The Age of Cool
16 July 2014
At The Smart Set, Morgan Meis writes about an exhibition of photographs, American Cool, at the National Gallery, and explores the contradiction at the heart of cool, which always seems to mask a determination not to be hurt again. (That’s what distinguishes it from, say, the elegant unflappability of Cary Grant.) At the end, Meis speculates on the the term that will take the place of “cool” in this century.
The death of cool is, in the end, an ambivalent sign. It could be the result of a greater general social health, a purging of the fear that led to coolness in the first place. But it could just as easily be a transformation of fear. The death of cool could be the sign that we have learned new ways to hide our anxieties, ways that are not yet apparent, not yet obvious and nameable. We’ll need a Lester Young of the 21st century to invent a new word for whatever it is we do to hide our fears today. In 2014, we haven’t yet met that person. We’re still lingering on the vapors of the last few cigarettes smoked by the aging cool cats of the previous century.
But we disagree. “Friendly” is the new cool.