Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Gen X: The coolest generation, hands down

When I was 20 years old and a junior at The Ohio State University, Pulp Fiction came out. Friends gushed about it. It got rave reviews. I saw it in the theater and loved it. How could you not?

Dang, I was on the edge of my seat. Vincent Vega, Mia Wallace, Winston Wolfe, etc. What really made the movie so freakin' awesome was that it was cool — damn cool. Now, I'm wondering this: Whatever happened to cool?

Well, we all evolve. At a certain point, how important is "being cool" to us? And it's probably reasonable to ask: "Coolness? You're talking coolness — in the middle of a pandemic?!? What is your problem?!?"

But I often run across high school kids who are more concerned about grades and their so-called futures than being cool. What the heck is wrong with them?

So I must share an epiphany: Gen X is hands down the coolest generation to have existed. I would argue that all Gen Xers lived some path of cool, and here's part of mine.

When I was a junior in college, hey man, I was cool. I got a lot of my clothes in thrift stores. I loathed corporate rock 'n' roll, and I was into art, music, wearing black and hanging out in coffee shops — yet I was a heterosexual dude.

I learned back then this simple truth about coolness: It is circular, not linear.

What that means is that at some point, the more cool we try to be, we become uncool. Back in my college days, it was cool to have a tattoo or two or maybe a nose ring, but then, if you kept getting tats and went overboard with the piercings, it no longer was cool.

Coolness is about having an authentically chill attitude and not even thinking about it — opposite of this blog post, which may be uncool by definition. Too many people are poseurs, going for that attitude but not having it for real. And that's why this Gen Xer is worried about Millennials and Gen Z. They're not sufficiently cool!

What has become of the world when we Gen Xers are facing generations of young non-cool people? Well, uh, I suppose that is progress. But, jeez Millennials, could you stop it with the epic beards and yacht rock for once and be cool? Wouldn't our world be better if the younger generations just got off their phones for a second and pretended to be Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise?

Is there any downside to being cool? Sometimes, I suppose, it's a mask for trouble. Maybe it's trauma or drug addiction or even inauthenticity — but that's only when it goes over the line and is uncool — again, proving my coolness circular theory.

I admit that it is a perverse part of our culture that rock stars who died young somehow are cool to us. But that was more of a Baby Boomer thing. They had Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison — all dead at 27. We only had Kurt Cobain join that horrific 27 club in 1994, the same year Pulp Fiction came out.

To me, coolness feels unique. It feels real. If it's commercially successful, it doesn't feel that way. It doesn't feel sold out. I just don't think I could ever consider any App cool (although I do love Spotify).

I'm worried that you could never have a Pulp Fiction again — a movie that is an unabashed hit that is artistic, stylish and cool. I see cool new movies or shows every so often, but there is just so much content nowadays, they don't stand out like Pulp Fiction.

But I don't think we Gen Xers would be very cool to still be living in 1994, so let's evolve, man. Let's teach some power chords to our kids and explain why Nirvana was cool, but Pearl Jam wasn't. Let's wear our black T-shirts and talk about existentialism, maybe have books by Jean-Paul Sartre and Jack Keroauc and never read them. ... I just don't see that level of coolness happening with the younger generations. They just seem too busy posting pictures on the Interwebs.

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