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In Defense of Tom Cruise? How? submitted by: normal mc

EDITOR'S NOTE: This may be the article that effectively ends my 'career' as an 'online journalist'. But I had fun writing it anyway!

Tom Cruise has a gun to his career’s head right now and it seems he has an itchy trigger finger. That seems to be the prevailing sentiment in the blogosphere as blogger after blogger yells ‘Free Katie’ or ‘Did you see him with Lauer? He was insane!’. Hard-hitting commentary like that comes a dime a dozen, luckily I’ve decided to charge you twenty five cents for my opinion (make checks payable to the CoS, please). What I am saying is that yeah, sure… he might be going nuts in front of our eyes. Yes, it’s hilarious/scary to watch this. But please, give the guy a break.

Here’s why:

Arguably the biggest box-office star in Hollywood, Tom’s sudden shift from closet Scientologist to full on fanatic is fascinating at the least. Say what you will of the media’s deification of celebrities, 99 times out of 100 they are given a free pass on whatever movement, cause or spiritual quest they undertake. The Kabbahlists (Demi, Madonna) aren’t hassled… but then again they aren’t attacking an accepted science such as modern psychiatry.

I’m not saying I agree with Tom’s views on psychiatry (I like pills, myself), nor am I saying that I believe his unholy union with Joey Potter is legit. As misguided and borderline crazy as he seems to be, Tom Cruise is walking around today with a type of courage we haven’t seen from Hollywood in quite sometime. And excuse the use of ‘courage’ and ‘Hollywood’ in the same article, not just the same sentence. Sure, Marlon Brando sent an American Indian (and a woman to boot!) to accept his Oscar for ‘The Godfather’ and Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell are openly gay, but this is different. Brando was certifiably batshit insane and Ellen and Rosie would have stayed in the closet if they didn’t think they’d make more money ‘outing’ themselves.

To equate Tom’s recent behavior with the latest cultural abomination that deserves far less attention than it gets, Tom has gone ‘all in’ with a pair of twos. If this were another lame celebrity poker show, he’d have just stood up, run his hands through his hair, exhaled deeply… the crowd would have applauded his ballsy move and hoped against hope that Willie Garson or Carl-forbid Wil Wheaton not called his bluff. Because betting on a pair of twos is ballsy, America. Standing up for your beliefs is just plain crazy!

Tom Cruise is fighting against the misconceptions he thinks we all have towards the Church of Scientology and for that he should be applauded. Tom Cruise is a bankable star who has remained lily-white, vanilla and safe to Middle America since the mid-80’s and now he’s taking a stand. And in the process he is dangerously close to throwing it all away.

Now I’m not saying he’s right. He’s wrong – clearly he’s wrong, but beliefs are tricky things. He should be applauded for not giving two or even three shits what you all think or what this may do to his career. He thinks he is right and he does not care how it effects him.

I wish I could believe so strongly in a cause or a movement, but it’s not in me as a person. It’s all too easy to sit here and blog in judgment, casually or perhaps vociferously assassinating the man’s character and dismissing him altogether. Here is a man who in the last few weeks has been accused of brainwashing a talented young starlet, jumped up and down like a jackanapes on various talk shows in expression of his love and then engaged in a fascinating and uncomfortable tête-à-tête with TV personality Matt Lauer on the subject of modern psychiatry. Completely playing against type, Cruise could have phoned it in, smiling dutifully, ‘gee shucks, thanks Mr. Lauer, glad you liked the movie’. However he stood firm and argued his belief structure. In a slam-dunk, softball sit-down on the Today Show, Cruise could have taken the easy way out and just not commented or steered the conversation back to his latest blockbuster…

But no. Because the media cannot buy the idea of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as a real ‘couple’, the man’s entire identity is being challenged. And if you ask me (reading this article is close enough) he’s handling it all quite well. Are they destined for a long, happy life together a la Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward? No. Of course not. Is it a publicity stunt to help both of their careers? You’d think that, but wait: Katie was dropped from future ‘Batman’ films, and Tom’s career wasn’t sagging by any means. ‘War of the Worlds’ opened big and is still packing ‘em in. So where is the benefit for either party, at least right off the bat? I can’t find it.

Have we become that cynical and jaded as a society as to believe the union of these two ultra-photogenic stars is merely a business transaction, a farce, a calculated PR stunt? Of course we have! But the glib, wise-ass eye-rolling from bloggers to news anchors to talk show hosts has done more to expose our own bitterness and spite than to expose any kind of ‘sham’ that their union may be. It says a lot about us that Tom Cruise’s sex life or religion or Katie Holmes’s business acumen and willingness to join a cult is somehow ‘newsworthy’.

And let’s deal with the Scientology question for a moment. For those who aren’t aware of Scientology, let me sum it up for you:

Scientologists believe that 75 million years ago, Earth (though it wasn't called Earth at the time) was part of a Galactic Confederacy. The tyrant who ruled this confederacy was named Xenu. Many of the planets in this sector of the galaxy were overpopulated, so Xenu devised a scheme to lower the population.

With the help of his henchman, who bear a strong resemblance in practice to today’s psychiatrists, he drugged and subdued his victims, transported them to Earth in space planes, placed them in or around volcanoes, and blew up the volcanoes with atomic bombs. The spirits of these dead aliens, called Body Thetans, still roam the earth and attach themselves to living humans. These Body Thetans are responsible for many mental and physical ailments. In order to cure these ailments, the Scientologist must communicate telepathically with their Body Thetans and convince them to leave.

Sounds pretty crazy huh? I’ll go out on a limb and say it doesn’t sound that much crazier than a Holy Trinity or ‘virgins in heaven’ if you ask me.

Yeah, read it again. Think it over. Get back to me.

“I believe that the world was created in 7 days and that one guy did it and if I live by his rules I will go to Heaven,” said Carl.
“Well, my God told me not to eat pork,” said Moishe.
“There will be virgins waiting for me in Heaven,” said Aqbar.
“I believe that there is life elsewhere in the solar system,” said Tom Cruise.
“What are you, fucking nuts?” screamed the three believers in accepted faiths.

Say what you want about the world’s major, recognized religions and their cash-cow status, at least they have a couple thousand ‘lean years’ to justify them. The main difference, when you boil it down, between the major, accepted religions of our society and Scientology is the few thousand years head-start they had. They essentially are unprovable.

Yeah. I said it. And in no way am I trying to discredit anyone, any religion or what-have-you. But that’s the way I see it. And I have a hard time figuring out how others don’t see it that way as well. Sincerely.

Madonna, she of the Kabbalah Sect, gets a free pass all the time. Her ‘religion’ is just as shady, yet she remains glorified. All the red bracelets and bottled water can’t change the fact that she’s part of a relatively new phenomenon – the religion as a pop icon and a moneymaker. Scientology certainly qualifies as a money-maker – it’s a definite scam if I have ever seen one. Wow, a major religion getting rich on the backs of the weak-willed, selling salvation and taking checks. What a novel concept.

Religion in it’s purest form is admirable. I have close members of my family who use their faith to augment the other characteristics and personality traits they have inherent to improve their life and the lives of their loved ones. The fact that the vast majority of believers world-wide are honest, upstanding members of their community does not escape me. They are of a strong faith and manage it correctly without proselytizing, trickery or killing people. Hurrah for them. Seriously. The problem is that we never champion these people. We never take the time to recognize the benefits any affiliation may bring a community or a people. We’d rather pick them apart, point by point to make ourselves feel better.

It’s so fucking hip nowadays to be atheist or agnostic. It’s a badge of honor some of us wear, like we’re so evolved because we’ve decided believing in the unprovable is fruitless. Congratulations on your arrogance and you casual dismissal of the majority of recorded history. For example, take David Cross. A hilarious stand-up, sure… and a gifted comedic force all around. I came across this while surfing one day and it summed up and vocalized something I had felt that kinda 'flew under the radar' about Cross (and other celebs or pseudo-celebs for that matter):

"[David Cross] thinks [Judaism] is a bunch of shit and the Torah's a bunch of shit, and I thought, wow, that's kinda weird that someone can be that ... arrogant, to think that the greatest minds of centuries and centuries have dealt with the idea of a deity and religion and faith, and this guy from Atlanta is going 'nananana-nanana,' you know what I mean? I never heard that from Bill Hicks, and I thought, 'I couldn't be that that smart.' That's obviously him thinking he's smarter than us."

But far be it for me to deny anyone anything that they might think helps enrich their lives. Honestly, I’ve given up trying to reach those people. I’m out of the business of trying to expose a belief structure as flawed or meaningless. It’s not my place. It’s arrogant and belittling and no one likes armchair judges anyway. You do your thing - you keep saying you are buying the whole package and pretending you are up to snuff in the eyes of your Lord. I will do my thing and I will continue to pick and choose what works for me, spirituality a la carte if you will. Which is essentially the same thing anyway. The shit you can't prove works for some people. Not for me.

Huh? Man, I got a bit off track!

(You: Right. Whatever, Norm. Your continued inability to stay on-topic and casual dismissal of your previous bile-ridden mistrust and hatred of all things religious has exposed you for the weak, spineless, wishy-washy hypocrite that you are!)

Ken Tucker sums up some of my argument nicely.

Can I just say that I find something both loonily sweet and sneakily admirable about the way Cruise is now comporting himself? It’s a great performance, with the electricity that’s been lacking from so many celebrity scandals of the past few years. It’s out of control, and that’s not a bad thing. Others may find Cruise creepy, but I’m enjoying his turn as the Aggressively Romantic Dork, a role that exerts its own wobbly charm.

Cruise has distracted us all with his publicity campaign, but that only makes it all the more necessary to remind ourselves that he’s not merely a celebrity. He’s an actor—and a good one. If his public image is spinning out of control, his screen work is stronger than ever. Last year, Cruise deftly executed a skillful thespian stretch as a silver-haired hit man in Michael Mann’s Collateral; he contributed a sharp performance to 2003’s otherwise jagged Last Samurai; and he locked into just the right mixture of paranoia and athleticism in Spielberg’s 2002 Minority Report. I haven’t seen War of the Worlds yet, but I know that Cruise’s acting is increasingly subtle and mature—he’s moving into middle age as a man who’s looking for roles that challenge his eager-pleaser image, an ambitious streak that only bodes well for the future. Michael Mann told me, “I never worked with a bigger star who was more ‘up’ for subverting what people think about him.”

I agree that over the past 10 years or so he has done some fantastic work, some of the better performances of anyone over that time, but that’s another article. I wanted to get this one out of the way first. Lemme know if anyone is interested in reading that one. I figure if I did that one first, we’d all be debating his sanity anyway, missing the point of an article extolling his virtue as an actor.

I happen to think Tom Cruise is wrong about Scientology. I happen to think what we are watching is fantastic theatre as well. And I think we may all be a bit too full of ourselves to ever think we know what really goes on in this guy's mind. You’re getting a pass from me, Mr. Cruise. And when I give out passes, it's a rare treat. I hate almost everything and everybody.

Believe what you want, doesn’t hurt me in the least. But you’re wrong. I'll be one of the minority here and not make the easy jokes, Tom. Just keep making good movies so I can have an argument to fall back on when people think I’m crazy for applauding your ‘courage’.

Posted: july 19 2005, 03:01 am
14 comments on In Defense of Tom Cruise? How? add a comment

dj tanner
dj tanner 4789 posts
comment no. 1

Wow, what a great article. I think I'll go see WotW now!

dj tanner
dj tanner 4789 posts
comment no. 2

I can't believe nobody has commented on this article, which, on a scale of 1 to 10 I give a "brilliant".

heroin bob
heroin bob lurker
comment no. 3

It was decent.

robert troll
robert troll 566 posts
comment no. 4

I enjoyed it. You summed up scientology real well. And I see no difference in what Cruise, Madonna(Ester), or Pat Robertson. A religious coot is a religious coot.

dj tanner
dj tanner 4789 posts
comment no. 5

Amen, Mr. Troll!

gnomeloaf 942 posts
comment no. 6

Thanks for this -- very well done. You should think about casting it around for reprint.

I'm curious -- what is the Scientology take on homosexuality? Is that why Tom cares so much about who everyone thinks he sleeps with?

normal mc
normal mc 7472 posts
comment no. 7

Scientology - like any decent, self-respecting religion - says homosexuality is 'bad'.

Yeah, I totally ignored the gay rumors stuff, I figure everyone has a rumor...

robert troll
robert troll 566 posts
comment no. 8

Actually L.Ron Hubbard's Son was a homosexual.. And low and behold he died under questionable circumstances after trying to be "reformed"

normal mc
normal mc 7472 posts
comment no. 9

Yeah. The gay heir to the insane CoS throne died.

Read all about it here.

(there are much better, more complete accounts online, but I am lazy and no one cares anyway)

your mother
your mother 73 posts
comment no. 10

Hopefully without a mother's bias, I can say that this article is perhaps one of your best, Mike.

I saw a film clip of Mr. Cruise when he was unknowingly being interviewed by an imposter (who turned out to be part of a "Candid Camera" type show from Great Britain). As Tom was responding to the question, the "microphone" squirted water in his face. He handled the situation like a true gentleman would ... with grace and finesse.

I've always liked him as an actor and, after seeing the clip, I like him as a person.

farlupulous 3353 posts
comment no. 11

You got me to read an article.. mission accomplished my friend, mission accomplished.

dj tanner
dj tanner 4789 posts
comment no. 12

Hey Norm, its time for you to write a new article. Why have you been so slack with the writing lately? Writing a novel or something?

pRON aHOLIC 121 posts
comment no. 13

"Madonna, she of the Kabbalah Sect, gets a free pass all the time. Her ‘religion’ is just as shady, yet she remains glorified."

No she is a freaky used up hack and whacko too.