TV on channels like Cartoon Network having segments called Toonami and such. However, you’ll only find select anime here which are mostly dubbed in your native language or worse, in English where the translations are so literal it’ll make you barf. Animax Asia is an absolute delight because here is where you’ll find more categories, better quality shows and of course, beautiful AMVs (Anime Music Videos) in the intervals. If you’re lucky they’ll all be Japanese dubbed and even though that means constantly running your eyes over the subtitles you’ll find it more enjoyable because they have the most amazing voice artists, ever.
One fine day when I was doing my usual channel surfing from Channel 1 directly to Animax, I came across a well-drawn anime which seemed to be of the horror and mystery genre. Now let me tell you if you don’t already know, Japanese horror is easily the most terrifying, spooky and fright-inducing flavour of horror. Whether animated or not, it leaves you gasping and worrying about too many things that may have never crossed your mind before. Japanese horror takes urban legends to a whole new level.
So this show I fleetingly caught a glimpse of fit the bill. There seemed to be a solid storyline for the episode I was currently watching combined with a deep undertone of rage and revenge. The show had gory and vivid images of hell which is what it was mostly centered around. A young girl, named Enma Ai with long black hair and blood red eyes was the link which ferried a person to hell. Ferried, literally. The episode ended. I felt oddly intrigued like I do when I watch something good and then feel the urge to watch more of it so as to quench my curiosity and pass a well-rounded judgement before I move on to something else.
I went ahead and acquired all three seasons of Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl). I was very proud of myself for having discovered a great show without even searching. I waited for the right time and right alignment of the universe for me to delve into this show, prepared and pumped. Nothing could’ve prepared me though for what I was going to watch. Even after being forewarned by a very trustworthy source, I knew not how and why and what I was going to experience. It took me a few days, a vacation and detox juices to get back to normal to even write this blog. I do not exaggerate, my friends.
There are some animes that follow a fixed plotline in every episode. Each one can be broken down into a few parts the same way you could a letter into Salutation, Introduction, Body and Valediction. You know, like Ghostbusters and Scooby-Doo and other such shows where you already know the basic premise of the show. There is an obvious lack of continuity from one episode to the next except for the main character interactions and showdowns. You can sum up and say every episode is based on a fixed formula and even though you might know all too well how they will conclude you keep coming back to the show for those 25 odd minutes of riveting entertainment. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t even mind such shows because you can just hop on to the wagon from anywhere and still understand the goings-on perfectly. What bothered me is how confusing, repetitive and superfluous Hell Girl/Jigoko Shoujo was even though it had the full potential to be something scary and awesome.
Every short story includes a protagonist that has, in some way, directly or indirectly been wronged by another person. This wrongdoing usually takes place in the first ten minutes of the show and is often very predictable. Things like this happen every day in all parts of the world. People get cheated on, used, betrayed, laughed at, ridiculed for being different, abandoned, killed in accidents, and the list of heinous crimes is endless. Somewhere in between these few minutes, there is always a random conversation that comes to light exactly in the wake of the emotional crisis. It is so funny because I mean, how often does this happen that you’ve been hurt badly and a bunch of school girls pass by at precisely the exact moment talking about a website called Hell Correspondence that delivers immediate revenge to anyone who has wronged you. Once? Twice? Okay, okay, maybe thrice. Wait. Every damn episode? Are you honestly kidding me? I understand that there is a need to bring forth the concept of the website and the medium of obtaining revenge but can there at least be some kind of variation to the way it is disclosed.
Like that is not stupid enough, said protagonist is easily swayed and without any further ado duly returns home to their computer and logs onto Hell Correspondence, which only connects at midnight. If only I had a penny for every time I asked out loud to no one in particular, “Seriously? You want vengeance and the first thing you do is log onto a rumour of a website called Hell Correspondence?” I could still forgive the giddy-headed teenagers looking for an escape from their petty issues but when fully-grown adults sit before their computers, eagerly waiting to connect to Hell Girl I had to shake my head and resist from swearing in exasperation. (I don’t like swearing unless it’s absolutely unavoidable.)
Take a brief moment and imagine watching that exact scenario repeat itself every time only with different characters and how much it’ll hurt your brain to watch it over and over and over. Good, now read further.
After you log onto Hell Correspondence, you enter the name of the person you wish to exact retribution from. If your request is accepted, sometimes you’ll get a random update on your phone, all in red. Sometimes, you won’t. Sometimes, a little girl in a school uniform with dark red eyes and an expressionless face will randomly show up in your room, over your shoulder maybe, scaring the living daylights out of you. So what I’m confused about is, why this particular phenomenon does not follow a fixed pattern. How do you know your request was accepted or not? In some episodes, the protagonist is never given any response for days on end and is left wondering if Hell Girl was really just a rumour after all. There is no explanation to this, don’t look for it.
Let’s now be curious and ask what is it that Hell Girl does? Who is she? Where does she come from? What does she even want?
Sadly, I am only in a position to answer the first question here. The rest of them remain unanswered and I could only watch half of the first season till I figured I would take those unanswered questions with me to the grave, unless someone condemned me to hell and then I’d get to ask Hell Girl firsthand.
So after you contact Hell Girl, (depending on when she chooses to show up and scare you for no good reason) she offers a brief introduction stating her name, which is Enma Ai and that she is here to take revenge on your behalf because that’s obviously why you summoned her. What follows next is a fixed monologue which I have now rote-learned and can never shake out of my mind.
You’ve summoned me. My name is Enma Ai. [gives a straw doll to the person seeking revenge] Take this. If you truly wish revenge, just untie the scarlet thread from his neck. Pulling the thread binds you into a covenant with me. I will ferry the soul of your tormentor straight into the depths of Hell….however, once vengeance is served, you will have to deliver your end of the bargain. There always has to be a price. When you die, your soul will also belong to Hell. You will never know the joys of Heaven; you will be left to wander through a world made of pain and agony for all of eternity. The rest is upto you to decide.
Here is the part I have a huge problem with. At the start of the show, Enma Ai was extremely descriptive with this monologue. She’d appear at twilight against a bloody crimson sky and explain to the client who contacted her in vivid detail about the contract they were making with her and then hand over the straw doll with the red string. She would clearly state the consequences and even give them a glimpse of their fate once they made the choice. It was amusing to watch hell’s black hands emerge from dust and pull the protagonist into the earth with them or other such parallels, if only for a brief moment. I’m not being morbid here, what I mean is she was showing them what they were in for if they condemned someone to hell. It seemed fair. An eye for an eye, the supreme balance of the universe, to every action an equal and opposite reaction, etcetera, etcetera. But only a few episodes through, Enma Ai would appear, hurriedly hand over the straw doll and just when they were about to pull the string casually drop in a “However, you’ll go to hell as well when you die”, with a rather boring, no big-deal voice.
It’s understandable from the kind of trauma and distress the characters on the show continuously face that they’re desperate and want immediate revenge, period. Without giving them a proper explanation about their eternal damnation, I began to think Hell Girl just wanted them to pull the string already and be done with it. Thereby giving them no time to ponder over what happens to their soul later. Even the half decent things about the show were quickly falling through the cracks.
There’s another aspect about this show that cannot go unmentioned. Hell Girl’s sidekicks. Alongside Hell Girl, here are three more characters who act as her assistants and apart from passing random remarks and casually checking in on the client’s actual circumstances have no other real role to play. I am usually very good with Japanese names but for the life of me I couldn’t be bothered to remember theirs. A bald old man, a punk boy with hair covering most of his eyes, a strangely beautiful woman resembling geishas if they existed in an alternate world with off-shoulder and deep V-neck plunging kimonos. The old man has absolutely no other part except saying this one line at the end, “Revenge will be granted.” The punk and the lady step into the real world sometimes to ensure that the client’s circumstances are genuine and the revenge is not a ploy to deliberately hurt someone for no fault of theirs. What are such an odd combination of people doing together on this journey of hell? Is there anything more to their characters? Are they dead or alive? Have they got nothing better to do?
Once the string is pulled, revenge is unleashed on the antagonist with great pomp and circumstance bringing true their worst nightmares. The punk and the woman sometimes step in to role-play so as to make the whole Hell experience more…lifelike, I daresay. They really have nothing better to do, of that I’m sure. Once all the drama is over, they ask the person to confess to their sin which they obviously never do (because this show is full of vile, ruthless and awful characters) they turn to Enma Ai and I promise I’m not making this up, this is what they actually say, “That’s what s/he said, Young Miss.” Oh my goodness, the way it cracks me up. Every time.
The person then wakes up crazed on a boat being ferried along a river with floating lanterns. Enma Ai tells them, “This revenge will ferry you to hell,” as she emotionlessly rows the boat along the misty stream.
Afterward, there are a few minutes of epilogue where everything magically becomes right in the protagonist’s life and no one ever questions the missing antagonist’s whereabouts. All’s well except for the fact that the protagonist gets a crescent shape mark on their chest which serves as a constant reminder of their fate.
I’ve run you through what happens in every episode but I still cannot explain well enough just how contrived the show is and how many stupid loopholes there are that anyone even with a faint understanding of how this world functions could confidently bring up. These people who have been damaged by someone’s actions never, not even once, for the sake of God, ever consider contacting the police and letting that serve as their revenge. Whether or not Hell Girl wants more people to be condemned to Hell remains a mystery. I guess after a point, the only reason to watch the show is to find out if they pull the string or not. Spoiler alert, they always do.
To the persons who managed to watch all three seasons and believe that I was too quick to bash it up, please give me a good explanation as to how the show redeems itself, I’m honestly all ears. To the person who warned me about this show when I expressed my desire to watch it, I love you, you were right. To everyone else, keep in mind he who seeks revenge should remember to dig two graves, you know, just in case Hell Girl forgets to explain that to you in detail.
Back when I was in school, I had a friend, who by all means was only similar to me in one way. We shared the same birthday. For anonymity’s sake, let’s call her C. C and I knew each other since kindergarten and we never really could live with or without each other. We knew everything there was to know about a person right from the beginning when we started being social little creatures.
C’s mom and my mom never saw eye-to-eye. What I’ve been told is that it started right from Nursery school apparently. Her mom forcibly made me get down from the swing so that C could swing a bit. My mom witnessed this and in her fierce mother’s heart felt like her daughter was wronged. Since then, the seed of hatred was planted.
Anyway, our mothers are not part of this story.
It must be noted that C and I were never best friends. We were only bound by the certain knowledge that we were born on the same day of the very same year and were always impressed by that little trick of nature at producing two starkly opposite people on one day. While C was on the darker side and really thin and bony, I had a fair and slightly wheatish complexion and in comparison I wasn’t so puny. For everyone else, we both appeared anorexic. We knew where the difference lay.
C was one of the most annoying people I actually loved being around. Her inappropriate behaviour at all times was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen. We also had the strange luck of being together in most classes for all ten years of schooling. While teachers chose me to recite poetry and answer intellectual questions and host Annual Day programmes, C would be chosen to be the Log Book Monitor or the Cupboard Key Caretaker. It was hilarious how contrasting we were; when birthday morning came around and we both arrived pompously in colourful frocks and shiny shoes while everyone was dressed smartly in beige uniforms, the reactions were epic. I use the word epic in the best way possible.
When we reached a certain age, C and I both started developing other interests. Particularly, in boys and pop culture and things that would make us fit in. While C brew a whole circle of friends outside school, I didn’t have much to work with because I mostly thought if I wasn’t reading huge books till I fell asleep I was wasting my life. I was precocious. C was precarious.
When we both started seeing boys and trying to get them to like us, I realized that C was better at it than me. I saw that it took her no time to talk to someone and make them ask her out. I stuck to being polite and hoping someone would tell the boy I was interested in about my existence. Soon enough, C was changing boyfriends by the week. I watched from the sidelines and wondered what it was she was gaining by any of this. We used to walk home together and at least five boys would walk up to her on the road everyday and say hi. When social media came into our lives, all these guys recognized me as “the girl who walks home with C” and they decided to befriend me. It wasn’t amusing but at least I was getting attention.
C and I also ended up being cast as Romeo and Juliet for the English dramatics. I got the part of Juliet and C was my short and puny Romeo. I remember C wore her boyfriend’s pants and wouldn’t stop gushing about it. I remember that it drove me absolutely insane when she wouldn’t shut up about that. I remember how even though she annoyed me, I always laughed it off and stuck around unlike the impatient, quick-to-get-rid-of-dimwits person I’ve become now. She was never behaving like someone she was not. She never did it for attention. She was so naturally queer and she couldn’t care less what anyone else thought of her.
When we reached our last school year, C was a total wreck. I, on the other hand, had faced some humiliations and learnt my lesson. C went on dating every guy she met. I had wrapped up my affections and put them away because they seemed to be spilling out on all the worthless ones. We were seniors at school now and I had gained added responsibilities. C was perpetually heartbroken and soothing it in very stupid ways, thereby creating room for more regret.
Our heritage school had many inspirational, vintage posters strategically stuck on the staircases so that they hit you right in the face when you were passing by. There was no avoiding them. When we reached the tenth grade and were allotted the topmost floor, we were being subjected to several of those posters several times a day.
One of them, right opposite our floor staircase went like this:
Life is full of CHOICES.
When you came down the next flight of steps, another one read:
There are many other fish in the sea!
Whether these were put up to mock each other or it was just a sheer coincidence, I’ll never know. But every time I climbed the stairs with C I would read the first one out to her loudly and she’d laugh and wait till we reached the next floor then read out that one in her response.
It’s been years and I haven’t met C but I see her life occasionally on social media. She seems to have figured things out. She has grown her hair just like me. Looking back, I’ll never know a friend the way I just knew her. Knew who she was beneath everything. Whether I approved of her ways or not, C was a friend to me for more than a decade and it still means more than what I feel for my present friends. Somehow, friendships like that don’t happen with me anymore. I wish that I could reach out to C now without any implications of what she might think of me for coming out of nowhere. I don’t even think it would make any sense if I did but if we lived in simpler times, I would go ahead and tell her a thank you because I realized that she was one of the best friends I never knew I had.
I feel hopeful. February has ended and memories have been photographed. Many of the things I should’ve been looking forward to in my life are now behind me. Graduation was made a big deal about and I stood under a dark sky, dressed in a way I’m usually not, surrounded by lights and music I don’t like, observing myself and the way I feel. I felt very little emotion but I saw it through. It wasn’t easy.
Recently, someone I have not interacted with very much over the past three years said something to me about my blog. It was an intentional somehow confused yet expressive style of a compliment. She told me that she had to say two things. The first one faded once I heard the next one. She said in the simplest way that she reads my blog and the only words she could muster were, “Oh my god”. Now while there have been people who’ve said more than just that about my writing and flattered me to a very great level I mostly think I don’t deserve, this struck me more than I had anticipated.
People tell you what they like about your words. They say things like your writing inspires me, your words are beautiful and you write tastefully. There is always some kind of restriction, even a compulsion to frame your compliment in the perfect, most acceptable way which I’ve never quite understood. When I see something I like, I’ll say the very first thing that pops in my mind. I won’t search in the recesses of my head for words that need to match the extent of my awe.
When she said those words and tried to think of something more to add to that, I bit my lip hoping she wouldn’t say anything and mar the moment. She didn’t.
Often, it is perceived that conforming to societal ways is the way to be. Time and again, things happen around me that make me question society as a whole.
I’m getting myself organized this month and trying to make the best use of my time. A blog I’ve wanted to write for a very long time is finally taking shape. I have so much to write about it that I pause and don’t get back to it for days in order to gain perspective. I also set a reminder on WordPress for at least one post a month. I’m always amused at the type of sassy mails I get from certain websites. I don’t know if it was that subtle reminder of my goal for the month or the sudden ohmygod, but it was the little push I needed and I’m back to say that I’m still here and I’m writing. I’m always writing.
Let me go ahead and say this right at the start. This movie is as close to perfection as can be. I say it that way, because nothing can ever be truly perfect and perfection in itself is a subjective concept.
I’ll be honest this is why I really do Movie Reviews. When something like this comes along and I know that I can’t keep myself from writing about the movie and channeling my adoration into a blog that I can constantly go back, reread and absorb. That’s the prize in all of this.
Short Term 12 is a quietly compelling and brilliant movie. For some reason these are the near perfect movies that get conveniently forgotten. The unassuming genius of such movies is underrated and soon enough it disappears from most minds. Not mine, though. Short Term 12 stealthily touched my soul and changed me. I said that out loud while typing it and the Imaginary People in my head asked me, “How can a story change you?” But that’s the thing my friends, how can it not.
I’m so afraid that I won’t be able to do justice to this review but my desire to write about it is driving me insane. I’m simply whelmed. I will struggle to convey to you what this movie accomplishes and I will make my strongest attempt to make you understand what it is that Short Term 12 did, that other movies don’t. In between all of this, I will sway to the deep recesses of my mind and implicitly tell you things I fear are too personal.
The movie is set in a group care home (Short Term 12) for troubled adolescents and teenagers that is run by Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). Outside their job, Grace and Mason is a couple that lives together and is nearly indistinguishable from a married couple. They are essentially the ideal definition of a couple that loves each other in the rawest sense and have an understanding and connection far superior than most others. All of their scenes outside the facility have a beauty, a softness that is so genuine and endearing. They are not perfect and that is fine.
The entire movie is glued together by the outstanding performances of the actors and actresses involved. While anyone who has paid attention will easily say that Brie Larson who played the lead character Grace is simply amazing and at complete ease with what she’s doing in any scene. Be it at work where she can only provide a safe environment for kids so eager to self-harm and run away, or be it at home where she faces similar problems and can’t even get out of bed on certain days. At the start of the movie, I was unsure if she was the lead character. She somehow blended in and was not noticeable. But I was so wrong.
Enter Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), the punk teenage girl with dark eye make-up and scars on her wrist concealed by bracelets. While it could’ve been so easy to overdo that kind of a role, so easy to act whiny or try too hard to act natural, Kaitlyn effortlessly aces it.
Among all of this is John Gallagher Jr. who plays Grace’s fiancé Mason. He is the eptiome of nice and warm. He brings to the story a certain humour simply with his on-screen presence. He expresses himself with complete ease and his interactions with Grace are all too endearing. Mason is the Person Grace needs in her work life and love life.
I must make a special mention about Marcus played by Keith Stanfield, an almost-adult at Short Term 12 about to leave the facility soon. He adds to the movie that sullen feel of a destroyed young life that is so hard to retrieve. He singlehandedly executes one of the most twisted scenes in the movie and has tremendous potential with his facial expressions. My only wish was that there should’ve been more of him.
While all the other kids at the facility have problems of their own, they all seem to find some kind of odd kinship at the centre. They know they’re all there because of a certain kind of lacking in their lives. Something that came in the way of them attaining a normal childhood.
Various scenes in the facility showing interactions between the children and Mason and Grace are executed with such precise detail it made me wonder how such life-like scenes were even written. It came as no surprise when I found out that the writer and director Destin Cretton worked at a group care home and his personal experiences depicted in those scenes gives the movie due credibility. I’m sure other documentaries have been made on the subject of abuse, depression, overcoming a failed upbringing and an irresponsive family. I’m sure there have been others that were far more emotional and tear-jerking with hard hitting stories about the cycles of abuse and depictions of ‘what is the worse that could happen?’. Keeping in mind all of these things, it’s so easy to cut this movie short. To say that it merely skims waters that others have deeply immersed themselves in before would be an abomination. Short Term 12 has much more depth if you take a step back after watching it and ponder about it.
Short Term 12, overall, is a dark movie which picks up several issues of troubled childhoods and expands on them right from its core. It digs deeper into the psychological aspects of the characters and pulls out revelatory moments. It is rare to find a story that you can connect with whether you have or have not experienced something along those lines. I like movies that are cinematic and entertaining. I also like indie movies which are very intense and focus on emotions. But a movie such as Short Term 12…I’m unsure how I would categorize it. I would first say it is important and then humble and so incredibly introspective. It’s the kind of movie that puts you in the centre of something and makes you question your moral compass. It tells a story that makes you go back and think about yours and find hope in the face of it all. It made me want to think about certain actions and fundamentals that I so strongly held my ground in. I am reeling from a story that wasn’t about my life but makes me think afresh about mine. And even then some Imaginary People will still think a story cannot change you.
As the Oscar fever inside me is reaching its pitch and I have been literally gobbling down all the nominations, Spike Jonze’s Her made me pause, catch my breath and then want to write about it. While that in itself is truly something, I also felt like simply writing a review about this movie would not be enough. I’m not always very critical in my reviews as it is and you must understand this is more than just a story for me.
Set in the not-so distant future Los Angeles resembling a Shanghai skyline lives a man by the name of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) – a lonely, sombre and soulful man just trying to pull himself together after a breakup with his childhood sweetheart and wife (Rooney Mara). Theodore is a calm and thoughtful man who writes personal letters for people as a part of his job at handwrittenletters.com. At the very start it becomes clear that Theodore is unable to move on. The frequent flashes of Catherine and their happily married life together paint us a picture of how different he used to be when he was with her. Now, Theodore is heartbroken and left to his own devices with divorce papers he hasn’t been able to sign for a few months.
Her has a very futuristic feel to it. Theodore runs all his daily technological chores with the help of his phone’s operating system. Theodore seems to be spending more time with his computer and his OS and we only see him interacting with the couple in his building occasionally on the elevator. So when he comes across a new artificial intelligence operating system that is designed to evolve according to an individual’s intuitive needs and requirements, he gets pulled right in. This step sets off the dominos to the most heartwarming and heart wrenching phase of his life.
The OS offers him a choice between a male or female and he chooses a female who then introduces herself as Samantha (voiced with a sultry, breathy humanity by Scarlett Johansson). Sooner than expected Theodore finds himself awed by Samantha and the way she expresses herself. There is something particularly attractive about the way she can communicate so clearly even though she’s only an OS. She helps Theodore to get out of his rut and experience more things than he ever thought he could. Samantha is also more than just your everyday Siri in the sense that she finds herself evolving everyday in her interactions with Theodore.
This brings me to one of the scenes where Theodore-blissful and elated, is spinning around in circles with his phone in hand, just trying to grasp and absorb all the happiness and exuberance he suddenly finds in his life with Samantha. Although that moment is supposed to depict joy, a certain intimacy that is shared by two lovers in a moment, the scene also paints a picture of loneliness and isolation. For a passerby who does not understand what Theodore must feel with Samantha, he is very likely to be termed crazy. That’s funny, isn’t it?
This is also the part where my movie review drifts into other territories. What might seem crazy to someone might be a perfectly acceptable way of life for someone else. While it is easy to condemn someone’s style of living, why can’t it be easy to actually accept it? We’re in the 21st century now, and I think we have all experienced those long stretches where you sat crouched, staring down at your phone, endlessly waiting for a message from your lover, anything, a validation maybe that would get you through the day.
Let’s take it a step further. When you don’t get to see the person you love as much as you’d like and your relationship feels like it’s entirely based on messages and last seen timestamps. Is that not real then? Would you like to argue how that cannot possibly take away the essence of your love and instead enhance it in a more revitalizing way. What happens when you see someone on a computer screen on Skype or on Instagram more than you do in person, does that somehow make it ‘not real’?
Then why should we be so critical about Samantha and Theodore’s love?
The genius of this film is that there is no technical reasoning about the limits of the OS, its potential or lack of it. That in itself makes you feel that maybe, just maybe Theodore and Samantha are destined to be. You start picturing Samantha’s husky voice over the phone as a long-distance lover on the other end, as human and as real as Theodore. Amidst it all, you still know that she’s an OS and that this is a love without any kind of physical presence or confirmations.
Is that enough?
Which brings me to the part where things in your ‘not so real relationship’ have actually gotten to a point where you have met the person to whom the voice belongs. Learnt how they touch their hair, not just the side of the bed they sleep on but also the way their body curves when they do. You’ve figured that aural sex would probably never equal oral sex, and there is something deeply saddening to be able to settle for the prior after having experienced the two. You return to your life and try to focus on being together whilst you are actually apart and leading your own lives. You call them and text them just like before, but somehow 25 text messages a day do not cut the deal anymore. It’s not enough. You try your hardest to explain that it’s not that you want more of their time but you just need more of the ‘real’ thing. What is the reason for this sudden longing? Why are you being so greedy? You don’t understand but it’s an unnerving worry that doesn’t go away and is difficult to hide when you Skype with them next.
This is something that Theodore and Samantha do not face. They’re not greedy; neither do they have unreasonable expectations from each other. Theodore loves Samantha and he is happy to just have her love him back, really that is all. When Theodore’s wife accuses him of always wanting to be in a relationship without having to face the challenges of actually being in one, Theodore is thoroughly hurt. But what I love is how he has faith, he knows that whether human or not, Samantha understands and it’s futile to ponder over what someone else thinks of them. Just like a normal relationship, they experience highs and lows, bouts of jealousy, passion and desire. Samantha does her very best to make Theodore feel at ease with the complicated relationship they have, Samantha makes it look so easy, that it somehow makes you wish your life could be so convenient.
As we all know in our deepest selves, stories like these will always have a tinge of sadness and soon enough things go sour and Theodore’s fantasy comes undone. It is heartbreaking to watch him disintegrate like that, for the second time. It is undeniably as real a breakup as he had with Catherine. He ultimately turns to his friend living in the adjacent apartment who also seems to have gone through something similar. What they share in that last scene, it is not some kind of glimpse into them getting together in the probable future, they share their pain. They are both intensely aware of their heart being mangled inside out and need some kind of reassurance that they are not insane. It is not a plea for human touch but at the same time, it underlines the fact that reality, tangibility will always be constant in the face of fantasy. Which made me think that maybe happiness, love, vulnerability are more closely linked to a certain kind of spirituality, an introspection, too. Maybe what you think is going to make you happy doesn’t necessarily need to have a physical form or structure. The intricacies of your lover can exist entirely in your head and still satisfy you if you truly trust yourself and what you want. I’m also not saying that will end well.
I suspect many people will see this movie as some sort of satire, a kind of deliberate mocking at our progressively technological lives which culminates in alienation from human touch and emotions. At the same time, the movie expands on the various aspects of social interactions as well and why sometimes disappointments and continuous failed attempts at trying to reach out to another human being could lead to us moving towards something less unpredictably volatile.
The movie does such a beautiful and delicate job at pulling us into the minds of its characters and what defines them. We are so accustomed to watching a love story with a cinematic feel to it, waiting for what will be the next move. Spike Jonze’s Her has stirred a revolution in the kind of care that is exhibited in showcasing human nature and its complexity. There is a scene where Samantha asks Theodore in complete innocence,”How do you share your life with someone?” and this question attempts to be answered throughout the movie. In an age of information overshare and also the convenience with which we can select what to share online and what to conceal, what is it like really sharing your life with another person? In that sense, whether it has a futuristic take or not, whether or not you watch Her 20 years later or even right now, it is in many ways timeless.
“My first thought was, he lied in every word.”
Lately I’ve been having a hard time talking to people. You know, actually talking. I don’t know what I should say so I borrow things I’ve read about and do a good stance at making them sound interesting. Nothing interests me these days. I’ve noticed no one really wants to talk anymore. It’s too personal, too risky. What if I say something that really means more than I intended it to be? Nah, I’ll complain about that party I just have to attend and how my life is one endless drone of heartbreaks.
If you asked me do I still want the things I thought I always wanted, I’d say no. I would also say yes if I could. How can you want and not want something, at the same time? I’m afraid that what I want is not what people want from me. So I settle.
On an average, odd years have always been the best for me. I feared a tiny bit as soon as I noticed it’s 2014. A couple of things to look forward to, a horde of unexpected things that I don’t want to face. Why is it that when I have something I can never appreciate. Do I always need to be told to say thank you? My mother said that I’ve been acting like the 10 year old me and she’s not pleased. I responded by laughing hysterically which she stated hereby proves her point.
I’ve also been doing some thinking. If I miss my graduation day, say out of a valid reason, would it account to me not actually graduating. I know, that’s stupid on one too many levels. But what if I don’t want a farewell, a good luck for your future endeavours. Just a hasty, okay I’m done with this already. Will that make me any less of a graduate than my comrades?
I suppose more than the year, it’s the month to blame. January gets burdened with a lot of expectations. No sooner this gets over, I’ll find my groove. Of that I’m sure. Till then I will binge-watch and love and cry, eat occasionally and do everything that gets me through the day.
What I mean is, I had to leave this place. I had to make sure that it wasn’t going to wreck my love, my life. What I mean is, I felt as though something was taken from me. Even though I knew it was ultimately my decision, my call, to go off that blog. Even right now as I write this, I’m unsure if I’ll end up posting this. You see, I’m now completely terrified. I’m not sure if I can even express myself the way I used to. What I mean is, I’ll always be concerned from now on. What I mean is, I’ll never be the same “I always carelessly write what’s on my mind” person again. What I mean is, this might not make any sense to anyone.
I don’t know how many times I’ve mulled over this in the past few days. How many times I’ve come back and checked my stats, out of habit and also because I like that kind of torture for myself. What I mean is, I’m word-broken right now. I’ve come back now. But I don’t think I can assure you about staying.
I never did care about the audience I was writing to. I will now have to keep things in mind. You know, just in case. What I mean is, I will now be subjected to stifling myself from talking about certain aspects of my life. What I mean is, it is unfair and it’s wave after wave of hurt. What I also mean is, I’ve cried about this. I lost something which I could’ve saved, had I only been careful. What I mean is, this is always the scenario but it never fails to shock and shatter me.
It took me about 6 hours to get this blog set up and started. I was there on that blog for 10 months. What I mean is, things can be mended in less time than you think. What I mean is, things can only be mended, and once you mend something it’s never the same. What I mean is, I lost a part of me I was nurturing all year. I wanted it to last for posterity sake. What I mean is, it gave me the most beautiful gift in the most beautiful way and I had to abandon it.
I left another blog somewhere in another time when I was another person. I deleted everything there. I let someone take what they thought and even proudly assumed they had rightly built. I let someone mangle it up and pretend that it was theirs. What I mean is, if I compared both the hurts, this, on the surface is actually nothing. What I mean is, it wasn’t about what had happened, it wasn’t something definite in this case. It was something that could happen. Endless. Not definite. Infinite.
What I mean is, this could so easily be nothing. What if it’s just all in my head? More than one of my friends pointed that out. What they mean is, I think and over-think and the strands of my thoughts so easily spin themselves around my mind that soon enough I can’t tell what’s real and what is only my imagination. What I mean is, I’ve never been good with facts, I have a tendency to forget. Sometimes I’m so slow. I say something and I haven’t understood it myself before it’s already out there. What I mean is, it’s been a few days now and if something would have to happen, there would be a sign. No, not my heart which has been jack-hammering in my chest every time someone was around. What I mean is, if this is only my anxiety I need someone to break it to me, have an intervention, anything. Calm me the fuck down. But hell, it’s so easy to tell yourself what you need to hear. No one asked me, “What now? What about your blog?” What I mean is, no one could care as much about something I cared about so much.
The funny part, (yes, there’s actually one) WordPress didn’t quite let me change my username. So even though the titles and the Dashboard belong under Sloppy Etymology now, my username continues to be what it was. What I mean is, it’s not actually funny, it’s brutal. I was asked if I would like to disable the previous blog address. What that means is, do you never want to go back? I stared at the check box for as long as I could before my vision got blurry. Finally, I left it unchecked. What I mean is, I can’t quite say goodbye yet. What I also mean is, I have a hard time saying goodbye. Maybe someday I might want to go back, I don’t want to shut the door on that. What I mean is, I’m not good at ending things which is why I would rather force someone else to do it for me.
It took me so long to get all the image and link URLs right. I altered the previous address and replaced it with the new one for every damn media item. Over and over and over and over. What I mean is, it felt like stabbing myself repeatedly. If ever there was a way of self-harm that didn’t involve blood, this would be it for me.
I guess I will try more or less to be anonymous from now on. What I mean is, those who already followed the other blog will still find out this is me. What I mean is, they will read this and feel badly for me and will ask me what happened. I will try to tell them and fail miserably at making them understand. What I also mean is, don’t ask me.
Even though this year has been the greatest, most redeeming and beautiful year of my life, I am unsure if I can hide how sad and perpetually worried I am now. What I mean is, for some it could just be words stringed into sentences into paragraphs and pages. What I actually mean is, it’s more than just that for me. If anything this blog had helped me establish myself, feel like I had found my haven, a place where I could speak my mind and never worry about the interpretations, it was beyond love. Already I talk in the past tense. What I mean is, I didn’t know where I ended and where that blog began. If you argue that I have retained all my posts, followers, stats and it’s really not much different, I have nothing to say in my defense. I still can’t bring myself to alter my Welcome page which if you read now makes little to no sense. What I mean is, this is a half-hearted attempt to come back. What I mean is, I’m not quite fully here now and I don’t know if I ever will be.