The Merchants of Cool
An undeniable paradox: “coolness” for teens coincides with the culture of media and is extremely difficult to separate. Frontline was able to open a window into the teenage world through their documentary The Merchants of Cool to attempt to decode this mystery; however, news correspondent, Douglas Rushkoff, found himself coming to the understanding that teenagers and media are chasing after each other in order to discover what “cool” really is. The popular culture formula and “Funhouse Mirror” images both grasp a hold of this concept.
The pop culture formula states that something will be more popular if it reflects the society’s zeitgeist, or spirit of the era. In this film, for example, when MTV emerged onto the television scene it was popular. After a while, its attractiveness began to grow dull to the teen eye when the audience’s perception of cool changed. MTV depended on kids to feel as if it were trendy, and without that positive feedback, the station would disappear. Once this channel began to reach inside the homes of individual young men and women, they were able to discover what the viewers wanted. The popularity of MTV is directly proportional to teenagers and their ideas. If this station did not listen to its audience’s zeitgeist, there would be no MTV.
Once MTV became a hip icon, it began to create a somewhat distorted image for boys and girls. The concept of the “Funhouse Mirror” declares the reflection of society is mirrored, but also distorted. Rushkoff described a “crude, loud, obnoxious, and in-your-face” character introduced on television networks like MTV. Its name is “mook.” Tom Green, the men on Jackass, characters in South Park, and more are this character. These TV shows paint a picture of young men acting, for lack of a better work, stupid. Viewers are given the idea that all teenage guys act like this. Is this the truth? No, it is an alteration.
For the popular young women in the media, they...