Top Gun: Maverick…a kind of review of a Brown Gen-Xer

By Paromita Naidu

Yes, I went to see Top Gun: Maverick– and I loved it!

Why does that surprise you? Just because I’m a brown girl committed to justice and justice?

Well, it shouldn’t. Let me tell you why.

Movies in the ’80s and ’90s didn’t offer us a variety of options for male romantic leads, and that’s an understatement.

For native, black, and racialized youth coming of age in those decades, that grave flaw meant that in our Keds we trembled over the likes of Rob Lowe, Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and yes… Tom Cruise. Unfortunately, our crushes on the silver screen were cis-it, virile, healthy and often rich. They were witty, sassy, ​​happy, sexy and powerful. They plunged headlong into the adventure, knocking down the bad guys and always getting the girl. But mostly they were white. Like, lily white. This meant for many of us that our ideas of beauty, masculinity, sexuality and success were shaped directly by these examples of smiling perfection.

Tom Cruise and his charisma really embodied this fantasy for many South Asian girls like me. by giggling Risky businesswe were out of breath because he barely survived Mission Impossibleand were completely fascinated by the intensity of Some good men† We cried during Jerry Maguire but above all we were mesmerized by its roguish charm in Top Gun

To my young group of racialized friends, Tom Cruise was everything. He was at odds with everything we (generally) didn’t see in our own communities: he was free, unencumbered, adventurous, overtly sexual, unmarried, and always came out winning and grinning. In other words, no barriers or conventions stopped him, so he could just be his gloriously handsome self.

As predicted, Tom Cruise did not disappoint with Top Gun: Maverick† It was nostalgic, a tad irreverent, exciting and full throttle. It pushed the boundaries and reminded us why Top Gun was so much fun. We’ve all been waiting for this sequel – and based on this evidence, it’s easy to see why.

As we got older, we could of course unpack Top Gun and the glorified military campaign, the pro-war agenda, and the exaggerated patriotism. The U.S. Navy reported a 500 percent increase in applications in the year following its initial release in 1986.

And as many racialized adults have no choice but to witness – we are now able to feel the dangerous xenophobic undertones and myth of movie fairy tales, as seen through the lens of white straight male filmmakers.

This year was a particularly tough pandemic year. We are all exhausted by real-life lynchings, a housing crisis, vitriol, plummeting confidence, podcasts, the economy, elections and the rest.

Indigenous, black and racialized people need joy. Above all, we have to escape for three hours.

But where are our views and voices in pop culture?

We are still reprimanded for buying cinematic tropes that don’t represent us. This police action must stop. No one chastises the many white women and white gay men as much as they are smitten by the film.

Isn’t the assumption we know better? Is the assumption that we cannot distinguish fantasy from reality? Is the assumption that we will turn away from our communities? Is the assumption that we don’t understand geopolitics? Is the assumption that we are not critical thinkers?

Why are WE so heavily warned against our right to crawl over the tracks of our youth?

I want to unabashedly suggest that this escape into nostalgia, while frivolous and of course superficial, makes some of us who were never allowed to be in positions of power feel powerful – even for just two hours.

We all feel the need for speed… and a cheesy good time. Let’s also have Tom Cruise.


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