Damn (For All Time) Yankees
There are trailers running on the Internet for the upcoming Tom Cruise movie “Oblivion.” Cruise plays a tough guy named Jack Harper which is quite a departure from Cruise’s previous film in which he played a tough guy named Jack Reacher.
“Oblivion” is set in the dystopian future in which very little is left of Earth except for, apparently, New York Yankees fans. In one of the trailers there are several prominent shots of Cruise wearing a Yankees cap and there are even a couple of close-ups of the NY logo as if the filmmakers want us all to be rest assured that even though aliens might annihilate us and civilization will crumble, the Yankees will still be loved.
Yankee idolatry and, we presume, Yankee hatred, aren’t the only things that survive in the world of “Oblivion.” Another pop culture staple – Morgan Freeman – also endures and, according to the previews, so does his mellifluous voice and detached calmness. “The world’s over? Big whoop, I’m Morgan Freeman. Go Yankees.”
Mr. Cruise is said to be a Yankees fan in real life so it is reasonable, though not palatable, that he would celebrate the pinstripes on the big screen especially after “Jack Reacher” which was set on the turf of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cruise also wore a Yankees hat in “War of the Worlds,” another movie in which Earth got throat punched by space invaders but Mr. Cruise – and his Yankee love – survived. Cruise spends much of that movie feuding with his teenage son not because the world is ending but because that rascal kid is a Boston Red Sox fan.
Keeping the Yankees alive when nearly all else is dead is annoying but it does make a certain amount of cinematic sense. Wearing a baseball cap tells the audience that this character, though living many decades from now, loves the same things we do and, even amid space tech, perilous adventures and crushed worlds our hero is really just a regular beer drinkin’, ball lovin’ fella.
Could these sentiments be conveyed with a Dodgers hat? Probably. A White Sox t-shirt? Sure. But there are people (odd, little people) who won’t recognize those symbols. Remember the end of “Planet of the Apes”? You have to go for what the audience will recognize and thus connect with. What would movie history be if Charlton Heston was last seen crying and screaming in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch?
But aren’t movies usually best when they don’t go for the mass appeal? How about a future in which only Colorado Rockies fans survive? Isn’t that a bit more thought provoking? (And maybe more frightening?) Maybe Tom Cruise’s world of tomorrow could be one in which one of the few structures left standing is the Houston Astros Hall of Fame. Imagine our doomed descendants running around in the orange nightmare jerseys of the 1980 NL West champs. The aliens would be terrified.
If you walk around Chicago you’ll see a lot of White Sox caps, Cubs hats, and…Yankees caps.
There should be a law that unless you were born in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut or currently reside in one of those states, or your father is Fred Stanley, you cannot be a Yankees fan. What’s the appeal of it? Where’s the challenge, suffering and character-building of rooting for Apple, Google or Dick Wolf? Sitting in the front seat doesn’t mean nearly as much unless you’ve spent six hours in the trunk with a sweaty guy who also has the hiccups.
Despite its Yankeeness, “Oblivion” looks pretty good. Cruise is always engaging, Freeman is eternally cool and there are space ships, lasers and Olga Kurylenko. And, the cast also features a guy whose last name is Rawlings. James Rawlings is listed in the credits simply as “Survivor.” Hopefully his fellow survivors include Spalding, Wilson, Adirondack, Mizuno and Johnsonville.
If the Yankees endure the apocalypse we can live with it if that’s what it takes for baseball to survive.