Tom Cruise is the Reason Foreigners Hate America

February 2, 2012

I was living in Prague during the second half of the Bush administration because I thought becoming an expatriot would make me a better writer.  It did not.  However, while I was not becoming a better writer, I spent a lot of time in bars, killing the brain cells that contained the next Great American Novel and learning what foreigners hated about my country.  It was an enlightening experience and one that I would encourage all Americans to have at least once.

Prague is a strange, beautiful city that has been conquered several dozen times, and therefore, its citizens are of a peaceful, cantankerous disposition.  In all the times I tipped my elbow there, I never once saw a Czech man get into a physical altercation.  The Czechs don’t like to fight with their fists unless absolutely necessary.  This does not mean they are cowards.  Not at all.  They just know what their strengths are and play to them.  A citizen of the Czech Republic would much rather insult your country, your mother, and your soccer team (in that order), and reduce you to a blithering pool of insecurity than waste his time dirtying his clothes with your blood.  They are a verbal people, and they know how to turn an insult.  On the other hand, they are also a mumbling culture, so it is sometimes difficult to know when you’ve been insulted.  I once asked an elderly local why the Czechs always spoke under their breath, and he looked at me like I was an idiot.  “You ever had tongue cut out by KGB?” he asked.  “No,” I said.  “Me neither,” he said.  And then he mumbled something I couldn’t understand.

I couldn’t sip a Pilsner in Prague without eventually being approached by a local who wanted to know what was wrong with my country.  I seldom had an answer for this, so I simply bought them beers and listened to their opinions on the subject.

The conversation always started off with George W. Bush, of course.  This is not a political blog, and I’m not interested in getting into a debate on the subject of whether or not Bush was a good president.  However, I can say with absolute certainty that no political figure in my lifetime has been more reviled by the citizens of foreign countries than Mr. Bush.  I once knew a French woman who couldn’t say his name without spitting afterward.  True, the French are a little on the, ahem, expressive side, but still, no one wanted to face her in a public debate.

However, Bush was despised by people at home and abroad for a variety of reasons, so this criticism was nothing new.  What really interested me was the second person that was brought up when listing the reasons why they hated America.  Almost without fail it was Tom Cruise.

It must be said here that I have disliked The Cruise for quite some time.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Top Gun and Risky Business when I was sixteen as much as the next sexually-repressed, testosterone-charged boy, and over the years I have enjoyed numerous other Tom Cruise movies, but at some point I began to grow sick of his smug face appearing on giant screens all over the country.  Still, I’d never really thought of Tom Cruise as the representation of everything wrong with America until I started talking to the Czechs.

Actually, the Czechs didn’t have a theory about it either, just an intense hatred.  Whenever they were asked what pissed them off about American culture, they fumbled around for a few minutes, passing over things like McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and Congress, eventually settling on Tom Cruise.  They couldn’t place their finger on it, but he represented something rotten in our culture.  The first couple of times it happened I sort of shrugged it off, but after hearing his name bellowed by unshaven drunks all across the city I decided to give the matter some thought.

Here’s what I came up with: Foreigners hate Tom Cruise because he is a very charming, very handsome egomaniac, and our culture has chosen to elect him as our ambassador to the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “I didn’t vote for that guy to represent me.”  But in a way you did.  I did.  We all did.  Do me a favor.  Go to Tom Cruise’s IMDb page and count how many movies he’s made that you’ve seen.  Go ahead, we’ll wait…

Finished?  Was it more than you thought?  It certainly was for me.  I’ve seen twenty-four Tom Cruise movies.  Twenty!  Four!  And I don’t even like the guy.  He is a blockbuster machine thanks to American culture.  We created him.

Tom Cruise is a charming man, but he is not a very good actor.  Whenever he’s playing a character that requires more than a smarmy smile (Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, etc.), he looks like one of those male betta fish when you hold a mirror up to its tank: nervous, angry, and absolutely in love with itself.  Tom Cruise is Marlon Brando without the intellect or talent.  Everyone knows this, but it doesn’t make any difference.  Would we rather have Steve Buscemi or John Malkovich as our leading man?  Sure, in a theoretical world.  But Buscemi and Malkovich just don’t fill the theaters like The Cruise.

And what’s so bad about Tom Cruise, anyhow?  Is he really such a terrible pop culture ambassador?  Well, yes, actually.  Besides the fact that he’s a mediocre actor and has a weird nose (looks like it’s made of Silly Putty or something; what’s up with that?), he also has such an enormous ego that he actually believes the Scientology muckymucks when they tell him that he’s on a higher spiritual plane than the rest of us because they want to feed off his celebrity.  In fact, every time Tom Cruise has tried to speak without a script in the past five years, he ends up sounding like he’s one step away from getting himself a pair of Nikes, starting a cult, and hopping on the next comet.

So are the Czechs right?  Is Tom Cruise evil incarnate?  No, he’s America incarnate.  That’s the problem.  American culture has voted, and this is what we’ve come up with.  Charming egomania.  Is this really what our country is all about?  Of course not, but it’s what our cultural democracy has decided to put on a pedestal.  Can you blame other countries for wanting to take him down a peg?

4 Responses to “Tom Cruise is the Reason Foreigners Hate America”

  1. Do you suppose we could improve our foreign situation by handing over Tom Cruise? I’d be down with that.

  2. I LOVE this! It’s so full of wit and insight and truth. I’ve felt this way about Tom Cruise for a long time. Thanks for articulating so much better than I ever could.

  3. No, I can’t blame other countries, yes to a large degree, this is what our country has become about. Still called the “American Dream”, its a far cry from what it used to be. Case in point: reality TV shows…many many “average” Joes and Janes acting just like Mr. Cruise….

    I’d rather it’d be McDonalds…at least they sell salads (with just as much fat and calories as a big mac) now….

  4. April Moore Says:

    I can only imagine what other countries think of us. The only culture the US can claim is one where we hang on every word Kim Kardashian or the latest Bachelorette says. It’s embarrassing.

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