Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

January 10, 2011 at 3:03pm

The Unculture of Cool

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My friend Amy interviewed me this week for a theater project. When she asked me what advice I'd offer to theater students, even I was surprised how quickly and effortlessly an answer flew from my mouth. "Stop being so goddamn cool all the time," I barked. And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am it was great advice.

In Almost Famous, Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) rails against the "swill merchants" in "the industry of cool." "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool," he insists.

I've lived and worked in LA. I was born there. I know the unculture of cool, and I fear even countercultural Oly has been infected by it. The unculture of cool is what happens when young artists want nothing more than to persuade us they're amazing, heroic, even bulletproof people who'd be awesome to fuck. Trouble is, we wouldn't care about Superman if we didn't empathize with Clark Kent. Katherine Heigl may be genetically perfect, but I never believe she has trouble getting a date, and I don't give a damn what she thinks about anything.

You want to make great art? Tell us something uncool. Tell us a story so personal you're the only person on Earth who could tell it. Show us the real you, warts and all, or go deep into the skin of a credible human being and live that person's (imaginary) reality from the inside out. (I realize that sounded Jame Gumb sociopathic, but you know what I mean.) Show us a world only you could invent. Quit emulating your cool, plastic idols. Your plastic idols are bullshit. They're faking every minute of it, and have been since the moment they figured out the system.

You want to be a billionaire so frickin' bad? Get an M.B.A. You want to be an artist? Be prepared for scorn and rejection and self-loathing and maybe, just maybe, a deeper redemption than getting your name on some vapid reality show. And if you think cool isn't an unculture, devoid of real value, then name me a single pop radio hit from last year that we'll be singing in twenty years. I'd give a hundred Faith Hills for one Janis Joplin, and so would you.

Filed under: All ages, Arts, Olympia,
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