Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sex, Drugs, and Disco

Saturday Night Fever implies the dichotomy of being cool. It’s just a front; someone is never cool at all times or in all situations because cool is perceived so differently by each different group of people. Tony is the leader of his group of friends and the king of the disco; however, outside of the disco or his little circle he isn’t cool. At the paint shop he could be cool because he is good at what he does except for the fact that he is working at a dead-end job. He is still living with his parents and stuck in his small community without any options. Juxtaposed to the free-spirited characters in Easy Rider, Tony is limited. The disco is the only place he has any control. However, even in the disco, what do they have power over? In reality, Tony, the king of the disco, does menial labor at a paint shop where he’ll likely work for his whole life and lives with his parents. At nineteen, he should be getting out of the house and starting his own life. Instead, the only time he is living is when he’s at the disco; it’s the only thing that gives him purpose. Tony at the disco is the image of cool that we have seen from the start; a macho guy with an indifferent and confident attitude. The Tony that we see in daily life, the one who still lives under his father’s rules, is not cool; he uses the disco to escape from his dead-end reality.

The search for meaning and purpose is cool, and compared to the rest of the people in this movie, Tony is on the search. He thinks he found meaning at the disco, but after he wins the prize, he realizes his purpose in life is not something tangible. Where can he go after unfairly winning the prize money? He gets scared because everything he finds meaning in is false. The disco doesn’t mean anything outside the walls of the club. As far as cool goes, someone is only cool when they are in their element. Brandi Carlile is cool when she’s up on stage at one of her concerts, but walking down the street the next day, the majority of people probably would not even recognize her. When she has a microphone and guitar in her hand she is cool, but otherwise, she’s just an average person. Same with Tony, when he is dancing, he is cool; anyone who knows him for his dancing thinks he’s cool. However, those who don’t appreciate the dancing don’t appreciate him for the same reasons. He may not seem cool or special to them. So, cool is a matter of recognition and appreciation by the observers.

A modified Holy Trinity of cool-sex, drugs, and disco-runs rampant throughout the movie. Instead of sex, drugs, and disco being a legitimately cool thing, it is cast in a negative light. When a rational person looks at the situation, it is not cool. The disco is rigged, people are taking drugs to escape life, and women are raped. Ironically, the Holy Trinity of cool is not cool in this movie.
Saturday Night Fever exposes the flaws and dual nature of cool. Cool is a matter of audience, not an absolute state of character.