It is Oprah who seeds the idea that he should stand on it. She thanks Cruise for attending her recent Legends Ball, where she honored Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. “I turned and looked at one point and you were standing in the chair going, ‘Yes! Yes!’ ” she gushes to Cruise. “I loved that enthusiasm.” Minutes later, he stands on the couch for a second, and after she and the audience cheer that, he does it again. When she continues pressing about if he wants to marry Holmes, he exhales, “I’m standing on your couch!” as if that’s the answer he thought was enough. All told, Cruise on the couch — the key image of what the gossip blogs deemed his meltdown — is less than three seconds of airtime.
The distinction between standing and jumping is small but significant. We imagine Cruise bouncing on the couch — we can even picture it — because the Internet convinced us it happened. The echoing blogosphere screaming “Kills!” and “Jumps!” rewrote over what little of the actual episode people saw.
For two decades, Cruise had tried to keep the spotlight on his work. Now, it was fixated on him. Even the old guard — after years of chafing under his publicity restrictions, and finally freed from the need to appease the powerful Pat Kingsley — happily spun everything to fit the new narrative: Cruise was crazy.
Guided by his sister’s inexperienced hand, Cruise could only oblige, proposing to Katie Holmes and then debating the use of antidepressants (which Scientology opposes), specifically by a postpartum Brooke Shields, on The Today Show with Matt Lauer.
So it’s the Internet, and his sister, and not, say, Tom Cruise opening his big fat yawp and deciding to be the world’s least sympathetic asshole, to blame for the destruction of his image.
That is, by the way, all we’re talking about here. The destruction of Tom Cruise’s image as some kind of heroic movie star, and the subsequent effect on his ability to earn for himself and his loved ones. The headline on this piece is “How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star.”
The Internet told us Tom Cruise killed Oprah. The truth is the Internet tried to kill him.
Tom Cruise continues to make movies and some of them are okay and some of them are shit (the ten seconds of Oblivion with Morgan Freeman were the only ten seconds worth watching). We have GOT to stop equating “suffered criticism for saying and/or doing something stupid” with MURDER. Last I heard, Tom Cruise wasn’t missing any meals.
You know who might be missing meals, though? People who heard Tom Cruise call them weak and silly and stupid for seeking help for their illness. Fuck whether he jumped on a couch on Oprah or not. What mattered was this:
“These drugs are dangerous. I have actually helped people come off.
“When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that.
“You can use vitamins to help a woman through those things.”
I take that personally because believe me when I say this: If my doctors thought this way, if my family thought this way, if my husband thought this way, I would be dead right now.
I would have slit my wrists, or made a hole in the river, or walked into traffic. I thought about doing ALL THESE THINGS before I got medicated. I thought about them more than once.
You know what I do instead? I rock my baby to sleep, I make dinner, I watch TV. I go to work at a job that interests and engages me, I come home and write and see friends and bake cakes. And every morning I take pills and when I do, I think of the doctor who took me seriously when I said I needed help, and provided it, and I thank God she existed and I thank God for those pills. That’s all this is, and that’s all it is for anybody navigating the horrible process of everyday living, who can’t sort out how their brains engage with the world.
Now, I don’t give a fuck what Tom Cruise has to say, because I’m stable and I have supportive medical professionals around me and people at home who have my back. But if I was alone? Or scared? If I took what a movie star said seriously, the way so many people seem to do when they admire somebody’s work? If I thought what he said was important and it mattered because an entire media gossip industry has for his entire life told me that it did, well, I don’t know if I’d have walked through the door of the doctor’s office that day. I don’t know if I’d have been able to hear the doctor when she said, “You don’t have to live like this.”
The people who were warned off or scared away from reasonable medical treatment, the people who heard Tom Cruise’s bullshit and felt just a little bit worse than they already felt (and if you’ve never felt bad enough to go on medication, oh, I hope you never ever do), those are the people who got “destroyed,” and the Internet had nothing to do with it.