It’s official — we’ve become too cool. It can be seen everywhere from ugly, overpriced boots (you ain’t cool without Uggs), to the Cialis 4-hour-erection warning (you ain’t cool without an erection) to the alleged absence of Jerry and Jason Alexander on the upcoming Seinfeld DVD (you ain’t cool unless you pay us to do a commentary). Even the Trumbull dining hall caught the fever. Average Joes like me just can’t compete with this kind of thing. We’re the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cool is the Yankees.
In “American Beauty,” Lester Burnham notes that there’s so much beauty in the world that he can’t take it and he’ll just burst. This is kind of how I feel about “coolness.” Anyway, we all know how that turned out for Lester, and I’m afraid many of us will share his fate. And if you never saw the movie and don’t know what that fate is, I’m afraid we cannot be friends and suggest you go back under the rock from whence you came.
So when did this revolution of cool begin? Was it Elvis? Zack Morris? CK ads? No.
What we’re dealing with is new, something never before unleashed upon the world. It is the A-bomb of social status evolution, and like those in the Manhattan Project, the people behind this innovation spent years perfecting the specifics of their weapon.
I am talking about the evil empire that is MTV. However, it was not always evil. In the ’80s, MTV saved music, and its power quickly grew. But, as we all know, power corrupts. It was obvious in its quest for absolute power in the early ’90s that MTV had all but given up on its duty to play music television. Evidently, the leaders had ceased funding for the development of their music television department and gradually began allocating more resources to their secret weapon program. They were working on some sort of device to brainwash the 18-25 demographic, thereby securing their dominance in the media world. The leaders searched for a densely populated area to maximize their weapon’s yield, akin to the developers of the A-bomb deliberating over potential targets. A decision was finally made: New York City. MTV’s headquarters was moved to Times Square in 1997.
On September 14, 1998, the weapon that would begin this coup d’cool was deployed. It was called “Total Request Live” or TRL for those on the inside. And so began the rise of cool and the downfall of everything right. Like the A-bomb, everyone would agree that the world would be a better place had TRL never been invented. The name Carson Daly would never have been mentioned in the same sentence as Jennifer Love Hewitt or Tara Reid. The Backstreet Boys wouldn’t have ruined radio. The vastly overrated Jessica Simpson would not be a millionaire with a hit TV show. That’s right, she is overrated. And no, this is not debatable.
The Cold War may be over, but the Cool War has just begun. The chain reaction resulting from TRL has inevitably led to another bullet-less war between two superpowers — Hollywood and New York — and we are the innocent victims. But there is hope. I stumbled upon the solution, ironically, while watching “I Love the ’80s” on VH1. We just need to go back to the thinking of the ’80s, when being cool was as easy as lacing up your LA Gears. In fact, I don’t think it was possible to be uncool in the ’80s. Would anyone be angry if we were suddenly transported back to 1986? I think not.
Think about it, before MTV entered the brainwashing business, Michael Jackson was still black, Don Johnson was a badass, Pee Wee was in his prime, and Kenny Loggins was on every movie soundtrack. Going to the arcade was a typical Friday night, mullets ruled, the words “rad” and “choice” were used interchangeably, the guy always got the girl, all girls were equally ugly, making them equally good looking, and Corey Hart paved the way for wearing sunglasses at night. Like I said, impossible to be uncool.
If the ’80s had today’s coolness standards, you could say goodbye to the likes of MacGyver, Billy Ocean and “The Goonies.” Conversely, if today had the ’80s’ coolness standards, Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend and Phoebe Cates would star in every movie together, 50 Cent would be blown out of the water by NWA, Mr. T would have his own channel, and girls would line up outside my door to watch me play videogames.
Until this happens, all we can do is hope. We can clutter our TiVo schedules with “Growing Pains” reruns and stuff our iPods with the Twisted Sister, preparing for the day when MTV’s weapon ends up in the wrong hands and we are blown back to the ’80s. While everyone else panics, we will just relax because we’ll have Charles in charge of our days and our nights … Charles in charge of our wrongs and our rights…
Carl Williott is cool — his Mom says so.