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Tom Cruise: Hero, or Messiah?

I know this is over a year old, but I think everyone should see this video, and for some reason I hadn't watched it until today. I've watched a lot of parodies of Scientology, and criticisms of it, but never actually seen direct official church propaganda like this. I am kind of speechless after watching it... I'm not even sure how to introduce it, but I think part 3 is probably the one to watch if you don't want to sit through the whole 40 minute video. I've embedded part 3 here...



The entire video can be found here, in 4 parts...

part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMvAXpq7Xj4
part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWgUPHVEcl0
part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmsOtoXwGS0 (embedded above)
part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIl0VYQjaNY

This is so fascinating, I could probably write a multivolume essay on this, but I'll keep my comments to a minimum. The first thing that strikes me, I guess, is the subtle line between parody and fundamentalism. I can't remember which page it was, but somewhere on Wikipedia recently I was reading about a phenomenon that has some kind of name that I forget, where the more fundamentalist a religion, the more difficult it is to tell its official propaganda from a parody of that religion. Listen to the narrator's voice in this (especially part 3), and it sounds almost identical to the narrator's voice in the movie Idiocracy. Actually, the whole video has a very Idiocracy style feel to it. Almost makes me wonder if the movie Idiocracy was secretly a parody of Scientology. Except that somehow, the people designing this video don't seem to realize how over-the-top it comes across as. If you look at evangelical christianity videos, for instance televangelists, it's kind of the same thing, except in a different style. Although I think one entertaining exercise is to watch the above video and replace "Tom Cruise" with "Jesus Christ" every time the announcer says it. The video is supposed to be getting across what a hero Cruise is, but somehow it seems to go a bit beyond that, designed to inspire worship of him from the viewers, almost as if he is superhuman. Are they just portraying him as a hero, or is there a hint of messiah implied in it too?

I wish everyone who subscribed to a religion would watch videos like this, so they understood better how religions form. Scientology isn't as old as most, and it has much better marketing (I think other religions could probably learn a lot from them on that point), but all of the same mechanisms are there. It seems to get across very plainly and simply what faith is about. Trust your instincts, do not think too hard about it. "We are the authorities" they repeat several times in the video, so that the viewer knows who to place their trust in. It's interesting to see the different ways in which it is the same, yet new and improved and more modern, from the variations of religion that have existed in the past. A friend of mine recently was trying to convince me that the evangelical movement in the US was socially good, just politically bad. I disagreed strongly with that, but I also can kind of see his point on some of it. I can see the same thing in what Tom Cruise is trying to do--regardless of how absurd the justifications seem for what he's doing, he is trying to help people. Maybe psychiatry isn't the best thing for him to attack, but it isn't the worst either.

Another thing I wonder, is how he can watch this video and not feel a bit like "oh shit, I will never live up to the way they are portraying me. What am I going to do now?" But at this point, it's too far along and there is no way to stop it. He will never be able to get out of the Church, or to get out of the shoes that both he and others have pushed him into.

So what do you think... is he portrayed here as a hero or a messiah? And what does this video say about our society? Can you imagine what is going through the heads of the people who go to their Church and watch this? Could you imagine one of your friends or family believing in this? Food for thought.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
bob_the_normal
Feb. 21st, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
I think the point of the video is much more simple. It seems to be focused on "don't you want to be like Tom Cruise? Well, just be a scientologist and all of this is yours!"

That is why they over-play his role, because most people are insecure... so they will think that "Oh, well that's just Tom Cruise, scientology won't help me out that much." They need to hype Cruise's status so that people think "Even if scientology helps me be a tiny bit like Tom Cruise, I'll be better off."

That also explains why they don't talk about "the details" that much... they skim them. Because they want to encourage HYPE rather than ANALYSIS of the actual "religion."

It's a simple lure for simple people, unfortunately.

I do think you're on to something about scientology being an updated version of religion. It does seem that scientology is like the same old religious tools re-keyed for a more information savvy world. It has to be more insidious for people to believe in it (carefully produced videos and carefully controlled access to the "inside"), because people are less willing to just accept what they're told. They need to be (at least a little more) -convinced- now. Unfortunately it doesn't take much convincing. I wonder if old religions will die out and in couple hundred years people will be persecuted by a general public of scientologists? Yikes! Hah.

(Also, less seriously... doesn't Cruise seem like he is ALWAYS in character? His attitude is always like he's playing a character in a movie for whatever he's doing. If he's supposed to be serious, he's ridiculously serious, if he's supposed to be fun and happy, he's ridiculously fun and happy. People in the video call it passion, but I think it's just nutty. Funny enough, for the same reasons, I like him in movies, I like his "passionate" acting. Well, at least when the role call for a passionate character... some roles he's a bit much, heh.)

Later.
spoonless
Feb. 22nd, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)

Funny enough, for the same reasons, I like him in movies, I like his "passionate" acting.

me too... I've always enjoyed his acting--especially liked Magnolia, War of the Worlds, and Vanilla Sky. I also liked Valkyrie a lot, although most of the good acting was not on his part... his character was just sort of a generic hero type, didn't seem to have that much depth.
bob_the_normal
Feb. 23rd, 2009 03:04 am (UTC)
I've been meaning to see Valkyrie, it looked like it would be good.

Of those movies, I've only seen Vanilla Sky and that was great (and a good story). It's a good remake of the original version (much more polished and a better experience overall) of that movie, "Abre los Ojos."

I was also thinking, the other day while driving, about this post. Very tangentially, but I was thinking about how religions is bound to have a huge boom right now. Like any commodity, hope is in high demand right now, and religion is the biggest hope peddler in the world. (I'm sure some people would be cracking an Obama joke here, so maybe I should say religion is the biggest peddler of EMPTY hope ;) )

And then I was reminded again today when I drove by a church and it was packed (not usual). It makes me wonder if there is an obvious correlation between church popularity and the general economic status of an area - maybe a new way to measure the prosperity of an area? Heh.

Later.
spoonless
Feb. 23rd, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
I think you're right, more people turn to religion when times are tough. More people try to handle it themselves when things are going well.
daze39
Feb. 21st, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
somewhere on Wikipedia recently I was reading about a phenomenon that has some kind of name that I forget, where the more fundamentalist a religion, the more difficult it is to tell its official propaganda from a parody of that religion
Have you seen the "Landover Baptist Church" site at http://www.landoverbaptist.org/ ...?
spoonless
Feb. 22nd, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that was one of the examples listed illustrating when it's hard to tell. I just searched around a bit, and found the original page I was reading. Apparently it was not actually Wikipedia, but "rationalwiki", and the phenomenon is known as "Poe's Law":

http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Poe%27s_Law

Try the "test yourself" links to see if you can tell which is a parody and which is real. Also, below that more examples under "Real Life Examples".

Interestingly, in searching for it just now, I found an Intelligent Design advocacy blog which cites the "Dicky D" rap as an example of Poe's Law for "evolutionary fundamentalism" (it was a parody made by other ID people about intelligent design opponents, which apparently some stupid people mistook as being serious):

http://christianscribbler.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/poes-law-and-fundamentalist-evolutionists/
luxvalence
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:26 am (UTC)
Oh geez. This was too painful to watch all the way through - that announcer voice? Are they SERIOUS?! Blech. Its like watching an infomercial where they wont tell you what it is they're selling only how good it'll make you feel.
easwaran
Feb. 24th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
I've been thinking a lot about Scientology lately, because I'm a block away from L. Ron Hubbard way in East Hollywood, with the West Coast headquarters of Scientology stretching from there to my apartment. The bike cops that are always patrolling the street are pretty cute and seem to keep the neighborhood very safe (though the bike light was stolen from my bike after being out there for five days or so). But I was just noticing the way they seem to use the street as their own parking lot or loading zone, since they own big properties on both sides of it. It's very weird.
spoonless
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
I continue to be fascinated by it. Yesterday I watched the entire 2 hour interview with former scientologist Jason Beghe. Usually, I wouldn't spend nearly that amount of time on a subject like this, but as I watched it just kept holding my interest... it's really amazing to hear him describe what it was like, and to feel the change in his perspective as he slowly realized he'd been duped (and also, his stories about the kind of "damage" control they tried to do, after he started calling them on their bullshit):

http://xenutv.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/jason-beghe-interview/

I mean, he seems like such a down-to-earth guy, you think "how could this guy have fallen for this crap?" and then you think about all the other people who have done the same thing, and all the people who haven't gotten out of it. It does seem to attract a lot of attractive, passionate people... just unsophisticated and for lack of a better term... gullible.

It was also amazing to me to hear how much some of the shit costs.

Here are some of the whacky "Tech" that I've picked up so far from watching these different videos...

SP = supressive person, someone like Adolf Hitler... or whoever you want to accuse of being a bad guy

PTS = potential trouble source, someone who is being influenced by an SP which causes them a lot of bad luck for a while which is contageous

Clear = someone who has reached the first level of certification

OT x = operating thetan x, where x is a number from 1 to (9 or 10?), indicating how expensive and advanced the training is past Clear

KSW = keeping scientology working, a document which was updated several different years, outlining some kind of gameplan for scientology to take over the world or something

Sea Org = really bizarre super-secret super-high-level organization within the church of scientology where you have to sign a BILLION YEAR CONTRACT of permanent service even to get in... seems similar to The Raft in the novel Snow Crash, and is possibly the equivalent of a monastery for normal religions

COB = chairman of the board, refers to David Miscavige, the freaky guy who introduces Tom Cruise before awarding him the medal of valor... basically the current head of scientology
spoonless
Feb. 24th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
...and now I've stooped to an even greater low and watched the whole 2 hours of "Battlefield Earth". That was really not worth it :)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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