Sex Tape Gets One Thing Amusingly Right About Technology

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 17 2014 4:54 PM

Sex Tape Gets One Thing Amusingly Right About Technology

Sex Tape fact check
“Nobody understands the cloud!”

© 2014 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Sex Tape, which hits theaters Friday, is not a good movie, but it does have a premise that ought to resonate in our Internet-addicted, gadget-worshipping, privacy-compromising times. A husband (Jason Segel) and wife (Cameron Diaz) use their new iPad to record themselves having sex, after which the husband not only “forgets” to delete the video, but accidentally uploads it to “the cloud.”

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

The cloud! That nebulous realm where so many of us store our files without really understanding what it is we’re doing or why. Who runs the cloud? Where is it located, exactly? Does it have something to do with the weather?

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And, most importantly: If we inadvertently put something embarrassing there, is it liable to wind up on the iPads of all our friends, family, and bosses, as it does for the unfortunate couple in Sex Tape?

Thankfully, the answer in most cases is no. As GQ points out, simply uploading a file to Apple’s iCloud will not automatically make it accessible to anyone who doesn’t share your Apple ID. There’s also the simple fact that a three-hour-long video would eat up gigabytes’ worth of storage and take quite some time to upload and download. Most cloud-storage services, including iCloud, aren’t designed for streaming movies.

But that doesn’t stop Sex Tape from gleefully toying with our societal confusion about the inner workings of those shiny high-tech devices we’ve so naively entrusted with the most intimate details of our lives.

Besides, if we’re going to get technical about it, the objections raised by GQ are mostly irrelevant, because Segel’s character isn’t using iCloud like a normal person to back up his files for personal use. He’s a professional DJ who gives all his friends customized iPads as gifts and employs a special, super-duper syncing service (aptly named “Frankensync”) to automatically update them with his latest playlists.

The movie doesn’t explain exactly how this works, and Segel’s character himself appears not to fully grasp the program’s machinations. In one of the movie's funnier exchanges, he tries to explain to his wife that the movie somehow went “up into the cloud.” Can’t he get it back down from the cloud, she asks? “Nobody understands the cloud!” he raves. “It’s a fucking mystery!”

He’s right—the cloud is a mystery to a lot of us, even though it really shouldn’t be. That’s partly because the term itself is misleading. The cloud isn’t any one thing. It just refers to computing that takes place on remote servers, rather than on your own device. Many of us use cloud services like Gmail and Dropbox every day without a second thought. Still, it’s true that in the tidy and user-friendly world of Apple devices and software, iCloud stands out—along with the bloated mess that is iTunes—for its less-than-intuitive functionality.

In the end, Sex Tape’s goal isn’t to get technology right. It’s to poke fun at the ways in which we get technology wrong, even as we soak up the gauzy marketing that surrounds it and proudly deploy the buzzwords that Silicon Valley feeds us. Put aside the schizophrenic pacing, the hastily drawn characters, and the inexplicable plot twists, and Sex Tape is really a movie about our dangerous liaisons with a lover whose friendly face masks an inner life we’ll never understand—a lover named iPad.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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