Media Monday: An Evil Skateboarder Named “The Plague”
In movies and TV, skateboards are often a signifier somebody is young and cool. Skateboarders are considered rebels. They are the ones you are supposed to relate to. Think of some of the famous skaters in pop culture history, like Marty McFly. Almost every skater I can think of in movies and films are on the younger side, and usually they are the protagonist of the story. However, there is one movie where being a skater is not a sign that you are young, cool, and hip. In fact, the skateboard is used to indicate that a certain character is, in fact, out of date. He is also the villain.
The movie in question is Hackers. Have you seen this particular film? It came out in 1995 and is perhaps best known for being one of Angelina Jolie’s first films. It also starred Johnny Lee Miller, who went on to play Sherlock Holmes on that Elementary show. Miller and Jolie were an item for a while after this movie. Jolie has a thing for starting relationships with costars, apparently.
Hackers is one of the most ‘90s movies ever. It’s right up there with The Net when it comes to films that just scream “’90s.” It hasn’t aged well. I mean, I’m sure at the time it still felt ridiculous, but now it feels incredibly dated. The main characters are supposed to be cool and trendy, but this meant doubling down on ‘90s fads. To be fair, I don’t remember some of them even being fads. This movie was made by people imagining what teenagers in the ‘90s were into. They were mostly wrong. I wasn’t a teenager just yet, but I remember 1995, and Hackers is not the 1995 I remember.
The movie is about early hackers. All the protagonists are high school students who have nicknames like Crash Override, Acid Burn, and Cereal Killer. Those are their handles, of course, so that they don’t get caught hacking. Crash and Acid hate each other then they fall for each other as they hack and face down an evil corporation with a super computer at a mineral company. They are up to evil stuff and one of the hackers accidently stumbles upon it, so now the full weight of the company, and the Secret Service, is coming down on them. Do the hackers win out? Of course. Does Matthew Lillard, who plays Cereal Killer, wear insane sunglasses that looked like garbage then and look even worse now? You bet! Does Crash yell “Hack the planet!” over and over while being arrested? Oh yeah!
The movie is dumb fun, one of those “so bad, it’s good” movies. A lot of that is because Hackers is one of those ‘90s movies that has not ideas what the internet actually is or how computers work. It’s like The Net and Disclosure in that sense. Plus, representing actual computer stuff and actual hacking isn’t particularly exciting to see on screen, so instead they visualize it in insane ways. You’ll get a lot of laughs watching Hackers, but I haven’t even gotten to the evil skateboarder yet.
The mineral company has a computer security expert working for them. His name is Eugene Belford, but he goes by The Plague. He has a handle, of course, because he used to be a hacker. You know, before taking a job for the man. Also, he’s not a teenager. He’s an adult man. Lame! Oh, and he’s played by Fisher Stevens. How does The Plague get around? He skateboards of course. Even within the halls of the mineral company he skateboards. The Plague loves to skate. In the world of Hackers, this is another side he’s lame and out of date. Don’t trust anybody over 20 and all that.
You see, the cool hackers don’t skateboard. They get around in the coolest of ways: they rollerblade. Yes, you know this movie takes place smack dab in the middle of the ‘90s because all the hackers rollerblade everywhere. They rollerblade to school. They rollerblade all around New York. When they are on their mission to take down the mineral company and expose their evil plans they are rollerblading. Rollerblading is the way they get around, and it’s supposed to be a signifier of how hip and awesome they are.
I’m not here to knock rollerblades. I will admit that, unless you are really good on a board, they are probably more efficient for traveling. However, then you have to deal with the hassle of taking them off and putting shoes on. You’re stuck carrying around shoes or rollerblades all day. That sucks. Give me a skateboard over rollerblades every day of the week. Also, skateboarding is certainly more fun and aesthetically a lot cooler. In the ‘90s I certainly rollerbladed around to get places. I was also prepubescent at the time. I was not hacking the planet.
Nothing makes Hackers feel more stuck in the ‘90s than the fact it posits that skateboarding is passé and rollerblades are the way to go. Since then, skateboarding has remained as strong as ever, but I never see anybody on rollerblades other than when they are playing roller hockey. Also, sometimes the person playing roller hockey is me. Skateboards are eternal, though. They aren’t a trend, and they aren’t going anywhere. If they were going to make Hackers now, it’s more likely that Crash Override would skate and The Plague would be on rollerblades to show how out of touch he was. Although, in truth, the young hackers would probably be on those “hoverboards” from a few years ago or something. Or, honestly, probably just riding bikes around.
If you like watching cheesy bad movies, I highly recommend Hackers. That’s in spite of the fact the only person who skateboards in it is a bad guy, and the reason he is a skater is because the movie wanted to indicate he was out of touch and from a bygone era. Now, we can watch the movie and laugh at how everybody is rollerblading everybody. And then we can go out and skateboard. Oh, and of course, hack the planet.