Has the word “cool” flipped its meaning?
It’s been a slang word for an extraordinarily long time â€” itself a cool outsider, leaning against a wall, hanging back from the world. To be cool was to be unexcited by what doesn’t matter, which meant you were alienated from the mainstream, conformist culture that was constantly being urged to a phony enthusiasm by the broadcast media.
Now, I’m told by reliable sources, the cool kids are the popular ones within the mainstream culture, not the rebels â€” the cheerleaders, not the hipsters. In fact, I’m told that the hipsters are not what they used to be.
So, what is the archetype of the cool rebel these days? Who is today’s James Dean? Or has mainstream youth culture become so tribalized and alienated that there isn’t a mainstream to rebel against?