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Margulies, A. (2016). Avatars of Desire and the Question of Presence: Virtual and Transitional Spaces Meet Their Liminal Edge - from Pygmalion to Spike Jonze's Her, and Beyond…. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(6):1697-1708.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(6):1697-1708

Film Essay

Avatars of Desire and the Question of Presence: Virtual and Transitional Spaces Meet Their Liminal Edge - from Pygmalion to Spike Jonze's Her, and Beyond…

Alfred Margulies

(Accepted for publication 11 March 2016)

There is a poignant strangeness to Spike Jonze's movie Her (2013); we resonate with the characters' clumsiness in trying to reach one another, each an avatar to the other's desire. The movie is an expression of the human condition of being grounded in desire that can never fully settle itself. And because desire arrives wrapped in fantasy, it is always-already virtual. As analysts we are familiar with this: the analytic situation itself structures a transitional space - a virtual space - that situates the analyst, too, as an avatar of desire. The liminal frame of the analytic space maintains the transitional possibilities by heightening, frustrating, and sustaining a core of desire wanting to be expressed - and not merely in words. And here at the threshold of connection lie the possibilities of new awareness.

The Question of Presence: What does it Mean to Be Somebody?

What does it mean to be somebody? Here is Lily Tomlin: “All my life I wanted to be somebody. And then I realized I was aiming too low.” And how about Tom Ripley, the charming psychopath in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella, 1999): “I'd rather be a fake somebody than a complete nobody.” Consider too the prescient New Yorker cartoon of two dogs typing away at a monitor: “On the internet no one knows you're a dog.”

And there you have it: The deep wish to be somebody in a world of other somebodies, the opportunity to create self anew, and the illusory self-affirmation in the reflected mirror of the other. True self/False self.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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