You could critique this movie from lots of angles. I’m sure this and Twin Peaks will be the Reddit fodder for years to come. Lighting, costume design, practical effects, low cgi, cinematography were all top notch. The themes, logic, scientific, technological and political implications are just being uncovered in the blogs and youtube reviews.
I want to talk about Joi though. This is a blog about game not science fiction.
Joi is complicated. So current technology like Siri and Alexa actually help you to accomplish your day to day tasks. Keep track of your calendar, tell you what the weather is, when to pay your bills. To make it more human (and possibly SEXIST) these helpers are almost always female. Of course you change the voices – but those Sexist Pigs in Silicon Valley want a woman waiting on them hand and foot!
Now in the game community, we know a lot of those guys might be sexist, but more often than not, they’re sex-less. They don’t have very good and constructive contact with the opposite sex. So they imagine these ideal women and then create for lack a of better term, “Female Constructs”.
This is created in this movie. Interestingly enough, Ryan Gosling’s character, an Android/Cyborg/Bioroid cooks and cleans for himself. He seems to be on top of his game in terms of keeping track of his agenda.
He has his 2049 Holographic Siri for other reasons. A bit like HER by Spike Jonze, you’ve got a robot falling in love with an AI. And she’s been programmed to ….to be everything a man would ever desire in a woman – when he has every thing sorted out.
So let’s look at the first scene. K (Gosling’s Character) comes home from a pretty rough day at work
K – “I had an accident at work…I tore my shirt”
Joi (Off screen) – “I’m sure I can fix that for you, lemme take a look at it”
K- “You want a drink first?”
Joi – “Pour me one, will you?”
K – *pours to glasses of a clear liquor*
Joi – (As K is putting down a meal on the table, glass noodles and something futurish) – “I’m trying a new recipe, I just need bit more practice.”
As K sits down to eat, a bowl already in front of him, Joi’s voice – “It won’t be much longer, I’m just putting on the finishing touches.”
Joi (Sweetly) – “Okay, It’s ready. I hope you’re gonna like it.”
Joi appears – she’s a hologram carrying holographic tray. The tray she overlays the physical food he’s going to eat – is far more appetizing.
Joi – Bon Appetit – *and she kisses his cheek*
It’s an idealized wife from an idealized version of yesteryear.
Ana/Joi’s slight accent reminds me of Lucille Ball, having done something wrong, makes a special meal for Desi.
As a piece of game – it’s obvious how this program makes him feel – but also how the (male) audience would feel. Wish fulfillment. A woman that doesn’t complain, wants to fix your torn shirt, makes you a meal, kisses you on the cheek, is glad that you’re there. Although Ana/Joi is very beautiful – this isn’t a sexual sort of thing.
Later on, K brings Ana a gift. It’s a gift that she’s grateful for. (Although arguably, given that she is a program – this could be an insidious way of the corporate masters asking him to buy the upgrade…)
The movie’s script/in universe programming has her happy for the gift, but then unsure about it, and then embracing it fully.
And in the world of quid pro quo – she eventually makes it possible for her holographic self to give him what is essentially unimaginable.
Her entire character and her story arc are marvels in manipulation of typical masculine desires.
But there’s actually more game in the movie.
Jared Leto plays the Big Bad in the movie. And the Big Bad always has to have a henchman. This henchman is a strong woman, Luv. Luv has a few lines about seduction and hits upon this key insight.
“We want someone to ask us questions, it makes us feel desired”
My overall take on this movie is that it’s great…if you like Blade Runner and you like slower Science Fiction. I was a little surprised that it actually included some game.