I think I have a reputation for haranguing people about Tom Cruise. It’s kind of fair. The first article I wrote for The Solute was about Tom Cruise and Scientology, and I’ve held firm by those statements this whole time. I literally wince every time I see praise of him. I can’t help it. I just feel as though we shouldn’t be ignoring ongoing human rights abuses, and it’s as though those are swept away as just belonging to a quirky religion. But though I wince, this will have been the first time I’ve written about him since that first article.
To recap, Tom Cruise is, for those unaware, the public face of the Church of Scientology. His job with the Church is to normalize it, to convince you that it can’t be all bad if that wholesome Tom Cruise is a member. However, because Cruise and the Church are both so out-of-touch, there’s often something a little off about him. The most famous moment of that is the jumping on the couch thing, of course. I’m sure he thought it showed passion and spontaneity, but most people reacted with alarm and/or amusement.
On the other hand, I still think we need to call him a success at it, because the narrative is definitely skewed in his direction. He’s done forty-three movies in his thirty-six-year career. I had thought consensus was that he’s had about equal numbers of hits and misses, and that sometimes, those misses were at least partially his fault. The stretch between Jerry Maguire and Eyes Wide Shut is the longest he’s gone between movies, and that only because of how long it took to make Eyes Wide Shut. And I still read a comment recently that he “deserved” to have people think of him more as an action star, I believe it was.
And I’m left thinking, “You know, what he deserves is to be the target of a lawsuit for benefiting from actual literal slave labor. Why don’t we talk about that, when people are talking about how nice he is?” While his lawyers have denied that he had Nicole Kidman’s phone tapped during their divorce, he hasn’t denied using Sea Org workers to refurbish his house. Sea Org—teenagers who have signed literal billion-year contracts, which should just be illegal.
Apparently, Spielberg once mentioned a doctor to him who prescribed psychiatric medication; afterward, Scientologists picketed the doctor’s office. He’s apologized to Brooke Shields for criticizing her use of Paxil to battle her postpartum depression, but so far as I know, he has not apologized for trying to get 9/11 first responders “assistance” through Scientology and trying to talk them out of seeking proper medical help for PTSD they might suffer. Dave Miscavige invented a diamond-encrusted medal to award to him for that one.
I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression this year, because I didn’t get in to see anyone capable of making the diagnosis until after I had gotten through it. But my therapist is pretty sure I was experiencing it. Certainly I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for well over twenty-five years now, so long that I was technically initially diagnosed with “manic depression.” And the symptoms have been around even longer; I was diagnosed in seventh grade, by which point I’d been in therapy off and on for four years.
Today, as I write this, Harvey Weinstein has been fired for sexually harassing—at least—women over whom he has power. That’s awful, and he deserves what’s coming to him for it. And, okay, there are a lot of men who haven’t had to suffer consequences for similar acts—one of them even got elected President after sexually harassing—at least—women over whom he has power. It isn’t difficult to find stories of people able to hold their jobs after being terrible to women, to ethnic minorities, to religious and sexual minorities. It’s awful, and it happens a lot.
But I feel as though the conversation is different. Even people who still watch Woody Allen movies and see no reason not to don’t tend to talk about his “deserving” Oscars, and that’s even without getting into the conversation about how good the movies are these days. They also aren’t going to tell you any stories about how nice he’s been to anyone, not that I know any I admit. You do get it with Mel Gibson, but even there, there’s an admission that, yeah, he’s said some awful stuff. You’ll get people who tell you it doesn’t mean he’s really a racist, but it’s on tape; he said that stuff.
With Tom Cruise, it just . . . doesn’t come up. It’s another erasure of mental illness, that actions that will literally kill us aren’t part of the conversation. And make no mistake, people have directly died because of Scientology’s treatment of the mentally ill, and of course keeping people from good, scientifically sound treatment for PTSD can end in their deaths as well. I don’t intend to minimize what people like Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski have done to women, and it’s certainly true that Cosby’s crimes went far too long without being part of the discussion. But if it’s time to stop apologizing for Harry Knowles, isn’t it also time to stop apologizing for Tom Cruise?