Question Celebrity

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With Hank Stuever
Sunday, May 7, 2006

I'm putting on my advice-columnist hat now to deliver a cold, hard fact: It's time for us -- all of us -- to break up with Tom Cruise. (Maybe you already have. In which case I mean the rest of us.) Even the Oprah-sofa-jumping jokes and "Free Katie!" T-shirts aren't fun anymore, and this codependency is darkening our already shallow souls. I'm writing this the day after His High Holy Looney-Tunes and his betrothed, the much-pitied Katie Holmes, have "silently birthed" their daughter, Suri; by the time you read this Cruise easily could have done something else that merits another six months of discursive tittering (expressly verboten in the silent birthing room). But miles of copy and hours of airtime have already been produced on the question of Why Is Tom Cruise So Weird? -- the simplest answer seeming not to suffice. In case you missed it, that answer would be: Scientology, which has reportedly promoted him to a rarefied rank that very few church members achieve. Imagine how insufferable you'd be if your church bestowed a special status upon you, and told you to go out and tell people The Truth, which only you knew.

The synchronization of the gossip fodder (the baby; the couple's upcoming wedding plans) with the big summer movie release (if we're breaking up, let's not even type the title) seems too convenient, too micromanaged in a world in which everything is micromanaged anyhow. That, together with Cruise's constant arrogance and unhinged-ness, would lead me to recommend to any friend that she (or he) just stop thinking about the guy already and dump him. Just let go.

All of which raises an interesting question: When the mainstream is collectively ready to "break up" with any celebrity, how does it happen? First, for reasons no amount of test-marketing can determine, we cease buying the product -- and the two or three "comeback" products that follow. (This is a slow breakup; it can take a decade.) Age also greatly helps the process. Cruise isn't on track to become a beloved or well-preserved elder gentleman of Hollywood, a la Paul Newman, so it might work to sit back and let ossification do its job. Scandal can speed things along, too.

Soon enough he'll be asking us to come back, and will promise -- too late -- to clean up his act. Be firm. Use all the old excuses. Tell him it's not you, it's him. Look away from his hurt stare.

E-mail: celebrity@washpost.com.


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