Tyranny Dissed: Tom Cruise, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Brush Back Chinese Censors 

Written by Steve Pauwels on June 8, 2022

Say what you will about Tom Cruise … it’s true enough he can be a bit of an odd bird, but the Hollywood superstar has a knack for helming movies that entertain the stuffing out of ticket-buyers. He may belong to a truly daffy, sci-fi-wanna-be religious cult; he may possess an enigmatic personal life. Still, his capacity for choosing cinematic projects which generate monster box office — and regularly favorable critical paens — is formidable.

Consider his newest release, Top Gun: Maverick. It’s predictably tearing it up on the earnings front (well over half-a-billion dollars as of this writing). It’s also garnering widespread raves (GeekTyrant has dubbed it “one of the greatest movies ever made”(!). But there’s something else …

Whatever Tom Cruise’s spiritual predilections or marital history, in a detail of Top Gun: Maverick‘s backstory he (and Paramount Pictures) notch an arresting reason for Americans — those with a distaste for despotism at least — to send props their way. From some sectors, the flick has drawn plaudits for its red-white-and-blue themes, but it turns out it uncorked a nuanced but honorable gesture even before opening night. This latest blockbuster has delivered a ginormously refreshing rebuff to the Chinese Communist blowhards who are increasingly shaping the world’s culture and economy to their godless, collectivist, totalitarian liking.

Yahoo News summarizes:

One of the changes previously made to “Top Gun: Maverick” to allegedly appease Chinese censors has been reversed, which means it may miss out on screening in the world’s largest box office.

Taiwanese and Japanese flags, emblazoned on the bomber jacket worn by Tom Cruise’s character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the original 1986 film, were seen replaced with original designs using similar color palettes in the 2019 previews for its sequel.

Seen as a representation of Taiwan’s independence, the Taiwanese flag is considered an affront to China, who lays claim over the territory. …

The move could signal a change in tactics from some Hollywood executives, who may no longer be interested in complying with China’s rigorous censorship in exchange for access to the world’s largest box office market.

So perhaps Mr. Cruise isn’t just another big-screen tough guy who dissolves under real-life scrutiny? We’re reminded of Mark Twain’s reflection about the crucial distinction between physical and moral courage. The fifty-eight-year-old actor poses quite the contrast with other Hollywood types: John Cena, for instance, who not long ago provided a portrait in ignominy, cowering and scraping before potential Chinese audiences after he inadvertently breached international protocols by casually mentioning Taiwanese nationhood. So, muscle-packed WWF champion; celebrated Tinsel Town action hero; Chi-Com appeaser in the crunch … it seems that’s the Cena full-package.

Contrast that with Cruise and Co. who, running into comparable international pressures — from literally the same world power — opted for a different route; a financially riskier one doubtless; and a more principled one to boot. Some fledgling developments hint their decision may not be a complete outlier.

J.G. Collins drops this tidbit:

Earlier [in May], reports emerged that the producers of the ‘Spiderman’ film franchise refused to remove the Statue of Liberty from closing scenes of the film, as CCP censors had demanded. As of this writing, the film will not be distributed in China.

Thumbs up, then, to Marvel Entertainment; on that score at least. As the planet watches its superhero genres mountingly bend their knee to the “woke” pieties, Leftist orthodoxy and bottom-line amorality of this generation, this MCU choice bracingly models an unanticipated flash of defiance.

Cruise’s and Marvel’s play here stand out precisely because nowadays their like is so rare. Ethically AWOL organizations proliferate. In pursuit of open markets, U.S. and European big business adopts a see-speak-hear-no-evil-orientation toward all things Red Dragon; looking the other way on, or worse, flat out excusing the regime’s brutish human rights abuses. Operations like the National Basketball Association disgracefully go mum on Beijing’s fiendish atrocities; insisting on comparable silence from their owners, coaches, and players. Meantime, those who cherish the values that originally undergird Western Civilization and, more specifically, America’s founding need to cheer on responses like that exhibited by the aforementioned film-making companies. It could grease the way for a multiplication of other corporations which will answer “bù” to would-be Middle Eastern mandarins.

“Hollywood is now pushing back,” former movie executive Chris Fenton speculates to Bloomberg. “The market is simply not worth the aggravation anymore in attempting to please Chinese censors.”

How do you say, “From his lips to God’s ear” in Mandarin?

Yet, with the much-anticipated release of Pixar/Disney’s Lightyear just a week off, the need is underscored for independent-thinking artists and executives who won’t simply go along with fashionable or pecuniary pressures. That studio event will reportedly pull a reversal of its own — but one rather less gutsy than showed up in Top Gun: Maverick: 

From Variety:  

According to a source close to the production, Pixar’s next feature film, “Lightyear” … does feature a significant female character, Hawthorne … who is in a meaningful relationship with another woman. … [A] kiss between the characters had been cut from the film. Following the uproar surrounding the Pixar employees’ statement and Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s handling of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, however, the kiss was reinstated into the movie … .

Admittedly, a bit of pro-LGBTQIA+ indoctrination coercively smuggled into a movie isn’t the same as the bullying of Chi-Com despots — but they both represent an ugly phenomenon: the kind of squeezing individuals of conscience might encounter as they hope to make a buck while pursuing their creative, manufacturing or service-providing efforts. Bible-believing Christians, political or cultural conservatives, lovers of liberty, free expression, true tolerance and/or basic human rights … all may be intensifyingly challenged to conform their efforts to please others whose ideologies and priorities collide with theirs.

But back to China vs. everyone else: there’s no denying many more acts of righteous recalcitrance will be required from the latter; a consistent pattern of same, in fact, for an extended period of time; which just might turn around the unconscionable collapse of rudimentary decency the globe has been forced to abide for decades. Currently, resisting the Asian Behemoth is downright “maverick” conduct — pardon the pun — among those whose bread and butter involves selling products to the over one-billion prospective customers existing under Xi Jinping’s jackboot. When the day comes that is no longer the case? When it’s energetic multitudes of money-making enterprises which follow suit because they also treasure freedom and human dignity? We might be making some serious progress then — perhaps in time for the premiere of Top Gun 3!

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.