People seem not to care much for the new “Celebrity Having a Night In” Siri commercials, featuring Samuel L. Jackson making risotto, John Malkovich creepily creeping over Siri’s jokes, Zooey Deschanel not knowing if it’s raining outside. They’re all talking to Siri, Siri the Automated Personality, Siri the You Are Not Alone. Here’s what All Tech Considered had to say:
In a third commercial, Malkovich, one of the greatest English-language actors, can only seem to speak in one-word sentences. (Perhaps his minimalist dialogue is a requirement because Siri is still in beta and anything more complicated would cause her to melt down.)
Malkovich being Malkovich, lounging in his comfy chair, utters these question words in order: “Weather.” “Evening.” “Linguica.” “Joke.” Siri does her best to accommodate him, answering with the forecast, his schedule, places to eat Portuguese smoked sausage and the beginning of a funny story that leaves Malkovich in stitches: “Two iPhones walk into a bar. I forget the rest.”
The overt message of these TV ads is obvious: By the command of your voice, Siri can help you with the mundane tasks of everyday life.
But there’s also a troubling subtlety to them. All three of the actors appear to be alone at home, with no one but Siri to talk to. Is Apple implying we’re all alone — and technology is all we need to live our isolated lives?
On the other hand, how else do you market a technological companion but by having someone all alone, in need of convenient information, and who else to have all alone on the screen, but lovable loners we all know to be hugely successful, who don’t seem to have all that much trouble being alone, whether it’s Malcovich in the nave of his own bizarre genius, or Zooey’s ditzed-out glam, isolation never quite feels like that. Of course these people aren’t alone–And that’s exactly the picture you get from some comments on NPR; namely one who said, “You guys are reading WAY too much into this. Assuming these people have no lives and are lonely is just ridiculous. I guess people need SOMETHING to gripe about.” And yet the vast majority of the comment-barrage after NPR’s short post went otherwise, including this one from Mark P who said, “I wish I had siri. I woke up to the sound of rain and had to go all the way to the window to see if it really was raining!” It’s idiot-making, using this technology for such basic everydayness, but it’s the everydayness of loneliness that sits deeper at the root of a mismanaged, miscommunicated need. It’s not, Siri or No Siri; it’s Give me Siri, but give me also the strength to be alone like that.