Thursday, August 24, 2006

well said mr. shaw

Tom Cruise, whose last few movies have not reached the prestigious creative and box-office level of some of his earlier work, has just been told by Viacom's Paramount Pictures that his contract would not be renewed.

Earlier this week, HuffPo blogger and L.A. Weekly showbiz correspondent Nikki Finke went over the numbers and made the case that the non-renewal does not make economic sense.

Rather than repeat the arguments she has made, I'd like to state my belief that there are more nefarious forces at work.

These forces- played out in print, on talk shows, on entertainment programs and in the blogosphere, are those of religious intolerance.

Unlike me, Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, and quite an impassioned one. It's that passion that has gotten him into trouble.

My understanding is that Scientology takes a dim view of psychological and pharmacological therapies. Cruise's beliefs have led him to address such viewpoints in interviews and public forums.

For this he is mocked. He is laughed at for bucking conventional wisdom. The fact that he is an actor untrained in science rather than a clinician with contravening views gives pundits and late night comedians a chance to mine for chuckles and guffaws.

What's really at play here is that under their breaths, lots of folks who would view themselves as intellectually and socially tolerant about everything else- race, creeds, religious choice, sexual preferences - are dumping on Cruise for being a passionate advocate for teachings they deem as cultish ravings of a profit-centric, litigious group.

Although I am not a Scientologist, I would like to challenge some of these notions.

"Cult" charges against Scientology often stem from a cursory analysis of their beliefs about aliens, Thetans, and all that. But when I think about scriptural assertions such as the world being created in six days, the Red Sea being parted, the Immaculate Conception, heaven and hell, and magic plates that contain inscriptions of a revisiting Messiah, I wonder just what it is about Scientology that is laughable to so many who embrace or tolerate some of the other canon I have just mentioned.

Yes, there is a money-conscious component to Scientology, but Scientology is not alone. Which is the bigger "transgression"- a church that asks money from those who can afford it, or a church that holds uncountable riches in real estate and art while their believers in poorer nations starve?

And how are Scientology's financial programs different than those of church-sponsored institutions of higher learning that asses tuition, or a synogogue that charges money for a seat during Yom Kippur services?

And just what are the scornable consequences that Scientology has fostered?

That car bomb planted by Sunni insurgents in Iraq against innocent Shia?
The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust?
The atrocities committed against Christians and animists in the Sudan?
The wars between Hindu and Buddhist in Sri Lanka?
The several decades of religious wars in Northern Ireland?
The mutual bloodshed in Lebanon?

Oh, and was it Scientologists who flew planes into the World Trade Center?

Of course not. We all know that. Scientology has never attempted to covert anyone by force. By the force of arguments that may sound implausible, but never at the point of a gun, a sword, or an invading horde of soldiers or priests.

Yes, the Church of Scientology is litigious, but when they feel their rights are violated, they fight back legally- not by Holy Wars.

Some folks forget all that as we mock Scientology and its Hollywood adherents. Between the lines, otherwise tolerant people are saying between the lines.."weird religion," "dumb actor."

But in mocking adherents of any religion, you only mark yourselves as intolerant hypocrites.

I have a better idea. Let Tom Cruise make his movies, and honor his right to believe what he does. And to proclaim it proudly and loudly, if he believes that his faith calls him to do so.

It doesn't mean you have to believe what he does.

russel shaw


jovial_cynic said...

I think the attack on scientology is different than the attack on Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise, aside from religion convictions, has made himself an easy target for tabloids and late-night talkshow hosts for his public behavior. And really... when you look at his life, since the divorce with Nichole Kidman, he's really sort of gone crazy. He's gone through a sort of midlife crisis, chasing after young women, and then dancing around declaring his love for Katie Holmes on Oprah... it's odd behavior, regardless of religion conviction.

The fact that Cruise has been so overt with his religion (and remember, Mel Gibson got a lot of "religion-nut" flack for his Passion of the Christ movie as well) hasn't helped him either... but the attack isn't against his religion, nor against his defense of his religion. It's the fact that he's obnoxiously in-your-face with his religion, and nobody has ever appreciated that, regardless of religion.

I think that your contrast of scientology's legal tactics with Holy Wars from other religions is probably fair, although when it comes down to it, the general public makes fun of scientology because they view it as absurd (humans evolved from clams?), but they attack Islam because they view it as hostile. There's a world of difference.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

You Wrote: "....Cruise's beliefs have led him to address such viewpoints in interviews and public forums.

For this he is mocked."

Gotta take you on, on this one.:) First, I have seen "Top Gun" so many times, I know the dialogue. Literally. I would have went to see "Dragons Piss In The Sand" if Cruise was in it. That was then: This is now. My DVD of Top Gun is in the trash.

Cruise is NOT being mocked for his religious beliefs. He is being mocked for jumping up and down on a couch like a damn monkey! He is being mocked for saying "You don't undertand psychology", when he himself has absolutely no formal training in the field!!

Jumping up and down on a couch is not a crime. But the setting, and manner in which he did it, shows him to be nothing more than another ultra right wing elitist who knows it all. They did the right thing. Tom Cruise can believe the world is flat, but when he starts announcing to the public "you don't understand _____", then he's nothihng but another Bush. firing that freak was the best thing they ever did, and I'll never attend another Cruise movie for as long as I live. Bring your religion to the set with you, Tom, but keep your F'ing mouth shut about it! It's a movie, dingbat, not Bible Study.

Obob said...

his career went into a tailspin after TAPs, Losin' It rocked, but I saw the writing on the wall years ago. Ahhh, the only thing wrong with orgainized religion is when the nutjobs take over now and then. If they wern't so power hungry and scared of other opinions, they would realize event the Wickens have credibility. Faith is love, not about hating another because they wipe their keister different then you or belive a woman has the right to administer Communion. Scientology has become a punchline because it has bad marketing. And the Emmy nominated episode that works it way to "Tom Cruise, get out of teh closet," might be an all time classic.
Thanks for stopping by on my downtime betmo

Human said...

Hi betmo.

I basically agree with you.

As one who lived in LA and was exposed to a few victims of Scientology I can safely say that they, like so many orgs, religous and otherwise take advantage of those who are weak willed or at a vulnerable time. Most are teens.

My cousin by marriage was kidnapped, taken to Mexico and deprogramed from Scientology. He credits that with saving his life. He was just 18 when he was deprogramed.

Tom Cruise can believe anything he wants for all I care. Most "artists" are weird or just plain nuts anyway.
Actors are half cracked to begin with. I know, I met bunches living in LA.

On the other coin Viacom does not have to employ him. If he wants to make his own films, all the more power to him.

My favorite movie of his and the one that convinced me he could act and not just be a pretty boy was 'Born on the Fourth of July". Mission Impossible was a great dissapointment.


5th Estate said...

Such an illustrative post!

As an atheist myself I find organized religion to be a serious and tragic folly. Nonetheless there are plenty of impressive examples where religious sensibility has served both individuals and communities very well (not often enough IMHO, but there you go).
I have to agree with you that for instance one group who thinks a virgin gave birth to the terrestrial child of an invisible superbeing and then declares a miraculous event every time some semi elliptical shape occurs in everything from peanut-butter to concrete bridge suppports somehow has the authority to scoff at another who believes that some other superbeings are really the source of humankind's existence and well-being--well for crying out loud, whose concept is more ridiculous?
And indeed why shouldn't Tom Cruise be a new prophet? He can draw a crowd, and that's pretty important for prophesizing and such!

Cruise is no crazier han several billion other people on this planet. But the trouble is he might have influence, and that's how religions get started and we all know what is wrought in the name of relgiion and personal conviction. Therein lies IMHO a reasonable criticism of Cruise and scientology--he's beginning to proletyze. Isn't it enough that the self proclaimed leaders of Islam and Christianity are at loggerheads? Do we really need another religion in the mix?

But yeah I don't think that's the perspective of most of his critics-their perspective seems to be that Cruise is crazy because scientology is crazy whereas Christianity is completely rational and normal! Thus he shouldn't make films any more, but Mel Gibson deserves a break?
It;s really a question of how one defines oneself, and how others define you , isn't it? Oh the irony--when one's personal success relies on public acceptance, who;s in charge of one's destiny?
It all points to the strengths and weaknesses of faith. I find reality much more convincing.

It really is much ado about both something and nothing. Just so long as Cruise doesn't attempt Shakespeare!

Obob said...

I think Mel Gibson wants to be Iago in the Merchant of Venice, I could be wrong

Pete's Blog said...

I agree with jovial.

Cruise, like many in Hollywood can wear his religion on his sleeve but the fact is he's become a dork, who even pressured South Park to go off the air for a time.

There is no Constitutional Right requiring studios to renew his mult-million dollar contract every time. Thats why contracts are limited term.

Poor guy can live on his remaining 10s? 100s? of millions and enjoy his young trophy wife until he kicks her out too.


shawn (aka blogstud) said...

I think I agree with jovial_cynic and some of the other bloggers who have commented. He is not the only Scientologist in the public eye.

I do think there are people out there who do dislike Scientology, betmo, so maybe they were just looking for an excuse. But maybe if Scientologists were not so secretive about a lot of their beliefs, people would be more understanding.

But I do think as jc said, he has made himself a target by acting strangely and in some cases, being very combative.

The worst thing you can do, when people are already watching you is draw more attention to yourself, and he has been doing that a lot.

I think he is an ok actor, not spectacular. I would never go see a movie with him in it just to see him, but I do like some of the movies he does.

Sorry to ramble...

Have a good weekend!

shawn (aka blogstud) said...

and props to spooky pete for mentioning Southpark!

B said...

Neavarious? I'm going to have to look that one up!

B 00-7 said...

nope.can't find the definition...

Did you make that word up?


Peacechick Mary said...

I dunno. I don't much care if Tom and Paramount break up. He'll go on to make more movies and people will go see them and that's the end of that. His job is to entertain and he sure enough does that on and off the camera, with or without Scientology.

betmo said...

i guess i should explain that this post was written by russell shaw- not me. that's what i get for posting it late in the day. :)

B said...

Okay...anyone know what nevarious means?

Boo said...

interesting idea, but I agree with jovial and Pete - its not his faith thats the problem, its his behaviour.

Paramount's about making bucks, and if they fear they're going to get bad publicity, and lose money, then they have to plug that hole.

He is a kook anyway - where's his kid??? not to mention his wife...

betmo said...

nefarious: extremely wicked or villainous; iniquitous: a nefarious plot.

beth- where the heck have you been?

Beth said...


I have been busy working!

Sarah said...

Tom Cruise - I had a huge crush on him when I was a kid.