June 21, 2005
A few people have written to me about the Tom Cruise madness going on right now. I doubt there are too many people here who have read my novel:
It’s about a stalker of Tom Cruise. Actually, the first draft was written about Tom Cruise entirely. When the stalker watched a movie, it was "Risky Business" or "Top Gun." People thought that might be taking it too far. I don’t want Tom Cruise dead, I just want certain kinds of celebrity worship to die. So I changed the celebrity to the fictional Tim Griffith with movie titles like "A Kingdom of Trenches" and "The Winning Team."
So the thing with Tom Cruise getting shot with a water pistol is very reminiscent of the novel, when the stalker finally tries to kill Tim Griffith at a premiere. For some reason, I’m not rejoicing in it. Ten years ago I might have thought, serves him right. Today, his whole public meltdown seems kind of pathetic. I actually feel sorry for him. He’s finally being himself--i.e. slightly demented. He’s always been a Scientologist, he’s always dated movie stars. He’s now just being more open about both, and he’s getting shit for it. His handlers have just kept his personality at bay, which is demented in its own right.
Maybe this will be the tide that turns people against Hollywood--finally realizing that movie stars approximate sincerity. And Tom Cruise is the fall guy. Maybe people finally feel betrayed by movies--no one really loves the movies coming out, but everyone goes to see them. Because there isn’t that much else to do. It’s like that line from "Fight Club"--we were all told that we were going to be rock stars and it didn’t happen…we are the Great Depression, etc. Now even the rock stars themselves are losing their sheen.
Maybe. More likely, this negative wave about Tom Cruise is just another way to gossip. This unraveling of Tom Cruise is just the flipside of worship. People still love talking about him, even if cynically. People want to believe in celebrity like they believe in God--it’s comforting to know that there’s someone out there that’s so far above regular life. People have told me that I think Hollywood is more powerful than it is. I think that’s bullshit. Pop culture is a form of religion.
I’ve been thinking about all this a lot because this is exactly what I’ve been working on. The novel I’m currently writing is from the opposite angle of OCG. Instead of a novel about a lowlife on the outside looking in, it’s about a movie star who becomes a lowlife. Sort of. A guy who gets off a little too much on his power as a celebrity--and fears just as much that his celebrity will go away.
Being famous has got to be a very insane way to live--to be that loved as well as scrutinized. But then they foster it by marrying another celebrity. They announce their love on a TV show--that’s the insane thing, not jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch. Celebrity, like plastic surgery, seems like a kind of illness--once you start, you want more, you get off on the buzz and need it again. Everything is a drug. Hell, I get off on the buzz of someone writing a comment on my blog, so I couldn’t imagine what it feels like to be written about everywhere. These are the kinds of things that I’m trying to figure out with this new novel. The Tom Cruise stuff hit at an interesting time. I am fascinated and repulsed by celebrity, though after this I’m done writing about Hollywood. Maybe.
Update: Here's some more Cruising.
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