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Searching for the ultimate TV/movie 'Cool Girl'

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Katy Perry

“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, sh– on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”

—Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

If you’ve read Flynn’s twisty thriller—and really, if you haven’t, what exactly are you waiting for?—then you’re familiar with the passage quoted above. Though it takes up only a tiny portion of Gone Girl‘s 432 pages, Flynn’s “Cool Girl” rant has taken on a life of its own, inspiring scholarly analysis and takedowns and even an outcry from people who don’t think it’s represented well in David Fincher’s feature adaptation, which is out in theaters today.

But even those who love the Cool Girl speech know that while Flynn may have named this trope, she certainly didn’t invent it. Women who, to quote Buzzfeed’s Anne Helen Petersen, “act like a dude but look like a supermodel” have been burping across movie and TV screens for decades—especially during the bro-aissance of the past 10 or so years. But which of these beer-swilling, sports-loving, superhumanly accommodating women is the Ultimate Cool Girl? We dove deep to find out. (Spoiler: There’s more than one.)

Mary Jensen, There’s Something About Mary

Cool Girl bona fides: Let the lady speak for herself: “I want a guy who can play 36 holes of golf, and still have enough energy to take Warren and me to a baseball game, and eat sausages, and beer—not light beer, but beer.” Holy hell—was Flynn actually watching the Farrelly Brothers’ megahit when she wrote her Cool Girl Manifesto? Cameron Diaz’s Mary checks off nearly every item on Flynn’s list: She’s a sharp shooter who loves sports and food, is frank about her sexuality (“To hell with Brett… I’ve got a vibrator”), doesn’t freak out about having ejaculate in her hair, and would choose a beer-bellied beta schlub over a gorgeous NFL quarterback. No wonder literally everything with a Y chromosome is gaga for her.

Verdict: 10/10 Bud Lights —Hillary Busis

Andie Anderson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Cool Girl bona fides: Hot? Check. Funny? Check. Brilliant? “I have a masters in journalism from Columbia.” Andie (Kate Hudson), a writer for a women’s-interest magazine, drinks beer, loves NBA basketball, and feasts on greasy fried treats (“Why do they always forget my bacon?”) throughout the 2003 romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. In the course of the film, she’s also revealed to be a natural on a motorcycle as well as the best Bulls–t player her boyfriend’s family has ever seen. Even Andie’s central plot arc confirms her cool-girl status: Her plan to “lose a guy in 10 days” requires her to adopt habits commonly associated with less chill women, like worrying about their weight, interrupting sports-watching and other varieties of designated guy time, and, uh, listening to music by chicks.

Verdict: 9/10 Bud Lights —Ashley Fetters

Anna Barnes-Leatherwood, A Million Ways to Die in the West

Cool Girl bona fides: As I’ve noted before, Anna (Charlize Theron) is almost a perfect example of a Cool Girl. She’s a sharpshooter who whips out pot cookies and pooh-poohs Amanda Seyfried’s uptight character. Though Anna’s married to Liam Neeson’s bad guy outlaw, all she’s really looking for is a nice guy, who happens to be Albert—played by none other than Seth MacFarlane, who also wrote and directed the movie. Anna, in many ways, is cooler than Albert, but she also doesn’t challenge him in any way. He represents her savior, an alternative to her crappy, nasty husband. In Gone Girl, Amy describes the Cool Girl as “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.” Sorry, Seth MacFarlane, but Anna is that creation.

Verdict: 10/10 Bud Lights —Esther Zuckerman

Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother

Cool Girl bona fides: Why is Ted Mosby’s (and Barney Stinson’s) dream girl so dreamy? Because she’s a gorgeous scotch- and hockey-loving gun nut who appreciates a good cigar, plays laser tag like a champ, and, oh yeah, has a crippling fear of commitment—just like a dude. (Also, her middle name is Charles.) To its credit, the show does try to explain Robin’s “masculine” proclivities with a bit of backstory (her father was disappointed to have a daughter; she spent her childhood and adolescence trying to be the son he never had), and Robin (Cobie Smulders) has stereotypically feminine qualities as well—she was, after all, a Canadian teen pop star once. But given how much praise Robin gets from the show’s men specifically because she’s “not like other girls,” it’s pretty clear where HIMYM itself stands on the subject.

Verdict: 8.5/10 Bud Lights —HB

Ali Parker, Draft Day

Cool Girl bona fides: In the NFL drama Draft Day, attractive, brainy law-school graduate Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner) loves football—enough to make a career out of it, in fact, serving as the Cleveland Browns’ salary-cap manager. She’s the only female higher-up in the Browns organization, and, crucially, she’s an impeccably good sport about it. Ali gently teases her male coworkers (“How is it that the ultimate prize in the most macho sport ever invented is a piece of jewelry?” she jokes), but when she tells her boyfriend, Browns general manager Sonny (Kevin Costner), “We can always talk football,” she means it: Ali patiently helps Sonny work through his stress over the NFL draft, even as he’s indefinitely postponing what would seem to be a pretty necessary conversation about her unplanned pregnancy. Ali, of course, doesn’t mind—she’s the Cool Girl.

Verdict: 7/10 Bud Lights —AF

Kate, Drinking Buddies

Cool Girl bona fides: At first glance, Olivia Wilde’s Kate has all the Cool Girl criteria. She 1) is extremely hot, 2) works in an all-male environment, 3) loves beer, 4) hates healthy food, and 5) proposes skinny dipping. But Kate is not a complete Cool Girl; as we discover later in the movie, she’s not a consistently understanding good sport. (She’s no Cool Girl match for Olivia Wilde in The Switch.)

Verdict: 8/10 Bud Lights, though Kate would probably drink a better beer. —EZ

Donna Pinciotti, That ’70s Show

Cool Girl bona fides: She’s better at sports than her on-again/off-again boyfriend, and is also clearly smarter him; she prefers jeans and lumberjack shirts to skirts and dresses; and, naturally, she says she doesn’t like makeup but always looks perfect. Laura Prepon’s Donna is definitely a classic tomboy—at least, until she dyes her hair in season 7—and her low voice and generally easygoing attitude (especially compared to hyperfeminine, borderline hysterical Jackie, played (ironically) by sometime CG Mila Kunis) both scream Cool Girl. A key component of Cool Girlitude, however, is being laid back enough to let your man do whatever he wants; Donna’s a bit too much of a ball-buster to truly fit the profile.

Verdict: 6/10 Bud Lights —HB

Tammy Linnata, The Good Wife

Cool Girl bona fides: Sporting News reporter Tammy Linnata (Elizabeth Reaser) first appeared on The Good Wife in 2010. In her very first scene, Tammy attends a gala with a jittery Will Gardner and offers to calm his nerves by waxing poetic about a star NBA player’s free agency. “You know how that turns me on,” he smirks in response. She then indulges in two slices of chocolate cake after dinner—her own, and then Peter Florrick’s—and tells Will that she’ll stay with him “as long as it’s fun.” Tammy’s occasional appearances on the series set her up as a blunt, funny, thrill-seeking foil (and romantic rival) to Julianna Margulies’ disciplined Alicia Florrick. Alicia, for example, insistently maintains discretion and professionalism in her relationship with Will; Tammy shows up at his office, draws his blinds, and unzips.

Verdict: 6/10 Bud Lights —AF

Angie, New Girl

Cool Girl bona fides: Angie’s Cool Girl factor is probably enhanced by the fact that she’s played by Olivia Munn, a woman who’s faced her share of criticism for her off-screen Cool Girl persona. Angie is a stripper who dates Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) during season two. She’s hot. She rides a motorcycle. She flashes her boobs willy nilly. She wants to have sex in public places. New Girl has played a lot with female archetypes, perhaps as a way to provide contrast to Zooey Deschanel’s Jess, who is emphatically not a Cool Girl: She’s incredibly feminine, but also dresses fearlessly and acts for herself rather than for men. Angie is the über Cool Girl. In fact, she’s too Cool. Nick is basically scared of Angie, who does things like draw pubes on his armpit while he’s sleeping. In that way, Angie is a Cool Girl who is also a comment on Cool Girls: On paper she’s the fantasy. In a relationship? Not so much.

Verdict: 9/10 Bud Lights —EZ

PJ Franklin, My Boys

Cool Girl bona fides: Androgynously-named PJ loves sports enough to write about them for a living and has primarily male friends, even though (to its credit) the show also gives her a female bestie. She talks like a bro, walks like a bro, and dates like a bro. The Cool is strong with this one; just check out how her love interest responds when she implies that she’s not looking for a commitment: “Can you maybe not say that stuff…The guy’s stuff? I mean, guys act like that. Girls say things like, uh… ‘Wait, why is this happening so fast?’ or ‘How do I know this isn’t just one night stand?'” But because Jordana Spiro’s character is the show’s protagonist, she’s allowed more interiority than a Cool Girl generally gets—and since the ideal fulfillment of this trope must be an object rather than a subject, she can’t quite make it to the top of the list.

Verdict: 7.5/10 Bud Lights —HB

Rachel Jansen, Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Cool Girl bona fides: The movie’s titular character (Kristen Bell) is uptight and demanding in her relationship with Jason Segel’s Peter—forcing him to wear horrible clothes, making him hold her purse on red carpets. But Mila Kunis’s Rachel completely accepts Peter, Dracula song and all. (Though, honestly, the Dracula song is the best.) She’s also a total bro, encouraging Peter to jump off cliffs and telling him she can “see [his] vagina from here.” And finally, she’s surprisingly chill about the fact that there’s a topless photo of her in a bathroom, and pretty quickly forgives Peter for his transgressions with Sarah at the end of the movie.

Verdict: 10/10 Bud Lights. —EZ

Katy Perry, “One of the Boys”

Cool Girl bona fides: Saw a spider, didn’t scream; can belch the alphabet; “chose guitar over ballet;” swears to “take these suckers down,” whatever that might mean. The first verse of the song that gave Perry’s major-label debut its name is classic Cool Girl—she’s gross! She’s chill! She’s not like other girls, who are, implicitly, prissy and pretty and Not Cool! But then things take a turn: “I don’t wanna be one of the bo-o-o-o-oys,” Perry croons, somewhere between a purr and a screech. Turns out that the song’s narrator would rather be “your homecoming queen/pin-up poster dream” than a Cool Girl. And thanks to a summer spent poring over Seventeen, shaving her legs, and… studying Lolita religiously (wait, what?! Is she 13?), she’s prepared to achieve that goal. By the end of the song, Perry’s persona is still conforming to a male fantasy—but it’s not the same one outlined in Gone Girl.

Verdict: 3/10 Bud Lights —HB

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