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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

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.

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