Saturday, January 31, 2009

Looking back on last week’s movie, The Public Enemy, I feel conflicted. The movie was obviously produced to show audiences what was not cool (made apparent by the beginning and end notes). Tom Powers came to a horrible end as a result of his lifestyle, which is exactly the point the producers wanted to make. However, there are a few scenes in which the viewer can immediately identify with Tom; scenes that make him appear cool. The first comes fairly early on in the movie. In this scene, we see Tom about to be spanked by his father (Horrors. What were the early movie producers thinking? Someone should call child services). Tom quickly becomes understood and admired by every child and many adults watching when he says, “How do you want ‘em this time, up or down?” Anyone who has ever been a child can easily empathize with Tom’s bravado here.

In his unwillingness to allow his father to see fear or weakness, Tom puts up a brave front. Isn’t this one of the things we see as cool today? Someone who is tough, unaffected, and fearless is undoubtedly cool. Look at all the superhero movies that have recently become popular. Nostalgia could easily be the reason, but could it not also be the public’s admiration for fearlessness—for bravery verging on recklessness? Because of the “coolness” that results from being brave, we have come upon the realization that we too can be cool in this way. It doesn’t take true bravery, just a front.

Another instance in which Tom was perceived as cool, was towards the end of the movie. Tom Powers skulks outside in the rain waiting for the men who had killed his friend, Matt. He waits patiently until the men arrive. A smile creeps onto his face, and he walks slowly across the street to follow them into the building. Tom walks in, and disappears from the viewer’s sight. You then hear several gunshots and woman’s wail. Tom walks out, with an obvious injury to himself, but apparently his mission was accomplished. His friends death had been avenged. However unfortunate, revenge is cool. It is depicted as such in more than one movie. A good action flick in which the main character’s whole purpose is to right some wrong inflicted upon him or his loved ones is cool. Revenge brings out cool qualities: dedication, perseverance, and definitely toughness.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Creativity Boldness ThoughtProvoking Making a Difference Turquoise Power Horseback Riding Books Spring Rock Climbing Friends Randomness Ideas Soccer Intelligence Humor Genuineness Hiking Green Kindness Identity Different Camping Love Interest Vivacity Leadership Outdoors Work Ethic Obscurity Family Beliefs

“We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are” (Berger. 9).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Whenever my mom sees me reading a book that she deems as beneath someone’s reading level , she calls it reading “fluff.” With that being said, I have a confession to make: not only do I sometimes enjoying easy reads (a.k.a. “fluff”) but I also enjoy some fluff TV shows. One of which, is Gossip Girl. My roommates (mainly Anna) got me addicted to it freshman year, and since then (however unfortunate), I have followed it religiously. So, as I racked my brain to find something to write my second blog about, I thought of Gossip Girl. Although it may be inconsequential and at times simply stupid and perhaps brain rotting, I realized that it demonstrates several different types of cool in its characters. First, you have the stunning Serena Van Der Woodsen. She is the envy of all girls who watch. Long blond hair that is never out of place, a closet full of clothes that are the height of fashion, and a cute boyfriend to top it all off. She demonstrates the "cool" that most junior high girls see as the epitome of popularity and coolness. If I were to name this cool myself, it would be "stereotypical cool." It is the definition of cool that the average person would think of when asked. She is the "cool" girl at school--the it girl.
Second, there is Dan Humphry. He is Serena's boyfriend, so not only is he cool by association, but he also possesses his own brand of cool. Dan is artsy--he drinks black coffee at a small, local coffee shop, writes poetry, wears scarves, and totes a man bag. He goes to the same prestigious private school that Serena and her cronies attend, but there is one big difference: he is on scholarship. Dan is from Brooklyn (otherwise know as, the other side of the tracks) and is from a more humble background than most of his wealthy classmates. He is fully aware that he doesn't fit in at Constance, but he doesn't care. Dan continues to be true to himself throughout the series. Even when things get rocky between he and Serena, he doesn't change who he is. In trying to be himself and stay out of the mainstream, Dan creates his own version of cool.
Another character who has acquired her very own definition of cool is Jenny Humphry. When I first began watching the show, Jenny was like a lot of other girls during their freshman year in high school. Her main desire was to fit in and become a member of the in group at school. However, as the show progresses, Jenny realizes that in the process of initiation into the popular group at Constance she is not staying true to who she is. In realizing this, Jenny begins to rebel against the popular crowd. She goes to wild and unimaginable lengths to create her own name—her own brand of cool. She begins to design her own line of clothing and to put her name out there, interrupts a couture cocktail party with an impromptu fashion show. Jenny sows her wild oats throughout season two, but by season three she is in the process of getting her life back together, and showing Constance she can be who she wants to be. Personally, Jenny is one of my favorite characters. I admire the reasons she had behind rebelling against the social classes. I admire her spunk and determination. She accomplishes her goals without hesitation. Jenny’s new ideas and vivacity bring about another type of cool. I believe FJohn termed this type of cool as “transcendent.” He defined as someone who is sincere and passionate, someone that does what they want to do, and someone who is productive and creative and stands without the mainstream.
I have given you three different characters that demonstrate three different kinds of cool. Yet, can all be the same type at the same time? None of the three strive for coolness or acceptance but they all still attain it to some degree. What about someone who fails to obtain acceptance? Are they still cool in their own way? Maybe acceptance—in any form or fashion—defines cool.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Basics of Cool

In F-John's presentation Wednesday night, he gave us a definition of "cool." He said that it was, "An idea of ironic detachment from society that we see as valuable." F-John then continued to describe many different varieties of that definition. There was the "cool destruction" who possessed the "i just do not care" mentality. Then came the Eighties, which gave you "cool without pretense." These people were intentionally trying to be cool—tight pants, big hair, and crazy makeup—an intentional effort to obtain the status of "cool." F-John gave us several examples of types of cool.

In the end, there were two types of cool presented to us. The first was, “Dissident cool.” Perhaps first perfected by none other than James Dean, but artfully mastered by many other people. To master this particular brand of cool, you must be exciting, rebellious, present some sort of novelty, and I think that mysterious would also fit in well here. Just look at the men on television and the movie stars that women find attractive. There are many examples of this dissidence. Take Heath Ledger’s character in “Ten Things I Hate About You.”
He is one on the left and the epitome of dissidence. “Patrick Verona, a bad-boy with a mysterious reputation--some say he ate a live duck once, others that he lit a state trooper on fire, and even more claim that he had a brief porn career.” ( Sounds like we have a winner! There are many other attractive males in the public eye that demonstrate this “quality;” the list could go on and on. But the fact is, unfortunate or not, that this is not only a “cool” quality, but an attractive one as well (at least from a female perspective).

The second type of cool was defined as, “Transcendent cool.” To be this type of cool, you must be sincere, passionate, and do things because you desire to do so and not because it is “cool.” It is ironic that you can become cool, by defying cool itself. I think that more often than not, to become transcendent, you have to go against the norms of society; sometimes, against the wishes of your family and peers. One of my favorite movies displays this type of cool perfectly—Walt Disney’s “Mulan.” IN this movie, you see two sides of Mulan: she displays femininity and discreetness (the one expected by society) and also her desire to stand out and make a difference.

In the end, against everyone’s better judgment, she accomplishes more than what she set out to do. Mulan saves the entire nation, all while defying the womanly definition of “cool” at that time. In doing so, created her own brand of cool. Perhaps that is the secret to being cool—creating your own genre.