The 'Cool Girl' Image and Is There More to It Beneath?

by - November 06, 2017

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Watching Charlize Theron's performance in Atomic Blonde a few weeks ago got me thinking. For those of you who have not had the chance to see it yet (or never wanted to!), here is a quick guide through it. Lorraine is an undercover MI6 agent who is sent to Berlin during the 1989 to collect a stolen list of undercover agents. The Cold War, the Berlin Wall, lots of chaos and 80s music. She's strong, obviously attractive, insightful and very resourceful, and she seems just fine handling the demands of her job. But is she really?

When she's not rocking an impeccably cool black-and-a-bit-of-white outfit while kicking ass, she's seen in a bathtub, full of ice cubes, downing a bottle of vodka and blowing off the smoke of her fifth cigarette (the camera shots are good, I can't lie).

Ten minutes into my research, both critics and viewers unarguably agree that men want her and women want to be her. Yet I'm on the fence. Is Lorraine really a strong female lead character or just a tormented woman wearing the expensive trappings of the cool girl image? Do we want to be the cool girl on the exterior, but dysfunctional in the interior? Is this what we should strive for? Are we, in fact, lacking self-confidence to such an extent that we automatically consider a woman a strong female, only because she can throw a punch and look good wearing the best tailored pant suit? Shouldn't we take into account her other qualities and her questionable choices? She's got all the right lines, "You should have become a poet or a rock star", uttered with that cold, yet seducing stare only Theron can master on the screen, confirming my suspicion that she only exists on the edges of someone's fantasy.

The cool girl image is more recurrent that we would think. It's portrayed through different lenses (read: fantasies) in film, television, idolised in fashion. Don't get me wrong, I love strong heroines, but do we tend to get a little bit lost in what 'strong' encompasses? For me, strong are those who aren't desperately trying to shut off their vulnerability on the path of slow self-destruction instead of dealing with their pain. How often did we find it easier to numb the pain rather than face it? And how often did it actually work out in the long term? We all have been there at some point, but we don't need to. And more importantly, we don't need fictional reinforcement breathing in our culture, dictating us where the "strong" ends and where the "cool" begins. The cool stuff sometimes are just that - cool. I'd like to think there's more to worthy female characters in our pop culture. Wouldn't you?

In Arts & Entertainment we will try to turn off our hard-working brains and deal with the less-exhausting prospect of our leisure time. Here we will talk about all things visual: new exhibitions, books and movies that made or failed to make an impression and also discuss what example the popular culture and our society give us - when is healthy to follow it and when to say enough.

Previously on Arts & Entertainment - TV Shows That Made Us Believe We Could Have It All

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