Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5 Movies That Shaped the Way the World Looks at Computer Geeks

The 70's and 80's made a point of making the computer geek fit into a stereotype featuring a pocket-protector, thick glasses, and greasy, perfectly parted hair.  However, those stereotypes didn't stand the test of time and there were five movies that helped to shape and reshape the way the world thinks about computer geeks.

War Games.  Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick, stars as the slacking, underachiever scamming his way through high school while hacking his way into military computer systems and creating a bogus nuclear war.  This was one of the first movies that started to get a clueless population into the potential of computers.  While, like pretty much all computer movies, it definitely has its technical flaws, it changes thoughts of computer geeks from nerdy and awkward to Joe Average.  Broderick's character isn't blatantly nerdy (side note, of course, Hollywood did need to stick in their stereotypical computer geek, in Eddie Deezan's character Malvin) but more of an average high school student who just happens to be intelligent enough to find a back door into the U.S. government's nuclear computer.
Technology Highlight: The voice of the computer is awesome!  Completely simulated computer speech.

Revenge of the Nerds.  'Revenge of the Nerds' is great for the sheer point that it takes the Hollywood stereotype of computer geeks and makes them take on those who oppose them head on to show in the end, they aren't that different.  While an obvious 80's film, Nerds shows the world that the stereotypical computer geek is just an outer shell and computer geeks can be just as ruthless (and perverted) as everyone else.  Whether it be breaking into sorority houses, out drinking the competition (through a scientific farce that doesn't allow alcohol to enter the bloodstream), and out throwing a javelin, the computer geeks in this film show that even though they may look like Nerds, they are every bit as demented as everyone else.
Technology Highlight: Gilbert drawing himself and his new lady friend by simply using the keyboard on an old orange CRT display.

Hackers.  Any movie that has Angeline Jolie starring as one of the computer geeks speaks for itself.  This is the pretty people computer geek movie.  The film takes a group of seemingly popular high school students and the writers, more or less, make them computer geeks because (in 1995), the Internet was starting to gain ground with average users.  If culinary expertise would have been a growing, trendy topic, they would have all been chefs instead of computer geeks.  It was obviously written for the high school/college market by people who were relatively unfamiliar with computers and computer networks.  However, it did bring into light a new generation of computer geek, one that blew past the Hollywood stereotype and instead brought on a new trendy and hip geek.  What was once goofy nerd speak was now being spoken by the 'cool' kids.  And, for a time, it made it cool to be geeky.
Technology Highlight: Since technology hadn't made its mind up about virtual reality and its role in gaming, they decided to throw it in  just in case and have an annoying Fisher Stevens character playing some sort of fighting game with it.

Office Space.  Michael Bolton and Samir were computer geeks who took on some of the stereotypical Hollywood computer geek and morphed it with a bit of a Hackersesque coolness and a 'War Games' plainness.  Listening to old school hip-hop while driving to work each day showed some of the not-so-fun side of being a computer geek.  While your average movie makes the computer geek the go-to-guy/girl when in dire need (hack a program, decipher encrypted data, override just about anything), 'Office Space' shows the monotonous work that being computer geek, more times than not, entails. Writing code, tweaking code, and in this case, going through thousands of lines of code to remove the two digit date before Y2K, has a lot more to being a computer geek than say starting a fake nuclear war or hacking into your high school to set off the sprinkler system.  Office Space took over where 'War Games' ended and showed that computer geeks are generally, average guys.
Technology Highlight: I get this message on my work fax machine all the time and laugh each and every time, "PC Load letter, what the f*ck does that mean!"

The Matrix.  It had to be on here.  This film takes the hip and pretty kids from 'Hackers' and turns them into kung fu fighting, reality bending, bad asses.  It told a story about a computer programmer/hacker that discovers the world isn't what it appears and goes against the computer that rules it.  Like 'Hackers', this movie shows no sign of the stereotypical computer geek but instead shows a hip, computer fluent Keanu who can do pretty much anything he would like by the use of computers and his own mind.  This and 'Office Space' both came out in 1999 and I enjoy the way that these two movies play a role in how Hollywood would like people to see computer geeks.  While 'Office Space' has computer geeks who are a bit more realistic, 'The Matrix' has what Hollywood would like the general population to idealize.
Technology Highlight: The very end seeing the Matrix through Neo's eyes.  Don't want to give too much in case there is a person left in this world who actually hasn't seen it. 

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