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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Top Gun (1986)

I went into this fully prepared for it to Not Hold Up (based on loved ones' recent rewatch experiences) but you know what? I still love it.


And before you're too shocked by that, I am very well aware of what icky, nasty propaganda it is. It is a big, sloppy love letter to the military industrial complex and that Sucks. But it is also incredibly stupid and entertaining (to me). Let's look at all the things in its favor: a soundtrack that is without fault and I'm angry at myself for not having listened to it in a year or two, Kelly McGinnis is a fox, Michael. Ironsides., Goose is a TREASURE of a character, baby Meg Ryan!, unapologetic and rampant homoeroticism, Tom Skerrit and the reminder that I told my biology teacher he looked like Tom Skerrit and was met with intense confusion, I love Goose so much (two for you, Anthony Edwards! You go, Anthony Edwards! And none for Tom Cruise), and it's actually kind of a stellar screenplay in that it keeps moving and never labors exposition beyond that one title card explaining Miramar. There's honestly something so camp about it for me. It feels subversive it goes SO FAR into military fetishization.


Another big mark in this movie's favor: it is deeply linked to my childhood and my family and I'm still able to enjoy it. I'm learning to extra treasure the things that can bring me joy in spite of trauma that is tied to them.


This movie was a staple in our home. We had a VHS copy of it that had been taped off the TV and I did not know, until I bought the DVD in college, that it was lacking a sex scene. And that sex scene is so off putting, I honestly miss the VHS. I was struck in this viewing by just how deep the Top Gun roots go in my being. Even the way I say "goddamnit" - which friends have long commented on the meter with which I say it - comes from Maverick's officer on the Enterprise. We were a military family. My father served (in the Army and the Navy), two of my brothers served in the Navy (one on an aircraft carrier), and I long considered a military career when I was little, mostly because of this movie. My father and I recited so much of this movie at and with each other. "You can be my wingman any time" was said at least once a day for, I'd wager, a decade, which is really sweet. And then I remember him telling me about the airshow he was going to on the day of my wedding (to be clear, my parents did not attend the wedding nor did they ever apologize) and the nostalgia evaporates. It was strange, though, watching tonight and immediately feeling the pull to somehow prove myself. Telling Ben all of what I know (not much) about aircraft carriers and F-14s and on and on. Looking for the old feeling of approval and belonging. Looking to be the good girl that ultimately didn't get me anything but a lot of mental health issues. It's bittersweet to identify that. Mostly I'm proud of myself for not getting bogged down in the bad feelings.


Tom Cruise is so unsettling. I don't get the appeal. His scenes with Kelly McGinnis make my skin crawl.


I don't subscribe to the weird cultural need to label Tom Cruise as gay. I think that's so odd and plain rude. However, I do think this movie is hella gay, independent of Tom Cruise's whatevernes, and I love that about it. And not in a TEE HEE THOSE GUYS ARE GAAAAAAAY kind of way. Not a bit! Historically, we know that men in the military have had sexual (and romantic!) relationships with each other since the dawn of time. Not all of them, maybe not even most, but we know now that that has been going on. And the only thing wrong with it is that it had to be secret and all the abuse that secrecy allowed. But as this movie about sweaty, physical, aggressive men overtly drips with sexual energy and not really at all between the main heterosexual love interests, I think it's great that it inadvertently captured that undercurrent. There's something sweetly truthful in the close quartered machismo and posturing that happens between Ice and Maverick. Some movies have men dance their feelings, this has them playing volleyball in jeans to let it all out.


I do giggle like a child for this though. He wants some butts. Like a proto-Tina Belcher. And Tom Skerrit's resigned look of, "yeah Bob, we know. You scream it every day."


I thought about this movie A LOT this week both while I was working on the piece(s) and just going about my day. The thought that lingered the most is that ultimately this movie is about the power of education and self-discovery. Think about it! At the end, given any possible position in a system that primarily rewards one's ability to be a killing machine and Maverick decides to go back to teach at Miramar. WHAT!? That's amazing! That's a huge amount of growth and it indicates that the school had a massive impact on his troubled little psyche.


Lino print.

5x7"





Takeaways:

-I was very ambitious this week and while I'm disappointed in the result, I'm thrilled with my willingness to take chances. May that continue!

-This was a week of learning to trust my gut. I knew the rainbow inked lenses would be the best but I got nervous about it (will people think I'm using the rainbow perjoratively?) and printed the gunmetal one too and ultimately I don't love it. I knew it needed to be at least two blocks but I ran a print of just the detail block in rainbow and it was Not Good. (It's fine. But the ink was so thick to keep the rainbow that it lost allllll detail.) I knew it should probably have a third block done in black to sharpen the details but I didn't do, ran out of time, and ended up drawing in that layer. Sigh.

-I jumped back in on my iPad this week, trying to shake whatever spooked me last month, and used it to do the line drawing for these blocks. It was good and helpful (especially for lettering) but I think it enabled me to get carried away with teensy details that didn't transfer well to this size of block and the time I had allotted.

Here's that image:


-And here's the OTHER thing I made on the iPad this week! It got into my brain while we were watching and would not leave until I finished it. For having been real nervous (why) about working digitally lately, this was a treat and I found myself thinking about working on it all the time. I hope you get the joke. I'm quite pleased with it.


Next week: The Darjeeling Limited! The random number generator seems committed to Life Aquatic being the last Anderson film in the project.


I hope you have a week that excites you and that you are never at a loss for sheer joy and delight. Make the weird joke, wear the fun outfit in your closet that scares you, be kind to the person who drives you most nuts. They probably need it.

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