Saturday, May 2, 2009

So that's What Cool Is...

How much cooler can you get than a schizophrenic blowing up all the credit card companies in America? Most wouldn’t grieve the loss of all their debts in these hard economic times; in fact, many would argue it’s downright cool. Fight Club had a cool storyline, characters, and even casting.

The storyline is what has made Fight Club what it is; people love it because of the shock factor. It’s so unpredictable, and each time you watch it, you notice a new detail that adds meaning, depth, or humor to the movie. This is obviously following in the footsteps of Quentin Tarantino who popularized a discontinuous plot line. The humor and criticism in the writing is cool. The writer of the movie was willing to criticize the very people watching his movie and open their eyes to the society that they live in.

We haven’t talked too much about casting this year, likely because most of the movies we watched, the actors were pretty unfamiliar. So, in this movie, we can finally discuss casting. Brad Pitt was a great actor to choose for the “cool” character; Tyler seems to have it all together. He is what we have labeled all semester as cool. He does his own thing and has all the answers to the hard questions. He’s put together, powerful, and calm. Tyler was the perfect culmination of cool because he didn’t have materials that made him cool, which is all too often how we think of cool, he just had the “natural-seeming” cool persona.

Ask someone if they’ve seen Fight Club and the average response is something like, “Yeah! I love that movie; it’s so cool.” I’m not sure many could give you good reasons as to why it’s cool, but it just is. This is a great way to finalize cool because although we had great discussions and debates about cool throughout the class, I believe we all came to respect cool a lot more and to realize that cool is not a definite concept.

After all the movies and all the analyses, I’ve come to the conclusion that cool is indefinable. Cool is cool. It’s fleeting and ever-changing, but one thing is for sure, there is no formula for cool. Cool doesn’t discriminate on race, gender, or age; it doesn’t follow rules; it looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds different to each individual; it will never disappear but doesn’t stay anywhere too long either. Cool is playing an eternal game of hide-and-seek with society. Good luck on your search!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stressing About Your Sofa Isn't Cool

Fight Club was a great movie to end the semester with since it is inarguably cool in every way we discussed. There’s a character that is cool, the plot and story line are cool, and, finally, the ending is cool.

“How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?” Society and the current generation of people are so ready to avoid conflict that we miss a lot of what it really means to live. At one point in the movie, a member of the fight club tries to pick a fight with a priest by spraying him with water as he walks by, then throwing his Bible on the ground and spraying water on it, but it takes awhile for the priest to decide he wants to try to defend his beliefs; then, when he does he takes a swing and runs away. We, as a generation, are of the mentality that we are all winners and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all; we live by these clichés. It’s easier to get wrapped up in our things and worthless jobs than to face reality and possibly conflict and difficult decisions. This façade of peace and happiness actually leads to a outrageous amount of built-up tension which is why we keep seeing seemingly unexplainable acts of violence. If we stopped putting up fronts and, instead, addressed our problems, the world would be much saner. The fight club was so liberating because it forced people to feel in a society that otherwise forces them to be numb.

Another theme of the movie is that we can’t control everything. Life will never be complete or perfect. Trying to make every little thing fit into a mold causes a society of bored individuals who hate themselves and their lives. The movie satirizes self-help groups and mock-suicidal cries for help. Everything is taken to the extreme because we don’t have a defining event that is universally plaguing everyone; instead, each individual finds a personal crisis pretty much daily. The coffee-maker not working one morning could start World War III. Our coping skills are nonexistent. When a true crisis happens, it seems like the end of the world compared to the coffee-maker tragedy of the day before.

Every second we are dying, and instead of getting the most out of life, we are choosing the color for the pointer on our computer. People’s lack of meaning and purpose leads to creating meaning in materials. We unnecessarily cause our lives to be fast-paced and stressful when, in reality, it isn’t. Fight Club doesn’t stop at satirizing the meaningless masses but goes onto satirize the masses who find all-encompassing meaning that takes away their individual power to think. The majority of people are too quick to follow; instead of voicing their own independent opinions, they latch onto others viewpoints.

Fight Club exposes many of the problems that we are facing as a society that lacks a major defining event or cause. It’s cool because it takes a critical look at where we are right now and identifies the major problems that nobody else is willing to acknowledge.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Director Whose Name We Actually Know

Reservoir Dogs is, in its own special way, cool, not so much because of all the gore or the story line, but because Quentin Tarantino stepped outside the box to make a revolutionary movie. For one thing, the characters are so much more dynamic than in a typical action movie. Each one had his own little quirk; it was evident that Tarantino loved his characters and thought out each one in laboring detail. The coolest character in the movie is Mr. White because he stands up for what he thinks is right, even though he is actually wrong; no matter what, he doesn’t waiver in what he thinks is right and wrong. He is willing to kill his boss for some man he barely knows because it's "right."

This new type of plot line is cool. Making the audience play the detective instead of just watch one is so much better than the cookie-cutter, predictable, boring plot lines of the past. The mixed up time line throws the audience knee-deep into the action of the movie right after the opening credits. The movie-goer is now forced to think; action movies are no longer mind-numbing experiences. Instead, Tarantino actually had a unique vision and was determined to make movies according to that idea even if it didn’t follow the norm.

This is what makes QT cool, his courage to be different and make the movies the way he wanted to. He wasn’t afraid of looking disturbed or being too graphic for his audience. Before Reservoir Dogs, movies like Hostel, Saw, Momento, or Fight Club would have never come out. Momento is actually one of my personal favorite; it’s cool. A movie where you guess seven different possible outcomes before the end and all of them are wrong is entertaining.

Although all the gore seems a little much at times, there are obviously people who enjoy it because it seems that movies just keep showing more and more blood and guts. For someone to be the first to put that kind of stuff in a movie, you have to be cool, indifferent about others opinions, and driven towards a goal.

Not only is all the gore a new feature in his movies but also that he writes about the down time of the criminals along with the action. The characters in his movie become so much more real when we see them talking, going out to eat, or hanging out. Before this, all we saw of the life of the criminal was the crime, but Tarantino exposes the uncool side of the criminal. The side that is concerned with looking good and telling the right stories in front of his buddies, the side that won’t give a dollar for a tip, the kind that fights over the meaning of Madonna’s songs. The criminal is no longer a hardened man who only thinks about crime.

Quentin Tarantino is cool for being able to come up with something new which is why he is such a well-known director. He is unique, indifferent, passionate, and innovative, all ingredients to cool. So, while the characters in Reservoir Dogs aren’t necessarily cool as we’ve seen it throughout the semester, Tarantino is cool for making the new style of movie.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cool and Lame


1. Winning
2. Intelligence
3. Beaches
4. The word cool
5. Being fit
6. Nonconformity
7. Determination
8. Spirituality
9. Soccer
10. Being Independent
11. Ipods
12. Sex
13. The Borne Identity
14. Athleticism
15. Feminism
16. Open-mindedness
17. “Going Green”
18. Lesbians
19. Obama
20. Doing
21. Self-exploration
22. Doctors
23. Hybrid Car
24. Nature and the Outdoors
25. Ellen DeGeneres
26. Achievements that are earned
27. Peace
28. Gandhi
29. Fighting world hunger
30. Living Now
31. The Colbert Report
32. Cynicism
33. Authentic
34. Selflessness
35. Wealth
36. Confidence bordering on arrogance
37. Finding something out yourself
38. Talking
39. Dogs
40. Holding hands in public
41. Focused
42. Youth
43. Goal-oriented


1. Losing
2. Having an IQ lower than Paris Hilton
3. East Texas
4. Words like “hip” and “square”
5. Not being able to fit into your pants
6. Conformity
7. Complacent
8. Religious
9. Golf
10. Depending on others
11. CD players
12. Abstinence
13. Casablanca
14. Couch Potatoes
15. Hyper-masculinity
16. Traditionalism
17. Littering
18. Homophobia
19. Sarah Palin
20. Watching
21. Guided discovery
22. Lawyers
23. Hummer H2
24. Shopping Malls
25. Jerry Springer
26. Advancement by ass kissing
27. Violence
28. George Bush
29. The War in Iraq
30. Living in the Past
32. Not saying what you mean
33. Fake
34. Greed
35. Poverty
36. Self-conscience and shy
37. Believing what others tell you
38. Listening
39. Cats
40. Making out in public
41. Withdrawn
42. Being Old
43. Goal-less

I. Obama and Sarah Palin

Obama represents cool because he is original. He says what he wants and brings new ideas and concepts to American. Obama stands strong by his beliefs and is against discrimination. This is cool today, being unique and having an idea and running with it while still respecting everyone’s beliefs around you.

Palin, on the other hand, didn’t know what she was talking about. She seemed to be trying to say whatever she thought Americans wanted to hear.

II. Lesbians and Homophobia

Lesbians are cool because they represent an overall oppressed group, women, breaking out and not relying on men. Overcoming obstacles to get recognition is cool.
Homophobia on the other hand is no longer cool. It’s someone trying to press their beliefs on others. Most Americans are not in favor of discrimination of anyone. The few small-minded people trying to unfairly control others’ lives are uncool.

Many of the terms found in each list seem to be interchangeable or to have recently been in the opposite column, times are changing. With these changes, it’s evident that it is becoming more and more cool to be open-minded. In the recent past, cool has had certain well thought out boundaries. I think today what defines the line between the cool and the lame or the “hip” and the “square” is getting blurred. It’s harder to definitely say this is cool and this is uncool today. Ten years ago, you could have never said a girl who is in love with another girl is cool; today it is cool. What isn’t cool is being limiting or trying to press your beliefs on others. There’s really not one cool image anymore. Cool isn’t so much about the stuff or the labels as much as it is about the attitude of the person. Things aren’t as cool as they once were; a person could make just about anything cool.

Cool is a much more fluid term today than it once was. Nobody tries to define cool today; it’s either you have it or you don’t. Motorcycles and leather jackets don’t make you cool, rock and roll music doesn’t make you cool, being an athlete doesn’t make you cool. Nothing on this list can make a person cool; instead, it’s that these things have been cool within our culture. Cool is mostly about being yourself, through all kinds of adversity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Be Cool You Need an Obsessive Passion

Is it cool to be original or a good reproduction of an original? Is cool mainly conformity or originality? In order for someone to obtain a cool that transcends time, she has to be original and step outside of society’s comfort zone. However, this also means that person has to be willing to face adversity because he will be controversial. If you look at all of the people who have attained a sort of cool that can’t be denied, they all faced groups that either loved them or hated them for their originality.

Bob Marley is cool; someone would be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t recognize his music and have an opinion about it. He brought reggae and a philosophy of “one love” to the world. That doesn’t mean everyone loved or agreed with him; there are those who think Marley is just a crazy stoner and others who live by his philosophy. He didn’t care what anybody else thought though because he believed in what he was doing and did it for himself, nobody else.

What really makes a person cool is that they aren’t necessarily trying to make a statement; they’re just living the way that feels right for them. So, I don’t know that all the drag queens in this movie were really “cool,” but the original drag queens were cool. The drag queen movement is cool. Just as the gay movement, feminine movement, and Hippie movement. “Movements” are cool because the people creating them and furthering them aren’t looking for definition for their lives, the movement is their lives. They want others to share in what they’ve found to be an exciting way to live life. Their meaning is the movement. They aren’t trying to define their own meaning in the movement; instead, they are defining the movement through their own self meaning. The original creators aren’t so much trying to get accepted as they are just living the way they want, breaking the ice; they don’t even know they’re creating anything. The generations that pick up the movement are left trying to forge an accepted place in society. This is the point, many times, when the movement takes a turn for the worst because there are people who join in the quest of cool rebellion, not because they can’t live without the lifestyle. It’s no longer a core group of “die-hards” who are indifferent about society. Now, it’s a more mainstream sub-culture.

Cool is breaking new ground in terms of society. To become truly legendary, for people to remember your name, you have to break new ground, not follow a cookie-cutter mold. All the cool people, of course, had their role models, but they didn’t try to do what their role models did; they borrowed from their role models philosophies and worked to be even better than the best. Abby Wambach looked up to Mia Hamm and the rest of the ‘99 Women’s National team, but she didn’t try to score almost as many goals as Mia or to play exactly like she does. She is herself and has her own techniques and style that is a combination of all the people she looked up to and her own attitude.

The drag queens in Paris Is Burning were cool because they were willing to ignore social norms and define themselves however they thought was most accurate. Drag isn’t cool to where it is a household topic or something you would see every day, but cool is rare and unaccepted or unattainable until it becomes normal, and the revolutionaries who began it are remembered. The quarterback in the hometown high school football game is relatively “cool” when compared to the water boy, but this is such a narrow, static definition of cool. Real cool is revolutionary; it’s saying to the world, “This is me, like it or not. And I’m not changing for anyone.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Man who Dresses Like a Woman Can Be Cool

Paris is Burning represented gay culture as much as a movie about ninjas would represent Asians. Black, transgendered New Yorkers are a very miniscule part of the gay subculture and some would argue that they are not a part of the gay subculture. All transgendered individuals were categorized as gay up until the nineties when they began breaking out as a separate group. Most transgendered people do not consider themselves to be homosexual. For instance, a biological man who feels like a woman thinks he was born into the wrong body and gender and is a woman who likes men-in most cases- and not a man at all. Ironically, the transgender image was transposed to homosexuals, a very misleading stereotype. Gays and lesbians do not want to be the opposite gender. Lesbians are attracted to other women and gay men to other men. Their relationships don’t conform to the heterosexual norm as they once did before gaining more acceptance. There is no “man” and “woman” in the relationship; there’s a woman and a woman or a man and a man. I don’t think it’s correct or appropriate to extrapolate transgender culture to gay culture; homosexual and transgender are not interchangeable words.

African American, transgendered people are probably one of the most discriminated against groups in American. The Balls are the one place these people can let loose and be who they want; they can escape the harsh realities of everyday life. Today transgender people are becoming more and more acceptable; although, they are still nowhere close to having equal and fair rights. Not all transgender people are flamboyant, over-the-top drag queens. I’m not at all discrediting or criticizing this piece of the transgender subculture; instead, I’m saying that people need to realize that this is a very, very small snapshot of a particular group in the "gay" and transgender community and cannot be used to represent gay culture or for that matter even transgender culture. When watched from the wrong context, this movie can be misinterpreted and made to over represent a community. There are transgender people who are very quiet about their transition. The people in this film come from rough backgrounds and neighborhoods in New York, but there are gay and transgender people who come from affluent, loving homes. This documentary is an invaluable depiction of the role gender, economic status, and race play in life; however, it is not a general view of gay culture.

The gay community and the transgender community have separated themselves more and more from each other to focus on their own goals, which are not specifically the same. While the gay community is looking for equality in marriage, employment, and the military, transgendered people are fighting for the right to get their birth certificates changed to the opposite gender. Once their birth certificate is changed, they are technically heterosexual couples and have complete rights under the law. This is not to say they aren't still struggling for rights in employment and marriage, but ultimately gays and transgender have similar goals but different specific ideas for the small practicalities that are granted. For instance, in some cases, transgender is taken out of bills during legislation to try to get them to pass since the transgender voice is so small compared to the whole LGBTQ community.

In the beginning of the gay/transgender equal rights movement, many stayed hidden as much as possible while drag queens were loud, visible, and flamboyant. They created an image for homosexuals that stuck. All the small-minded majority could see was that a man was with another "man" and one of them wanted to be a woman; they weren’t willing to look at the fact that this “man” thought of herself and categorized herself as a woman, not gay. Homosexuals, on the other hand, are happy with their gender; they are just attracted to the same sex.

Gay and transgender people are real; they don’t want to hide, and it’s not their fault that they have to. Society forces these people into the closet because it doesn’t accept these innate factors of a person. People are small minded and selfish; how could society push gay and transgender people into such a small box. Gay and transgender individuals are your neighbors, teachers, lawyers, doctors, friends, and family. This movie made the transgender community feel very separate and withdrawn from real life when, in reality, the majority of homosexuals and transgendered are normal, well-adapted people. Homosexuals and transgendered are not asking for special rights or even acceptance, just equal rights.

Although they are both fighting for equality, gays and transgendered are not the same. All gay men are not all flamboyant, limp wristed men who speak with a lisp; all lesbians aren’t short-haired, stocky softball players; all transgender are not drag queens in enormous ball gowns. These are just the ones that people notice and the stereotype they have because these people can’t "act normal" like society asks them to do. No one should have to act straight; if all the gay and transgender people in this world had to wear a triangle on their arm, society would be shocked at the size of the LGBTQ community. Trying to fit LGBTQ people into one image or stereotype for TV and movies is essentially the same as the propaganda Nazi’s put out against Jews or the “Uncle Tom” blacks seen in early TV.

Unfortunately, most gay people decide it’s better to blend in with society and play straight than struggle with discrimination. At one point in our history, we asked African Americans to act invisible. Now, history is repeating itself, and we are asking homosexuals and transgendered to appear invisible with policies such as “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and DOMA. States like Arkansas are so conservative and ridiculously behind the times. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa are all allowing gay marriage, yet in Arkansas, they’re supporting legislation that limits homosexuals’ right to adopt. Gays, lesbians, and transgender are everywhere; it’s just that most people don’t know because it is a minute part of who that person is as a human being. It’s as much a defining factor as the color of a person’s skin. Sexual orientation or gender should not be the only factor that defines a person. Until the government is able to grant equality under the law to transgendered and homosexual, they are essentially condoning discrimination.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cool Individuality

In contemporary times, cool is not the word I would use to describe Robocop. Instead, I would probably say it’s a classic satirical action movie that should be appreciated for what it was during the time. The slow, moving machines and computer noises are annoying now, but in the eighties it was state of the art. Of course, the satire is probably the true cool aspect of this movie. By missing the satire, the movie just seems a bit goofy and over the top; however, watching the movie with the understanding that it’s a satire makes it cool. So, rather than the actors, characters, or situations being cool, the writer and director are the cool ones because they step out of the box and write a criticism about how things should be changed. They have the courage to step up against the mainstream and challenge widely accepted ideas. In American society, voicing your opinion is less revolutionary than other places where the government controls free speech. Regardless, it’s still cool when a person stands up for their ideals, examples of this in an extreme situation would be people like Gandhi, Malcolm X, or Harvey Milk. So, while the creator of this movie is no Gandhi, he still fights for what he believes in.

Robocop has all of the ingredients of a badass besides one key component; he is not human. A major factor in cool is being able to surpass normal human flaws and temptations and take human abilities to a whole new level. This is why it was necessary to emphasize Robocop’s humanity because, as a robot, he can’t be cool anymore than a car or a cell phone. Technology is an accessory to a person’s cool; for instance, James Bond is cool because of the guns, cars, and spy tools. The man who created Robocop was greedy and malevolent which reflected on Robocop; I saw Robocop as a sort of Frankenstein, not cool. Instead of being cool, Robocop is pitiful. He lost his life being a heroic cop, was turned into some corporate science experiment, and had his family and life ripped away. Robocop had no say in his own destiny and was ultimately at the disposal of a corporation. He was a programmed computer, not a free-willed individual which was what kept him from achieving cool status.

Robocop presents a sort of cool individuality. The writer employs humor and a popular genre, action, as a medium for expressing his serious opinions about privatization. He captures a large audience and conveys his ideas through film. So, for once, this film, ironically, shows a sort of behind the scenes cool, not an in-your-face, hyper masculine cool.