Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Don’t fuck with Julia Stiles as a pre-teen hacker in Ghostwriter

(Screenshot: YouTube)

Can you jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace? Got experience with new wave, next wave, dreamwave, or cyper-punk? Have you ever lovingly stared at a computer with a mixture of fear and arousal before remembering your duties as middle-school newspaper editor require you to yell, “We need more paper, let’s go people!” If so, you’ll likely relate to Julie Stiles as a teenaged hacker named Erica Dansby in this clip from Ghostwriter. The whole thing is so absurdly ’90s it almost feels like a parody of the decade. But, nope, this was just how PBS thought pre-teens talked in 1994.

Rocking a nose ring and a “don’t fuck with me” attitude that would come to be her signature in movies like 10 Things I Hate About You, Stiles rips a new one into poor Tina Nguyen for offering to cover a story about hackers. Tina quickly figures out she’s in way over her depth; after all, she hasn’t even read Neuromancer!


Stiles—who was about 13 when this was filmed—is making a lot of acting choices here. She cycles through roughly three or four major emotional shifts in a scene that lasts less than a minute. Which means that other than Erica’s slightly outdated description of the internet as “a world where you’re judged by what you say and think, not by what you look like,” this is basically just Mr. Robot.

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