8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology
As we have previously mentioned, hilarious things happen when writers try to write characters who are smarter than themselves. For instance, I don't doubt that some research goes into writing the medical jargon on House, but we all know that at some point they fake it. And that's fine, because what percentage of the audience is composed of not only doctors, but genius doctors? It's probably not even half.
But that's why it's so baffling when Hollywood fucks up every scene involving computers or video games. They not only get everything wrong, but give us the most insulting bullshit imaginable on details it would have taken two minutes to Google. So we wind up with scenes like this ...
(Note: Credit goes to the tech savvy gang at the NeoGAF forums for hunting down many of these clips, and countless others).
NCIS -- Two People Sharing a Keyboard
Let's assume you know absolutely nothing about computers. Let's say you've never even touched one, but only know them based on what others have relayed to you second-hand. You would still find this scene impossibly stupid.
So it's the navy cop show NCIS, and they're under a hacker attack!
The hot goth chick starts hammering away at her keyboard as dozens of windows erupt on her screen, looking like she's trying to close all of the porn popups before her mom walks in and catches her.
"Be out in a minute, mom! I'm just ... combing my hair!"
Another agent enters the lab, and something so stupid happens that I can't even understand how the actors didn't put a stop to it in mid-shoot: Both people start feverishly typing on the same keyboard.
Man, that hacker was so good, he beat BOTH of us!
One character takes all of the letters from G to the left. And the other from H to the right. I'm guessing that they just worked so well together that he just knew when she needed him to hit the A; and she just felt it when he needed to hit Enter? Who got the space bar? As fast as they were hammering that keyboard, it would have had the same exact effect if one of them had just started slamming their entire palm across it and screaming like a frightened chimp.
Man, we are off to a fucking horrible start here -- what can we expect from an industry that doesn't understand how keyboards work despite using them on a daily basis to type the scripts?
Hackers -- Hacking is Kind of Like a Video Game
The 1995, Hackers starred a young Angelina Jolie in a period of her career when it was clearly between this movie and porn. Ironically, the porn parody version of Hackers probably handled the technical details of hacking with the exact same level of accuracy:
We're going to skip right past the fact that they depict all hackers as ultra-cool, vinyl wearing leaders of a cutting edge subculture because that's a stylistic choice on the part of the director. Yes, hackers wear sunglasses while they're hacking. Fine. It's a movie.
So when we get to the hacking scenes, we're treated to a flyover shot of a Tron city, with information appearing in the form of CGI buildings. It's kind of a neat, artsy way to visualize the hacking that doesn't just force us to look at Linux command lines for the duration of a montage.
But then you realize that this isn't just the filmmaker's artistic representation of the idea of hacking ... it's actually on the person's monitor, and this is in fact the act of hacking. This is the actual user interface of the system they're trying to get into.
Wait, what the fuck are you typing?
We're expected to believe that searching for a file in this system involves flying a camera through a virtual city until we find our target: a room filled with mathematical equations chaotically swarming over a background of fire.
It's why most hackers are prone to seizures.
I'm not sure which is more hilarious: imagining the IT staff of this organization who labors around the clock to dress up their server's folders in a 1980s music video, or thinking about the everyday staff of that organization who has to go careening through this system every time they need to bring up that month's payroll spreadsheet.
Ah, who am I kidding? I will pay good money to anyone in the comments who can teach me how to set up my computer so that the act of navigating my C drive looks exactly like that.
Masterminds -- Hacking Actually is a Video Game
But at least that movie only made their hacking "like" a video game. 1997's Masterminds boasted a scene in which the hacking actually was a video game, complete with a first person shooter setup and... a joystick.
So this "hack" is executed by the kid navigating his character around a cartoon castle, complete with animated gates, hallways, torches and scary video game skeletons:
It really is an impenetrable fortress of a system -- after the program recognized the hacker as "an illegal intruder," it says it's only going to allow him two minutes to find the "valid entrance."
Instead of, you know, killing his connection or something.
To be fair, the system does try to track the hacker's location. Unfortunately, the system also informs the hacker of this, and notifies him of their progress in doing it.
Then it throws all the tracing and blocking out the window when the hacker finds the "valid entrance" inside the two minute time limit. Really, every firewall should respect the idea of fair competition and bow to anyone who bests it.
... but turning you in would be dishonoring your victory. Well played.
NCIS -- 16-Core with a Ten Meg Pipe
As we're about to find out, absolutely no one is worse with this subject than network cop shows. Let us present this NCIS clip that is medically proven to make you stupider:
So a guy enters a girl's living room, looks at her monitor and asks, "Is that a 12-core?"
Now, we're not going to get technical with this because none of us here at Cracked are qualified enough to give a shit, but we're not going to let it slide that he just made an educated guess about the size of her processor by glancing at her fucking desktop wallpaper.
"Is that a 12-core? Wait, why did you photoshop that title onto World of Warcaft's login screen?"
But the real "go fuck yourself" message to every gamer watching is when they start talking about her holding "the high score in virtually every massively multiplayer online role-playing game."
The high score. You know, because these newfangled "online role-playing games" the kids are talking about are basically Pac-Man, right? And it wasn't enough to say she had the high score in one MMORPG, oh no. She holds the high score in virtually all of them. In a world where becoming even an average player in one game takes the same amount of time as a full-time job.
The thing is, I can almost understand the ridiculous portrayal of hacking earlier -- most people haven't hacked a computer. But there aren't many places you can go in America where someone in the room hasn't played an MMORPG. If you're confused, fucking ask somebody, Mr. TV Writer. Because unless you're performing your cop show live in the cafeteria of a nursing home, lots of your viewers are going to know you pulled a whole scene straight out of your ass.
CSI -- GUI Interface Using Visual Bullshit
Staying in the acronym-cop-show family, CSI writes a dialogue exchange using what sounds like a Random Computer Term Generator:
A couple of cops stare at an online chat, when one of them realizes that "this is in real time." A third cop in the background announces, "I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic. See if I can track an IP address."
Odds are that some of you reading this don't know what a GUI is, and that's fine. Do an experiment for me -- Google it. See how long it takes to find out.
Answer: one tenth of one second. That's how much work the writer of this script didn't bother to do.
And now you know more than they do, which is that a GUI is the part of the program you see and interact with, the buttons and shit you click with your mouse. It's a thing that basically every piece of software you use already has. You don't need to run out and build one every time some task needs done on your PC. This line of dialogue is exactly like saying, "The suspect is getting away! I'll go build an internal combustion engine and mount it on a four-wheeled vehicle to see if I can converge on his location."
Oh, and she's going to build her GUI so she can track the guy's IP address. And really, how else could you ever do that?
Gotcha covered, chief.
Numb3rs -- IRC is Drug Dealing Boats in the Ocean
So at this point, it's almost a challenge to see how simple a piece of computer software has to be before they won't treat it like an arcane subject that only engineers understand. I fully expect to one day see a TV character strap on a full radiation suit and climb into a duct to "hashtag the Twitter."
Actually, it's almost that bad. This clip is from Numb3rs, a cop show that features a freaking math genius. Here they are talking about the rock-simple chat program, IRC.
In the world of Numb3rs, this simple text chat program used by millions is actually a secret place where "hackers talk when they don't want to be overheard." They follow this with a meaningless, ridiculous analogy comparing the program to drug dealing ships on the ocean, with a helpful CGI animation in case that's too complicated for us.
She then sets up an alarm to go off when anyone logs in with the names "The_Fist" and "Oozemeister." OK, well, that will work as long as nobody thinks to change their username. Oh, and there are a few thousand IRC servers and hundreds of thousands of channels and millions of users, so I'm thinking somebody logs in as "The_Fist" once every 10 minutes or so, which would mean their alarm would be going off every few minutes. Just like the sirens of two cop boats in the ocean.
But there's another problem. The cops worry that once the two guys meet and start discussing whatever it is they're supposed to discuss -- dealing drugs from their ships or whatever -- nobody will be able to understand them because they'll be speaking in leet. But wait! The retarded boat girl tells us that luckily she speaks leet. Ah, cool. g0 phuX0r uR$3Lph.
CSI -- Second Life Chase Scene
Sigh. It's CSI again.
So the cops on CSI are tracking down a character in the online game Second Life that they believed was no longer active in the game. Then this happens:
They find her in-game avatar. Clueless Dipshit #1 tells Clueless Dipshit #2, "I'll distract her. You ping her IP." Because if she isn't distracted, you wouldn't be able to do that? Wait, why would you need to ping her IP address in the first place? To see if she's online? Because that's actually what you're doing there: seeing if there's a response from- oh, fuck it.
So out of the blue, some fox looking avatar comes up to them in the game and says, "Hey you, stop pretending you're Venus!" The character of Venus disappears, and the cop starts asking the fox questions -- but the fox doesn't want to answer them.
So does the guy who doesn't want to be questioned just, you know, disconnect from the game? Does he shut down his computer? Does he put the cop on ignore or disable voice chat? Nope. He runs away. In the game.
Because if someone tries to talk to you in an online game, running is your only option.
The cop grabs a portable remote control keyboard thing, stands in front of a TV the size of your living room wall and gives chase. The resulting scene is among the top five stupidest things I've ever seen on television.
Life -- Gamers are Losers, Also We Don't Know How Games Work
And all of that leads us to the most infamous of these clips, and the one that answers the key question here: Why doesn't Hollywood care about getting these simple details right?
The answer, as this clip demonstrates, is that they think if you're the type of person who cares, you're a worthless loser. This is from the blandly-titled cop show Life on NBC (since canceled), which had this plot point about a secret file hidden on a suspect's XBox:
So the cop leading this investigation first has to ask another cop what a video game console is. "It's like a computer, isn't it?"
They figure out that the only way to access that hidden file is to play Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones to level 10, at which point the secret files will be opened and displayed onscreen. Because evidently, the game console comes installed with Windows, Microsoft Office and the hacker has the ability to rewrite the actual game code to trigger that file.
"He must have had at least three people on that keyboard!"
But anyway, to get to it they have to actually play the game. But where will they find someone with that obscure, geek ability known as "playing video games"? I mean, this is back when games were purely the hobby of a select group of underground hackers living in dark basements (that is, 2007). Fortunately, they have a video game expert in-house. They ask another cop, "Do you think you can get to Level 10?" His response?
"Detective, I'm 30-years old, I live with my mother and I have a Captain Kirk costume in my closet."
That is what Hollywood writers think of you. That is why they don't give a shit about taking an extra minute to make sure their tech jargon isn't a bunch of random bullshit they vaguely remember from The Wizard.
Of course we're skipping right over the "Level 10" bullshit ("All games have numbered levels like Mario, right?") which again could have been resolved with a brief glance at Google. Anyway, the gamer cop tries to hack the game by winning at it, and he fails because he must have had sex with a girl at some point. But as he's failing, the main cop notices a female police officer doing that thing gamers always do when watching other people play games: mimic the controller movements with your thumbs while holding your hands in mid-air ...
You know how you do.
Knowing that this means this woman is clearly a member of the highly exclusive club of Video Game Players, the cop walks over and, without a word, pulls her over to the XBox. She takes the controls, and beats the game even though she's a girl.
Somehow that ending is even more insulting than the "Captain Kirk uniform" bullshit. They actually think they're reaching out to you with that message of, "See, even video game players can accomplish things like regular human beings!" To them, normal people lowering themselves to interact with gamers is like that movie where Dennis Rodman teaches a team of dwarfs to play basketball.
Only not as well acted.
Check out more from John in 5 Gaming Technologies That Are Making Virtual Sex a Reality and 5 Ways Television Went Crazy Since I Quit Watching in 2003.