TOP GUN: MAVERICK—A Movie, And Military, That America Deserves
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There’s a moment in Top Gun: Maverick where you forget you’re watching a movie, and instead realize you are watching the words of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson come to life:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, enemies turned wingmen/ lifelong friends in 1986’s Top Gun, have aged 30 years. Tom Cruise’s iconic Maverick is a Captain, considered the best pilot the Navy has since he shot down three MIGs in the first movie, who has spent his years as test pilot, refusing to accept promotion because it would ground him. Val Kilmer’s blond-hair / blue-eyed Iceman, right, is now an Admiral, in charge of the Pacific Fleet.

Iceman has used his position and power to protect Maverick since the events of the first movie and has given him one final order: train a group of the top graduates of Top Gun—the school where the top one percent of Naval Aviators go to see who is the best of the best—for what amounts to a suicide mission: destroying the fortified military base of a rogue country (strangely never identified), where it’s seeking to enrich uranium.

It’s highly probable that none of the young aviators Maverick is tasked with training will return from this deadly mission. To heighten the drama, one of the aviators is the son of his dead RIO—Radar Intercept Officer—Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, killed in the first movie trying to eject from a malfunction in the F-14 that Maverick was flying.

All these years later, Maverick still blames himself for his best friend's death, believing it to be his fault, and he has tried to protect Goose’s son from seeing aerial combat, even making a promise to his late mother to keep him out of the Naval Academy.

The emotional weight of this scene is made all the more powerful by the fact Cruise’s Maverick looks like he has barely aged, while Kilmer’s formerly chiseled physique has been battered not just by time, but by cancer (tragically, in real life Kilmer has throat cancer and can barely speak). He is forced to listen to Maverick speak and type his curt responses into a computer.

In this scene, two of the most iconic characters in movie history reminiscence about life, duty to country, family, friendship, honor, and Maverick’s dogged refusal to quit flying.

And of course Maverick is still haunted by Goose’s death. Now, he is training the son of his best friend for a mission he isn’t sure he’ll survive.

I had the chance to see an early screening of Top Gun: Maverick—it’s being released today, May 27and this was the scene I was least prepared to watch, as I had read about how Cruise would only agree to make this sequel, hotly demanded by fans, if Kilmer was in it. His struggle to get well for only a few minutes of screentime to reprise the role of Iceman is probably the Number One reason this movie surpasses the original and represents the ultimate love letter to aviation ever filmed.

I’m not ashamed to say a few tears were shed by me, not just during this scene, but in many throughout what is easily the most enjoyable movie I’ve ever watched in theaters. Weakened by “time and fate,“ Iceman goes on to die of his cancer in the movie, and Cruise’s Maverick ends up being relieved of his duties as instructor of the top Top Gun pilots only to steal an F-18 and prove his proposed tactics to destroy the unnamed enemy's uranium enrichment facility by performing the aerial assault in simulation. For this act, he gets tasked with leading the actual assault and ends up selecting Goose’s son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, to be one of the four pilots part of this dangerous mission.

Go see the movie to experience what happens next. Suffice it to say I left the theater wishing the men and women who were depicted as protecting our country actually existed in real life.

Americans deserve a military that puts our citizens and interest as a nation first. And for little more than two hours, Top Gun: Maverick delivers a brief window into what that military would be like.

The movie, filmed in 2018 and 2019, with a release date delayed twice, in 2020 and in 2021, due to COVID and Cruise’s refusal to allow the movie to stream (as he wanted fans to experience it in all its glory in theaters) is blessedly free of politics, Left or Right. It’s just a story about Naval Aviators doing their duty, and Maverick’s personal quest to finally find peace in Goose’s death and allow his best friend’s son, whom he’s protected his entire life, to become his own man.

Oh, and Maverick gets to reignite a touching relationship with an old flame, played by the beautiful Jennifer Connelly.

In an era where every piece of mass media we consume, from Main Stream Media to sitcoms, to movies, to commercials, to even cereal boxes, is saturated with 24/7/365 Wokeism and is increasingly overtly anti-white, Top Gun: Maverick possess absolutely zero Wokeness.

Yes, the aviators selected to compete for the mission are little more diverse than the nearly all-white flyers in 1986 Top Gun, but even this decision is actually based in reality, as our own military has plans to try and make aviators less white in the present and future:

The new "Top Gun: Maverick" pilot class is more diverse than the predominantly white, male crew of the 1986 original. Along with the showcase pilot roles of Miles Teller's Rooster and Glen Powell's Hangman, Tom Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell trains two Black pilots and the two films' first Latin American and female pilots.

"The first 'Top Gun' reflected what the Navy was like in 1986,” Kosinski says. "We wanted 'Maverick' to reflect what it's like today." [Who are 'Top Gun: Maverick's new pilots? Meet Rooster, Hangman and the rest of the elite crew, by Bryan Alexander, USA Today, May 25, 2022]

Spoiler alert: nevertheless, the best pilots are Maverick, Rooster and Powell’s blond hair/blue eyed Jake 'Hangman' Seresin, all white men, and at the end of the movie, these three white guys are the heroes of the movie, having vanquished the uranium enrichment facility, shot down multiple enemy 5th generation fighters, and Hangman having one of the most enjoyable deus ex machina moments in cinema history to save Maverick and Rooster.

For decades, our military leaders have lambasted the whiteness of the pilots in the cockpit. Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick inadvertently celebrate the implicit whiteness of aviation, which the Pentagon is explicitly trying to replace with diversity [Despite recruitment efforts, few black pilots land in Air Force, Navy cockpits, by Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes, June 22, 2003].

In our world, replacing white men as aviators in the Navy and Air Force is a primary objective of Pentagon brass and elected officials [To grow new, diverse generation of pilots, Air Force, lawmakers eye flight training for JROTC, Air Force Times, April 4, 2019].

To the New York Times, having too many white men be pilots is a sign of implicit bias, white privilege, and structural inequality. Diversity, fewer white pilots, is the ultimate goal [The End of the All-Male, All-White Cockpit: Airlines are struggling to find  enough pilots and to diversify a profession that has been very resistant to change, by Niraj Chokshi, April 23, 2022]. Our own Pentagon laments the overwhelming whiteness of pilots in the military [Air Force trying to diversify its largely white, male pilot corps with new strategy, by Scott Maucione, Federal News Network, March 30, 2021], and our top military leaders consider diversity a “wartime imperative” [Goldfein: Embracing Diversity Isn’t About Being Politically Correct, It’s a “Warfighting Imperative,” Air Force Magazine, March 1, 2019].

Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, the commander of Air Force Recruiting Service, wrote an op-ed lamenting the fact that white men constitute nearly 9 of every 10 of our Air Force pilots [86% of Air Force pilots are white men. Here’s why this needs to change, Yahoo News, October 20, 2020].

One of the first acts of President Biden’s black Secretary of Defense (former 4-star General Lloyd Austin ) was to stand down the military and have a struggle session to address so-called white supremacy and extremism within the ranks of our fighting men and women [Pentagon, stumped by extremism in ranks, orders stand-down in next 60 days: The decision to hold a stand-down was made by Lloyd Austin, who made history by becoming the military’s first Black defense secretary after a long career rising in the ranks of the Army, Jerusalem Post, February 3, 2021].

So we should celebrate a movie where merit is at the heart of career success. Top Gun: Maverick and its predecessor are movies that show us exactly the type that made America great. And yes, they were overwhelmingly white men.

Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t seek to glorify white men, but it inadvertently delivers a knockout punch to Wokeness and Critical Race Theorists everywhere, by showing a group of primarily white aviators interacting positively with a few minorities (who harbor no animosity toward whites or base their identity on being black or brown) and a white female pilot.

Unfortunately, in a world made up of the best of the best, the push by our elite in the real world to ensure fewer white men are pilots is a reminder race does matter. Very much.

Top Gun: Maverick will break many box office records and hopefully remind young white kids there are better things to aspire to be than a character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Indeed, one reviewer is acutely aware of just how un-woke this movie is, and why its popularity spells trouble for a society trained to cower before any accusation of racism:

While most critics obviously liked the movie, the politics of the film created a sense of unease for more than one. Writing that the original had “all the narrative complexity of a music video crossed with a military recruitment reel,” The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney said the queasiness (despite the film’s multiracial cast) has only intensified in the post-Trump age, “with patriotism curdling into white supremacy.”
[Tom Cruise, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and the Uneasy Echoes of Hollywood Past, by Kim Masters, Hollywood Reporter, May 25, 2022]

Top Gun: Maverick might celebrate an America that is being Replaced. But it’s an America that is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans who wish the country they see celebrated, as Top Gun and its long-awaited sequel do.

And yes, that means acknowledging the white men who pilot the jet fighters giving us air superiority over every other country, in real life or as envisioned in Top Gun.

People are tired, very tired of wokeness. A movie like Top Gun: Maverick shows the type of country and nation that Americans aspire not merely to return to, but to maintain—for their posterity.

Paul Kersey [Email him] is the author of the blog SBPDL, and has published the books SBPDL Year One, Hollywood in Blackface and Escape From Detroit, Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White and Second City Confidential: The Black Experience in Chicagoland. His latest book is The Tragic City: Birmingham 1963-2013.

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