Cool Is Dead

Cool is dead. Thank God. Born sometime in the mid-twentieth century, cool ruled as a tyrant for five or six odd decades. For years folks felt compelled to constantly follow its dictates, but, like Buddha and Marcus Aurelius both said, all things change—and the power and sway cool once wielded have now dwindled into less than nothing. The feeble-minded among us, however, still think it’s alive and well.

Well, I’m here to bring the bad—no, good—news: cool is dead. As a motherloving doornail.

In its infancy, it was an adjective used to describe a state of unflappability under pressure and/or oppression, but then it grew into a kind of countercultural aesthetic of style and taste. In its full maturity, it got co-opted by the fashion world and Hollywood, while in its autumn years corporations used it as a marketing tool. And it finally died somewheres in the early Aughts.

The chime of an incoming text message is the death knell of coolness.

Just getting around to writing its obituary now, though, because I myself hadn’t realized it was dead till just recently when I saw a hipster engrossed in his iPhone. And it dawned on me: so needy and overly-distracted are we, so engulfed are we in information and entertainment and “communication,” that any kind of attempts at revolutionary or countercultural posturing have been rendered completely futile, absolutely impotent.

Indeed, the chime of an incoming text message is the death knell of coolness.

Now, some dipshits out there may decry the fact that coolness used to actually mean something and that big, bad, evil capitalism took it over. But you know what? It was a bankrupt idea from (almost) the very beginning.

Cool perhaps started with the early jazz musicians, but then the Beats got their greasy paws on it. The Beats annoy the shit out of me: white guys overdramatizing their personal struggles, shamelessly promoting themselves, paving the way for all the pretentiousness of the Sixties, which in turn set the stage for Punk, Grunge, and whatever other so-called cultural movements came after.

Cool became inextricably linked with the idea that each and every American—the most prosperous nation in the world, mind you—thinks they’re the outsider, thinks they’re the David versus Goliath. You know what, my fellow Americans? You may just be the Goliath.

But back to the neediness aspect. There is a kind of desperation inherent in the concept of cool. If you firmly believe in cool, then you lurch into a self-conscious state of mind in which every action, every facet of your outward façade, becomes laden with a burden much too heavy to be borne. You become a constant curator of your existence—an unhealthily self-aware entity ceaselessly marketing himself to everyone he comes into contact with.

The unwritten law of cool is, of course, that you can never call yourself cool—that’s a job for someone else. So, if you really strive for coolness, you’ve got to be incessantly seeking admiration and validation in the eyes and minds of others. Which is the complete opposite of cool.

Cool is self-negating. Coroner’s report: cool committed suicide.

  • January 11, 2016