By Sennah Yee
How would you like me?
Technology presents as many boundaries as it does possibilities. Joi, K’s hologram girlfriend, cycles through outfits like the customize-your-character stage in a computer game. She can be whatever K wants her to be - except flesh and bone. Joi’s technological body also limits her presence - she glitches, she cannot touch, she cannot be touched. A book, K’s fingers, rain droplets all fall through her. When K is about to kiss her in the rain, Joi’s program is put on pause as he gets a call. K loves her, but knows that he can leave her there frozen, or turn her on and off without issue - so he does.
Wikipedia entry for Cabin Fever:
A person may experience cabin fever in a situation such as being in a simple country vacation cottage. When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, to have a distrust of anyone they are with or to have an urge to go outside even in bad weather.
Joi cannot leave the apartment without an add-on, much to her frustration. Was this conflict pre-programmed to encourage K to buy the accessory that allows her to travel? Does it matter?
Wikipedia entry for Threesome:
Among swinging couples, one of the two partners is often the driving force and the other is more passive-supportive of the addition of additional sex parties. A threesome is a common element of sexual fantasy. It is commonly depicted in pornography, but very rarely in mainstream cinema.
Joi invites Mariette, a replicant sex worker, to act as a surrogate body for her and K to have sex. Joi syncs her hologram body onto Mariette’s, and their two images ebb and flow into a whole new woman that is both and neither of them. We do not know where Joi ends and where Mariette begins, and vice versa. Actions and reactions, projection and reality become blurred. Their expressions and movements are just a bit out of synch, creating a chimeric fantasy, an uncanny dream.
Wikipedia entry for Chimera:
The term chimera has come to describe any mythical or fictional animal with parts taken from various animals, or to describe anything composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or dazzling. The seeing of a Chimera was an omen for disaster.
The threesome is similar to the one in Her (2013) between Theodore, his Siri-like partner Samantha, and a hired surrogate, Isabella. Both Joi and Samantha instigated the acts, born out of their desire to possess a corporeal, carnal body.
Is a body not enough if it cannot touch or be touched? Can you love me without touching me?Can you touch me without loving me?
“I’ve been inside you, and there’s not as much there as you think.” Mariette says this to Joi the morning after their threesome. The competition between the two is not about who’s hotter, who can fuck better - it is about who can actually fuck and be fucked? Who is more “real”? The hierarchy of “realness” in this world creates a kind of queerness between human, replicant, and hologram. When K is outside of his home, he gets notifications from Joi, revealing that he has her program. Despite being a “skinjob” herself, Mariette chastises K for loving a hologram (“Oh, you don’t like “real girls.””).
“You look like a good Joe.” A hologram advertisement of Joi says this to K on a bridge. This Joi is naked, highlighter pink, larger than life. “Joe” was the name that Joi had given K earlier in the film - it was simple, special. K’s Joi has “died” by this point, making this exchange heart-breaking and strange. The Joi on the bridge is simply one of many Jois floating about, waiting to be purchased, waiting to be upgraded, waiting to love, waiting to be loved.
Wikipedia entry for Hologram:
Holographic portraiture often resorts to a non-holographic intermediate imaging procedure, to avoid the hazardous high-powered pulsed lasers otherwise needed to optically "freeze" living subjects as perfectly as the extremely motion-intolerant holographic recording process requires. Holograms can now also be entirely computer-generated to show objects or scenes that never existed.
What sets Joi apart from the flickering holograms of Elvis and Marilyn in the Vegas concert hall? They are all pre-programmed performances, but we are supposed to overlook and forget this about Joi. Elvis and Marilyn are beloved idols, iconic and irreplaceable (well, depending on how you look at it). We do not love Joi because of nostalgia - she “never existed.” We love Joi because she loves us. She is a projection, but not of anyone deceased - that is, until we see her again on the bridge. In that moment Joi is brought back from the dead, but it is uncanny. Her visual likeness, her essence live on, but what about her self? Like Elvis and Marilyn, Joi is there, but she is gone.
Would you like me to tell you the truth or a lie? Here are some: You are special. I am special. You are free to go wherever you’d like. You are free to go. You are free.