In Defense of Tom and Katie - published in Details, March issue 2006
Tom and Katie -- For the past eleven months we have pretended we are better than them. We have questioned their intentions, we have rolled our eyes and scoffed at their contrived courtship, we’ve snickered while they ravage each on red carpets and pose on Vespas. They are the most embarrassing, ill-fated couple of the millennium.
But let’s be honest – we aren’t that much different. Don’t tell me you never felt gushy and full of embarrassing love, wanting to shout it out on a rooftop while a Kenny Loggins hit crescendoed behind you. Deep in your heart is someone who would probably have taken your girlfriend to the top of the Eiffel Tower to propose to her, too—if only you had a driver, a personal assistant, a stylist, and gobs of money to make it happen. And if you were called before the media-high priestess Oprah Winfrey, you just might lose it a little too, and find yourself climbing up on a couch and screaming your lover’s name with fervor.
We have more in common with that the animated, ivory-toothed actor-freak after all. Yes, he comes off as some gladhanding fake-o in a motocross jacket, but deep down, I get the feeling Tom is a matching-tie-and-cummerbund, long-stemmed-roses, rent-a-horse-and-carriage kinda guy. It’s just that he has bad taste (like most of us), and unfortunately for him he has the power and the money to realize every cheesy fantasy he has ever harbored, while most of ours stay in our heads or cost about 70 bucks. His dorky declarations of love are the celebrity equivalent of doilied cellophane hearts from Hallmark Gift stores.
If Tom had grown up normal, and not a megastar, he would probably be the top waiter at a Bennigans in Wilmington. He would have visible hair plugs and lots of energy and sell Amway on the side. He would do tacky but sweet things for his girlfriend, like hire a skywriter to spell out her name when they were on vacation in Ocean City or order a Gorilla-gram to surprise her at work with a birthday banana split.
Tom’s latest operatic gesture was to give Katie a DVD compendium of every movie he has acted in for her birthday. Each movie had a special inscription to the future mother of his Thetan child spawn — another well-meant but over-produced moment of intensity from a man who leaves no stone unturned to show he knows what love is.
Sloppy, flawed, crazy, doomed. Mr. Cruise and his Mrs.-To-Be seem fucked up but ultimately more human than that other couple of the moment: the untouchable perfection that is Brad and Angelina.
While Tom and Katie slop around like winners on The Bachelor, Brad and Angelina are adopting refugee children, visiting Ethiopia, attending talks on African economic revitalization, donating beds to Islamabad, and otherwise looking like they are portraying themselves in noble, Oscar-worthy performances.
Beautiful, intelligent, and with just one small brow wrinkle each to signify concern for world famine and refugees, they float in a realm of superiority and ethical excellence that we can only dream of achieving.
Their airtight, Kofi Annan-approved coupling makes me feel inadequate -- as sad as in high school when I would watch the star forward of the basketball team walk down the hall with the lead in the school musical on their way to volunteer at the local center for the severely mentally handicapped. Brad and Angelina are of those perfect impenetrable couples with whom it’s impossible to find fault. Staring out from their sunglasses, they make you feel like unevolved losers for gawking at them in all their transcendant perfection. They seem to say, “Turn away, turds. You will never know the healing power of pure idyllic love.”
Meanwhile, Tom and Katie, like a drunk couple on a cruise for their fortieth wedding anniversary, are more than happy to let you in. Their foolish, tacky, twisted self-marketing has somehow humanized them. No matter what cult or alien light beam or bizarre belief system inspires their deeply weird love-theater, Tom’s heart just may be in the right place. Put it this way: if you’ve ever written a song for someone on an acoustic guitar, or have a bad tattoo on your ass cheek, or exchanged cheesy personal vows at your wedding, you can’t criticize Tom. He’s our guy.