Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Fight to the End: What Cool is All About Part 2

In this corner…the Narrator

Going through the mundane, the Narrator is a man with a boring white-collar job, bossy boss, and has insomnia. He pours over home d├ęcor magazines, spending too much money and time on how his apartment defines him. To try to sleep, he goes to self-help groups of the addicted and dying. Surprisingly, this helps him sleep! Letting his emotions go and being included and cared for as if he was dying seems to release him. He gets addicted; he likes being in these exclusive groups.

Compared to Tyler Durden, the Narrator doesn’t seem like a really cool guy. He does what he’s supposed to do in society (work hard and then frivolously spend that hard earned money) and doesn’t seem to have very much inspiration or emotion outside of furniture and self help groups. Even when his precious apartment blows up, he doesn’t get very upset. In fact, he simply tells the audience that these things happen; he calmly calls Tyler, and the two go out for drinks. Whenever Tyler tries to get him to do something, he fights and argues, trying to hold on to the consumer and controlled side of his life.

There is so much more to him that makes him cool, though. His cool isn’t extreme and in your face like Tyler’s, it is quiet, unnoticed, but in the end very complex and powerful. While Tyler is the one who will take the lead, the Narrator is the one who will be in the crowd, backing you up, and keeping tabs on you. Although he seems to not care about anything, he does enjoy the self help groups, and he becomes very attached to Bob, watching out for him. The Narrator likes the bonding and trust that the people in these groups develop; he desires the close friendships. This caring is his strongest weapon of cool. Another cool characteristic of the narrator is his ability to be above Tyler’s influence. All of the other men in the Fight Club are like Tyler’s robot army; they do everything he dreams up with out questions. They can’t do anything without Tyler and have no independence. The Narrator is outside of Tyler’s power. Sure, he gives in most of the time, but he chooses to do so. In the end, when he realizes what Tyler is creating and organizing, the Narrator stands his ground. He is given the choice of either being consumed by Tyler’s character or remaining his own, and he chooses to fight, even if it brings his death.

To sum it all up, this movie portrays so many types of cool. It doesn’t stop there, though. Just as the Narrator discovers what he is made up of, I feel as if we all can discover a cool inside of us, and like the Narrator, we have the choice of what cool and what to do with it. Cool is the freedom to be who you want to be and to accept who you are. That is what I have concluded from this class. There isn’t just one type of cool. Whatever you chose, the only thing that matters is that you are confident and savvy about your decision.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Fight to the End: What Cool is All About

And so we come to the end of this class of cool. We started in the 1930s with Public Enemy, and now we are ending in 1999 with Fight Club. I think this is a great movie to end on because it depicts so many aspects of cool. We see independence, passion, strength, endurance, brotherhood, intelligence, rebellion, devotion…basically any cool that has been portrayed the movies this semester. It also provides us with a great ultimatum about cool, but before we get there, we must first have one last fight about cool. As we were leaving class, a group of us were discussing the film. There were two ideas being argued, and each side had a plausible argument. What we were discussing doesn’t really matter because the reason for this tale is to illustrate the discussion about what is cool. There will always be sides taken on what is found cool. Go back to the lists we made about what was hip and cool; I’m sure there are some conflicting ideas of what is hip and what is square. Cool can’t be made into a list, and it can’t be defined. Look up cool in the dictionary; will it give you the formula on how to be cool? No. But, as I said, after this last fight, one ultimate characteristic of cool will be discovered, so let’s get started. Shirt, shoes, and jewelry must be removed. There are only two to a fight, and the fight ends when one taps out or blacks out…


In this corner…Tyler Durden

Tyler is a man ready to take on the world, and he is a kaleidoscope of different cools. We first meet Tyler on one of the narrator’s numerous trips for his job. Tyler automatically takes the spot light with his knowledge and wit. You wouldn’t think that a man who makes and sells soup would be that interesting, but he is charismatic, grabbing your attention and making you want to be his best friend. As we get to know Tyler more, we soon find that he doesn’t follow any standards set down by society. When the narrator is trying to subtly hint to Tyler that he needs a place to stay (which is what everyone seems to do when trying to ask others for something), Tyler calls him out, telling him to just ask. Sabotaging what ever he can to shock people, Tyler tries to make people see how tied down and mundane their so-called lives are. His desire to live life and to awaken society along with his intellect really makes him a man people want to be with and be like.


Extreme, that is another side of Tyler that can go too far but really adds to his cool. There is no middle ground with him; you either do it all the way or not at all. He will not compromise, nor will he back down. He will stand his ground, take a beating, and continue on with his plans. He’s not always beaten up, though. Tyler demands respect and your compliance because he is so tough. He can stand on his own. He is independent, competent, free. He is free of society, free of a conscience, free of fear. It is this freedom that fuels his cool and extremeness. However, as this movie shows how Tyler acts with this freedom, total freedom can lead to extreme, harmful actions. In his quest to wake society up, Tyler sets his Fight Club army on very destructive missions. Everything that is or represents the consumerism that is tying everyone else down is destroyed. Now, a forgiving point in his plans is that the only people put in harm’s way are the ones who are pulling the stunt. Even in his grand finale which will result in city blocks of destruction, he has made sure that no civilians will be around.


But, I feel that all of the destruction he organizes and the way he uses his freedom aren’t all that cool. Yes, the destruction will be very effective and wake people up to their reality of unnecessary consumerism, but contradictory to his freedom, he isn’t giving society the freedom to choose what they want. It is one thing to make someone aware of what is tying them down, and completely another thing to destroy everything they have to force them to stop being consumers. Another contraction he has is that although he is free, those who follow him are completely controlled by him and his rules. He is free, and he seems to want others to have his freedom, but his method of achieving that is to tie everyone around him down with his authority. There is so much about Tyler that is cool, but he also has his flaws.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Colors of Cool

Throughout the semester, we have been studying different areas and portrayals of cool. While this movie, Reservoir Dogs, wasn’t one of my favorites, it portrayed a good variety of cools. Joe, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, and Mr. White all have their own style and flare.

Joe

Joe Cabot is the man in charge, the head honcho, the man with the plan. He is the criminal mastermind, the one planning numerous jobs. He seems to know everything and everyone. All of the guys like him; they kid with him and seem to have a good time with him. They also trust that his plan is thorough and efficient. Joe is not a man to mess with, though. Mr. Orange described him as like The Thing from Fantastic Four, and the description was a great one. Joe has the growling voice and the big person to make a person think twice about confronting him. He has an overpowering and competent cool.

Mr. Blonde

Mr. Blonde is complex. He is a tough, almost crazy guy. He seems like a loose cannon, one who is going to go his own way. Calling you out, Mr. Blonde will challenge you, but he won’t get in your face. He has a collected air about him, and he isn’t one to get angry or excited or anything beyond calm. There is one cool you would never expect from this man: loyalty. He did four years in prison for Joe when he could have betrayed Joe and gone free.

Mr. Pink

Mr. Pink is a confusion. He cares the most of the guys about being cool, but he just can’t gain that status. He tries to take on too many different types of cool: professional, macho and in your face, and a rebel. Throughout the movie, he is always exclaiming that the guys need to be professionals. He also defends his masculinity by complaining about being called ‘Mr. Pink’. Finally, he tries to stand out from the rest by making a big deal about tipping. He enjoyed and felt intelligent when he criticized something no one else did.

Mr. Orange

Mr. Orange is somewhat like Mr. Pink in that his cool is one he created. Unlike Allen in Play It Again, Sam, Mr. Orange is successful in acting like criminal. Everyone, even Joe until the end, is fooled by this undercover cop’s act.

Mr. White

Finally, Mr. White, my favorite character, is unlike any criminal type. He is caring, almost motherly. He cares the most about Mr. Orange when he is shot, and protects him when Joe is about to take Mr. Orange out. To a fault, Mr. White shows loyalty and compassion for those he takes under his wing. Him as a mother bear is a perfect image: he cares so much for his cub and is terribly fierce when danger jumps upon that cub.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hips and Squares

Hip:
Rap
Drinking
Grinding/sex
Cussing
I-anything
Apple
Obama
Liberal
Confidence
Relationships
Texting
No fat
“Instant…”
To know the hidden meaning
To know everything and have an opinion
Eco-friendly
Accepting
Not square

Square:
Instruments
Sober
Dancing/Abstinence
No cussing
Anything not “I…”
PC
McCain
Conservative
Doubt
Single
Calling
So fat
Patience
To take something at face value
To be ignorant and unsure of a position
Resource abusive
Rejecting
Not hip


Warning: I am going to be very straight forward and coarse when explaining this list. Some people might be offended.

It was interesting to start this list because I didn’t know that it would invoke such emotion in me. I started out asking myself, “what is THE THING to do, or what does the mainstream find as cool?” I immediately thought about the items that I disagree with. I realized that I don’t see myself as “hip” because I don’t adhere to the “hip” list; I am more “square”. So ironically, most of the “hip” list is what I find as uncool and the “square” list is how I view myself. Then again, I did start putting things on the “hip” list that I do find cool and adding ideas onto the “square” list that I don’t like. I guess I follow the square characteristic of being “unsure of a position.”

I started out with an area that I feel uncomfortable and out of place with: what my friends seem to find fun. I honestly don’t care for rap. I prefer to have drums and guitars in my music, and I especially don’t want to hear about how a guy lusts after this girl or how he “had his way with her” last night with ten cuss words in each verse. I also don’t see the point in getting drunk. All it does for you is make you lose control, have no memory of the “fun” you had last night, and give you a hang-over in the morning. Cussing is another pointless habit people form. I wonder if people really know what they are saying when they cuss. And grinding, I honestly wonder how this is called “dancing”. I always feel so dirty and violated and used after the three times I’ve gone “dancing”. You don’t even face your partner! I thought dancing was all about getting to know your partner in a fun atmosphere. No, to me, “dancing” today just seems to be a rehearsal or sample of what is going to happen after the dance.

After those items, the lists start to be a mixture of what I like and don’t like. I’m not really pro or con Apple products. I can’t imagine being without my IPOD, and my home is all Apple computers. It’s a great brand. I am just one of those people where if the machine works, I’m satisfied. I’ve got a school computer now, and while most people complain about it, I’m happy with it. I don’t have to have the latest, most advance piece of technology to feel satisfied. I’m going to use what I have until it is just worn out.

Next are political and personal critiques. Everyone seems crazy about and even obsessed with Obama, and our culture is getting more and more liberal as time continues. There is both good and bad with these two. Obama hasn’t done a bad job, but I have been disappointed with a few decisions that have been made (and I really wonder why his dog choice was such a big one). The same is with being liberal. I consider myself as between liberal and conservative, but I fall more on the conservative side. Being a Christian, there are just some aspects of the liberal side that go against what I believe in. This leads to one last point I am going to make, the accepting vs. rejecting. Rejecting someone is completely wrong; this is one “square” characteristic I don’t like. But, like in the rant above, there are some ideas that I don’t accept. The rest of the list I believe is pretty self-explanatory.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coming Out is In?

So, in continuation from the last entry, I am going to start with the question posed by the referenced blog: if we discovered that those we see as relatively good people are revealed to have questionable lives after hours, would we respect them any less? Maybe we should also go one further: what about those whom we already know to do that stuff? Homosexuality is the action to address in this entry. There is the personal reaction, which depends on each person and his or her views. Then, there is the public reaction; how the masses accept the person. I can’t predict how each individual person would react, but I think I have a pretty good idea about how society would.

Directly related to the first question, think of a character that has captured the hearts of parents and children everywhere with her “just keep swimming” attitude. Yes, Dory, that forgetful, funny, friendly fish on Finding Nemo was brought to life by none other than Ellen DeGeneres, the successful comedian who came out of the closet in April of 1997. The linked article explains quiet a bit about what all she went through, and I’m not surprised. After she came out, the public was confused about how to react, so she was rejected by most of our culture, or at least made fun of. It seemed that her proclamation as a lesbian canceled any good entertainment she had provided before. This isn’t the point I want to end on, though. DeGeneres rose above people’s prejudices and won her spot back. She now hosts her own show and is doing very well.

This is where I believe society is heading in respect to the homosexual acceptance. For so long, they have been spat upon and rejected as the scum of humanity. Think of the movies Blow Up and Saturday Night Fever where homos were jeered at and seen with contempt. I feel that the intensity of this rejection has subsided quite a bit over the past few years. We still have a long way to go, but overall, society is becoming more accepting of homosexuals. We are seeing them as the people they are, not some freaks with weird desires. It seems that “coming out” is a common occurrence as people become more comfortable with who they are and who others are. It is no longer un-cool to be homosexually-affiliated. In fact, it seems to be a very cool, individual-defining thing to not be titled straight. You can be fully Homosexual or Bi or anything. Gender is no longer simply male or female. The specification makes people stand out and have a cool independence about them.

The queens in Paris is Burning are just wanting to be accepted for who they are, as does any one in the world. I don't know if I would say what they do is deemed "cool"...yet...but the end footage of the news coverage of the Drag Queen Ball fundraiser was a mighty step into acceptance. I would say that the coolest thing about these people is that they stand up for who they are. Instead of submitting fully to society, they make a special event to flaunt their identity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

That's a Drag

So, this week’s movie, Paris is Burning, was definitely an interesting one. I have seen perhaps one drag queen in my life (that I know of), and I really don’t know what I thought about that. I’m definitely ok with homosexuals (I mean, they are people, too), but seeing one where I couldn’t tell if the person was a he or she, that was…uncomfortable. And really, I am ignorant as to what to call them: he or she? I think we are all kind of lost when it comes to homosexuality, even the homosexuals. That is why this movie is interesting.

In the Balls, these people are allowed to be anything they want to be. They want to be a soldier, go for it. They want to look like America’s Next Top Model, why not. They want to show the world what stars they are; the floor is theirs. These Balls seem like they’d be a lot of fun, actually. I mean, there are all sorts of categories, basically any category you want. The freedom and spirit seems contagious. However, if you look closely, the freedom really isn’t there.
These queens compete to be most “real,” which is ironically a competition to see who looks the most authentic when dressed up, not who is the best representation of who THEY are.

In this documentary, Realness was judged on whether the person could walk out in public without question about their sex. So, these queens aren’t allowed to be exactly who they are; they have to take up a mask and be who society wants them to be. These Balls, which are supposed to be a place where they can let their hair down, so to speak, judge them with very standards they are fighting. The only difference is that everyone knows that the person is gay.


While these queens were being interviewed, the audience learned about what these queens want. Julie was definitely right when she said that these queens sounded like pre-teen or early teen girls wanting fame and fortune. Now, this could be the poverty speaking, but I also think that these aspirations are influenced by society’s standards as well. If they aren’t going to be guys, then they have to be the complete opposite: very feminine like the female stars. It would be so rough being one of these queens. Society AND the Balls don’t reward them for being who they truly are. To finish up, here is a blog that I ran across. The question it asks is the question I think society is asking.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And...Action!

It never fails. Me and the girlfriends are out having a good time. We are either eating out, or stopping by Wal-Mart to get junk food and all of the necessities for a girl’s night. The final decision comes: what movie should we watch? Here is the fail-proof part: the one movie that I just wouldn’t care to see (usually a romantic comedy) is the very one that is heavily considered. Now, sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, but other times, I have been proven right; I would have enjoyed another movie more. Of course, the movie I would like to see is the one completely opposite of my friends’ choice: the action movie. The action movie is nearly always my first choice.

I just find action movies so cool, but I never really thought about why I liked them. To start with, everything is big: the characters, the problems, and the stunts. The heroes of this genre have superhuman abilities (and these can be obvious as in super powers or subtle as in a hyperbolic ability like intellegence), and will typically come out winners in the end. The problems are ones with cataclysmic consequences if not resolved. Finally, the stunts of the action movie genre seem to spearhead many of the advancements of movie technology. Think of The Transporter, Watchmen, Die Hard, or The Fast and the Furious. All involve physics-challenging/defying, massive exploding sequences that make you exclaim “Cool!”

Robocop is an incredibly cool movie because it incorporates all of the above features. Murphy and his new partner, Anne Lewis, both stand out from the start. They appear fearless, independent, tough, and able to fend for themselves. As the movie continues, their loyalty to their cause as police officers is revealed to be unflinching. Such strength is to be admired and even desired.

Murphy’s coolness can be called into question through his situation, though. After dying, he is made into the ultimate cyborg cop. How much of his cool is made and how much of it is himself? His superhuman strength and other physical abilities come from his manufactured side. This is very much like taking the suit in Iron Man and wondering how cool it is. The abilities are awesome, but they are only abilities. Ed-209 in Robocop has the same abilities as Robocop, but the machine doesn’t have Robocop’s drive or knowledge, the human side. It is what Murphy does as Robocop that makes him cool; he stands for justice, even if it destroys him, twice.
Robocop also faces a big problem: the corruption of corporation. His abilities and cause are challenged as he has to face those who created and control him. If he fails, justice itself will have been bought out, and the city would go to ruin. Such a dismal situation can be depressing, but we cling to hope that good will prevail, and we aren’t disappointed. Cool points go for a happy ending. We are raised up in our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

Then, there are the special effects that give this action movie its genre. While they aren’t much compared with what we have today, the robots, explosions, technology, and crime fighting spark our imaginations and take us to the edge of our seats. Life can be so mundane, so having these out of the ordinary situations on the screen is exciting, new, and cool. Robocop definitely delivers all of the requirements of an action movie, but it is also successful in being cool.