Thriller, Horror, Hacker, Spy: The Hacker Genre in Film and Television from the 1970s to the 2010s




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This thesis argues that hacking and surveillance have formed a ‘hacker’ genre in film and television that begins to emerge from the influences of 1970s films, forming between the 1980s and 1990s and continuing to develop through to the 2010s, grouping together computer hacking, surveillance and espionage as activities striving to achieve order over the ‘electronic frontier’. In particular, this thesis identifies how hacker genre films foreground and fetishise the technology of hacking and surveillance of the period of production, which inevitably leads to an in-built expiry date and limited shelf-life. Whilst these genre films draw on the crime, horror and thriller traditions to depict the tension and anxiety presented by the capabilities of this hacking and surveillance technology, as technology progresses and becomes more familiar to the audience, these films naturally lose their ability to elicit fear and terror from the viewer; instead these films become virtual parodies of their original intention. Moreover, the thesis maps the evolution and development of the generic features of the hacker film genre, charting the progression from passive observation to active intervention of the hacker figure; as the technology progresses, there is an increased sense of speed and mobility and the hacker emerges from small enclosed spaces to engage with the physical world. Similarly, the thesis considers the role of the ‘hacker figure’ in these films, using the viewer’s human connection to consider how this technology affects the user over time; considering the links to the thriller and horror traditions, this study considers the potential for the hacker to become dehumanised in using this technology.





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