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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 01/22/2008

Highbrow: Tom Cruise's Straight-to-Video Hit

By Liz Kelly

Cruise in an image from what celeb-tracking Web site Gawker calls his 'Indoctrination Video.' (YouTube)

In one of the feverishly earnest videos that surfaced last week in which Tom Cruise extols the virtues of Scientology, he says something to the about the duty of that group's members to stop at car crashes because, see, only a Scientologist is capable of truly understanding the situation and providing help. In that spirit, today's Highbrow attempts to shed a little light on Cruise and his recent ramblings.

Proving the old saw that there's no such thing as bad publicity, Cruise's IMDB Star Rating (I'd link, but it's behind a pay-for-play wall) has spiked since the release of the videos last week. He's nowhere near list toppers Ellen Page ("Juno") and Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd"), but Cruise's Scientology vids have given the actor the kind of profile bump he sorely needed when "Lions for Lambs" was dying a slow box office death late last year. Over at, Rachel Sklar writes about the Cruise video's upstaging of wife Katie Holmes's first theatrical release since becoming Mrs. Tom.

Where does the buzz come down on Cruise the proselytizer? In Germany (a notoriously anti-Scientology state), one historian says Cruise's calls to action are reminiscent of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels:

"... for Germans with an interest in history, that scene where he asks whether the Scientologists should clean up the world and everyone shouts 'yes' is inevitably reminiscent of Goebbels' notorious speech."

An animated cartoon from editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes may be getting at the same idea. For those not inclined to watch at work, Telnaes applies the audio track of Cruise's call for world domination to a likeness of vice president Dick Cheney.

Slate's Troy Patterson -- perhaps recalling the couch-jumping, psychology slamming Cruise of yesteryear -- isn't all that surprised by the content or tone of the video. He writes:

"... the narrative line of Cruise's celebrity has been tending in this direction for a while, as has the shared arc of celebrity rubbernecking and media technology. Everyone was due for a blockbuster."

Mission accomplished.

By Liz Kelly  | January 22, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Highbrow, TomKat  
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