Tom’s mission: imprudent

‘Is this guy weird, or what?”

I remember seeing that question on the cover of People nearly 20 years ago, along with a picture of a comparatively normal looking Michael Jackson. Any week now, I expect the magazine’s editors to dust the question off and run it again, with a photo of Tom Cruise.

Like Jackson, who was on top of the world when the media began to say out loud what everyone else was thinking, Cruise is on the brink of becoming the leading punch line in pop culture. Leaping on couches on national TV, dragging unlikely fiancée Katie Holmes around like a smiling blowup doll, dissing Brooke Shields for treating postpartum depression with modern medicine instead of the herbal remedies of the Church of Scientology… I say, is this guy weird or what?

Consumer Alert: Scientology

“Scientology is evil; its techniques are evil; its practice is a serious threat to the community, medically, morally, and socially; and its adherents are sadly deluded and often mentally ill… (Scientology is) the world’s largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy.”
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology

The folks at Paramount, who once rejoiced at having Cruise and Steven Spielberg collaborating on H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” must now be in a daze, having stood by helpless while their star’s antics eclipsed whatever publicity they’d planned for the film. A few months ago, it looked like it might be the event movie of the summer. Now, three days before its opening, what have you heard about it?

During their public whirlwind courtship, Tom and Katie reminded me of victims in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” They look like regular humans, but as they giggle and bray for the cameras, they seem very odd. Even when they kiss, they don’t seem sure where their lips are supposed to go. I hoped this would all turn out to be a brash cross-promotional publicity stunt, a deal worked out by the producers of “War of the Worlds” and “Batman Begins,” in which Holmes has a role. It would be fun to see the entertainment media get punk’d.

But now, I think the deal was worked out between the actors’ agents. The 42-year-old, twice-married Cruise has much to offer Holmes. She’s a potential star, and he can make that happen quicker for her. Meanwhile, at a drop-dead gorgeous 26, she’s good to go as a red-carpet companion for 20 years. If you think I’m being too cynical, consider Holmes’ announcement – some six weeks after meeting Cruise and a few days before accepting his marriage proposal – that she’s converting to Scientology.

It had to take more than love to convince the Catholic school-educated daughter of a lawyer to adopt a religion that believes we descended from the spirits of aliens banished to earth by the intergalactic ruler Xenu 75 million years ago.

Cruise once avoided discussing his religion with interviewers. But after firing his longtime publicist Pat Kingsley last year and replacing her with his sister and fellow Scientologist, he has been preaching like John the Baptist.

Scientology was founded by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose imagination when it came to aliens was clearly as vivid as Wells’. That Cruise has been inadvertently undermining a work of Wells by promoting a work of Hubbard’s may be a milestone in literary irony.

More columns by Jack Matthews


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New York Daily News, USA
June 26, 2005 Column
Jack Matthews
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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday June 26, 2005.
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