Throwback August: Hackers

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The internet sucks these days. It really sucks. Did you get to this blog via Facebook? Yes? That is because the internet sucks. Being online in 2015* is like attending a mandatory marketing conference held inside a military boarding school where your only job is to “make content” and “use Helvetica.” 2015 on the internet: fun is dead.

In 1995, Hackers rollerbladed.
  • In 1995, Hackers rollerbladed.

But it wasn’t always that way! Join me, if you will, on casual rollerblade ride into the year 1995, when Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller starred in Hackers. In 1995, the internet was made up of forums, wifi didn’t exist, floppy disks were all important and if someone wanted to steal your personal data they would have to hack into the FBI. Hackers were not scary mouthbreathers who wanted to share your Ashley Madison profile with the world. Hackers (or, should we say, “keyboard cowboys”) were cool and attractive teens whose biggest obstacle in world domination might just be their mom!

The film follows well-adjusted computer genius Dade, i.e. “Crash Override”, as he begins his final year of high school in New York City. There, he meets the elvish Kate, i.e. “Acid Burn” (Angelina Jolie), along with a gang of psychedelic weirdos. Dade hangs with the group of burgeoning hackers at their favorite ravey internet cafe, Cyberdelia, where everyone exchanges top secret tips about how to do illegal things. Let us take a moment to grieve how the internet used to be a social activity, back when phone lines connected the world. Anyway. Trouble starts when the Secret Service begins to target the group for crimes they didn’t commit. From there, it’s a race to the finish: to whom do the glittering towers of data really belong?

All Your Base Are Belong To Them
  • All Your Base Are Belong To Them

There’s a lot in Hackers that is by-the-book ‘90s flick: a group of underage underdogs unites to outsmart the bad guy (Fisher Stevens as network safety analyst, “The Plague”), managing to have fun along the way. But the script doesn’t feel pat, despite lines like, “There are worse things than death and I can do all of them,” and “There is no right and wrong; there’s only fun and boring.” The visuals also hold up well, despite the obvious camp factor. Imagine a world where a “garbage file” looks like a holographic acid trip. This is the world of Hackers.

Angelina Jolie disrupting your face.
  • Angelina Jolie disrupting your face.

2015’s version of the tech elite is so much less sunny. Tech itself is less sunny. Just compare Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with Angelina Jolie’s Acid Burn. Lisbeth is the sort of lady who knows what the underbelly of the internet really holds— child porn, hate groups, drugs and maybe occasionally some government secrets. If Acid Burn were hacking today, she’d probably not be on the same team as the boys. And, realistically, no one thinks computer geniuses are hot anymore.

So it is with longing for times gone by that I recommend the cast of Hackers as the best nostalgic group halloween costume for 2015. But first you are going to have to learn how to hack a payphone, you “hapless technical weenie.”


*this is the only remaining good site on the internet. 


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