Hackers is not really a great movie. It has a particular 90’s aesthetic that’s too bright, garish, and blunt. It plays fast and loose with computing and beats us over the head with inexcusably juvenile technobabble.
But goddamn if it isn’t cool.
The kind of cyberpunk and cyberculture that’s teased at in Hackers is more relevant than ever today. We’re on the cusp of these crazy new exchanges between corporate capitalism, human social existence, and this kind of prefigurative cultural theory. Sure, the material reality of the twenty-first century is both like and unlike the future projected by cyberpunk literature, but the persistence of these ideas in our cultural imagination has not dimmed.
Hackers is cool because it asks us what kind of society we’re living in, what kind of society we are building and rejects it. Hackers offers us a vision of our society that is being reshaped by the non-conformists, by the counter-culture punks, by the outliers who are moving with bewildering speed and purpose.
Hackers shows us that the dark side of technology is a corporate bludgeon to pummel us into submission. But importantly it also offers us a vision of technology used for personal expression; a tool providing opportunities for the daring to chisel out new arenas for cultural representation.
If we have to inhabit a world of exteriorised science fiction, I’ll take Hackers any day of the week. Hackers wasn’t showing us the economically devastated, commodified dystopian society that’s prevalent in so much of the genre. Instead, we get a technicolour sky filled with vivid colours. We get a devil-may-care hacker ethic of moving fast and breaking things.