By Hope Harris
Remember “I Dream of Jeannie”? Well, probably most of you don’t. It was a stupid television show from the ‘60s in which a man picks up a decorative bottle, turns it in his hands, and suddenly a beautiful young woman dressed in harem garb emerges from the bottle.
With hands on her hips she looks at the man. “Yes, Master?” she says. He, unwittingly, has conjured his very own personal genie. Jeannie.
WELL! Over the course of four or more seasons the man falls in love with this Jeannie/genie and there are all sorts of complications that arise (one being she isn’t real).
I was reminded of the show just days ago. I went to a friends’ house for lunch and at one point they showed me their latest gadget. A tiny little black thing that looks like a hockey puck. They plugged it in (it’s called a DOT), waited a moment for a light to come on, then in a normal voice and a mere few feet away my friend said “Alexa, play “Georgia” by Ray Charles. “Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia,” a soft-spoken, young (I would guess) woman, accent-less, from somewhere in space, repeated the request and immediately the song came on. Clear as crystal. Definitely Ray Charles. Halfway through, to demonstrate how good Alexa is at taking instruction, my friend said in a normal speaking voice, only feet away, “Alexa, stop.” The music went away. So did Ray Charles. Poof. Just like that.
I knew instantly I wanted this little hockey puck: to read books to me and play music I requested, turn off lights, tell me what the weather was doing, turn on the coffee, make a decision about what to wear that day.
But then I thought no, what I really wanted was a male version of Alexa. Same clear as crystal voice, deep and soothing, infinitely patient, preferably in his 40s. That would be about right. So I went on to Amazon, ready to place an order. “Not yet,” Amazon said. “No male equivalent yet.” “Why not?!” I wanted to know. It’s been out for two years, purchased all over the United States, making hundreds more thousands of dollars for Amazon (not that Amazon needs hundreds more thousands of dollars). And then it came to me: men, a man, runs Amazon, doesn’t he, and if he projects what HE needs, i.e. a new gadget for his home and office to serve his every need, then it stands to reason IT would be female. Voila: the birth of Alexa.
Then I happen, surfing through the TV channels, on to “HER”, a movie from a couple of years ago about a lonely 30s something man who happens on an unusual OS; a new operating system on his computer. Sultry as all get out, but smart and level- headed, “her” name is Samantha. They begin a friendship, then an affair of the heart and after determining that they are actually in love, Samantha sends a surrogate real woman to the man’s house because she recognizes he needs consummation, a physical union with someone to represent her/Samantha. But he’s sensitive and truly in love and he can’t make love with this stranger, though she’s pretty and willing and understands the existential situation in which all three are placed. He sends her away. The perfect man.
Now why, I ask you, can’t that man, be the alternative to Alexa? A man anxious to do anything to please the female who’s connected to him. Who even knows her favorite book or music and doesn’t have to ask. Who knows when she’s sad or just needs to talk. Who’s irritated with work and needs a cocktail before dinner, maybe a virtual backrub, who suggests a vacation in Paris, suggests she go to Rome for a new dress, suggests taking time off for herself, going to a spa in Arizona even though he will miss her while she’s gone?
We’re just not making a lot of progress here. Amazon says there’s a man planned for DOT but is there REALLY or are they just saying that to keep us (women) at arm’s length?
Things have taken a very strange turn. We used to take a stand when there was another woman: “…it’s her or me!” Now she lives with us in the disguise of a hockey puck, and sooner or later, while waiting for the male Alexa — but finally resigning myself to the fact that it may never happen — I’ll come to accept HER and the three of us will learn to cohabit and like it.
There are awesome implications here…