A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1955 – On September 30th, 1955, James Dean was killed in a car crash in California.
The essence of “cool” has been around since long before Cheops the Pharaoh decided to redecorate the Nile with a pyramid. It’s what makes us buy mortgages, build monuments and move mountains. The pursuit of “cool” is the one activity shared by every single person on this planet. When we’re young, it drives us to follow film, fragrance and fashion. When we’re old, it compels us to dye our hair and dance at drunken parties. It makes us dismiss “cool” because that’s even “cooler.” Throughout history it is the one continuous immutable force and it will be around long after our children’s children have children. But what is it? What is “cool”? James Dean!
This guy is so “cool” he’s got enough to share. Just look at him! He is the misunderstood in all of us. He is our lonely soul at 4 o’clock in the morning. He lives with us on the edge of outcast: unique in this universe mundane. He is the poster child for beautiful, sensitive and restless.
Crap! The guy’s arrogant. He’s got everything he wants, and he’s having fun. He doesn’t play by his own rules; he just ignores the ones meant for the rest of us. He’s the guy you hated in high school because all he ever did was never know who you were. He’s always comfortable in his clothes, and he never had a zit in his life or a bad hair day. But he’s still the most likeable person you know who isn’t you.
See what I mean? James Dean is the perfect cross-pollination of movie persona and real-life personality. Forever frozen in time, he is the marriage of man and mythology. Even the great Brando and Elvis himself cannot claim that kind of “cool.” They both lived too long and ate too much. Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin, all gone by their own hand – a very un-cool flaw. Lennon — damaged by Yoko. Kurt Cobain — unable to cope. They just can’t compare. No, it’s James Dean who leans, tres casual, on top of the pyramid of “cool,” looking down on the rest of us with those sensitive eyes and that know-it-all smile.