The end of ‘cool’
Sept. 26 will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of my idol, Mr. Paul Newman. There is something that I have given a lot of thought to since his passing. An idea that I cannot help but feel is truer than I want it to be.
Since Paul Newman has left us, the definition of what we have come to know as “cool” has become closer to extinction than I ever thought possible. In a world where we have seen the likes of James Dean, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen and The Rat Pack, we are lacking any sort of comparisons to these giants in the world of entertainment today.
I mean, when you really consider it, Paul Newman marked the last great “king of cool” from that generation. The next generation produced Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino, but hardly any of today’s youth recognize these guys as the sort of suave badasses they were once looked upon as.
Even when we consider the guys who are still around, the truth of it is that they aren’t even a fraction of the men they once were.
Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and Will Smith are all still making their marks on film, but for guys who were once upon a time guaranteed box-office gold, they sure aren’t delivering like they used to.
I grew up knowing that all of these guys were people that I respected and could look up to.
They were the essence of what I defined as cool.
But today, there is just no comparison to them. With the abundance of supermarket tabloids and internet gossip rags, there is no way to maintain the privacy that stars were able to manipulate in order to maintain their images.
They made their careers through mystery; they didn’t want the public to know their every move. Having their magnetic gentlemen-inspired ways take over their publicity is what allowed them to become respected.
McQueen, Nicholson and Frank Sinatra always did what they wanted to do, and even if they were in the wrong (which was more often than one might want to admit), their actions were never blown to a level of national common knowledge like today.
That is the problem we have on our hands now. If Tom Cruise had never jumped on Oprah’s couch, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would still be the greatest movie star in the world right now. But there is too much dependence, from both the public and the performer, on media attention.
Edward Norton is never in the spotlight and he’s one of the coolest actors working today.
We need to realize that the Zac Efrons of the world are not the people our society should look up to.
There’s a chance they will be one day, but not now when they’re still starring in teenage romance drivel. It’s not even a case of being “all talent”. McQueen got by just by being great at playing the action star.
So, with a nod to one of my greatest of heroes, I want to make it known that we are close to losing one of the greatest attributes that the world of entertainment has ever given us. The idea that someone out there is cool enough to look up to is the reason that idols even exist. We need to stop over-exposing their lives and turn our focus to the most important factors in their work.
Cool isn’t dead yet, but it sure as hell ain’t what it used to be.
And if you need proof that it ever existed, I suggest you let the trailer for Michael Caine’s new film, Harry Brown, do the talking.