Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cool is Doing What You Know and Knowing What You Do

It’s difficult to find cool in Double Indemnity since the characters and situations are so devoid of any type of moral ambiguity. Bad boys are normally cool, but that’s because they have some depth. Bourne in The Bourne Identity is cool even though many of the actions he takes are immoral, we agree with his reasoning. We are able to identify with his moral struggle and can see both sides of his personality. In Film Noir, we only see evil; everyone has the capacity to murder, cheat, and steal for the smallest incentive. There wasn’t a moral struggle when Phyllis asks Neff to murder her husband; there wasn’t even shock. The only contemplation that Neff undergoes is whether or not they would actually be able to pull it off. He wants to beat the system. Cool is the struggle for whether or not an action is worth abandoning morals, and we can identify with a character as cool when we agree with their incentives for action. In movies like Double Jeopardy and Enough, we are able to relate and see murderers as cool; we want them to succeed. Ironically, we identify with rule breakers, but they have to be breaking the rules for noble reasons. Stanwyck is a classic femme fatale, and we don’t relate with her like we do Judd and Lopez in the above movies because she doesn’t have true reason to murder her husband like we feel the other two women do.

Competence, being able to do your job well, is cool; not only that, wittiness is cool: like the scene where Neff and Phyllis flirt back and forth, but they are not cool characters. Instead, it was a cool interaction. Neff starts out as cool because he is the best salesman and a fast talker, but he makes mistakes. He doesn’t think of everything, like Keyes does. Keyes is the coolest all around character in the movie because he thinks of all possibilities. Keyes is like House, he knows every aspect and option in each situation; he is so good at his job that he makes it look easy. It’s cool when you are good at what you do; this is why Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Emeril, and Elvis are cool. They were so good at the things they did that they revolutionized them. They created new cookie-cutter molds for cool. To be that good takes a great deal of knowledge, skill, and confidence in a particular area. Cool isn’t only in the competence but also in the consistency. It’s the fact that every time Michael steps on the court, Mia on the field, Emeril in the kitchen, and Elvis on the stage, it’s natural. What makes them cool is how easy they make difficult abilities seem; watching Mia Hamm play soccer makes it seem like anyone can play. The cool part comes when someone tries to play like Mia and realizes she can’t because only Mia can. When someone gets to the point that people are imitating them, they have truly achieved cool. Neff, in some ways, was trying to imitate Keyes and think as he thought which makes Keyes in his own small way cool.


  1. Imitators are often a clue to finding cool, but are all people who are imitated cool? Where is the line?

  2. Hmmm... No, I don't think all people who are imitated are cool, in general; however, the majority of people who are imitated are cool to the person imitating them. So, it depends on how many people have to agree that someone is cool before they are considered "cool."