Woah there. Now that's a ballsy title.
Originally when I watched Top Gun: Maverick, I thought it was a solid movie that had at least did not glorify the trauma of the United States Military complex and had a somewhat fantastical mission statement that at least gives it a lot more heart and tension than the original movie. Compared to a lot of movies coming out at the same time, it was solidly produced and had great visuals and the story flowed to a working formula. It was a fine summer movie.
In searching for greater context though, I found that the movie had been financed by the United States military. This is not new- hundreds of movies (including Marvel movies) are partially financed by the military because getting the real stuff is expensive otherwise. However, this comes at more than just giving film makers tanks, helicopters, guns, planes... it also comes with the fact the United States military gets to write some of the movie. The practice began with John Wayne's The Green Berets and has only grown to become a bigger, more insidious force within the entertainment complex.
I fell for propaganda.
Originally I just found an article from the LA Times detailing this kind of involvement.
However, as I dug deeper, I found that this particular movie has a lot more insidious ways of hiding how it's propaganda. I'd like to detail the main points, which I'll give you in summary:
1. Who are they fighting in Top Gun: Maverick? It's Iran. The film goes out its way to obfuscate it, but this is the closest parallel under the layers and layers of masking it. It is literal historical revisionism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
2. How is the film fascist propaganda? A key feature of fascist propaganda is to portray the enemy as both simultaneously all-powerful and extremely weak. The film does through this through the plot point that the United States military has to use outdated technology because it's the only thing that will work in this hyper-specific scenario.
3. Why this context is important. I'd like people to be more aware of all these things because I've seen a lot of uncritical praise for it. I'd like people to have these facts in mind while talking about it, because entertainment is influential. The military wouldn't sink money into something like this otherwise.
So let's talk about this. This is probably the biggest question the movie both has and doesn't want you to think about. I asked around, and I got a lot of jokey answers from people who liked the movie such as the following:
"The bad guys"
"Gs" (gradational forces)
"Cobra" (the bad guys from GI Joe)
"The dreck we've tolerated as blockbusters the past 15 years"
"Erusea" (a fictional country from the Ace Combat series that acts as the antagonists)
Another article from the LA Times labeled a couple more realistic candidates.
The most obvious contenders at first glance would seem to be Russia or China. The Russian and Chinese military each operate fifth-generation aircraft — indeed, the enemy aircraft in the film appear to be based on Russian Su-57 stealth fighter jets — and the snowy, jagged topography where the uranium-enrichment facility is located could conceivably be found in one of those countries.
What about North Korea or Iran? Both countries are considered rogue states by the U.S. Both have snow-capped mountain ranges and nuclear ambitions that America and its allies are determined to try to contain. But neither country has operational fifth-generation fighter jets. (Iran announced the development of its own stealth IAIO Qaher-313 in 2013, but independent military experts have expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft.)
Why am I so insistent on it being Iran? They never say it is. The details don't quite line up. That because they don't really line up in real life either. The JCPOA was something we pulled out of under President Trump in 2018
. If this really happened in real life, this would have started World War 3 and Iran would be in their right to. Iran continued to follow it for a year even though they no longer had to because we were no longer following it either. Tom Cruise's character does a unconstitutional act without congressional approval. The "bad guys" violate a treaty that we pulled out from in real life, and Iran is already one of the better candidates as outlined by LA Times. Given that the United States military absolutely had access to the script and creative control... yeah.
Did I mention Iran loves F-14s too?
Top Gun: Maverick is a movie about not questioning your decisions. Just act. Don't think.
At first I thought it was particularly strange how tailor-made the mission was for a very specific scenario where they have to use older planes to bomb a nuclear facility, but it makes a lot more sense when you realize how fascist propaganda works. The enemy is both all-powerful- and weak at the same time. The enemy has superior fire-power yet Tom Cruise can hide behind a log while a .50 caliber machine gun blasts it- they're designed to penetrate armored trucks.
There are creative liberties in everything. I don't particularly care for the accuracy of everything for the service of a story. On the face of it, Top Gun: Maverick's main mission statement is to get everyone home, to break at a generation of trauma. However, the situation depicted in the movie, which we've already outlined has eerie parallels with the JCPOA situation- it sure seems like revisionism by the people who have direct and final say over the script.
Does everyone involved know? Probably not. But the final product is a product of the military. You shouldn't take it uncritically.
When I originally saw the movie, I knew none of this. I knew absolutely none of it. I'm not judging anyone who thinks this is a perfect movie because chances are they don't know either- or if they do, well, it doesn't matter to them. However it is important to point something like this because entertainment is influential. How many times have you related something else to a piece of media you've played or seen? It happens a lot even in real life conversations with loved ones or strangers.
Why else would there be a department in the military tailored for this specific purpose? It's a recruitment tool. They're putting military ads at the start of this movie. Lockheed Martin is using it to advertise themselves. Some people see no problem with this, but when the military revises its own history to justify actions that go against greater peace in the world, you should be concerned.
There's a lot of uncritical praise for this movie I've seen around. I've changed my view on it a lot since seeing it. There are underlying things to like about the movie that don't really have anything to do with any of this- but even then I find myself disgusted with how easy it was to write it off as a pretty good summer blockbuster and didn't even question why the film didn't want me to know who they were really fighting.
Iran is already a vastly misunderstood situation by most Americans. Even if the film isn't openly about them, it's still important to understand that this movie will probably be brought up in discussions around them and contribute to that misunderstanding. I fell for it. I want people to come into the movie understanding all of this when they watch it. We have to untangle this from the media we watch or we become supporters of fascism without even realizing it.