AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
On Monday, Top Gun: Maverick officially passed Titanic to become the 7th-highest grossing film ever at the domestic box office, just the latest record broken by this reboot of the 1986 classic. In an age of militant Hollywood wokeism, conservatives have been quick to note that Maverick’s success is due in large part to its unambiguous patriotism– as Elle Reynolds of The Federalist put it, the film is “nostalgia for American greatness.”
Maverick’s cultural significance in 2022 is best understood in light of two previous films: the original Top Gun, and a lesser known but equally memorable film, An Officer and a Gentleman, which was released 40 years ago this summer. Both films explore themes that are captured brilliantly in Maverick and are acutely relevant today; namely, the striving for individual excellence and the value of national achievement – as opposed to the robotic left-wing dogma of viewing individual action through the lens of “privilege” and “oppression” and viewing national action through a prism of systemic racism.
An Officer and a Gentleman follows main character Zack Mayo’s (Richard Gere) journey through Aviation Officer Candidate School. Trying to leave behind a troubled past (his mother committed suicide during his childhood, and his father, with whom he lives at the beginning of the film, is a womanizing alcoholic) Mayo hopes to make something of himself by becoming a Navy pilot. Mayo’s time in training is defined predominantly by his perpetual struggle of body, mind, and spirit as he clashes with his hardcore drill instructor, Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.). At one point in the film, with Foley on the brink of expelling Mayo as a candidate, Mayo breaks down: “Don’t you do it! Don’t! You… I got nowhere else to go! I got nowhere else to… I got nothin’ else.”
In Trumpian terms, the film is an ode to the struggle of the working men and women who are the very foundation of American strength. Richard Gere’s character in Officer and a Gentleman serves as an example of what it means to serve in the United States military – what it takes to carry out the sacred duty of serving a higher cause. In the course of the film, Mayo’s worldview develops from one of self-interest and self-absorption into one of selflessness, sacrifice, and honor. Through the crucible of training and personal loss, Mayo arrives at the realization that life’s richest blessings come not from pursuit of shallow self-interest, but rather from serving something greater than himself. With this new and hard won perspective, Mayo is able to declare his love and commitment to Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger), the working-class local girl he had met and dated during officer candidate school, and carry her off into the future of happily-ever-after.
Four years after the release of Officer and a Gentleman, Top Gun hit theatres in May 1986. Top Gun’s release came five years into President Ronald Reagan’s historic presidency, in which he laid bare the evils of the Soviet Union and rallied the American people and our allies behind a noble crusade to defend civilization and democratic self-government and defeat communism. In many ways, Top Gun showcased the vision of individual and national greatness of the Reagan era. We learned at the beginning of the original movie, and its sequel, that Tom Cruise’s Maverick is at Top Gun Aviation School because he is “the best of the best.” And in the course of each movie, the best of the best fighter pilots put their lives on the line to defend their nation and their fellow citizens from harm – based on the implicit and accepted understanding that the American nation, its people, and its way of life are worth fighting and dying for.
Fast-forward to 2022, and our nation and our military leaders are consumed by pronoun wars, inundated with Critical Race Theory, and concerned with understanding nebulous left-wing buzzwords like “white rage.” Rather than upholding shared values and celebrating what makes individuals and our country great, so many of our political leaders today are constantly apologizing for America and teaching our people to do the same. In this light, Maverick stands less as a testament to our present moment and more as a countercultural battle cry.
Where Officer and the original Top Gun film were accurate indicators of the nation’s prevailing attitude at the times they were released, Maverick is instead an indicator of the kind of nation the American people still believe in, want to live in, and have their national leaders celebrate and represent once again.
As Maverick’s stunning box office success shows, good patriotic storytelling – not the avalanche of woke anti-American films being released on a seemingly weekly basis – is what American moviegoers want to see. Though our Hollywood elites may be too blinded by hatred of America to see this truth, it’s quite obvious to the rest of us.
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