By Mike Davisson
Hackers is a fantastic but stupid movie. It was directed Iain Softley, who does a great job at getting the audience to relate to these crazy and wild kids. It does however have was huge flaw in it. The somewhat offensive trope of the 90s hacker. All hackers are freaks and geeks, weirdo’s existing on the edge of society. In order to cover the various tropes and issues, it will be organized by the central characters Crash Override, Acid Burn, The freak, Joey, Cereal Killer, and Nikon, as well as computer information as displayed on screen, and reality of hacking on screen. Of course, since they all are hackers and outsiders they might cover similar tropes, but also represent specific counter culture archetypes.
The main character, Crash Override aka Zero Cool aka Dade, supposedly created a virus capable of crashing a 1,500 different computers and servers at once. This guy was 9 when he created the program, he did it using his superior intelligence. This is a trope that is going off the idea of all hackers are these antisocial geniuses in the dark. Dade also is an example of the trope that nerds or geeks that are sexually and socially awkward. These traits are apparent as within the first few scenes where Dade screams “IM A VIRGIN” at his mom as he enter the shower. Dade is also representative of how hackers are troubled and always running around. In reality it’s a guy or gal sitting at a computer for a few days straight playing around with the functions and design of the security of the server or machine or whatever.
Acid Burn is the romantic interest within the movie, she represents the trope of tough girl hacker. She often wears latex and is aggressive sexually. However, even though she seems to best Crash Override in an initial hacker’s quarrel, she desperately needs the heroes help. While the tough damsel in distress is a minor trope and quite common, it causes the character to stand out less.
The Freak is a little feminine and sassy. He follows some sort of Latin American stereotype.
Joey’s trope is 90’s kid. This means he smokes cigarettes and gets into trouble, and dresses in a certain way. While Joey has a big role in the movie plot, he doesn’t appear on screen as much, he doesn’t cover as nearly many archetypes of outsiders and misfits as the rest.
Cereal Killer was a fantastic archetype that I personally love. While he is never shown to smoke marijuana, he follows the stereotype of a stoner and hippie. The way that this character laughs and acts is evident of this architype that is absent minded. The way he dresses and the comedic relief is also a stoner trope.
Something big that happens within this movie is the way that information and hacking is displayed upon screen. Now it is important to add that this movie had two hacking consultants on the pay roll and in some cases, this movie got computer science more right than other ideas on hacking. for example, most people thought it was typing really fast will numbers run down the screen. When actual hackers are typing anything ever they are building an application or they are typing something into the command line. This movie got this more or less right if not clumsily. When running cyber-attacks, the hackers would upload a floppy disk or run an application with an elaborate and unnecessary Graphic user interface (G.U.I). But often this is the process in hacking is it’s just a G.U.I with changeable options and pressing a run button or running something from the command line or simply reading data. While hacking in this movie looks a little cheesy and silly, it is a little more accurate than most people would give them credit for. However, two major things that were off within this movie was the way that information was displayed and the personalization of computers.
When Joey discovers the worm or virus or whatever, the main antagonizing force that the central characters need to deal with, he sees it as random equations floating in space like some sort of screensaver. This is silly and gave me a headache. The characters, more or less one by one, stare at this screen saver and slowly understand that this is some sort of powerful code. This is going of the stereo type and trope that all programmers are wizards and genius’s that can see and understand things the audience could never. Clearly this is not how information is displayed. Its simple text on a screen, practically a word document without the spellcheck and different format. This is a major issue within the cultural hacker stereo type problem.
My other big issue is over the personalization of the hacker computers as well as their description of the computers. First off, they are all using laptops, which even today they don’t compare very well to desktops, but back then they wouldn’t even hold a candle to any decently sized laptop in the 1990’s. Then to put the cherry on top of the pie, they create custom start up animations for their laptops as well as treat the names and makes of the laptops like car engines. While this isn’t something that is bad and probably is just a product of making dialogue in the movie appear interesting as opposed to actual computer science, it still promotes the misinformed stereotyped about hackers.
Like I said before it is a fantastic movie even if it’s a little silly. I think it can make a young man, woman, or other develop a love for computer science even if it does misinform them.
“Hackers (1995).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0113243/.