Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Sacrifice Cool?

Although the topic of this week is cool sacrifice, it is not the act of sacrifice that makes Rick Blaine cool, at first. Rick is cool from the moment his character enters the film. Humphrey Bogart perfectly plays the emotionless tough guy that has been recognized as classically cool. In the beginning of the film Rick is cool because he never “sticks his neck out for anyone” and is not impressed by the social status of others. As the plot progresses, Rick gradually loses these qualities and begins drinking with customers and lending a helping hand. In the final scene, Rick makes sacrifices his happiness, by making Ilsa go with Laszlo to continue the anti-German cause. At this point, it seems that Rick’s attitude is completely opposite from the beginning of the film. Did Rick lose his cool or does this sacrifice make him cool in a different way?

Self- sacrifice alone does not make a person cool. For example, in Titanic (1997), Jack Dawson sacrifices his life to save his true love, Rose. Although Titanic is the number one box office hit worldwide of all time, I don’t think there are many people that would argue that Titanic is a cool movie. Jack, played by the Leonardo DiCaprio, does have some attitude, but he is not a cool character. Jack was a lower class artist that fell hopelessly in love. The sacrifice he made was simply to save Rose’s life. Is sacrifice for the greater cause cooler than sacrifice for a single person? Sacrifice obviously adds intrigue to a film, but does it add coolness?

Tom Powers, played by James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931), has a similar cool to Rick’s at the beginning of Casablanca. They both fill the role of the selfish cool guy. Tom and Rick both take part in illegal activities and are unconcerned about the local authorities. Although Casablanca turns into a romance, Rick has that gangster cool attitude. You can see the pictures below Tom and Rick produce the same aura of cool. These two stories differ in the end. Rick goes soft, but fights for what he believes in, while Tom remains a hardened criminal until the abrupt end to his life. Which character is cooler in the end? Does cool criminality have limits because it is dissident in nature? Is self-sacrifice transcendent cool?


  1. You bring up some very interesting points! I haven't thought of limits on a "cool" sacrifice, one person vs. an entire group. I don't know if it is the quantity of the sacrifice, but the quality. If a person goes about saving their one true love, but they could have gone a little further, risked a little more and save an entire family, then the person seems to have taken the easy and selfish road in terms of sacrifice; it was too dramatic. However, if this person saves just one other through sacrifice that was his or her only option, then I would accept this sacrifice as a good, "cool" one. There is one little girl in a burning building, and a firefighter sacrifices for her; I would count that as a good sacrifice.

  2. Point well taken that sacrifice alone is not enough, and the person making the sacrifice must embody more than a surface of emotions. We know from the first moment we see Rick that he's got a story. There's no mystery about Tom Powers. As for Jack Dawson, we see that he's really just a man - a boy even - who's in love. With Rick, there's much more than what we actually see, and a lot that we never know. We don't know his true reasons for sacrifice, which makes him even more unattainable and attractive.