Scott D. Parker
I saw the movie my wife’s been wanting me to see since it opened: Edge of Tomorrow. In case you haven’t heard, it’s a Tom Cruise film with Emily Blunt. It’s a science fiction/action movie that doesn’t let up until the very end. I found the film extremely entertaining with a likeable cast, a good dose of humor (lots, actually; I would love to see Cruise do a straight-up comedy perhaps in the style of the Rock Hudson/Doris Day films?), and a new and unique twist on how it’s possible for Cruise to do what he does (hint: think Groundhog Day. Hey, it’s in the preview so I’m not giving anything away here.). My wife, not a huge SF fan like me, loves the film and will buy the DVD. What does that say about genre and the common viewer?
Why do I bring up this SF film here at a blog devoted to writing and mystery fiction? I want to ask a question regarding authors but use Tom Cruise as the medium. The man knows how to make very entertaining movies. He is all but a sure thing. You buy a ticket to a Tom Cruise movie, you know you will be getting a good film and, more importantly, his absolute best effort. Has he even mailed in a performance? One doesn’t come to mind. Edge of Tomorrow is special, however, because we get to see Tom Cruise the Coward. It’s not something we typically see and it’s a nice testament to the fact that he’s a seasoned actor who knows his craft, studies his industry, and improves in every movie he makes, and puts forth the best product he can. He’s got talent, but he’s a craftsman, just like most of us writers. We write more and we improve. He makes more movies and he improves.
So why does he get a bad break? Was it the couch hopping thing? So what? The guy was in love. Who hasn’t been so in the bliss that you did crazy things? He just did his on national TV. Is it his religion choice? So what? This is America. We’re all free to practice our religion. Was it the Brooke Shields thing? So what? Aren’t we free to have our own opinion? Was it something else? Who knows. All I know is that when I buy a ticket to a Tom Cruise film, all that crap that people give him hell for doesn’t enter my mind. What enters my mind is the pleasure of seeing this actor entertain me.
Somehow, authors don’t seem to get this rap. I can’t think of an author who continues to study and improve and produce books year after year, and yet the readers turn their back on the author simply because of the author’s political or social views or some odd event in their lives. Granted, authors aren’t always seen in public, but you know what I mean. There are the big names--King, Grisham, Rowling, Roberts, Cornwell, Patterson--but an author’s personal convictions rarely interfere with our purchase of their books.
I suppose there might be some authors whose personal convictions would lead some readers not to buy their books, just like some moviegoers choose not to see a Cruise film. That’s fine, but I get the sense that people are not making their moviegoing choice on the content of the film--Edge of Tomorrow is fantastic, content-wise--but on Cruise himself. Again, free country, I get that, and free market, but why has Tom Cruise become a craftsman who is judged not by his craft but by his personal life? You certainly wouldn’t look at a carpenter’s gorgeous rocking chair that would be perfect for your living room but then not buy it because you saw a bumper sticker on his car for the presidential candidate you didn’t vote for. Would you choose not to buy a book from an author who changed their stance on an issue that was opposed to yours...without reading the book?
Can we separate a craftsman's work from the craftsman's convictions? Just some idle thoughts for a weekend in July. What’s y’all’s take?