Yesterday’s post about Tom Cruise and his nuclear meltdown over social distancing on his movie set led to more interesting discussion. One friend wrote this:
I hunted down the recording and listened to it. Fuck the message; that’s a mood-disordered, entitled shithead if I ever heard one. Maybe it’s just a bad idea to make movies until everyone can be vaccinated.
I agree with the idea of suspending movie production until more people can be vaccinated. The fact is, people are really tired of COVID-19 and they’re going to do human things, even though people have been preaching about COVID-19 precautions for months. It’s perfectly normal and natural for people to want to socialize with each other. In fact, it’s a healthy thing for most people to socialize– that is, when there isn’t a pandemic going on. I’m sure working with Tom Cruise is hard. He’s a well-known perfectionist about a lot of things, and as we noted yesterday, he’s not shy when it comes to throwing massive profane tantrums.
Another commenter assumed that maybe Cruise had finally just lost it after multiple meetings about taking COVID-19 precautions. This same commenter is irritated about people not following the pandemic rules. Because of that annoyance with people flouting the rules in general, in the commenter’s view, what Tom Cruise did is totally okay. I had written that I disagreed with that notion. I think Cruise could have made his point about maintaining social distancing without calling his employees motherfuckers and screaming at them. I think he could have done that, even if there had been “multiple meetings” and he was at the end of his patience with his crew. He certainly could have addressed this problem without flying into a rage, even if it meant counting to ten and cooling off for a few minutes first. I think most people have enough self control to contain themselves if they try. Clearly, Cruise didn’t think he needed to try to control himself.
This morning, I found this comment from the commenter who is fine with a good old fashioned hissy fit:
Perhaps I have been desensitized by having listened to Trump for the past years. Given everything he’s gotten away with saying and doing I’ll still give Tom a pass.
I had to stop and think about that for a moment. Because of Donald Trump’s completely uncivilized conduct, some folks are now “desensitized” to similarly bad conduct by other people? Based on that comment, I’m assuming that this person isn’t a Trump fan. Indeed, I remember when Joe Biden was announced the winner of the 2020 election, this person expressed delight that we might soon be rid of Trump. But now, because of Trump’s constant abuse of his position and the people who work for him, they are “desensitized”? Does this mean that Trump has now made people meaner and less civilized? Even the ones who don’t admire him and his toxic brand of leadership?
I think it’s really sad that some people are evidently willing to accept Trump style leadership in people like Tom Cruise, just because they’ve had to listen to Trump’s verbal diarrhea for the past four years. Even if Cruise had a valid point that his staff needs to practice health and safety precautions on the movie set, his message is drastically weakened when it’s delivered in the way it was. And, to be totally frank, I doubt Tom Cruise really cares that much about COVID-19, anyway. To me, he sounded like he was getting off on the power of being a movie star and Scientology power player. No one else is going to be allowed to freak out like that on his movie set. And certainly, they won’t be allowed to do it to Tom Cruise. He’s made it clear that he’s just itching to fire them.
I didn’t want to get into an argument with this person, even though I completely disagree with the notion that Cruise’s outburst is acceptable because of Donald Trump. I pointed out that listening to Tom scream like that brought back awful memories of my father’s alcoholic and PTSD inspired rages. My dad never used the language Cruise used. He hated profanity. I almost never heard him use a word stronger than “damn” or “hell”. I think it was because his own father, who was also an abusive drunk, would go into rages and use a lot of filthy language. Hearing curse words would remind my dad of those ugly rages he’d been on the receiving end of by his own father. But even though my dad didn’t curse like Tom Cruise obviously does, the insanely angry mood was still there.
I remember, when I was a child, being terrified when my dad would get extremely angry. His face would turn red. Veins would pop out. His eyes would glaze over and look piggish as he would let loose with his fury. My dad, who was much bigger and stronger than I was, would grab me and administer corporal punishment with all of his strength and energy. Afterwards, I would be left quaking in my room, hysterical, while he’d finish cooling off. Then later, he would act like nothing happened. I was expected to forgive and forget.
I always hated my father after those rages. I didn’t have respect for him for beating on me or screaming at me. I was angry and humiliated, and his outbursts made me afraid to be around him. Thankfully, I’m a decent person, and I would eventually forgive him. At least until the next episode.
Fortunately, my dad didn’t go into rages on a regular basis. It happened more times than I can count, but it wasn’t like it was a weekly or even a monthly thing. And in between those rages, he was basically a good man. As an adult, I realize that he had his own problems. He was chronically depressed and never dealt with the traumas of growing up during the Great Depression with an alcoholic father. He went to Vietnam and saw action, which caused him to suffer from PTSD for the rest of his life. He used to have nightmares that would cause him to jump out of bed while he was still sleeping. One time, he almost lost his middle finger because he punched the wall while he was sleeping and having a nightmare. He injured his finger so badly that there was talk that it might need to be amputated.
The end result of all of this is that I have a very low tolerance for verbal abuse. I can’t stand it. It brings out a visceral reaction in me. This effect has gotten worse the older I get. I used to be able to put up with being screamed at a lot more than I can now. So, in my case, being exposed to people like Donald Trump and Tom Cruise has made me more sensitive to abuse, rather than less sensitive. But I’m only one person. Maybe some people are fine with a Tom Cruise style freak out in the workplace. I am definitely not, and when people freak out on me now, they can expect to be kicked out of my life. There’s no place for that in my world. But then, I also realize that my position is a very privileged one. If I were trying to support a family, I might be forced to accept abusive behavior from a narcissistic creep like Tom Cruise or Donald Trump.
I mentioned yesterday that I think Cruise’s fit was less about COVID-19 than it was about being in control. It’s interesting to me that the commenter on my thread brought up Trump, because I think Cruise and Trump have some things in common. They are both very wealthy and famous. They are both charismatic. They both had abusive, neglectful fathers, although Trump’s dad at least stuck around when he was growing up. In the Wikipedia article about Cruise (sorry, not the best source, but I’m lazy), it says of Cruise’s father:
Cruise grew up in near poverty and had a Catholic upbringing. He later described his father as “a merchant of chaos”, a “bully”, and a “coward” who beat his children. He elaborated, “[My father] was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, ‘There’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.'”
I find it very interesting that Cruise supposedly said those things about his dad. I see the very same tendencies in him. I have read about him being very generous and heroic in some situations, and that makes him look like a great guy. I’ve seen news articles about how Cruise has a tendency to sweep his love interests off their feet and shower his children with luxurious gifts and outings. But then, when Cruise gets pissed off, I read other accounts of the hellish fury he delivers on those who land on his shit list. If you’ve ever studied the behavior of abusers, you find that this is a very familiar pattern.
Actress Leah Remini, who knows Cruise personally, and was a Scientologist and a member of the Sea Org, says that Cruise’s tantrum was for publicity reasons only. She’s quoted in US Magazine:
“Tom’s reaction that was released yesterday shows his true personality. He is an abusive person,” the King of Queens alum said of Cruise, who is a high-profile member of the Church of Scientology. “I witnessed it, I’ve been a recipient of it on a small level … This is the real Tom.”
“Tom does not care about the families of his crew; this is all for publicity,” Remini, a former Scientologist, continued. “Tom does not believe in family values. I mean, how anyone is falling for this is just mindblowing. I would bet that Tom had this rant written for him and had his Scientology assistant record and release it. Hearing a rich actor with enormous power address his crew in this way is a sign of weakness and a deeply troubled person. This is not just a rant of another a–hole actor. Tom Cruise pretending that he cares is why a few have called him out. They know this is a publicity stunt, they know what Tom really is and what Tom really believes.”
Yes… you see, it kind of blows my mind that Tom Cruise would allow anyone on set to have a recording device handy. Seems to me, he’d want his staff to sign non-disclosure agreements and put their phones away for safe keeping. But either way, someone knew that he was going to melt down and was ready to record him. Whether or not he orchestrated this rant in an attempt to make himself look “caring” to the masses, or someone snuck in a recorder and taped him unawares, it says something that he was recorded going off like this. Either he’s done this as a stunt, or he’s abusive often enough that someone was fully prepared to tape his next meltdown. They knew it was going to happen.
While many people are siding with Tom, mainly because so many of us are so sick of the pandemic lifestyle, and many more of us are feeling sanctimonious these days, the fact remains that Cruise’s meltdown was totally inappropriate. If he had been going off about anything besides COVID-19, would people think this was okay? How about if he threatened bodily harm because he was enraged? Imagine how he must behave behind closed doors.
“No one needs to be ‘addressed’ by Tom about safety codes. There are producers who could have and should have handled the situation privately and professionally. What more likely happened was, two crew members who were in the same zone were talking to each other and Tom saw this as an opportunity to appear as the epitome of strength; of a leader who is taking this pandemic very seriously,” she added. “This behavior is not normal or appropriate. No one can respond to his outburst without being fired.”
Exactly. There are other people on that set who can deal with the crew members, and they would have handled the situation professionally and, hopefully, privately. It’s not really Tom’s job to go off on crew members like that. He’s just trying to look “heroic” and doing so in the most bullying manner possible. I think his stunt has backfired, though, because although a lot of people are fully supporting him, other people are seeing his behavior for what it really is– pure verbal abuse and narcissistic rage. It was completely unprofessional and inappropriate.
Still, I am baffled by the notion that Donald Trump has “desensitized” people to this kind of behavior and some of us are willing to let it slide because of our feckless soon to be former president. Donald Trump is not someone I want to emulate in any way, shape, or form. I would not praise someone else for emulating Trump’s abusive style of leadership. I would not excuse someone for behaving the way Tom Cruise did because I’ve been “desensitized” by abusive behavior from an authority figure like Trump or my father. Having studied human communication, as well as having taken a few courses in counseling and undergone it myself, I would never condone the screaming approach as a means of effecting change. All it does is cause people to shut down and become depressed or anxious. And it just makes Cruise out to be a tyrannical bully.