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May 27, 2014, 9:17 a.m.
LINK: www.laweekly.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 27, 2014

The career of Tom Cruise is not a frequent topic of coverage at Nieman Lab, but this interesting piece in LA Weekly by film critic Amy Nicholson (author of the upcoming Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor) is an exception. Her core argument is that this YouTube video of Cruise acting a little nutty on Oprah in 2005 unfairly destroyed his career. Not in the no-longer-making-money-sense, since he still does plenty of that — in the sense of his being a capital-letter Movie Star, the kind we used to have when giants like Paul Newman walked the earth.

What’s interesting about the piece is how she positions 2005 as a fulcrum point for media. It was the moment when old-school PR strategies that worked in an environment of limited media outlets stopped working in a world of Perez Hiltons. The moment when the arrival of YouTube and no-fuss streaming video allowed a fleeting moment of television to have a longer, stranger life. The moment when one cultural artifact could be transformed into a sharable video meme, like this one:

Nicholson’s piece demands a little too much sympathy for Cruise for my liking; Tom Cruise is legitimately a weird dude, Oprah couch or no Oprah couch. And she seems more than a little nostalgic for the days when threats from publicists could get outlets to sit on critical stories — an odd stance for a journalist. But nonetheless it’s an interesting time capsule of a time, not that long ago, when a shift in technology led to a shift in culture.

(Update: Along those lines, see Tony Ortega’s response to Nicholson’s piece, via @renila.)

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