Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dissecting Cool

Walking out of class Wednesday night, I was having trouble wrapping my head around all the concepts that had just been presented to me. For one, how could there be a class that teaches about cool? No one would respond with “cool” after you tell them you are going to class; so, to learn about the cool in something so apparently ‘uncool’ seemed a bit of an oxymoron. However, after accepting that I could study cool, I decided to delve into the search for it.

During lecture, there were times when I would find myself nodding my head in agreement and others I’d wonder if I were the only one thinking the ideas sounded crazy. I had never been asked to think so critically about what it takes to be considered cool, in any of its many forms. Of course, people like James Dean and Bruce Lee are inarguably cool. However, I would have to say the nerds living in the video game and comic stores or the guy who can play the Star Wars Theme on his ukulele would not be considered cool. Even though at first glance they aren’t what I would say is cool, I decided to take Elbow’s advice and play the believing game. What if these people really could fit the mold of what cool is in general society?

After opening my eyes and dropping the cultural filter, I decided that cool, in general, is the unimaginable or unique, something that lets us step out of the boring routine of life and take an imaginative leap. That’s what first attracted people to the theater and movies. It was something they had never seen before, things that seemed to be impossible. Melies was able to do the unimaginable through film. The progress film has made is unbelievable; I can’t even imagine how cool film would seem when it first was invented. A movie in itself was so amazing that even watching a train pull into a station was entertaining. Today, the allure of movies is the extraordinary, the scenarios and images that suspend reality for even a moment.

Cool lies in the seemingly impossible, as soon as cool is marketed, it loses the original creative, unique, and untouchable qualities. Marketing cool is tricking the general public into believing they can have a piece of cool; unbeknownst to them, cool is ever-changing, and as soon as anyone can have or do something, it’s no longer cool. Cell phones in the beginning were cool, but now that everyone has one, only those that offer new technology are considered cool. As we continue advancing and transforming as a society, cool also transforms.

Fans, people who have extensive knowledge of useless facts like sports trivia or Star Wars, are not themselves cool; instead, they devote their lives to studying other people’s coolness. The sub groups lose the cool appeal that the creators had. Athletes and George Lucas are in their own right cool, unlike their fans. They have come up with something so spectacular that others will devote their lives to it. People who can test the limits of the human body or mind are cool. Athletes who are dedicated to their sports and push their bodies to allow them to perform at the top level are cool. Abby Wambach busting her head open during a game then going to the side line and getting twelve stitches before going back into the same game is cool. Since I’m sure everyone does not share my same attitude on what is and is not cool, I’m excited to expand my view as we debate the concept of cool.


  1. In talking about athletes, I am always curious, just who are the most uncool athletes? I am sure Barry Bonds is thanks to the steroids, but who else?

  2. Hmmm... Well first it depends on how you would define athlete. If you consider cross country runners, ping pong players, and archers athletes, I would have to say they would likely fall under the category of uncool because not many think of what they are doing as extraordinary or would want to do it themselves given the opportunity.

    Extreme athletes, like those in the X-games, are cool because they defy the laws of physics while risking severe injury. Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods are all cool and will likely remain that way unless they do something now to change that image.

    I think that most athletes go through phases of cool and uncool depending on how they are performing. For example, Tony Romo is extremely cool when he brings the Cowboys to the playoffs, but he's very uncool when he fumbles the hold on the game-winning field goal to knock them out of playoffs. Kobe Bryant is cool when he scores the most points in a Lakers game, but uncool when he is being accused of sexual harassment. Barry Bonds was cool when he was an all-star, then turned uncool after the steroid scandal. Marion Jones was cool when she broke world records in track, but she became uncool after admitting to taking steroids. Brett Farve was cool when he was the well-known quarterback of the Packers until he retired, but when he came out of retirement to play more, he became uncool. Age causes athletes to become uncool; it would probably be best, if they wished to remain cool, to just disappear when they become too old to play.

    It’s like what Donna was talking about in class, their cool could have been forever preserved if they would have died, but they may have outlived their cool or a phase of it, at least.

  3. Not only an interesting blog post in which you went into athletes, but an interesting post in response to FJohn's question. You've started to enter the realm of personality-based coolness (for instance, associating yourself with certain favorite players can get negative or positive response simply from that player's reception and is usually directly correlated to the player's popularity). Very interesting.

    Good job with links and spacing!

  4. In your response, you use "cool" in a way that can be replaced with "liked" what ever is cool purely something we like, or is there more to it?