Inordinate Ordnance: The Problems of Being Cool

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Written by Chris Carr

Fonzie had it. Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe all personified it. To some, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are the archetypes of it today, while others would vehemently disagree. Arguments have been made that William Shakespeare had it and still exudes it today. Same goes for Earnest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson and lady-slayer, Benjamin Franklin.

It is coolness. It's a certain roundness—opposed to the rigid angles of a square—that some celebrities, athletes and myriad high-schoolers seem to exist within. Today, Hipsters are cool. Yesterday, people who dyed their hair blond and listened to Marshall Mathers LP on repeat, were cool. The entire punk regime has fallen to ruins in the search for the cool factor when Blink 182 and Good Charlotte were popular. Actually, come to think of it, Good Charlotte was never cool.

Now in the early days of the coming semester I see many different kinds of students piling into the halls of the newly-painted UC and I can see the cool kids. You know who I mean. Anybody who's ever watched 500 Days of Summer, Youth in Revolt or Juno and decided that they were instructional manuals. As a social experiment, head deep into the cafeteria at lunch time and scan for these people. This year they will be wearing deck shoes and floods, with matching kitschy glasses and ironic t-shirts. They can be spotted, and they want to be spotted.

Let's be amazingly clear here: this is not an attack on hipsters. That would be hypocritical because I personally love listening to vinyl, riding a bike with one gear and have a certain affinity for facial hair. This is more an a thought experiment on phenomena of coolness and we who are slaves to it.

With the exception of a certain percentage of the population with higher self-esteem than the rest, most of us seek out the Cool (note the pronoun) with all our energy and dollars in the bank. Malls would close if this weren't true. Urban Outfitters would start selling beige jumpsuits because they are a logical option for clothing, devoid of any coolness whatsoever. Cell phone companies would have stopped making phones sleeker and sexier and we'd all have the a lump of technology that my mom calls me every day on. The Cool is a catalyst of merchandising. It's an important cog in the consumer machine, and that at least, it's owed a little respect.

However their is a downside to having the admiration of your peers. It comes at a cost. And I am not talking about the price of your new Ray-Bans.

The History of The Cool is littered with drug-overdoses, car wrecks and beautiful corpses. The coolest celebrities die young, thus adding to their infamy. If they don't die young, the grow old and shatter their once perfect visage of coolness. I'm talking to you, Henry Winkler!

This isn't new news. History tells us stories of people who burned bright and were snuffed out just as quickly, but is The Cool to blame? Maybe. James Dean died looking cool in his Porsche 550 Spyder. Jim Morrison over-dosed from some super-cool drugs. This is all heavily documented like propaganda for parents to warn their kids about the dangers of The Cool.

But still we pursue. What about those who grew up on side two of this much-played LP? The uncool people. The geeks and nerds who built robots instead of going to the school dances. These people are the millionaires of today. Bill Gates may have missed his prom, but now he could buy Egypt if he wanted to build a sand castle. Steve Jobs, woefully uncool in his years even as a rich man. Einstein, was downright Kelvin, he was so uncool. (Editor's note: Yep, a physics joke. Coolness abounds.)

But still, even when faced with the problems that arise for being cool, millions and millions of young adults pursue it with furious speed and maddening vigor. Being cool stops people from studying and keeps them failing. It stops people from being healthy and keeps them smoking cigarettes. It stops people from using condoms and perpetuating STDs. It keeps Bieber from shutting the hell up.

I'm just saying that maybe sometimes we should stop and think about what our coolness is worth in the long run.

But, I have hope. The popularity of The Big Bang Theory makes me think otherwise. However it is a dim hope, shadowed by the vacuous torrents of people who know more about Honey Boo Boo than the Mars Curiosity landing.

For those who do not know about the Mars Curiosity Landing, Google it, it will make you a better person. For those who do not know about Honey Boo Boo, don't Google it, you will gain nothing. It's too late for me, but not for you, I know who Honey Boo Boo is. Remember me when you are in the throes of the blissful pop culture ignorance that come with greater learning and know, I did you a favour by warning you without example.

I expect a statue in my honour. A cool one.


Chris Carr is Editor-in-Chief of The Cannon. Inordinate Ordnance publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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