Thursday, April 04, 2013

Unreliable Evidence (Tom Cruise)

The LA Weekly has found a new way of (a) speculating about Tom Cruise's sexuality and (b) driving traffic to its website. (I wonder which of these two goals is uppermost.) 5 signs that Tom Cruise is Gay (June 2012).

5. Gay men fancy him. But then so do a lot of straight women. Perhaps straight women sometimes fancy men who turn out to be gay, perhaps gay men sometimes fancy men who turn out to be straight. The LA Weekly describes a scene in which Cruise dances in his underpants as "homoerotic", presumably because gay men find this scene erotic. (I should not like to speculate whether the journalist is speaking from personal experience.) But if straight women also find this scene erotic, wouldn't this scene also count as "heteroerotic" or "metroerotic"?

The LA Weekly provides a helpful link to the scene, for those readers who want to test their own erotic response to it.  Will it conclude that those readers who click on this link are probably gay?

4. He is fit. Oh dear.

3. Sexuality might be one possible explanation for joining the Church of Scientology.

2. An ex-wife made some caustic comments about his sexuality. Ex-wives often try to maintain a dignified silence about their ex-husbands, but the occasional barb may still slip out.

1. Family Guy jokes about Tom Cruise's sexuality. Actually, lots of people joke about it.

Like many other successful celebrities, Tom Cruise has a well-constructed image, which brings him a great deal of publicity and admiration from both sexes. This image is co-created by Cruise himself and his agents on the one hand, and by the media on the other hand. An ambiguous sexuality is probably an asset, and his publicity agents might advise him to be careful not to provide convincing evidence one way or the other. The signs produced by the LA Weekly may tell us something about the Tom Cruise image and the public reaction to it. Only an obsessive fan would believe or care whether this image is a truthful reflection of the true Tom Cruise.

Celebrities often lose the ability to distinguish themselves from their own public image. We know this only because some of them recover from this state, and are able to talk about it in later life.

What I'm interested in here is the nature of the argument produced by the LA Weekly, and what it implies about the LA Weekly worldview. The alleged signs are not only inconclusive but reflect a backwards causality - confusing cause and effect.

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