May 31, 2003
Why I hate Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire is a key movie. I admire it, but I hate it. It's well made. Tom Cruise doesn't do badly made movies. I hate it because the central message, embodied in the change of emotional style demanded of Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jnr.) by the universe in general, and by Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) in particular, is one I abhor.

This movie preaches the same message, of what to me seems like emotional incontinence, that Princess Diana – or perhaps I mean the Princess Diana industry – preached and still preaches here in Britain. Old fashioned (stuck up) stoicism is out. Emotional display is in. Self control is out. "Honesty" and "authenticity" are here. Although just how authentic the acting out that goes on nowadays actually is, I choose to be skeptical about. I prefer people who do brilliant things on a sports field to exchange solemn handshakes, not to go crazy and kiss each other and dance about like mad things.

I also believe that the good god of evolutionary biology gave us brains to judge, repress, distance ourselves and generally keep control over our emotions. This is because our emotions conflict with each other. Indulged in without thought or judgement, they lead us to catastrophe. If they control us, instead of us controlling them, situations that would merely be situations become instead emotional battlefields, and can do incalculable damage and cause incalculable pain. I associate emotional incontinence with poor, unhappy people, and I believe that their emotional incontinence is, above all else, what makes them poor and unhappy. They don't live their lives. Their lives live them.

It is all this that sportsmen like Tidwell are paid to encourage. Every time a Rod Tidwell throws an emotional tantrum of joy after scoring a touchdown, the message goes out to the people: let your emotions flood through you. Don't repress. Don't think. Feel.

Do you feel like throwing plates at your wife. Go ahead. Throw them. Be honest. Show her your true "self", located in your rage rather than in your thinking brain.

If Tidwell is to get the money on the scale he wants for himself and for his family, he must learn to celebrate like a fool when he scores a touchdown, waggle his hips, and generally go mad. He really, really doesn't want to, and I really, really don't want him to. I'm watching it all again, on Channel 4 TV, because I like Renée Zellweger, and none of this has yet happened, but it is going to. And the arguments from JM about how as a player he is all head and no heart, etc., are persuasive stuff.

The above paragraphs are not just my thoughts, they're more like my feelings. Think of this as a plate flying through the air.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:39 PM
Category: Movies