Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Is Cool if not a Good Imitation?

Play It Again, Sam presents an interesting dichotomy of cool. On the one hand, there’s an affected cool and, on the other, “genuine” cool. When “genuine” cool is juxtaposed to affected cool, Allen seems even more pathetic. The question then arises, is there such thing as a genuine cool or, in reality, is it just how well you are able to adopt and affect cool to make it appear genuine?

Most would agree Sam in no way represents any type of cool. He is too busy trying to copy someone else’s cool to cultivate his own, and he isn’t even a good imitation. Bogart, though, is still an imitation, just a good one; he was not the first gangster or the last one, but he was able to adopt the persona of one so well that he took on the transcendent cool of the gangster, which started around the time of Public Enemy and continues today with American Gangster. The message of cool that I feel Play It Again, Sam is sending across would be that very few cool people are original. There are set formulas for cool, and how cool one is only depends on how well they are able to conform to and adopt a formula as their whole life. Sam wasn’t able to adopt the persona of the gangster. The same thing happens when companies try to market cool, like Hot Topic, Abercrombie and Fitch, or Nike. The idea is that by buying a shirt from Hot Topic you become punk, or jeans from Abercrombie and Fitch you become preppy or shoes from Nike and you become an all-star athlete. These marketing ploys work and sell a lot of merchandise while popularizing the brand; however, sadly the customers are wasting their money, cool is an attitude, not an accessory. Wearing the jeans from Abercrombie doesn’t transform your body and persona into that of their models. However, marketing a certain type of cool doesn’t detract from that cool; it just makes it harder to find someone who is a good representation of it.

There are some who will never be cool, no matter how hard they try, at least not cool to the majority. Allen was a hopeless case. He was the polar opposite of cool, and the harder he tried, the worse he appeared. Sam didn’t have the looks or personality to be a Bogart. The truly cool people are the one’s who cultivate talents or character traits that they already have which conform to a certain form of cool. Bogart had the voice, facial expressions, and control it takes to adopt the gangster persona. Allen, unfortunately, did not have any of these necessary components. He would have been better off trying to be an amazing movie critic, who could be cool without having any direct human interaction. Siskel, Ebert and Roeper are in their own respect cool; nearly everyone knows their names, but nobody knows their personalities or how they look. Although they aren’t a cookie cutter cool, they achieved about the highest form of cool their talents would allow them. Not everyone can work to be a certain type of cool, and to truly be cool, it has to appear natural. Cool is a matter of recognizing what you are good at and how those talents fit into the cookie cutter molds of cool.


  1. Excellent points! I'm glad that you brought forth the fact that Bogart, at least the Bogart that Allan knew, was indeed an imitation of everything Allan had ever seen Bogart in. In fact, no one can really say what the real Bogart would have been like. I think what we're supposed to get from Allan is that he honestly knows that "Bogart" isn't really Bogart, but that he doesn't care. Who cares if what you are trying to imitate is authentic or fake when it means that you will get what you want?

    Excellent entry!

  2. It's really interesting that you bring up the cookie-cutter nature of cool poses we can try on. Is it possible to reconcile the unique, self-contained and self-created cool personae that we recognize with our compulsion to adapt them as (fake) personae for ourselves? Are only true originals cool?

  3. I think you're right. We all try to become like the people we see as most cool. I know I still do, even though I know that this copying is often going to fail.

    Yet, if this is the case for everyone, then just where do these cookie-cutters come from?

  4. The cookie-cutters come from the truly cool people, the ones who are cool and unique without even knowing it. There are levels of cool, kind of like levels of enlightenment in Buddhism, and you can be cool even if you aren't the true original, as long as you are a good imitation. I think we can realize our full potentials even when we are imitating others because maybe our full potential only was a good imitation where we find our own unique meaning.