Authenticity Bad for Business?
Here's the danger for Paramount, inc. and Tom Cruise, inc. in Tom Cruise's romance with Katie Holmes. Tom Cruise might be a great entrepreneur and the second coming of Mussolini as a producer, but Tom Cruise, inc. is largely a function of Tom Cruise's popularity as an actor--the public's perception of him as being handsome, likable, talented, interesting, "real," a regular guy, and things like that. It's Tom Cruise the "persona" that powers Tom Cruise, inc. rather than Tom Cruise the businessman and people have to REALLY like Tom cruise the persona if they're going to buy half a billion dollars of tickets and 20 million DVD's of Mission Impossible III (bias alert: I'm not a fan of the Tom Cruise persona. I hated Jerry McGuire, Mission Impossible, and Eyes Wide Shut but liked Minority Report).The unpopularity of Tom Cruise's romance with Katie Holmes puts the whole Tom Cruise enterprise at risk. If the tide doesn't turn (and there's no reason to think it will), Cruise will become the next Ben Affleck--a guy who couldn't sell water in the Sahara. The character on which Cruise built his business was the likable rogue who redeems himself from being a total asshole. Otherwise, we didn't know that much about him and didn't want to know that much. Yeah, he was married to Nicole Kidman and dated Penelope Cruz, but all of that followed the tabloid scipt. Beautiful people "fall in love," have extended dating periods, marry and have beautiful children before they divorce in order to go through the cycle again. As was the case with Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Uma Thurman, Tom Cruise the guy who was married and divorced never intruded on Tom Cruise the persona. And business was good.What's happening with the Katie Holmes affair is that Tom Cruise the guy has messed up Tom Cruise the persona. It seems that Cruise decided that being extremely good-looking, extremely famous, extremely rich, and extremely good at business gave him a license to be himself in public. "Tom" is in love with Katie Holmes so he goes on Oprah to tell 40 or 50 million of his closest friends. Tom has opinions about what psychiatry did to Brooke Shields, so he let's us all know. But Cruise is finding out what so many better actors and actresses than him find out on Golden Globes and Oscar night, that the public does not want to know, see, or hear them as persons. What the public wants is the persona and it's going to be extremely angry if your private person interferes with your popular persona. Cruise forgot this and now the public thinks that he's a Jerry Springer type, religious weirdo rather than a lovable rogue. That change of opinion will cost Cruise a lot and Paramount even more.So, when's the comeback?