Cool Girls Only: The Modern Male Fantasy

Cool Girls Only: The Modern Male Fantasy Final Paper

Introduction to “The Cool Girl”:

The “Cool Girl” archetype was initially identified by Gillian Flynn in her 2012 novel Gone Girl.[1]In the novel, protagonist Amy fakes her own disappearance and leaves a trail of clues ultimately intended to implicate her husband in the crime. Amy diatribes about the impossibility of the Cool Girl after she reveals her plot to the reader over halfway through the book:

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time, Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men—friends, coworkers, strangers—giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.[2]

In short, the Cool Girl in Gone Girl is a woman who acts like a man and looks like a supermodel.[3]She does not have the emotional depth or insecurities that complicate women to men, deeming her an ideal female construction for the prevailing “bro-culture” of the modern age. After Gone Girl’s David Fincher film adaptation in 2014, the Cool Girl received mass media attention as a revelation of a contemporary female archetype that had gone nameless. Amy’s frustration with the pressure to be a “Cool Girl” resonated with many viewers, and the film’s brilliant rendition of the written monologue sparked widespread debate about the Cool Girl’s presence in modern day film, literature, and more.


Essential to the Cool Girl’s success is her authenticity. In the article “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls”, journalist Anne Helen Petersen refers to the allure of Cool Girls and what prevent us from—at least initially—hating them: “She’s never polished; she’s always fucking up.”[1]Peterson’s article points out that the Cool Girl is not an entirely new archetype. Indeed, according to Peterson, each era of cinema has had its own “Cool Girls” who woo male audiences and push the boundaries of femininity. Often, these celebrities have faded from the spotlight when they cross the line of acceptable “Cool Girl” behavior and do something which deems them undesirable.[2]But there is something about the modern-day Cool Girl which makes her decidedly different from her predecessors. For one, an increasingly informal society has changed male culture, creating a new form of male behavior referred to as “bro culture.”[3]The 2012 article, “A Quick and Dirty Tour of Misogynistic Bro Culture,” reflects that “popular culture, especially cultural products aimed at young men, teaches men to be womanizers.”[4]Specifically, the article cites that the pervasiveness of pornography caused by the internet largely contributes to bro-culture, and allows men easy access to porn at an early age. As a result, many men grow up accustomed to the idea of women as sex objects or the subject of fantasy.[5]Other impacts of technology, such as sports networks like ESPN and TV shows like Entourage, which facilitate male gatherings and make “bros” an on-screen staple, legitimize the bro behavior. For the Cool Girl, bro-culture presents a new set of criteria which she must meet to be deemed “Cool”. Cool Girls of the modern day must eat like the boys, watch sports like the boys, and be game for the gross and harassing behavior that bros are likely to inflict on her from time to time.

This paper aims to dissect on-screen representations of the Cool Girl and examine how the persona has, due to wild popularity, transitioned from fictional characters to real-world celebrities. Moreover, I intend to explore how the Cool Girl fantasy has sparked a real-world expectation among young men who grew up watching the Cool Girl on-screen. These analyses will ultimately conclude with a projection of the Cool Girl’s future. Ultimately, I want to show that, while the Cool Girl may be marketable, her effortless Cool and Hot persona relies on a sense of authenticity and effortlessness that leashes her to the will of the patriarchy.

The Cool Girl’s Romantic Comedy Rebirth:

Though, as Peterson points out in her article,[1]the Cool Girl archetype is nothing new, the modern day Cool Girl is in many ways a byproduct of late 90s and early 2000s romantic comedies. Romantic comedies serve as a natural fit for Cool Girl characters, since these women are the ideal objects of male desire and it is easy for men to trip over themselves in attempts to woo the ethereal Cool Girl. Three movies which present modern Cool Girls are:

There’s Something About Mary (1998)

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

The Cool Girl Manifested in Celebrity:

Except from an Interview With Mila KunisCool Girls have a unique duality on and off screen. Due to their likeable status on-screen, some Cool Girl actresses and performers have assumed the role in their off-screen personas as well. Many of these women are extremely well-liked, and seen as the authentic “relatable girl” celebrities that Hollywood has long been lacking. While Cool Girls may appear to be universally likable, response to celebrities who emulate the archetype suggest that being a Cool Girl is more of a balancing act than a recipe for success.

Mila Kunis’ Jim Beam Campaign
Excerpt From an Interview With Mila Kunis

On the other hand, Cool Girls, namely Jennifer Lawrence, have received immense scrutiny for their “Coolness”, with some fans calling it contrived. Some blogs tear these actresses apart.

Excerpt from the Tumblr Blog “

The Cult of the Cool Girl

Taken from an Episode of Barstool Chicks

While the celebrity and fictional Cool Girls are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, they seem to cultivate a male obsession that promotes unrealistic standards and misogyny. Take, for example, the popular blog Total Frat Move.[1]

Excerpt from the Total Frat Move Article “50 Ways to Be The Perfect College Girlfriend

Total Frat Move, or TFM, appeals to young college men in fraternities, providing weekly fraternity stories and “TFM Babes of the Day” through both their website and Instagram. TFM has largely embraced the Cool Girl as a female standard. In short, women who act the part of the Cool Girl are accepted and praised by the blog, while those who are too needy or unwilling to throw back a beer are admonished.

Other male-media sites send similar messages. The extremely popular website and media company Barstool Sports, for instance, has a selection of eight, nearly all-white, thin and conventionally attractive girls permitted to write for the website. These women are the Cool Girls—between their looks and willingness to write articles on sports, they are the idealized women of the modern-day bro. Their section, titled “Barstool Chicks”, includes bits such as the “Call Her Daddy” podcast, which corroborates their sexualization by male readers and staff members. One Barstool Chicks article, titled “Sean ‘McBae’ Continues To Win On And Off The Field” talks about the “smokeshow” girlfriend of an NFL coach, linking revealing photos from her Instagram and saying that the coach has everything, including “an absolute rocket to go home to every night.”[1]In these instances, the Cool Girl is complicit in the objectification of other women, and contributes happily to a misogynistic male culture.

Annotated  bibliography:

  1. David Fincher, Gone Girl, (2014):
    1. The first source to examine is the infamous Cool Girl monologue in the 2014 Gone Girl film adaptation, directed by David Fincher. In the clip, we understand Amy’s plot to fake her disappearance, drive away, and begin a new life for herself through a series of cut shots. She begins the monologue as she is driving, then as she is transforming herself from the perfect, skinny, well-manicured “Cool Girl” to what she perceives as the total opposite. She dyes her hair a mousy brown, wears shapeless clothing, buys drug store hair products, and eats junk food for herself, not to please those around her. All the while, Amy’s voice plays in the background, as the script deviates slightly from Flynn’s original writing to heighten Amy’s scorned woman narrative and delve deeper into her archetype’s role in her failed marriage.
  2. Anne Helen Petersen, “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls,” BuzzFeed, accessed November 11, 2018, girls.
    1. In this article, journalist Anne Helen Peterson responds to the Cool Girl archetype presented in Gone Girl. She begins the piece with an examination of who many consider the ultimate real-life Cool Girl, Jennifer Lawrence. Peterson writes: “Lawrence performs Cool Girlness with such skill, such seamlessness, that it doesn’t seem like a performance at all. I’m not suggesting that Lawrence is intentionally inauthentic, scheming, or manipulative: Rather, like all the Cool Girls you know, she’s subconsciously figured out what makes people like her, and she’s using it.” Peterson claims that the Cool Girl is a manifestation of all personality traits deemed ideal by the patriarchy, and thus that many Cool Girls use the persona as a means of self-promotion rather than genuine authenticity. It is in itself, an archetype characterized by manufactured authenticity. Peterson goes on to note a few Cool Girls who will be mentioned in this paper, specifically Mila Kunis, Olivia Munn, and Olivia Wilde, before diving into a historical analysis of past Cool Girls. She cites Clara Bow, Carole Lombard, and Jane Fonda as three of Lawrence’s predecessors.
  3. Kat Stoeffel, “Chrissy Tiegan is the Queen of the Cool Girls,” The Cut, accessed November 11, 2018,
    1. This article analyzes Chrissy Tiegan as an additional example of the Cool Girl archetype, claiming that Tiegan ticks all boxes that Flynn defined in her initial analysis.
  4. EW Staff, “Searching for the Ultimate TV/Movie ‘Cool Girl’” Entertainment Weekly, accessed November 11, 2018:
    1. A list of characters who are thought to comply with the “Cool Girl” archetype and an analysis of how well they actually fit the description.
  5. Annie Lord, “Dear Jennifer Lawrence, please can you stop pretending to be normal now,” 2017:
    1. Lord writes a scathing article attacking Jennifer Lawrence for her persona, and “revealing” that her feigned “masculine” and “bro-y” personality quirks are actually just masking her underlying “rude” personality. The article claims that Lawrence is manufactured and attacks her in numerous aspects, finding clips where she tries to play off what the author considers “mean” behavior as something “chill” and “relatable”. Lord’s article is self-defeating, as she rips Lawrence apart with such lacking empathy that you can not help but feel bad that Lawrence suffers so much criticism for attempting to achieve success in a male-dominated industry.
  6. Becca Rothfield, “Gone Girl’s Feminist Update of the Old-Fashioned Femme Fatale,” 2014:
    1. Rothfield posits that changing male ideals have resulted in a new type of sexism, one which rejects the ultra-femininity of previous eras and declares the “Cool Girl” as the ideal female. Rothfield roots the “Cool Girl” of Gone Girl in the longstanding Femme Fatale archetype of film noir. Amy intends to harm her husband as a means of punishing him for inflicting his ideals onto her personality, forcing her to live a sham existence in order to make him happy.
  7. Patrick Osborne, “’I’m the Bitch That Makes You a Man’: Conditional Love as Female Vengeance in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl,” Florida State University
    1. Osborne argues that Amy can be viewed as a “feminist anti-hero that rejects (yet also ambivalently overconforms to) the postfeminist simulation: ‘cool girl.’” Osborne argues that Amy’s rejection of her former Cool Girl persona is in part a way to bolster her belief that unconditional love is impossible. In her monologue, Osborne contends, Amy effectively disassembles the manufactured aspects of her personality that were intended to please her husband and prevent him from viewing her as opposing or imperfect in any way.
  8. Emily VanLeuvan, “Film Genre and David Fincher’s Gone Girl,” Bridgewater State University, 2016.
    1. VanLeuvan takes her analysis of Amy’s monologue a step further, analyzing the specifics of the scene and declaring the cinematic sequence as a visual demonstration of Amy’s liberation from the pressures women feel to please men.
  9. “Stephanie Orman, “’What a Perfect Monster!’ Gone Girl’sDestabilization of Feminine Archetypes in Popular Media,” Simmons College, 2016.
    1. Orman’s piece focuses less on Amy’s Cool Girl status, and more on her role as a post-feminist heroine for the reader, one who deploys every trick in the book to gain sympathy from the public and then rips away her narrative as a sympathetic female victim to explore her own agency and intention in her actions. The piece demonstrates an important way that women may feel resistant to the Cool Girl and may give some insight as to why the public has begun to sour on the archetype. No one expresses the public’s frustration more than the Cool Girl herself, and this linkage is key to understanding how and why we must break down this archetype as a patriarchal construction.

Section 1:

[1]Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl(Broadway Books, 2014).


[3]Anne Helen Petersen, “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls,” BuzzFeed, accessed November 12, 2018,

Section 2:

[1]Petersen, “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls.”



[3]“What We Mean When We Say ‘Bro Culture,’” accessed January 15, 2019,

[4]“What We Mean When We Say ‘Bro Culture.’”

[5]Joan C. Chrisler et al., “A Quick and Dirty Tour of Misogynistic Bro Culture,” Sex Roles66, no. 11 (June 1, 2012): 810–11,

Section 3:

[1]“Welcome to Total Frat Move | By Grandex Media,” accessed January 15, 2019,

[1]Kayce Smith1/14/2019 12:10 PM, “Sean ‘McBae’ Continues To Win On And Off The Field,” accessed January 15, 2019,

Sex and Self-Expression: How Dirty Computer Unravels Expectations

As a 46 minute compilation, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer often bears greater similarities to a science fiction film than a modern music video; as an “emotion picture”, the piece uses dystopian, futuristic brainwashing to pull at our heart strings and relay the importance of memory in a world that is constantly propelling forward.

Artwork from Dirty Computer

One of the most initially striking takeaways I had from Dirty Computer was Monae’s ability to send expertly intertwined messages of liberation, love, diversity, sex, individuality, and creativity through the familiar pop rhythms we more frequently hear pumping in the background of soulless summer anthems. From the start, the video’s first song “Crazy, Classic, Life” celebrates the individual and puts a twist on consumer expectations. The song begins with a recording of a sermon delivered by Dr. Sean McMillian*, blaring that “You told us, We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men and women are created equal…” before diving into the first sung lyrics: “Young, Black, wild and free/ Naked in a limousine/ Riding through the hood real slow/ I love it when I smell the trees.” These opening seconds set the tone for the entirety of Monae’s Dirty Computer memory sequence, as her limp body, dressed in white and surrounded by a whitewashed space, lay at the hands of dystopia. In contrast to the cold “computer” world, her memories explode with color, movement, and the reflection of her lyrics—illustrations of youthful exploration and self-expression. She reflects on her own experiences and shows no hesitation in making her racial identity known to the listener. The setup tells us who Monae is singing about, but doesn’t restrict who she is singing for. In all of its personal and political storytelling, placing marginalized and rule-breaking groups at the forefront, Dirty Computerhas the same flowery-catchy beats that we might expect from any pop album. Monae’s forthright self-ownership does not exclude those who cannot immediately relate to the lyrics’ content, but allows listeners to easily sing along as they determine what makes them a dirty computer. By reconstructing the traditionally whitewashed pop narrative to convey the perspective of a young, black, queer woman, Monae breaches the comfort zone of commercial music while still maintaining the genre’s accessibility and joy. What’s more, in being fearless with her own self-expression, Monae liberates marginalized audiences to engage directly with the mainstream.

The convergence of commercialism and marginalization has been a central theme in our discussions this semester. Whether it be Carmen Miranda’s commodification as an economic and cultural bridge between Latin and North America, or the commercialization of the AIDs crisis which silenced suffering communities and spread vast misinformation, our material this semester has oft demonstrated how capitalist society misuses the marginalized and denies these groups self-expression on a wide platform. Dirty Computer, on the other hand, represents a mass reclamation that has been occurring since bell hooks wrote her first sentence or Martin Luther King Jr. gave his first sermon. In her music and video, Monae gives her voice myriad names and faces, all working in pursuit of art that can be both genuine and successful.

Monae further subverts our expectations through her use of the erotic, reminiscent of Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”. Throughout Dirty Computer, sex tells a tale of the past and future. In the modern computer world, everyone is cloaked in white, signaling purity, and their wiped memories leave the characters void of past sexual and romantic relationships. Monae’s character, Jane 57821, who is a “Dirty computer”, is cognizant of her former relationship with Tessa Thompson’s character Zen, who is now “Mary Apple 53”, a memory-wiped puppet of the dystopian world. As the film progresses it becomes clear that there is a particular type of memory that must be erased from the “dirty computers” to make them acceptable in the new world: sex., further illustrated through the videos. “Screwed”, for instance, is lyrically about casual sex as a reaction to the world’s political and violent chaos. “Pynk” is both visually and lyrically about vaginas, as well as an ode to the color that is internally ubiquitous among humans, regardless of what’s on the outside. Like Lorde, Monae uses the erotic as a source of power in her lyrics and in her video, and the erotic is not necessarily always contingent on sex itself. As the video shows, “Screwed” might be more about finding confidence and determination in one’s erotic being than about actually being screwed. Likewise, Pynk is not about a physical act, but the reclamation of the vagina as a woman’s source of pride and power. Even Jane and Tessa’s relationship is not necessarily all about sexual tension and consumption, but the vivacity and beauty that can emerge from the erotic.

Shot from Pynk

As a whole, Dirty Computer is authentic and unapologetic. Its moral tells us that we might all be a little “dirty”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, this difference is what injects our art, music, and life with color and movement. Janelle Monae serves as a pop renegade for both the marginalized and the mainstream, and her commercial success demonstrates how far we’ve come from the days of Carmen Miranda and Bo’s n Whistles.



Visionary Feminism and Born in Flames: imagining a world where women are undivided


In Visionary Feminism by bell hooks, hooks articulates that a major pitfall of modern* feminism is the movement’s failure to attempt genuine equality for all women in favor of ensuring the safety of those privileged enough to have ascended to power. The alternative to our flawed modern feminism, writes hooks, is the notion of visionary feminism. Visionary feminism shares ideals with previously explored feminist movements, but, true to its title, foregoes the constraints of modern society to explore a more visionary, inclusive feminist structure. To hooks, visionary feminism is a movement which cuts across women of all races, ethnicities, geographies, and socioeconomic statuses to seek myriad cultural, economic, and political forms of empowerment. Previous feminist movements, hooks argues, though good at heart, emphasized reformative reduction of economic discrimination to a detriment, “ultimately forsaking the radical heartbeat of the feminist struggle” and making the “movement more vulnerable to cooptation by mainstream capitalist patriarchy” (hooks, 111). Women at the forefront of the movement, who were often white and privileged, were “seduced by class power and/or greater class mobility once they made strides in the existing social order” and thus less “interested in working to dismantle that system” (111). These feminist concessions transformed the ideologically-inclusive feminist movement into a more pragmatic mutation, which abandoned radical revolution for the many, such as “mass-based feminist education” (113), in favor of economic security for the few.

hooks’ argument resonates with my own understanding of emergent intersectional feminism as an antidote for prior exclusive and classist feminist waves. The third wave feminist movement of the 90s, which hooks’ writing takes place at the midpoint of, sought to create a more inclusive movement which acknowledged the varying impacts of sexism along racial, ethnic, and class lines. Yet, the immediate impacts of this feminism feel distinctly theoretical and ideological, as opposed to physical. While first and second wave feminism resulted in more concrete societal changes, such as women’s suffrage and the near-passing of the ERA, third wave feminism, it seems, has had less tangible impacts for the everyday woman. This may be a consequence of third wave feminism’s observations and outcries of racial, ethnic, and class discrimination and sexism that require radical societal change to achieve. It seems that in many ways, heightened exposure of discrimination for these groups has been publicly coined as the movements “success” and more radical attempts to alter societal fabric have been consequently ditched. Thus, I was particularly drawn to hooks’ proposal of practical, intersectional feminist institutions in modern day society. The need for a “broad-based feminist movement” seems like a revelation to me, one which should be a natural progression of feminism but for some reason feels overly optimistic or out-of-touch (112). Why is it that the feminist movement has been unsuccessful in pushing feminist politics, in creating programs which benefit all women and alleviate intersectional discrimination? hooks argues that elite educations and classist greed can be attributed for this problem, as predominantly white, wealthy, well-educated women rise as powerful feminist thinkers, and these women often have little practical impact or desire to create broad-based change.

hooks’ concept of movement concession and class/racial subordination, though written twenty years later, is heavily reflected in Lizzie Borden’s film Born in Flames. Born in Flames explores a similarly “visionary” image of feminist comradery, as well as the feminist fragmentation prevalent in society. Set in a dystopian future society which has undergone a Social Democratic revolution, Born in Flames begs us to question our preconceived notions about what we consider “radical” and “progressive”, just like hooks does. While Leftism is often perceived as a champion of minority groups, Born in Flames demonstrates how progressive movements may be misconceived by the public as inherently egalitarian, even though such movements may still promote racial, sexual, and class oppression. The competing narratives of the white-narrated Radio Ragazza and black-narrated Pheonix Radio display a concrete division within the movie’s feminist base.

Honey from Pheonix Radio
Isabel of Radio Ragazza

The movie also defines a privileged white-liberal elitist, pseudo-feminist base akin to that of hooks– the women who work for the press. As women are continually oppressed under the revolutionary regime, these groups come together under a broader movement, eventually working as a whole to promote female equality through terroristic and riotous means. Born in Flames demonstrates much of what hooks discusses—that many women will turn on feminism for economic security; that feminism is often codified by nuanced racial and class distinctions, which makes the broad movement less mobile and comprehensively successful; and that breaking down these barriers within the wider movement leads to enhanced success and even eventual female liberation. Its setting as a dystopian society utilizes the same sense of fantasy as hooks’ writing, using the imaginary to show us the flaws of the present. While Born in Flames provides a negative depiction of what may happen if women are unable to reconcile their own group’s success with the success of all women, Visionary Feminism shows us how we currently allow the patriarchy to control the outcome of feminism through economic and political diversion, and how women may supplant these limitations through visionary thinking. Both pieces of work– though one is a rowdy, punk-rocking handcrafted piece of shaky video and the other is a poised and concise written reflection—demonstrate how feminism limits itself through restricted perspective and begs us to ask—who deserves loyalty?

In modern day, both Visionary Feminism and Born in Flames remain relevant in our understanding of how and why feminism remains, in some ways, a limited social movement. For one reason or another, it seems that feminism has struggled to manifest itself in egalitarian action. Perhaps this says something about how we view matters of gender and sexual identity in comparison to other societal and cultural identifiers, or perhaps, as we discussed in class, visionary feminism is inherently at odds with capitalist culture. This argument is compelling, yet Born in Flames again threatens this assumption—if capitalism is at odds with feminism, wouldn’t a more egalitarian structure, like socialism, be conducive to gender equality? Both hooks and Borden’s pieces make us question how competing feminist factions may inhibit women’s progress, and question the cultural divides that seem to supersede feminist causes for many women. While I am unsure of how to answer the contradictions posed by either piece [feminist terrorism, though radical in the movie, is not the right choice in reality; nor does a “collective door to door effort” (hooks) seem fitting for modern day], I do think that they aptly highlight how and why myriad societal and cultural barriers make visionary, inclusive feminist realities feel so out of reach– and hint at ways we may overcome these divisions.


*hooks’ piece was written in 2000