Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mission: Impenetrable

Tom Cruise discusses Scientology for 10 full minutes in this video, and I'm not sure I understand a single thing he says clearly. It's really quite remarkable. If you tried to make up 10 solid minutes of constant gibberish, you'd eventually stumble on to some kind of rational statement purely by accident.

As best I can tell, Cruise's message is that one must decide whole-heartedly embrace Scientology and all of its principles and take up whatever intense, constant fight the Scientologists are waging. Cruise seems to pity those who do not understand Scientology (he calls membership in the religion a "privilege") but has only scorn for what he refers to as "Spectators," presumably those who belong to the Church of Scientology but don't take up the fight with the mania and fervor of Tom Cruise.

He really goes on and on, ranting, about Spectators. I guess this is a big problem for Scientology? Lots of people want the fun and glamor of practicing America's Third Most-Hilarious Religion (behind Mormonism and the all-time champion, Judaism), but without the hard work of...doing whatever it is Tom Cruise wants you to do.

He never comes out and says who, exactly, he's fighting against, but apparently it keeps poor Tom from taking any kind of break or vacation, and it requires a lot of time and effort (though not so much time that you can't run your own movie studio, raise several children and star in a feature film each year). Seriously, Tom's talking about how he never gets a break from fighting, but I guess these Scientology fights are metaphorical, because I can't remember the last time I heard about Jenna Elfman or Giovanni Ribisi kicking someone's ass. In fact, I'm not entirely sure Giovanni Ribisi is physically capable of doing any sort of ass-kicking at all. The guy looks like he has tuberculosis or something. He's more and more pale and sickly with each new film role. In Sky Captain, you sort of wish Jude Law would forget about the robots for a second and get his buddy a cold compress and a grilled cheese sandwich.

I guess I could, in the sort of cynical, pseudo-Freudian gesture you'll commonly find on this blog, explain Cruise's ridiculous Scientological fantasy away...And I will do so right now:

A lifetime of fame, wealth and adulation have given him a delusionally oversized ego and sense of self-importance. And yet, he lives a life of no particular consequence, making silly, typically forgettable films for an increasingly disinterested audience. Once a sex symbol and national obsession, he's now on the verge of becoming a national joke, and the adulation of his peers has turned into a kind of derision. We're talking a middle-aged, thrice-married guy still hounded by gay rumors.

Yet here's this religion that tells him he's a leader who has been given some extremely important, highly secret information, information capable of changing the world if only it were known. And he has to organize and execute a war against the forces of evil, literally holding the fate of the universe in his hands. That's the rhetoric of this video. "How can I know this and do nothing? I couldn't live with myself," Cruise intones, darkly. It's so dramatized. So fraudulent. If he didn't talk to people about L. Ron Hubbard, he couldn't live with himself...

When you think about it, it's not all that different from what all the other religions tell believers. Still, it's more explicit about all this stuff, and that's what makes it so creepy. I mean, Mike Huckabee talking about how we should redo the Constitution to be more like The Bible is kind of scary, but it's also kind of funny. I mean, how do we decide what parts of the Bible get into the Constitution? Cause the Bible's a lot longer than The Constitution, and it also recommends punishing disobedient children by stoning them to death.

So, Huckabee's brand of in-your-face, goofball Christianity would be cute if he weren't a possible contender for the presidency. There's nothing cute about Tom Cruise in this video; he seems like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or possibly in the sustained aftermath of one.

More peculiar and abstract than Cruise's actual statements about Scientology, however, are his mannerisms. He's performing this monologue in the exact same manner he'd use in one of his films. It's as if Aaron Sorkin's Few Good Men script had been reinterpreted by...well, by a hacky science-fiction writer...It's just weird.

2 comments:

Peter L. Winkler said...

I think Tom Cruise's scientological beliefs were always substantially the same, they just weren't revealed fully until his stardom gave him the privilege of 24/7 access to an open mic. I don't think his beliefs, even his messianic streak, are a response to his life or to some recognition of the vacuousness of his professional efforts.

I don't understand why anyone fervently believes scientology or any other religion, though I think most religion is a attempt to try to create a palliative dogma to help people deal with the complexities, ambiguities and injustices of quotidian existence.

Nathan said...

"Mostly forgettable"? Risky Business, Eyes Wide Shut, A Few Good Men, Minority Report, Magnolia. Swit, swit, swit, swit, more swit.
Top Gun? Antoine McSweezletits.