Tom Cruise: Scientologist

23:59 Fri 18 Jan 2008
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Last night I got around to watching the recently-leaked Tom Cruise Scientology video. Probably old news to a lot of people, since it’s been doing the rounds online, but if you missed it, it’s worth a look.

Primarily because it’s quite disturbing. The apparent mix of craziness and zeal is way out there. So is the utter smugness and self-satisfaction. Tom Cruise comes across not merely as a true believer, not merely as a true believer who is completely deluded by his faith, not merely as a true believer in a scary system clearly and explicitly designed as a money-making endeavor, but as a zealot who is obviously getting off on his own zeal. I don’t mean getting off on the actions he takes due to his beliefs, in the classic manner of an inquisitor torturing for the Lord, but rather the way in which he draws so much from being so righteously invested.

With around 07:55 left in the clip, he talks about his uncompromising dedication, and as he says “uncompromisingly” he lets out a breath and shudders. Right there, that’s the awe at the power of his own belief. He’s so certain that he’s on the right path, and so convinced by his own myth of himself, that the certainty awes him and the awe gives him physically-manifested satisfaction.

Another disturbing aspect, of course, is that Cruise is quite charismatic. That’s part of what makes him such a popular actor, of course, but on top of that he can clearly draw upon being a hugely successful actor, and so has the ease of success to add to whatever charisma he had already. On top of that he is utterly confident, which also aids charisma. Watching the clip is like watching a study in offsetting charisma and delusion to see which one will have more of an effect on viewers.

The ludicrous nature of what he’s saying does win out, making the charisma and zeal simply more frightening (and, perhaps, more difficult to comprehend).

Even though I didn’t fully understand the jargon the first time through, I did find disconcerting the “I won’t hesitate to put ethics in on someone else” line at 07:18 remaining. I thought this meant that he wouldn’t hesitate to correct someone else’s behavior, perhaps with the aid of other Scientologists. According to this handy guide to the jargon in the clip, it means to push someone else to conform to Scientology teachings (without necessarily having the connotation of bringing in other Scientologists to aid the effort). Even without that overtone, it’s disturbing, and Cruise seeing himself as a kind of behavior enforcer goes right along with the zeal and self-admiration already exhibited.

As one of the Gawker commentators mentions, “I’ve canceled that in my area” (at about 02:34 remaining) should absolutely become a popular catchphrase.

One last comment: for all the talk about how one has to “earn” the right to call oneself a Scientologist, about how important it is to “do”, about the focus on action, Cruise doesn’t talk about any of his own deeds per se. There’s no evidence or discussion of actual action (I don’t count “talking to leaders in various fields” as action), but the constant emphasis on how everyone needs to act, on how people are divided into those who are doing and those who aren’t, heightens the sense that the entire piece is parodying itself—and the fact that they’re using an elevator-music version of the Mission Impossible theme as background music hardly helps.

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