Cruising Stardom in Hollywood Franchising: Tom Cruise as Franchise Star in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Dark Universe’ Storyworlds

Starring Tom Cruise, edited by Sean Redmond. Wayne State University Press, 2021.
Starring Tom Cruise book cover.

Book Description

Starring Tom Cruise examines how Tom Cruise’s star image moves across genres and forms as a type of commercial product that offers viewers certain pleasures and expectations. Cruise reads as an action hero and romantic lead yet finds himself in homoerotic and homosocial relationships that unsettle and undermine these heterosexual scripts. In this volume, editor Sean Redmond shows how important star studies is not just to understanding the ideological, commercial, and cultural significance of one star but to seeing how masculinity, ethnicity, sexuality, and commodity relations function in contemporary society.

The volume is divided into three parts. Part 1 explores the ways that Cruise’s star image and performances are built on a desiring gaze, nearly always complicated by perverse narrative arcs and liminal character relationships. This section also explores the complex and contradictory ways he embodies masculinity and heterosexuality. Part 2 places Cruise within the codes and conventions of genre filmmaking and the way they intersect with the star vehicle. Cruise becomes monomythical, heroic, authentic, and romantic, and at the same time, he struggles to hold these formulas and ideologies together. Part 3 views Cruise as both an ageless totemic figure of masculinity who does his own stunts, as well as an aging star—his body both the conduit for eternally youthful masculinity and a signifier of that which must ultimately fail. These readings are connected to wider discursive issues concerning his private and public life, including the familial/patriarchal roles he takes on.

Scholars writing for this collection approach the Cruise star image through various vectors and frames, which are revelatory in nature. As such, they not only demonstrate the very best traditions of close “star” textual analysis but also move the approach to the star forward. Students, scholars, and readers of film, media, and celebrity studies will enjoy this deep dive into a complex Hollywood figure.

Chapter 10. Cruising Stardom in Hollywood Franchising: Tom Cruise as Franchise Star in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Dark Universe’ Storyworlds (Tara Lomax)

Abstract

The idea of a “franchise star” reflects creative and industrial shifts in how the interplay of stardom, intellectual property (IP), and narrative is negotiated in contemporary Hollywood. As Derek Johnson identifies, the star system and franchising are “two modes of Hollywood product differentiation” that sometimes work in contestation (2008, 216). Like the star system, Hollywood franchising leverages the marketability of recognizable icons; however, the difference between the two systems is that stardom’s iconicity centers on the bodily spectacle and narrational significance of human persona, and the franchise system leverages the iconicity and expandability of IP and story brands—like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Marvel’. This process of expansion is enabled by synergistic branding strategies and broader convergence practices in the media culture landscape. Stardom and franchising are therefore both effective industrial systems with comparable marketing objectives suited to different modes of production. Sometimes these systems converge, but they do not always easily coalesce. Focusing on producer and actor Tom Cruise as a case study, this chapter examines the negotiation of stardom and franchising as it relates to storyworld design and industrial synergy.  


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