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While some would argue that it was Marlon Brando who created the notion of “cool” in the 1950s, back in the 1990s, the late Michael Kelly wrote that in his opinion it was Frank Sinatra who defined the term in that mid-century decade — and it was very much a mixed blessing, as Kelly wrote:
The new cool man that Sinatra defined was a very different creature. Cool said the old values were for suckers. Cool was looking out for number one always. Cool didn’t get mad; it got even. Cool didn’t go to war: Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs it was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing. Cool was a cad and boastful about it; in cool’s philosophy, the lady was always a tramp, and to be treated accordingly. Cool was not on the side of the law; cool made its own laws. Cool was not knowing but still essentially idealistic; cool was nihilistic. Cool was not virtuous; it reveled in vice. Before cool, being good was still hip; after cool, only being bad was.
But all poses have to seem dated eventually, even cool. Back in September, Roger L. Simon wrote its obituary, in a post titled “The Death of the Cool,” appropriately enough. As Roger noted, growing up in the ’50s, he listened to plenty of Miles Davis’ first album The Birth of the Cool and read plenty of beatnik poetry and hipster authors. “Whatever our politics, play or otherwise, we were big time cultural rebels,” Roger wrote. “Thought we were anyway. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.”
Turn off the sepia-toned ’50s nostalgia and smash-cut to the present-day:
All of that is so over. Just as it reached its apogee, with Stevie Wonder boogieing in the White House and the values of the Sixties spread through the upper echelons of our government, filled with more czars than the Hermitage ever dreamed of with a president who palled around with Bill Ayers, for crissakes, cool is now dead.
Maybe not officially dead (how could that be?) but dead enough. In fact, not only is it dead, it’s decomposed.
Cool depended on liberalism. In fact, it was an offshoot of it, suckling on the mother’s milk of Keynesian economics. As long as there was plenty of deficit spending to go around, we could all be cool. Life would be one long evening at Max’s Kansas City.
Of course, it’s not. In today’s pay-as-you-go world, being cool is a luxury few can afford. This accounts for the extreme discomfort we may be seeing in our media and, to a lesser extent — they still have more money — Hollywood. Our media, our journos, depend on being thought cool and, consequently and perhaps more importantly, thinking of themselves as cool. When they suspect they are not, they begin to behave like worker bees when the queen is killed. They tend to run around and act out. After a while, they seem lost. Their numbers dwindle.
This is just because cool depended on a hive mind in the first place. It was little more than fad. We are well rid of it.
And in part because cool is gone, the remaining liberals are the new reactionaries. They are the ones trapped in the past, the enemies of the future.
Angela Rye, executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, inadvertently confirms Roger’s thesis today, in a Washington Examiner article currently receiving a Drudge-lanche via the headline, “CBC: ‘Cool’ is racist term for Obama…”
She said that “a lot” of conservative opposition is racially-charged, citing the use of the word “cool” in an attack ad launched by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS superPAC.
“There’s an ad, talking about [how] the president is too cool, [asking] is he too cool? And there’s this music that reminds me of, you know, some of the blaxploitation films from the 70s playing in the background, him with his sunglasses,” Rye said. “And to me it was just very racially-charged. They weren’t asking if Bush was too cool, but, yet, people say that that’s the number one person they’d love to have a beer with. So, if that’s not cool I dont know what is.
She added that “even ‘cool,’ the term ‘cool,’ could in some ways be deemed racial [in this instance].”
Gosh, I’ll never listen to my copies of Miles’ Birth of the Cool, or its bookend at the conclusion of the ’50s, Gil Evans’ Out of the Cool, the same way again.
And who knew Arthur Fonzarelli, Brando, and Sinatra were all such self-hating frickin’ racists, anyhow?
Incidentally, if we can’t call the president “cool” (and as Roger noted back in September, who would these days?), can we call him “pissy”? That’s good enough for a quote in the Washington Post, as Paul Mirengoff writes at Power Line.
Related: Speaking of outdated archetypes, Greg Gutfeld “rips ‘relic of a dying era’ Howard Dean over Netroots Nation remarks.” Dean’s whole speech sounded like he thought Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Cliches was a how-to guide for public speaking.