A co-worker says she’d like to see “Mission: Impossible III” but she has sworn off Tom Cruise movies.
She claims the guy’s behavior in recent months has so alienated her that she’s going to avoid any film he’s in. Says she won’t be able to watch the Cruiser without thinking about sofa-jumping and Scientology.
If hers is a widely held sentiment, it could mark a seismic shift in recent Hollywood history.
Tom Cruise has ruled the box office for two decades. Not because he’s a good actor (though in films like “Magnolia” he has shown his range) but because he puts posteriors in the seats. Because we project on him all our yearnings for adventure and romance and sex.
If that changes, Cruise might well go the way of Burt Reynolds, who ruled Hollywood in the ’70s but now does supporting roles.
The anti-Cruise backlash has two elements.
First there was his I’m-in-love routine on Oprah’s show. His giddy joy might have been endearing. Hey, even a movie star deserves a soul mate.
Instead it brought ridicule on Cruise’s head. It was unkindly suggested that Cruise’s hopped-up behavior wasn’t genuine, that he was an actor playing a role. And in any case, it made him look like a jerk. We don’t want our sex symbols acting like jerks. In fact, the less we know about them, the better.
(Case in point: Julia Roberts, our top female star. What do we really know about her? Hardly anything … and that’s the way we like it.)
Second, there’s Cruise’s Scientology. And that’s even more of a problem.
I don’t doubt Cruise’s sincere belief in Scientology. We all turn to different things to get us through the night.
The problem is that it was Cruise who put the issue of Scientology on the table, and the more you know about Scientology, the weirder it gets.
Here’s a belief system created by a science fiction writer (and not a particularly good one) that maintains human unhappiness is the result of ancient alien presences imbedded in our minds. Scientology is an expensive way of ridding oneself of unwanted baggage.
Bizarre, right? But is it any more bizarre than the core ideas at the heart of almost any religion? Most religions are pretty far out there. And don’t forget — today’s cult may very well be tomorrow’s mainstream faith.
The irony is that Cruise’s smug offensive on behalf of Scientology may have been the worst thing that ever happened to it. Before he started spouting off about Scientology-based birthing procedures and the evils of psychiatry, most of us had only the vaguest notion of what Scientology was all about. Cruise could have worshipped the Tooth Fairy as long as he kept it to himself.
Now Cruise has made his religion an issue, and the media and the Web are full of eye-opening information about Scientology. Some of us are amused. Some of us are offended and angry.
This is a God-fearing country. What if God-fearing Americans punish Cruise for his beliefs by not buying tickets to his movie?
But Tom, you had to go open your big mouth. Hope it doesn’t come back to bite you in the rear.