Six Lessons To Learn From Tom Cruise

By now you’ve probably heard about Tom Cruise’s little fiasco on Oprah. If not, here’s a quick recap: Tom’s got a new movie coming out called War of the Worlds. You know that, right? Tom needs publicity. Conveniently, only two months before the release of his movie, Tom falls madly in love with Katie Holmes (yes, from Dawson’s Creek). Tom decides to go on Oprah and declare his love for Katie on national television. Tom acts like a fool during taping. Oprah’s commercial teases, “This is Tom like you have never seen him before.” She is right. Tom is shown jumping up and down on stage, leaping into Oprah’s arms and getting down on one knee to declare his love for Katie. It was awkward, like that bad dancing scene in Risky Business. Except this time, he wasn’t in his underwear. Perhaps he should have been.

It was a weird scene to watch. For the first time ever, I looked at one of America’s most-loved actors and thought, “This guy has serious geek tendencies.” Right before my eyes, Tom Cruise—the same guy who made me want to be a lawyer like him in A Few Good Men, the same guy who made me want to be a bartender just like his character in Cocktail and the same guy to made us all want to fly fighter jets like he did in Top Gun—was falling apart. His grin was goofy. His words were unrehearsed and forced. That kiss on the lips he gave the love of his life Katie Holmes made Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley’s kiss on the MTV Music Awards seem legit. Tom acted, well, rather uncool. And frankly, I don’t believe America was used to seeing Tom Cruise act uncool. I don’t think we saw it coming, not this soon in his career.

But quickly the public caught wind of his Oprah debacle. Blogs all over the web began teasing and speculating (again) that he’s hiding something. Most think he’s gay. That rumor has been circulating for years. But Tom’s sexuality is not the point of this piece. I think there are a few good lessons to be learned here. I believe we can all look at Tom Cruise’s appearance on Oprah and learn some very valuable lessons.

1) Not all PR is good PR—Despite being told that all PR is good PR, I have some news for you: some PR sucks! Sure, we’re talking about Tom; heck, I’m up at 11:00 at night writing a silly op-ed piece about Tom. But for the one-time “coolest guy in the world,” last month’s Oprah appearance was not good publicity. Let’s face it, I don’t think he really wants us laughing at him while we talk to our buddies around the water cooler. Does he want us mimicking that prance, dance and bow routine he did on Oprah’s stage? If Oprah had given him a plaid shirt and some overalls, I believe he would have square-danced with her. So remember, some PR you want to avoid.

2) Cute smiles don’t always work—Most of the women I know have thought in the past that Tom’s cute grin was “to die for.” But for the first time in the pretty boy’s life, it didn’t work for him. This time, his big toothy grin didn’t keep us from thinking, “You’re a freak, Tom. No, really, you’re a freak! And now that we’re really looking, your grin is kind of crooked.” Sure, you might be able to get away with murder a few times just by flashing a cute, innocent grin, but it’s not fail proof. And Tom learned this the hard way.

3) Everything on Oprah doesn’t turn to gold—Wow, who would have thought? The queen of talk is getting better ratings this season than she has had in more than 10 years. I’m happy for her. But she isn’t God; she can’t work miracles. Usually, an Oprah visit is meant to help an individual’s career. Usually, it’s supposed to make someone more likable. Sadly for Tom, not this time! He bet all his money on the best horse and lost the race! Even as you read this, blogs, forums and entertainment sites are laughing, joking, writing silly op-ed pieces all about Tom Cruise on Oprah. Yes, Oprah is powerful, but even for her, some stuff is just one big mission impossible.

4) Scientology and interviews don’t mix—OK, so Tom didn’t go on and on about his religion like he usually does in interviews, but even one mention of Scientology is too much. The audience he is trying to reach—you know, Middle America, the red states, middle-class women—most of them don’t care that he has found inner peace from Scientology. They never have cared. We know that Hollywood loves Scientology! We know it’s the “in” thing to do out there! But let me be frank: we think it’s weird and has too much money and Lisa Marie Presley is a patron. Icky.

5) Pretty girls don’t always save the day—I have to admit, I’ve fallen for this a time or two. When you’re in trouble, it’s easy to believe that all you need to do is find a hot female to come in a make you look cool, relevant and sexy again. I’m not proud that I have fallen for this theory; I’m just being honest. And sometimes the pretty girl thing works like a charm, but once in a while, it falls flat. Wow, did it ever fall flat for Tom! How can I put this nicely? Umm, he was way up Dawson’s creek without a paddle? OK, so that was a bad pun, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Katie couldn’t save your day!

6) Stop trying to win every battle—I am so glad that Tom is trying to embrace honor and passion and dignity. Heck, we were almost as moved as he was by his performance in The Last Samurai. But there are some battles we’re never going to win no matter how hard we try! Tom needs to stop trying to convince us he’s straight. If he’s in love with Katie, we’re happy for him. But he’s got to stop trying to force it. He’s had acting classes before. He knows that anytime you force a scene, it doesn’t come out natural. My best advice? Let your love for Katie flow from the soul, Tom, not from your need for some good press. Just between you and me—Katie and Tom is not what most people are talking about.

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OK, so I know that no matter how bad Tom Cruise blows it, he will always be cooler than me. And I’m willing to live with that. But there might be a little hope for me after all. I’ve got a hot wife, a new book coming out, Christianity to talk about and a really cute grin. All I need now is Oprah’s number.

[Matthew Paul Turner’s new book Provocative Faith—Walking Away from Ordinary releases in September. You can reach him at matthew@matthewpaulturner.com.]

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