Joho the Blog » Who’s cool?

Who’s cool?

Has the word “cool” flipped its meaning?

It’s been a slang word for an extraordinarily long time — 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 — 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?

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6 Responses to “Who’s cool?”

  1. Gosh, I think the “cool kids” referring to the mainstream popular crowd was pretty standard terminology even back in my (90s) high school days. There were lots of layers of coolness, of course, who was “really” cool and so forth, but I’d say the term “cool” has been used for mainstreem high school stuff for a while.

  2. Is “gosh” a cool word?

  3. “Or has mainstream youth culture become so tribalized and alienated that there isn’t a mainstream to rebel against?”

    I’d think it’s the other way around. That is, youth culture has become so pervasive and omnipresent that “adult” culture has become completely marginalized… and thus, youth culture is so mainstream and dominant it’s not possible for youths themselves to rebel against it.

  4. Me. ‘sup.

  5. Cool, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Among my 40-something children and their mostly teenage children, it seems to be used a lot, meaning (as far as I can tell) simply something that they like or admire or are impressed by.

  6. Gosh is not a cool word. I was totally uncool in high school, mostly, but sort of was sometimes because I didn’t seem to care about being cool, and that was cool, in which cases saying dorky things like “Gosh” would have been part of the cool. I think.

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