Brundle Guy writes:
A couple of years ago a friend of mine, for the purposes of this article we’ll call him Ryan, was being transferred by his job. He was regaling another friend and I with the story of a meeting he’d had about the office transition. He works, as I do, in the entertainment field, so his office had a very casual vibe. However, the new office they were moving into was a little nicer, a little more corporate, so they were being asked to make a few adjustments.
They were told not to eat lunch at their desks. Some coworkers flew into a tizzy. “We can’t eat in the office?!?!” No, there would be an area for eating, they were just being discouraged from eating at their desks. A barrage of questions followed. “How many eating areas are there?” “Where is there to eat around the office?” “Is snacking at desks OK?” “What about drinks?”
Next was the new dress code. Nothing extreme, just business casual, so no t-shirts, shorts or flip-flops. “What about dresses?” “What if they’re NICE t-shirts?” “Do Crocs count as flip-flops?” “Is what I’m wearing ok?” “Is what I’M wearing ok?” A man leaned over to my friend and grunted, “UNGH, dress codes are total bullshit.” The man, according to my friend, was wearing something unquestionably acceptable by the new, but still fairly lax, dress code standards.
The meeting, which was supposed to be a quick little affair, had stretched on interminably. When hearing this my other friend, we’ll call him Andy, went on to tell us a number of similar experiences he’d had with people who seemed to live to get their panties in a twist. When, he wondered, did it become cool to be so damn uncool? Then he said words that have echoed with me ever since: “Why can’t everyone just be the fucking Fonz?”
It seems to me that there used to be aspirational figures in our cultural that exhibited a sought-after style of cool. John Wayne, James Dean, Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, James Bond, Shaft, The Rat Pack, and yes, The Fonz. They were all COOL, and a big part of being cool was being unflappable. Things didn’t bother them. They kept their head at all times, they never flipped out, ranted, raved or lost their shit. At least not in their public personas, the personas that made them “cool.”
Being “cool” isn’t just about doing your own thing and saying “Damn the man,” either. Remember The Fonz? He may have been a tough guy biker, but he still called Mrs. Cunningham “Mrs. C” and obeyed the Cunningham house rules when he was a guest, not because he was some goody goody. He was cool. He didn’t want to start shit or get in anybody’s face or flaunt cheap rebellion or any of that stuff, because that wasn’t cool. Most of the people mentioned above weren’t just cool for the cool kids, they were cool with EVERYBODY.
Who is “cool” nowadays? Real or fictional, I’ll take either one. It seems like everyone’s got a chip on their shoulders and it’s become the hip new thing to go ballistic over every single slight you can find, and even some that you outright fabricate.
As much as it seems completely antithetical to the very nature of “cool,” the first person who came to mind as I was mulling this over was Obama. I’ve certainly got a number of issues with the guy’s presidency, but in a time where being a whiny, temper-tantrum-throwing baby is the fashion, and no one has perfected that more than politicians, the current POTUS seems to have invested in being the only cool, calm and collected guy out there. When the guy talks he radiates “cool.” He seems to constantly be saying “Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” whether or not you may actually believe he’s got it.
This can’t be true, can it? Is the coolest person in our country not just a politician, but THE politician? That’s like saying the coolest person in school is the principal, right?
Is part of it the much-reported Rise of Narcissism? Is nobody out there even looking for new/current Icons of Cool because most people are so narcissistic they can’t imagine anyone being cooler than they are?
Ever since that conversation with my friends, whenever I’ve gotten into situations of stress or felt the need to lash out, whenever I want to go on Facebook and rant about politics or cultural or what-have-you, I’ve thought to myself, “Be the fucking FONZ,” and I’ve found that it actually helps. But then again, I’d never claim to be cooler than the Fonz.
Not to step on The Question Lady’s territory, but what say you all? Are there other people in the public conscious who are “cool” that I’m forgetting? And who are your Icons of Cool?