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.”


  1. When does a movement become uncool? Is there a such thing as a mainstream movement? What about a movement that is dotted by "slacktivists," or those who are only passively active without actually engaging in it? MoveOn.org specifically comes to mind. Is there a point where emailing a petition to millions of people who can passively enter their information and send it to their congressmen but wouldn't otherwise signals the death of the passion of the movement?

  2. I think a movement becomes cool when it hits the mainstream, and all of them that are good enough eventually do hit the mainstream. Once the movement hits the mainstream, it becomes plagued with "slacktivists," by this point most movements are struggling for small random rights but have the main equality rights. Most of the passion is lost from the movement after they are recognized and accepted.

  3. When it comes to some movements, it is pretty much impossible to get in on them. Bob Marley's music is fairly accessible. Being a drag queen is much more specific. Because of this, similar acceptance might happen, but probably not similar mainstreaming. Does something have to be accessible to be cool?