Beware the "Cool Girl Effect"

If you’ve read Gone Girl, you’re familiar with the concept of “the cool girl effect.” If not, allow me to summarize the general idea- the “Cool Girl” is a girl who loves beer football and chili dogs, or a nerdy girl who is tattooed and loves comics, a girl who never raises an issue with anything the man in the relationship wants or likes. In Flynn’s words, “There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every f**king thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.” It is liking what the man likes that makes the Cool Girl earn her moniker.

    Even if you are unfamiliar with Flynn’s specific Cool Girl, I’m sure we can all imagine this “brand” of girl. I’m sure that, at times, we’ve all aspired to be this girl. But why? Why is there such a desire to like the things that are traditionally masculine, why is liking Transformers and football cool? Particularly in recent years, there has been a massive spike in popularity of comic book movies. It’s cool to like superheroes, and it’s cool for everyone, particularly girls, to be into action flicks about gifted men in spandex.

 

    Meanwhile, the other day a group of classmates and I were going around in a circle and sharing our name, hometown, and favorite musician. When it was one boy’s turn, he announced that his favorite musician was One Direction, and then promptly stated that he was joking. But why is that so funny? Because it’s something that girls, generally young girls, tend to enjoy? It’s perfectly normal, and expected, for all people to enjoy superhero films. Men, women, young and old- there’s something inherently cool about knowing a lot about football, or enjoying watching people blow up on big screens. However, people are ridiculed for enjoying films such as Twilight or listening to One Direction. Hollywood continues to roll out the umpteenth Transformers film because there continues to be a demand for cars and trucks that change into robots and blow stuff up, but it’s still normalized for a man to be made fun of for enjoying Mamma Mia.

    It’s not that I don’t enjoy the MCU as much as the next person, I really do. However, that shouldn’t speak to my character. You shouldn’t be able to decide things about me from that fact, nor should you be able to judge the man who enjoys a good romantic comedy. It’s unfair to place that weight on the a genre of movie or a musical artist. The “Cool Girl Effect” is one that permeates many more lives than I think is fair, because people are pretty cool- and they deserve to be seen as cool for reasons beyond getting a kick out of watching things blow up.