Why Was Beyonce Not Cool Enough for the Smithsonian’s New “Cool” Exhibit?

When two scholars decided to pick 100 of the coolest Americans, it got dicey; here’s why

(José Goulão via Wikimedia Commons)

Jim Morrison

(Electra Records via Wikimedia Commons)

"We considered Jim Morrison for a while. To be honest, Jim Morrison has part of the same problem as Janis Joplin, but in a different way. He thought of himself as Dionysus, which is all passion, and outpouring, and being torn apart by your admirers. And so his stagecraft—although he has the mysterious and dark parts—everything else is really about this huge celebratory orgy. (I mean that more emotionally than I mean it sexually.)

If we think about James Dean, and Miles Davis, and Jack Nicholson, and Faye Dunaway, cool is about being much more subdued, and much more laid-back and relaxed. Although there are exceptions to that in the exhibit, that’s why Jim Morrison did not make the cut."

About Kirstin Fawcett
Kirstin Fawcett

Kirstin Fawcett reports on the collections, exhibitions, new research and other happenings around the Smithsonian Institution.

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