There, I Said It: I Like Tom Cruise
Virtually all academics I know, especially women, abhor the Hollywood star.
I like Tom Cruise. I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard fan. For instance, I’ve not seen all of his films, I don’t buy magazines that feature stories about him, and I don’t subscribe to Tom Cruise fansites or tags that bear his name on Tumblr.
But I like Tom Cruise. Always have.
Why I’ve No Beef with Tom Cruise
One reason I like Tom Cruise, I suppose, is that I’ve been with him since the beginning. I was there for Cruise’s early roles in The Outsiders (1983) and Legend (1985). I was there when Cruise shot to stardom after the release of Top Gun (1986).
Sidenote: the first sex scene I ever saw was Top Gun’s. My dad is a pilot, so we were all sure as hell going to see that movie, on the big screen, with jet-engines and Kenny Loggins blasting us in surround sound. My brother (age 9) and I (age 11) sat in the row ahead of my parents. All was fine until “Take My Breath Away,” that blue lighting, and those tongues filled the screen.
Embarrassed is way too mild a word for the way my brother and I felt during that scene — which, incidentally, seemed to last for 20 minutes. In reality, the scene — voted Tom Cruise’s Best Onscreen Sex Scene btw — is less than 30 seconds. But I digress…
I was also there during the peak of Tom Cruise’s career in the late ’80s and ’90s when he (co)starred in Rain Man (1988), A Few Good Men (1992), and Jerry Maguire (1996).
And while I was NOT there for Eyes Wide Shut (1999) — I don’t like Kubrick — I’ve experienced most of Cruise’s Mission Impossibles as well as his turns in Collateral (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), Tropic Thunder (2008), Rock of Ages (2012), Jack Reacher (2012), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014). To date, I’ve seen 25 of his 38 films.
Other reasons I’ve no beef with Tom Cruise:
- he’s easy on the eyes (more on this below),
- he is a bonafide movie star and a fine actor,
- he insists on doing many of his own stunts in lieu of CGI,
- he’s rarely badmouthed by his co-stars, and
- he’s willing to branch out (even if the role doesn’t go well), e.g., vampire, sexist pick-up artist, balding studio executive, silver-haired psychopath, aging rock star.
Even Tom Cruise’s Teeth Freak Out Academics
Virtually all of the academics I know, especially women, abhor Tom Cruise. They see him as a(nother) weird Scientologist, a closeted gay man, a fake husband, and/or a surrogate father. They regard “post-TomKat” Cruise especially as “skeevy,” “Level-15 creepy,” and someone who “freaks me the hell out.”
So yeah, when my colleagues disseminate disparaging lists like “Tom Cruise’s Right Front Tooth Is In the Center of His Mouth,” I’m the only one to respond with, “That crooked front tooth gave me, uh, feelings as I watched it smile at me in Top Gun.”
Similarly, after Mission: Impossible 4, I was the only academic in my crowd to tweet that Cruise “still knows how to rock a navy-blue suit.” The responses: “ewwwwww” and “blech.”
On one level, I understand my colleagues’ sentiments. They dislike Tom Cruise (I am assuming a bit here) because they know too much about and have the skills to analyze critically his extratextual persona — those moments of his life that occur offscreen, e.g., couch-jumping appearances on Oprah, paparazzi photos, calling Matt Lauer “glib,” magazine shoots, tweets, and most recently, his clips in HBO’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, etc.
And particularly of late, Cruise’s extratextual persona is, admittedly, bizarre and unattractive. But it is something I have chosen to overlook.
On Ignoring and Pardoning Celebrities
I don’t pardon all celebrities this way. For example, I dislike Kristen Stewart because of her obvious aversion to some of the expected duties of Hollywood stardom like junkets and late-night interviews. Stewart hates doing these things, and it’s obvious that she hates them. And yeah, while perhaps petty, because of this, I don’t care for Stewart.
I feel the same about post-1990s Warren Beatty — not Bonnie and Clyde-era Beatty, mind you. Ever since I learned that Beatty (presumably) referred to Katharine Hepburn’s 85-year-old face as “a fruitcake” and tried “to woo” her to act in Love Story (1994) with the line, “If I had only met you 30 years ago,” my admiration for Mr. Beatty withered quickly.
See also actors like Christian Bale who become anorexic for roles, all in the name of “Method acting.” I’ve no admiration for that either.
There are, however, some celebrities like Tom Cruise, whose extratextual personas I have chosen to ignore. See, for example, Jack Nicholson, Patricia Heaton, Gwyneth Paltrow, and David Letterman. On the whole, I disagree with these stars’ words, morals, philandering, and/or politics.
But again, I choose to disregard those things in favor of their work, on-air personality, and/or physical appearance. Such is the complicated world of stardom.
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