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.


  1. You make a good point about Tom's bravado being part of his cool. I think that we all want to appear fearless most of the time, so we admire those who seem to be. However, that raises a question for me. Are there different levels of cool when it comes to bravery? Is it cooler to really be fearless, or to put on a front of bravado?

  2. I think it depends on whether people can tell its a front or not, and also what the situation asks for. If the situation calls for an act of bravery, then just a front would be worthless, and thus uncool. But normally, I think the front does just as well as the original and is just as cool (unless the person is a good actor, and then it is possibly better).

  3. Ah... *Revenge* is cool. Probably a very true statement. Is vengeance something that only good characters can take part in, or is it something that a bad character could take part in and still be cool?