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Patrice O'neal, Hacks, & The Diffusion of Innovations: What Is Cool?

What is cool? Cool sounds like those ideas that only kids care about. The idea of “cool” is reserved in dialogue for teenagers, but if you look at the world it's something everyone is trying to attain on some level. The scenes from Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 movie Battle Royale comes to mind where many of the teenagers last words before their death was asking fellow classmates if they thought they were cool, and I believe that to be true to how many people legitimately live their lives.

Everyone wants to be cool, corporations and politicians profit from that need everyone has to be cool. We buy specific jewelry, homes, cars, clothes to appear cool. our quest for cool is what keeps capitalism thriving in a very real sense. Hillary Clinton had a Pokemon Go joke in her campaign to appeal to the youth during the 2016 election. That was a very conscious effort by the democratic party to appear cool, and they failed. The joke came off as “hacky” which is a stand up comics term for identifying things that aren’t cool. I believe the term hack can really help us understand what cool is, what we mean by cool and what everyone is chasing about cool.

Hack is a term used primarily in stand-up comedy, but also sketch comedy, improv comedy, and comedy writing to refer to a joke or premise for a joke that is considered corny, obvious, has been frequently used by comedians in the past and/or is blatantly copied from its original author. Alternatively, it may refer to a comedian or performance group that uses hack material or similarly unoriginal devices in their act. Since comedians and people who work with comedians are typically exposed to many more jokes than the general public, they may recognize a topic, joke or performer as hack before the general public does, as a result, even performers who do well on stage may be considered hacks by their peers. The word "hack" is derived from the British term "hackneyed", meaning "overused and thus cheapened, or trite"

To comics hacks would be unoriginal, and cool comics would be original, they would be authentic, they wouldn’t really care about the audience's reaction but they’d still get big laughs, they were current without being like the news. Many hack comics today are still talking about cancel culture, OJ Simpson or airline food jokes. Patrice O’neal is a great example of the opposite of a hack. Patrice O’neal ultimately became one of the most influential comics of his time because there’s something to that, you can’t teach someone the quality of people wanting to be like them, but on some level, we all admire people who don’t give a fuck.

Patrice O’neal would sit on stage and say horrific jokes, make abrasive comments about women, and make some logical yet controversial & hilarious arguments about relationships, Patrice famously said “only half the audience should be laughing, the other half should be horrified” and that’s the point. Not everyone was supposed to get Patrice, not everyone was supposed to like Patrice, that’s not what he was in it for, he was in it for originality, expression and greatness.

It’s hard not to give a fuck in everyday life. There’s so much to care about as a human. The foundation of how we sustain our species is by appealing to other people, whether by being physically attractive, or socially attractive enough to get opportunities. We have to care what people say, what people are gonna think, if something is appropriate, if something is politically correct, if we’re being too loud, at least to a certain degree, then every once in a while Jimi Hendrix plugs in his guitar, destroys ear drums and burns his guitar on stage to remind us that we don’t really have to give a fuck. Not everyone liked Jimi Hendrix during his time, but his influence is undoubtable. Quite like Patrice, everything that came after him bears his resemblence.

Everyone can’t be cool. How many Miles Davises are there? It would be bad for society if everyone was cool and that’s why God ordains cool people, the trend setters, the innovators, people with ideas, skills and abilities, because don’t get it twisted, some people voted for Hillary Clinton because of the Pokemon Go joke. Those people do exist. I’m not here to feed you a false truth that everyone can become cool, I genuinely do not believe everyone can become cool, I think cool people are born. Not everyone can be cool because not everyone is brave enough to be themselves. The cool people are born with a certain connection to their own identity, their own likes and dislikes, and their own distinct style, and that makes them leaders in taste, culture, art and society.

Diffusion of innovations is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread, and I believe it can help us understand what cool people are sociologically.

Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, popularized the theory in his book Diffusion of Innovation. Rogers argues that diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system.

The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Diffusion manifests itself in different ways and is highly subject to the type of adopters and innovation-decision process. The criterion for the adopter categorization is innovativeness, defined as the degree to which an individual adopts a new idea.

You’ve seen this process in society. Kanye West wears a shirt with holes in them, a few years later H&M and soccer moms are wearing shirts with holes in them. Pharrell Williams started wearing Nigos Bape brand and suddenly kids across the suburbs of America were decked out in Japanese streetwear. That's how long it takes for someone cool to come up with something and for lame people to catch up because that’s what everyone else was doing. The kids getting sturdy and making weird beats in the hood are innvators, old software developers at fortnite find out about the dance and steal it, around the same time Hillary Clinton hits a dab on television or Joe Biden says the words "unspoken rizz" and that's just what it is.

Those are the hacks of society. Jazz was the coolest genre until it became hack, same thing with Rock. That happens because of the NPCs that are just catching up to what everyone around them is doing, the people who dress like the instagram explore page, the bots that regurgitate what they heard on the news, the people whose entire personality is a Google search, the Ohio house wives of soldiers, the facebook dwellers, the whatsapp aunties, the guys sending their unsolicited dick pics to girls on the internet, the walmart comment section, the people asking artists to come to brazil.

The real cool people are the originators, they’re the people who aren’t concerned with what the world thinks about them, they're just doing it because that's what they do. While everyone else is living like they’re running for mayor, wearing things and living life trying to get the most approval, the cool people pursue things they’re passionate about, find weird places and weird music, do fun things, wear different clothes, and try different stuff until something sticks, and they just keep doing that until everyone else catches up while they’ve moved on to the next thing.

The true idea of cool isn't about chasing the newest trend, its not about wearing Y2K fashion because that's what's in, having the latest Rick Owens shoes or whatever else craze that following this concept will ultimately lead you on. Being cool is ultimately about being yourself, being comfortable in your own skin and being able to express what you are outwardly in every way, despite what people think. If its in your fashion, if its in your art, how you dance, how you speak, if its in how you carry yourself around the world, it needs to contain your distinct style DNA. Many people aren't confident enough to be themselves so they pretend to be someone else, they wear the latest craze or something they saw a celebrity wear and thats the only way they can feel comfortable being themselves.

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