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Sunday, May 19

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It's that time of year again, with Top Tens popping up all over. I considered compiling a list of my favorite TV scenes or celebrity stories, but I knew I had to take on the biggest pop culture train wreck of the past 12 months. For me, 2005 was The Year of The Cruise.

I wrote about some of Tom Cruise's behavior in "When the Cult of Personality Goes Too Far." I admit that I am fascinated by Scientology (in a car accident kind of way) and also by how Cruise used his press junket for War of the Worlds to announce his engagement and push his religious views to millions rather than do his job and sell the product. So I bring you my ten favorite Cruise links, in chronological order, with a few bonus links thrown in for giggles.

1. "Tom Cruise: Man on a Mission," Access Hollywood (May 27)
Even though it aired after Cruise's infamous couch-jumping appearance on Oprah, this half-hour special sounded the initial blast that the private Tom was different from the one the public thought they knew. Cruise blasted Brooke Shields, who was the star of the first movie Cruise appeared in, for using prescription drugs to help her battle a bout with postpartum depression.

"Look at her life," counters Tom. "Here is a woman — and I care about Brooke Shields because I think she is incredibly talented — (but) you look at where has her career gone? It has helped her. When someone says it has helped them, it is to cope. It didn't cure anything. There is no science. There is nothing that can cure them whatsoever."

Cruise suggested new mothers suffering from PPD take vitamins and exercise instead.

• Stellar site TVGasm thoughtfully provided a clip from the special that shows how fast Cruise can switch moods.

2. "Tom Cruise on Love, Life and Fatherhood," Oprah (May 23)
I watched this episode to see for myself how bad it was. I managed maybe 20 minutes. It's horrifying. The constant squeeling of the audience, his inability to answer the simple question, "How did you meet?" (Seriously. He giggled, jumped on the couch, pumped his fists, and managed to not answer the question for a good two minutes), the blatant insincerity of it all. The way he dragged an unwilling Katie Holmes out on stage, gripping her arm tight enough to make her wince. It looked like a complete and utter meltdown. Little did we know that it was only the tip of the iceberg.

• TVGasm's couch-jumping montage
• Tom Cruise mocks his own behavior on The View
• Six months later, Winfrey finally comments publicly about Cruise's behavior that day.
&bull Satire: Tom Cruise Kills Oprah

3. "Cruise Control," 60 Minutes Australia (June 5)
An Australian reporter who had to take a four-hour Scientology course before being granted an interview with Cruise asks him tough questions, including ones about Nicole Kidman.

PETER OVERTON: And do you have a relationship where you talk — a parenting relationship — and talk professionally about each other's...

TOM CRUISE: Listen, here's the thing, Peter. You're stepping over a line now. You're stepping over a line, you know you are.

PO: I suppose they're questions that people want to know.

TC: Peter, you want to know. Take responsibility for what you want to know. Don't say what other people... This is a conversation that I'm having with you right now. So I'm just telling you right now, OK, just put your manners back in.

Put your manners back in? Whuh?

4. "Tom Responds," Entertainment Weekly (June 10)
Cruise defends his relationship with Holmes, his comments about Shields, and his beliefs about psychiatry in this interview. EW does its research.

Scientology textbooks sometimes refer to psychiatry as a "Nazi science"... Well, look at the history. Jung was an editor for the Nazi papers during World War II. [According to Aryeh Maidenbaum, the director of the New York Center for Jungian Studies, this is not true.] Look at the experimentation the Nazis did with electric shock and drugging. Look at the drug methadone. That was originally called Adolophine. It was named after Adolf Hitler... [According to the Dictionary of Drugs and Medications, among other sources, this is an urban legend.]

5. "Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Engaged; God Still Dead," Gawker (June 17)
There's not much else to add to this one. I just really liked the headline.

6. "Katie Holmes' Missing Days," FOX News (June 21)
An interesting article — even if it is written by FOX News — that tracks the genesis of the Cruise/Holmes relationship.

Sometime that week, her friends say, she flew to Los Angeles for a meeting with Cruise about a role in "Mission: Impossible 3." The meeting took place after April 11.

The next time anyone heard from Holmes was on April 27, when she appeared in public as Cruise's girlfriend and love of his life.

Where was she during those 16 days?

Somewhere during that time, she decided to fire both her manager and agent, each of whom she had been with for years and who were devoted to her.

7. "I'm passionate about life," The Today Show (June 24)
Ah, the turning point. This now-infamous tête-à-tête between Matt Lauer and Cruise brought Tom's "intensity" into the national spotlight. On this huge stage, Lauer held his own while allowing Cruise to elaborate on his controversial opinions.

MATT LAUER: But you're now telling me that your experiences with the people I know, which are zero, are more important than my experiences.

TOM CRUISE: What do you mean by that?

ML: You're telling me what's worked for people I know or hasn't worked for people I know. I'm telling you, I've lived with these people and they're better.

TC: So, you're advocating it.

ML: I am not. I'm telling you in their case, in their individual case, it worked. I am not gonna go out and say, "Get your kids on Ritalin. It's the cure-all and the end-all."

This was the beginning of the end of Cruise's unquestioned popularity. Millions of people either have or know someone with a mental illness, and to hear Ethan Hunt telling them that such illnesses don't exist definitely tarnished Tom's All-American image.

• MediaBistro claims that Paramount pressed NBC to edit the interview before it aired.
CNN airs the clip and discusses Cruise's performance.
&bull Brooke Shields' "War of Words" editorial in the New York Times
The National Mental Health Association's statement issued in response to Cruise's comments
American Psychiatric Association's statement issued in response to Cruise's comments

8. "Missionary man," Salon (June 27)
Salon ran a "four-part series chronicling the suddenly higher profile of the Church of Scientology." Registration is required, but you can get a free "day pass" by following the instructions.

Cruise is acting as though he "feels he's more in control over his environment and can convince more people to look into the organization," Kent said. "In the high OT levels one supposedly gains the skills to master one's universe. One is removing countless entities that have been holding people back. Cruise feels that he has freed himself from thousands of errant thetans, and he seems to be in a kind of euphoria he hasn't experienced before."

• Part two: "Stranger than fiction" (a review of Dianetics)
• Part three: "The press vs. Scientology"
• Part four: "Scientology's war on psychiatry"

9. holmes sweet holmes," W magazine (July)
I found this Katie Holmes article incredibly disturbing. And sad. From the seemingly-by-rote answers to the Scientology bodyguard to the perfectly timed gift from her fiancee, it smacks of carefully constructed artifice.

"The truth is, we don't read that stuff because it's just rude," Rodriguez says — referring to rumors that Cruise made a financial arrangement with Holmes (after auditioning a field of other young starlets, including Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba and Kate Bosworth). When I suggest that the televised hyperbolizing of their happiness may have undercut its credibility, Rodriguez asks, "Have you ever been in love? You just want to share it with the world." I suggest that many couples prefer to cherish the feeling privately, especially in the delicate first months. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, whatever the nature of their relationship, come to mind.

"But why can't they go public, you know what I mean?" Rodriguez continues. "Like, Brad and Angelina — that's just a shame for them. Right, Katie?"...

W accompanied the story with photographs of Katie wearing a wedding gown.

Katie Holmes Completely Cruise Controlled

10. "The Passion of Tom Cruise," Radar magazine (September/October)
The now-defunct magazine explores when and how Cruise started getting more involved with Scientology.

The truth about what kept Cruise in the fold may never be known, since at the time he wasn't receptive to discussing Scientology with the outside world. In 1993, when reporter John H. Richardson began to research an article for Premiere magazine, Cruise would only reply to written fact-checking questions with the understanding that his answers would be printed without alteration. In response to one of those questions, Cruise complained, "I have no idea why my religion, or anybody's, would be the subject of an article."

• The L.A. Times investigates Cruise's connection to a remote Scientology compound

As an even bigger bonus, here are some of the more entertaining satirical links I found in the past six months. (this site was sued by the Church of Scientology)
"My Dog Is Tom Cruise" (The New Yorker)
• "Tom Cruise Rips Brooke Shields in Birthday Interview"
"Trapped in the Closet," South Park

And, finally, full disclosure: I can recite large parts if not all of Top Gun from memory. (What can I say? I didn't have a lot of friends in junior high.) But I still maintain that it was Val Kilmer's Iceman, and not the midget Maverick, that encouraged repeated viewings. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at

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