Tom Cruise-1

I Miss ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ Tom Cruise

All we have left is forever-action-hero Tom Cruise, and that is such a bummer, man

Words by Stacy Nguyen

Nguyeners and Losers: A weekly JoySauce column full of hot takes and emotional deep dives on pop culture and celebrity news. This column is a manifestation of the countless hours of ‘research’ and ‘analysis’ of stuff like Reddit AMAs and YouTube convo threads that writer Stacy Nguyen likes to obsess over at 11pm.

While I don’t want to take away from what Tom Cruise has accomplished with his most recent mega-hit, can I just say that I miss “You complete me” Tom Cruise? I miss the Tom Cruise of my youth, the guy who was on the cusp of winning an Oscar, the Rain Man Tom Cruise, the A Few Good Men Tom Cruise, the Minority Report Tom Cruise—hell, I even miss Last Samurai Tom Cruise, because at least that guy was tenderly falling in love while being intensely white-savior-y.

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I don’t really like “does his own stunts” perma-action-star Tom Cruise.

At some point (*cough* jumping on Oprah’s couch *cough*), Cruise’s filmography stopped having breadth and started becoming a bunch of Mission Impossibles and Jack Reachers. At 59 years old, he’s only a few years younger than my mom, and my mom grips the banisters on staircases real hard because she’s afraid of the cost of an ambulance if she were to slip and fall down three treads. 

Look, I’m not saying Cruise should model himself after a Vietnamese woman scared of cracking her brittle bones through walking. I’m not at all saying Cruise is too old and needs to act his age. I’m saying that while I guess it’s fine that this aging mega star insists on pushing off the darkness of mortality so he never has to feel the crushing weight of his physical and emotional vulnerabilities, I just wish he was still interspersing action flicks with provocative dramas where he gets super naked and joins a secret society that has orgies

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But I mean, I can speculate why Cruise feels the need to be a perma-action-star right now. It’s probably the same reason why my dad still comes up to me like he’s the boss of everything and says maddening stuff like, “Okay, here’s what you need to be doing.” 

We all want to feel power and in command of our lives. For men socialized to be manly, I think the pressure of this must be particularly immense. Society makes it particularly hard for manly men to look foolish.  

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But foolishness and shame is a universal human experience. Like, to some degree, we all actually know what it’s like to be deeply embarrassed by looking super dorky in front of Oprah. We all basically know what it’s like to have the public (including Brooke Shields) turn against us for saying a bunch of deranged-sounding things about psychiatry being a quack field, probably because we are so high on our personal influence and power in the moment, or maybe because the cult that we are a part of has told us that we can do no wrong ever. There’s, legit, a human universality in getting laughed at publicly—and being so affected by it that we feel the urge to never allow ourselves to have cracks in our armor ever again.

And then the thing is, how do we choose to respond to these feelings? Well, some of us indulge in our insecurities and make back-to-back action flicks—or we become frustratingly superficial conversationalists when stuff gets deep and find it difficult to forge human connections and build community in our lives. 

And others push past that urge. We might talk about our embarrassment and sense of shame with our friends or our therapists or our partners or our parents or other loved ones. We might do an internal inventory and build self-awareness around it—and eventually accept it. Some of us might be like, “Oh, I felt really silly and small that I was a laughing stock in that moment, and I couldn’t laugh along with everyone else because it triggered these childhood memories of all the times I felt excluded and laughed at all the time because I grew up among a lot of white people.” 

I don’t think Cruise is introspective enough. I don’t think he does enough self-analysis.  

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I feel like Cruise was so affected by the shame that came with embarrassment that he started shifting his filmography to display mostly hyper-masculine, heterosexual feats of physicality—eschewing the emotional tenderness and openness he used to dwell in more when he was younger. 

And when Katie Holmes gotcha-divorced him in 2012, oh man, that must’ve embarrassed him so bad—because his filmography got even more intense with the action stuff. When Cruise and Holmes were still together, he was still doing offbeat movies like Rock of Ages. After the end of their marriage, it was exclusively his Jack Reacher and Mission Impossible franchises and The Mummy (which I watched on an international flight in horror, but probably not horror in the way Cruise wanted me to feel). After their divorce, Cruise’s public persona and his film credits became impenetrable, hard for saps like me to emotionally connect with. 

Like, I don’t care about flying planes and feeling a bunch of Gs—I just don’t. I get that it’s a bit of world-building when you see how the skin of actors’ faces flatten and new valleys and peaks appear so that you can imagine how they would look if their head was all just bare skull bone—but it doesn’t add much to the core story for me. I don’t care about Cruise doing his stunts. 

Top Gun Film GIF by Hollywood Suite - Find & Share on GIPHY

More often, I wonder if we will ever bring stunt people into the light and give them more money for their work and care more about the risks they are putting their bodies through every day just for our entertainment. More often, I wonder if actors like Cruise are doing a disservice to the teams stunt professionals who train countless hours to keep things safe, to do things creatively, and to advance their industry—because Cruise is hogging just so much of the credit when the dude isn’t even doing all of his stunts. He can’t! He’s just doing some of them, but it’s often portrayed like he’s doing it all. 

Tom Cruise I Want The Truth GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But people like my dad care about the Gs. And people like my male friends care about the Gs. People like a bunch of cis, heterosexual males who also want to feel like they can be the action hero of their lives forever—and not even do women like Kelly McGillis and Meg Ryan the courtesy of asking them to make an appearance in the sequel!—care about the Gs.

Somewhere along the way, Cruise stopped making movies for sensitive people (*cough* women *cough*)—and it was a conscious choice he made. He is doing a very great job of manifesting and actualizing his persona as the action star who does his own stunts. Like, Top Gun: Maverick pulled in an amazing $124 million opening weekend. It grossed nearly double Cruise’s previous biggest opening weekend, surpassing 2005’s War of the Worlds (which opened at $64 million). He’s showing us that our society’s love of imperviousness and manly maleness is still compelling and idealized.  

And that’s such a bummer, man.

In summary:

Equating your occasional stunt work to Gene Kelly’s professional dancing: Loser
The double standard when it comes to aging as a woman in Hollywood/society: Loser
Seeing Val Kilmer on screen again: Nguyener

Published on June 10, 2022

Words by Stacy Nguyen

Stacy Nguyen is a Seattle area-based Vietnamese American writer, artist, and designer whose work explores the ways race and gender are reflected within the lens of popular culture. She makes a lot of logos and moves shapes around in a pleasing manner in her day job. She used to be a journalist and news editor, but now she mostly writes hot takes on celebrities. This is because she watches an obscene amount of TV that she should be embarrassed about, but is inexplicably not.

Art by Robinick Fernandez

Robinick Fernandez is a prolific and visionary creative director whose work blends the worlds of art, architecture, design, and fashion. For two decades Robinick Fernandez connected art with design for global brands, and his work has left an impact having navigated across many countries and cultures including Europe, Asia, the United States and beyond. For his next venture, he celebrates his Filipino American roots as Creative Director for JoySauce, being committed to cultural storytelling, sustainability, forward-thinking design, and conscious content .