The Unicorn Scale: Top Gun

By Jennie Roberson

November 30, 2017



Photo credit: Image/Paramount Pictures

Hello, lovely readers! It's time for another Unicorn Scale!

What's that all about? Well, you can take a gander here for that. And while it is super tempting to try to queer my annual viewing of Die Hard (come on, there's something in the air between John and Hans), I recently had a revelation while watching another 80s testosterone-splattered classic. I was discussing Top Gun with my buddy, a queer vet, who hadn't seen the movie in decades, about how not-straight the movie was. She raised her pretty eyebrows in surprise. "What are you talking about? That it has homoerotic undertones?"

Maverick and Goose sitting in desks with others in their uniform, listening to a speaker. Goose is smiling and Maverick has a serious look.
Image/Paramount Pictures

I started laughing. Until I realized she was dead serious. Oh. Oh, we had to remedy this in her brain right this instant. So I rented the flick off of Amazon Prime and we settled in for some Kenny Loggins-soundtracked hyperbole.

WARNING: It seems only fair to remind everyone that I cannot write these reviews without spoiling the plot (even though there is next to none in Top Gun.) But I'm warning you anyway. Even though every single person I've ever met has already seen this movie if they were born after 1945. Still. SPOILERS ahoy.

Let's go over the paper-thin plot. Rogue fighter pilot Pete (call sign: Maverick, played by Tom Cruise) and his co-pilot, Goose (Anthony Edwards), have proven themselves good enough to go to Top Gun, the top academy for pilots in the Navy. Maverick's moves tend to be daring but also get him into trouble, so will he prove himself adept enough to pass with flying colors? Oh, also he accidentally hits on and starts dating one of his instructors, Charlie (Kelly McGillis). Drama, flying, and sex scenes with blue smoke ensue.

What I Liked:

This is an energetic popcorn movie from top to bottom (hehe). It knows it shouldn't be taken seriously and that's where most of its fun comes from. From gratuitous shirtless volleyball montages to clumsy karaoke pickup attempts, this is dumb entertainment at its best. The flick has surprisingly fantastic footage of its aircraft carriers to the dogfights in jet photography, but not enough jargon to confuse a layman.

But really, more than anything, what I loved watching was the bi chemistry simmering throughout the academy. That's right, I said bi. People often want to categorize Maverick as secretly gay with Charlie acting as his beard. I see their points, what with the unmistakable sexual energy passing back and forth between Mav and Iceman (Val Kilmer). But the fact of the matter is that Maverick shows the classic seduction telltale signs with Charlie as well. Flirting, bumbling pick-ups, prolonged eye contact, dates, touching are all present. And let's not forget the sex scene with Berlin playing in the background — we've all been there. 

Charlie and Maverick sitting side by side talking. Both are waring leather jackets.
Image/Paramount Pictures

Most of these factors are present with Iceman as well, but they're coded or covered in innuendo. Maybe if it hadn't been the '80s and they had had the locker room to themselves for more than thirty seconds, Maverick and Iceman could have consummated their passion. But alas, they did not. But Mav does finally win the respect of the by-the-rules Iceman, which is about as much as a mainstream movie at this time will allow.

What I Didn't Like:

Maverick does not know how to read the room in sexual situations. Coming from a modern filter, I was not a fan of him following Charlie into the bathroom to pursue her further. Let a girl go to the powder room in peace, Pete.

Other than that, I cannot take this movie seriously enough to really take up arms about plot quibbles or character behavior. It's just hopped-up silly airplane fare that happened to have mass appeal because it had Cruise in a charismatic role at exactly the right time.

Maverick giving the thumbs up sitting inside a one of his fighter planes with a large american flag behind him.
Image/Paramount Pictures

The Rating:

I know this movie is practically written into America's DNA, but it sure would be fun to see the reported sequel to include dramatic tension between Iceman and Maverick and Charlie come to a head. That would lead to some fantastic post-Don't Ask Don't Tell discussions and tension in the modern military, all undercut with how to navigate being a fighter pilot in a more geopolitically complex world. 3 stars for delicious flirtations between multiple genders while rocking a killer '80s soundtrack.

Three Unicorn emojis

Oh, and two fun notes: 1 — We hadn't even finished watching the first aircraft carrier sequence before my queer vet friend agreed it was non-straight as hell: 2 — When I watched this movie with my dad a few years ago, whose bi-fi is even worse than mine, even HE said at Maverick's last line to Iceman: "Now kiss!" If he can pick up on it, everyone can.


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