‘The Rad Pack’ and the Return of Cool
Two years ago, I wrote an article that appeared in The Cord on the extinction of “cool” in Hollywood. I believed that as Paul Newman died, so did the notion of the hip and debonair leading icon, an image that audiences once upon a time strived to emulate.
Today, people prefer to idolize reality stars, scandals and the paparazzi lifestyle rather than talent and mystery á la Old Hollywood. While this way of thinking seems to be the general public consensus, the idea of “cool” being dead may not be as definitive as I once thought.
A very small group of actors are unknowingly bringing the “rad” factor back to celebrity. As once did Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack, a few young members of Hollywood’s elite are foregoing the notion that they should care what the public thinks and instead are redefining what it means to be cool.
I have dubbed these actors, “The Rad Pack.”
Ryan Gosling is arguably the foremost celebrity is this equation and is the actor that made me first think that I may have been wrong. First, let’s look at his track record from the last few years. He delivered an almost Oscar nominated performance in Lars and the Real Girl in 2007 and then took three years off. Since his return last year, he has made five movies, keeping the mystery of his celebrity alive and foremost in his career.
With his films this year, Gosling quite literally defined the role of “ladies’ man” with Crazy Stupid Love, then turned a 360 and solidified a modern day McQueen-esque bad boy by kicking ass in Drive. In his third film of the year, The Ides of March, fiction mirrors reality, acknowledging Gosling’s character as the prominent talent in his field.
This guy, like Newman or Robert Redford, not only chooses roles in which he can showcase his boyish good looks, but also ones that show his talents more than anything else.
A self-diminishing attitude helps gain the affection of an admiring public, and Gosling has that in droves. You can watch any interview in which his “Mickey Mouse Club” days are mentioned or simply check out the Ryan Gosling Feminism meme out there on the inter- highway.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is another actor, similar to Gosling, with a place in the “Pack.” Go back two years to catch his SNL hosting gig, and you watch a true entertainer at work. His often praised fashion sense, and his general likability put Gordon-Levitt into a class of his own, a guy we respect based on his decisions as an actor and his upbeat public persona.
Still, like Gosling, there is an element of mysticism that he maintains, which only adds to his suavity. The fact that he opened his SNL gig with a re-interpretation of Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘em Laugh” says so much of what you need to know about him as a performer.
Don’t think though that this “return to cool” is a strictly male affair, though. Future Catwoman Anne Hathaway, despite a rather sordid Oscar hosting gig this past year, remains her cheery self in every aspect of her celebrity persona. In my mind, a sense of humour about your celebrity status demands much more respect than taking yourself too seriously. Yes, she chooses to do a terrible rom-com every once in a while, but if we simply look at the track record of the most beloved icons of yesterday, everyone has their fair share of bombs.
Emma Stone works in a very similar manner and I would also include her in the “Pack.”
It seems that “cool” is less about the movies you make and more about the characters you play, on and off screen. If it weren’t like that, how would we ever be able to forgive Gene Kelly for Xanadu?
Gosling’s Drive co-star Carey Mulligan is another who has started to gain the respect of the all-seeing, quick-to-judge public. Despite being a hot young thing, Mulligan has made all the right choices for her films, remaining relevant because of her likability and ability to carry herself as an icon that her fans wish to emulate.
Michael Fassbender, Mulligan’s co-star in the upcoming Shame, demonstrates a talent that almost every fanboy wants to see translated into the next James Bond. The two have almost become synonymously associated with each other and it’s all thanks to Fassbender’s refined persona.
What all of these actors have in common is their strict ability to handle their celebrity status in a calm and collected manner. They are showing today’s audiences that it’s not about how much press you can or cannot get, but rather how to carry yourself in a professional and good humoured way. They really are carrying on where the stars of yesterday left off, and for that, I applaud them.
Cool is making a comeback ladies and gentlemen. And The Rad Pack is leading the charge.