The first trailer for the upcoming sequel to Top Gun has been released, and a whiff of controversy has been detected in the apparent absence of patches representing the flags of Japan and Taiwan which adorned Tom Cruise’s hero character Maverick’s jacket in the 1986 original.
This was interpreted by cynics as a sop to Chinese censors, given that Hollywood cannot afford to have its films blocked from screening in China.
No sooner had America breathed a collective sigh of relief that the new film will apparently contain a shirtless volleyball scene than eagle-eyed freeze-framers noticed what was missing from Maverick’s iconic jacket:
There’s a new Top Gun movie coming out. And Maverick is wearing the same leather jacket – only this time it’s Communist Party of China-approved, so the Japanese and Taiwanese flag patches are gone (screenshot on right is from the new trailer)… pic.twitter.com/gUxFNFNUKX
— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) July 19, 2019
Alternative explanations for the alteration to Mav’s jacket were soon proposed:
I would be interested in a naval fighter pilot explaining this but they are clearly different patches. The differences could imply where they are flying out of and possibly what their patrol is. #notafighterpilot pic.twitter.com/yUPT03WxVf
— Johnathan Doles (@THEjddoles) July 19, 2019
It is hardly implausible that the jacket would be tweaked to avoid irking Chinese censors, as such changes are frequently made in Hollywood today. Sometimes special China-friendly editions of American movies are prepared, but it is generally seen as more cost-effective to simply refrain from including content that would be deemed objectionable by the Chinese Communist Party. American studios are arguably getting better at this kind of quiet compliance than Chinese studios.
This might all seem like a great deal to infer from a brief glimpse of a jacket, but in the fast-moving and highly efficient Information Age, it is no longer necessary to see a movie before becoming upset by it. Indeed, Top Gun: Maverick is behind the curve because the social media firestorm usually erupts before the trailer is even released.
Film studios actually provoke and insult prospective audiences on purpose to prod them into complaining about movies in order to generate online publicity. Sometimes it only takes a handful of sour tweets from anonymous scolds about celebrity clothing to generate legacy media coverage of the “controversy.”
We might as well all play the game because honestly, it can be more exciting and amusing than the movies themselves — 3D is old news. Criticizing movies before anyone has seen them is four-dimensional.
Update: Mark MacKinnon declared the mystery of Maverick’s jacket solved with the discovery that “China’s Tencent Pictures is one of the main producers of Top Gun: Maverick.“