I’m 31 years old and I haven’t seen Top Gun. There’s even a long-running joke in Flight of the Conchords where one character continually makes references to Top Gun, despite the other insisting he has never seen it. Well today I can officially relate more to Brett than Jermaine.
In fact, watching Top Gun for the first time, unclouded by nostalgia, is a little like rewatching history. Like other ’80s classics, iconic moments viewed through the lens of the final days of 2019 now seem like cheap pastiches. It’s easy to forget that these were the moments that defined the tropes to begin with, such as the raspy bollocking by the commanding officer that now comes across as shallow parody – I need to remind myself that at the time this was relatively fresh: “Don’t screw around with me Maverick. You’re a hell of an instinctive pilot. Maybe too good. I’d like to bust your butt but I can’t”. It’s not cheesy – this was just the original cheese recipe.
Among the most striking of such moments is the silhouetted love scene, in which Tom Cruise’s Maverick finally does the dirty with the film’s love interest – a totally unremarkable nobody that I’ve forgotten the name of already. The bright, colourful backgrounds means you can see all the detail of their open-mouthed and needlessly slobbery kissing. Iconic? Yes. Disgusting? Also yes.
Top Gun is about as ’80s an experience as it is possible to have. Remember when nameless Eastern forces were the bad guys? Remember when Tom Cruise was relatively normal? Remember when you could basically creep and hassle a woman until she submitted to your advances? Let’s make America grea… wait.
All this and more are very much still live and kicking in Top Gun, although you can’t criticize the film for simply existing in a pre-#metoo era – even if there probably was never a time when following a woman into the ladies toilets was a good thing.
It’s funny to discover that Top Gun is actually mostly a romantic movie. I’d always assumed it was a jacked-up military wank festival for American jingoism, mindlessly set to a Kenny Loggins soundtrack. It’s actually, secretly, an overbearingly homoerotic ballad pretending to be a heterosexual love story – and it’s good, light-hearted fun. Heavy gay vibes are felt from start to finish, and not just in the amusingly pointless but highly enjoyable volleyball montage. From the spicy and sexual rivalry with Val Kilmer’s “Ice-man” to the inexplicably glistening wet bodies of every single character from start to finish (someone turn the fucking air conditioning on, please), Top Gun is undoubtedly the work of either a frustrated, closet or subliminally inspired homosexual genius – and it’s all the better for it.
Crank the sound up, discard your cynicism and just enjoy this beautiful window into a simpler, saucier and altogether sillier world of 1980s boyish fantasyland.