Men these days think masculinity means one-upmanship and being the “alpha” of the group. Or worse – they think masculinity is inherently toxic.
Both these views are flawed and lead to crippled self-worth.
If you want to become a self-fulfilled man, it helps to reflect and observe others. Surprisingly, observing Top Gun teaches you valuable lessons on masculinity – if you view it through an educated lens.
In this episode, you’ll discover how watching Top Gun lets you accept yourself and reach your full, confident potential.
Show highlights include:
- How Tom Cruise teaches you how to pick up quality women (without pretending to be a high-energy alpha) (3:29)
- The “triangular gaze” technique that ramps up sexual tension between you and the object of your desire (8:28)
- The “weaponized vulnerability” method that disarms defensive women (11:46)
- A popular pick-up artist method that kills your chances of landing “the one” (even if every PUA tells you to do it) (13:14)
- How to become more attractive to the opposite sex by avoiding the “do more trap” (19:48)
- The “little sibling” strategy that lets you handle aggressive men with maturity (21:08)
- How to grow as a man without getting burned out by relentless “self improvement” (40:15)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Get access to all my current and future online coaching courses by applying for the Platinum Partnership program today at:
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the 50th episode of the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
For this 50th episode, we’ll be looking at the big hit of the moment that all the men are watching and talking about and raving about. That is Top Gun 2, Top Gun: Maverick, and this is Tom cruise, a no longer a baby-faced actor from the ’80s and now close to 60 years old, so it’s a pretty impressive movie I’ve got to say.
In this analysis of the psychology of Top Gun: Maverick, we’re going to be diving into the subjects of toxic masculinity, seduction, white knights, toxic parenting, grief and grief work, and narcissistic supply, ego acceptance, approval, and the complexity of life. A lot of big themes coming out of a kind of big movie, in a way, and I’m excited to get going. [01:12.0]
Right off the bat, a huge spoiler alert. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, please stop this podcast episode. Go, watch the movie, and then come back to it. I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, so a huge spoiler alert.
Also, the usual disclaimer or caveat, this is not a breakdown. It is not even a review, though I will tell you what I thought about the movie overall. I am not a professional reviewer and I don’t know all the intricate details and backs stories and all that stuff, beyond what my own fanboying of the actors or the movie and story, beyond that. This is a psychological analysis.
I just want to say right off the bat that I really enjoyed this movie, as did millions of people around the world. The last time I checked, it had a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I gave it a thumbs up, but a nuanced one. I think it’s a perfect summer movie. It is the kind of movie that will help you take your mind off whatever the heck you’re doing in your day-to-day life and just immerse yourself in a lot of fun, and it’s full of action. Incredible stunts. [02:11.8]
In fact, when I watched it on opening day– I watched it on opening day. I’m recording this about a week after that or exactly a week after that, and our editors take usually a couple weeks before we post this. I will try to get it out earlier, but there’s all of those caveats. It’s probably two or three weeks at least actually since the movie was released, hoping, in a way, that you’ll have seen it, so the spoiler alert will only be applicable to those late comers. Since I watched it on opening day—and I didn’t bother to google any other reviews or anything like that because I didn’t want to come upon any spoilers by accident—I didn’t realize that the effects were not CGI. I remember, after the movie, remarking to my wife, “For the first time ever, I’m going to look up who these special effects guys are, because they were incredible.” [02:57.5]
It turns out, the reason it felt so realistic was because these actors were actually really in these airplanes, pulling those incredible g-forces and you’re seeing their real reactions on their faces, and the camera work was incredible and just the engineering. Of course, the actual flying by the real-life Top Gun pilots was incredible. I really enjoyed the stunt work and the cinematography, top notch. Just on that alone, I highly recommend you go and watch this very entertaining movie. But this is a psychological analysis, so let’s get into the psychology.
The first thing I want to address with Top Gun 2, for the audience of the Masculine Psychology Podcast, I know many of you found this podcast because you were looking for help with women or dating or relationships. Men and women, male-female interaction, Top Gun is a classic and super-famous movie. I think it was actually because of Neil Strauss’ book, The Game, that had a whole chapter on his interaction with Tom cruise, and Top Gun being mentioned over and over in those old pickup forums from whatever, 15, 17 years ago, when I was on them. [04:05.4]
Then I studied that movie intensely multiple times. I don’t even know how many. Over a dozen times. If you haven’t seen the original, this is a great time. You’ve definitely got to see the original before you see the sequel I’m talking to, but if you’ve already seen the original, this would be a great time if you’re still struggling with women to go and check that out because of how iconic the classic, powerful depictions of a style of being that doesn’t require high energy.
It’s definitely not high energy. It’s definitely not a lot of talking, fast talking, because I see a lot of shy, nice guys, and they don’t know what they’re looking for. It’s like the average person walks into an art gallery or a famous museum and doesn’t know what they’re looking at, except that these are priceless works of art, but can’t appreciate them. [04:57.0]
It’s like somebody who is listening to really great jazz for the first time doesn’t know what they’re listening to, can’t pick out the phrases or doesn’t even know what’s going on, the solos and the rhythm section and all that. It actually takes a trained eye. For the average person, for the average guy, it takes a trained eye. It’s not normal for you to learn this because school doesn’t teach it to you, right? You would’ve had to learn it from a sister or from an older brother or something like that, or from a mentor, and most guys just don’t have that. Plus, the standards keep moving, so it’s the top 5% of attractiveness or something like that. The more that other guys figure it out, the more the standard goes up because women are picky, and I covered this in the previous episode on the truth about alpha males and all that.
Tom Cruise’s depiction in Top Gun of an intensely attractive and powerful, charismatic, and even in a kind of rakish way, he combines a lot of different arcs, seductive archetypes, in that character of Maverick in the original movie. I’d recommend the bar scene, which I’m going to address in this episode, the new bar scene. But I recommend you check out the bar scene when Tom Cruise is following her into the bathroom, which is an even more risky move nowadays, but even back then, it was pretty crazy, risky. [06:17.4]
But just his frame, his mindset, especially going up against Val Kilmer and that AMOGing thing that was happening in the bar and the eye contact battle with relatively little words said, and then just understanding the attraction dynamics, and this is a kind of set piece. It’s not going to happen like this in real life. There isn’t going to be a bar where you grab a microphone and have a karaoke night singalong and the whole bar sings along with you. That’s not realistic. A lot of, a lot of guys, I know the majority of guys watching this, it just goes over their heads for what to learn.
So, I break down a lot of the most important principles, not even just from Top Gun, but just taking the principles, explaining them to you in my course, “Invincible”. If you want to understand body language, eye contact, tonality, and how all that fits together, especially being driven by the right mindset for attraction, then “Invincible” is the course for you. [07:11.4]
If you want to learn about the bigger picture of using the social setting and social proof, and social circle and all of that, I have even more advanced courses in dating and attraction. Those are available in the “Platinum Partnership”.
But anyway, Top Gun, Tom cruise and Top Gun, his character there, fantastic, the bar scene. There’s also the really important scene where he’s with Kelly McGillis’ character in her home. He shows up, I think, like an hour late, asks to take a shower and all these really charismatic moves there, very confident. When he leans in and says he’s got to go, he leaves her hanging when he has hooked her, and just there, the back and forth of very seductive, slow, smooth interaction, this is a really sexually-seductive interaction style it’s not like what most nice guys and white knights think they have to be. [08:07.6]
Back in my day, back 20 years ago, I thought the club game was the kind of loud club guy who is the center of attention. Actually, that character is a lot more like a joker or jester type of character. He’s not the one who is actually seductive. He’s the entertaining one, but he’s not seductive, and Tom Cruise in Top Gun does a great job showing a seductive style.
Then there’s also a scene. There’s a scene in her home then there’s a scene in the elevator shortly after, which is incredibly intense and a great illustration of triangular gazing with his eye contact. Then there’s the scene where she’s chasing him down the street in a kind of coquettish thing going on and the sexual attention in the air that a lot of guys are too scared to be able to pull off because they’re afraid of getting her mad or getting her in any way that’s not obviously she likes you kind of thing. [08:58.5]
There’s another great illustration of this in Indiana Jones, where the love interest in Indiana Jones are at each other’s throats and then go right into kissing each other. A lot of nice-guy white knights don’t understand that dynamic at all. It’s important that you actually, if that’s you, if you’re a nice guy and you carry bitterness or resentment, because you don’t understand why other guys who seem to be bad boys are attractive, and maybe you don’t even have any bad boy friends, so you don’t understand the psychology of the bad boy.
It’s important for you to see these scenes, because if you watch through observation and understand the principles, it’s a great illustration because you’re not going to be able to be the, the fly sitting on the wall or sitting or hanging on the wall or whatever, the fly on the wall in any other situation in real life situation, because you wouldn’t be there, right? So, the movies or these movies are a great way of seeing what a seductive archetype really looks like and acts like. [09:55.2]
If you haven’t seen anyone in real life who looks and acts like this, that’s your loss. You haven’t been around it, but it’s there. I can tell you, this is the reason Tom cruise is able to sell this well, this character, in that first movie, that seductive attractiveness. It’s because it’s actually realistic, and the upper half or upper quarter of socially-savvy people, especially a lot of women, will react to it in a kind of visceral way, understand, yeah, that that works. That would’ve worked. That’s on the seduction level. I just want to point out that’s not even what I really wanted to get to. That’s the preamble. Top Gun, the original movie on seduction, is fantastic.
There are some really great attractive qualities in Maverick in this new movie, of course, and you see that on display right from the moment he steps in that bar and his love interest busts his balls, and he takes it in stride with a big smile in a kind of self-deprecating way. In that same scene, being carried out, thrown out of the bar, now he’s in a power position, right? He’s in a position of authority over these guys and they don’t know what they have coming for them yet. It’s easier to buy that, that he would be laughing along as he’s being thrown out of the bar, because he doesn’t really give a damn, right? [11:14.2]
But that’s the same sort of ballsiness in not taking it too personally and all that stuff that you see in his character from the first movie, and it’s a very attractive trait to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. One of the most common characteristics I see in white knights and nice guys is that they take themselves and everything way too seriously. They’re way too uptight. If you can just see the humor and everything, you’ll just be a lot more attractive, and even more importantly, you’ll enjoy life a lot more.
Anyway, he gets thrown out of the bars, laughing at himself, and then it rolls right into him actually being vulnerable, if you want to see what vulnerability looks like on somebody’s face done properly in an attractive sense, not what I mean by vulnerability in your therapist’s room where you shouldn’t even be thinking about how you might appear at all. [12:04.7]
But for a lot of guys who want to use, weaponize vulnerability to attract women, first of all, I’ve said a lot about that in other episodes. That’s the wrong approach, but it can be attractive and he does that very well in this movie in that scene, and you see in a very straightforward, simplistic kind of way, Jennifer Connelly suddenly seeing the humanity in him and that is what melts her heart. We’re kind of left to understand because it’s unspoken that he’s remembering Goose and being very sad about it, and, of course, all the sadness around all of the events that transpired around Goose’s son who broke away from the AMOGing happening in the bar yet again and breaking out into song that sets up that scene.
So many great attractive qualities, I think, even just from the perspective of a guy looking to study what is attractive in a man. These two movies are great. The first one has more that’s probably more applicable to the single guy, but even in Top Gun 2, you see it, so that’s nice to revisit that. [13:13.5]
I’ve got four more points, and since we’re on that scene in the bar, let’s stick with that. Let’s stay with that scene. The first point is about toxic masculinity and just bear with me here in case you get triggered by that term. I mean, it’s very easy to accept that there is masculinity and that it could be toxic. It could also be non-toxic. There’s also healthy masculinity, so I’m not attacking masculinity, in general. It’s toxic masculinity.
Even in my private conversation with Jordan Peterson, I want to point this out for all the big, I don’t know, men’s rights type of guys, he too concurred that there is obviously a toxic form of masculinity. The thing to do is not to throw out all of masculinity. It’s to detoxify it. Those are his words and I completely agree. So, toxic masculinity in the bar. [13:56.6]
I didn’t realize what toxic masculinity was when I first studied the original Top Gun movie, for me, 17 years ago. In the original movie, there’s an iconic scene with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, their characters, Maverick and Iceman, in the bar and they’re right in each other’s faces. Iceman, Val Kilmer’s character, is wearing sunglasses inside this bar and they’re nose to nose. Their two wingmen are there as well and they’re doing all this kind of jockeying.
I was told through the forums and e-books and all the underground pickup stuff that this is the alpha male of the group. It is called AMOGing. They turned into a verb. The person who is the most attractive is going to be the one who comes out on top of these alpha male battles and I really bought into that. I believed that firmly and I carried that through. I even taught a whole seminar on AMOGing. [14:55.3]
I got actually pretty good at it, for what it’s worth, until many years later, I realized it really isn’t important and can really hurt you in terms of your attractiveness to the type of women who are ready and able to succeed in a relationship, this sort of AMOGing, which you also see in Top Gun 2, to my great disappointment, in the bar scene between the two main cocky guys, Rooster and Hangman, who are for Top Gun 2, the Iceman and Maverick kind of dynamic.
For immature girls or girls who are still teenagers, this might be very exciting for them to witness two guys squaring off and not fighting physically, because once you start to fight physically, it’s no longer AMOGing. But this sort of psychological verbal battle and battling for frame control is really only exciting and appealing to immature women, commonly maybe at the level of experience in terms of dating as a teenage girl or maybe a college girl, depending on how much experience she has had out in the real world or in nightclubs and bars, because if she has any experience socially, she would have already had guys acting really weird around her and kind of fighting the each other to win her affection or attention. [16:22.8]
Any kind of working in that way is a sign of neediness. It’s already showing that you value her opinion of you more than you value yourself, because if she weren’t there, then you wouldn’t bother going through the trouble, unless you’re very insecure, so insecure that you’re just doing this, I don’t know, to a mythical woman who might happen to be in the background. But if there were no women there, you probably wouldn’t care too much, hopefully, if you’re an immature man, to get into this, sort of putting all this energy into jockeying with another dude. [16:58.3]
Now, as I say that, I realize there are a lot of immature men who have a toxic view, and this is straight out of toxic masculinity, of kind of viewing disrespect as a moral issue. Those are men who are very easily triggered and actually won’t get very far in life or will be constantly unhappy, because it will be so easy to make them unhappy by simply disrespecting them. You already control them and they’re easily controlled. Men like that who care about being disrespected are easily controlled and are not therefore very powerful.
The women will pick this up, even the inexperienced, young teenage women or inexperienced college-age women under 21 or something like that. Even while they’re entertained, to some degree, unconsciously, they will also lose attraction for the men who are engaging in this jockeying because it is displaying a kind of neediness or a kind of hot headedness that makes you easily controlled, and that will probably land you in trouble down the road because you can’t control your own impulses. [18:08.3]
The man who’s even more attractive is the one who doesn’t need to engage with any of this posturing and sees it for what it is, immature, insecure men trying to jockey for position because they’re worried about whether they’re the alpha male, and there aren’t even any women present. It’s even more sad because there’s so little at stake, but in their minds, there’s a lot at stake.
Now, when you add a woman as an observer there and if you are trying to play to the audience there of her and you think, Oh, if I AMOG this guy, I’m going to be more attractive to her, the truth is, the worst is that you try to AMOG and then you do lose. You get owned and you feel bad about it, and you slink away all sad. That’s not attractive. [18:58.0]
But even the guy who enters this competition and wins, so to speak, he makes the other guy feel bad or whatever the guy slinks off, and he turns triumphantly to her like, Yes, now I shall mate with you because I have vanquished the opposition, just the very fact that he engaged in that already shows that he’s needy, right? Because he’s already valuing her opinion more than his own opinion of himself.
He’s valuing her opinion of him more than his own of himself, because if you already know or if you already fully accept yourself, you already fully love yourself, then you wouldn’t need to get into any kind of jockeying game with another guy, an AMOGing thing, because it would be pointless. What would be gained from that? If she can’t see you and appreciate you for how you are after she gets to know you, that’s actually her loss, right? You don’t need to get trapped with some other guy and try to show off and do this dance, because then you end up falling into what I’ve called the “do more” trap. [19:57.4]
One of the first videos I’ll send you when you enter your email into my mailing list is the video on the “do more” trap, because it’s the most common, one of the most common errors that men fall into and it’s one that society or pop culture reinforces, because the guys at the top actually want to reinforce all the other guys or potential competition, they want to reinforce them doing stupid stuff. This is one of those things.
Meanwhile, all these guys are jockeying for, fighting for, AMOGing, fighting for this girl’s attention and trying to impress her and all this stuff, and then the guy who doesn’t give a damn about that just being himself, that guy is going to be more attractive than any of the guys now engaging in the fight for themselves. Don’t ever get caught in fighting for a woman and mistaking that for winning her affection. If you do that, that’s just because there was no other guy who didn’t give a damn who was in her life at that moment. [20:57.6]
But toxic masculinity says, to be a real man, you’ve got to fight all these other guys off and all this stuff. Even from a happiness perspective, that’s obviously not true. But even from a mating perspective, to not even need to enter that competition, to be above it, whatever the guy says to you, you don’t even notice. It’s like you don’t even notice this guy. He doesn’t even exist. Imagine this guy is talking to you and you wouldn’t even get baited into it. You’re above it. It doesn’t even matter. This guy could be saying whatever and it would just be like he didn’t even exist.
Have you ever had that, like maybe a sibling who pretended you were invisible, how infuriating that is? Now, that’s pretending to get an effect, so that could be a framing or AMOGing move in itself. But if you truly, authentically, sincerely didn’t even notice and you just were living your life, enjoying it however you needed and wanted, and you can barely even be bothered with the girl–
If she’s cute or something, you give her a chance, or she’s really beautiful and you give her a chance, but your actual real standards are much higher than that, because, in fact, if you’re looking for a relationship with someone worth your time and effort, you’d have to have a lot more than that, right, because physical beauty isn’t going to carry a 50-year relationship and it doesn’t last. “So, okay, what else have you got going? You’ve got my interest?” [22:20.8]
If you love yourself and are self-confidence, then you wouldn’t leave your own self-esteem at the mercy of her control at her feet, and, therefore, you would not engage in any stupid AMOGing competitions with other guys that actually just make you look more silly to the women who are mature enough or experienced enough in the real world to see right through all the little boy games. [22:50.0]
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I actually think the Top Gun movie depicts this because that’s why the bar scenes are always at the beginning to set this scene for how immature these new recruits are then they go on their hero’s journey, their story arc, and that’s what happened with Iceman and with Maverick, of course, losing Goose, even right from the next scene, really. Iceman turns out to be a more of a more mature figure who is warning Maverick in the locker room and stuff like that, that he needs to be looking out for more than just himself and he needs to consider others and that sort of thing. [24:06.2]
Then, of course, in Top Gun 2, Iceman does show up as this more mature mentor yet again with a brilliant scene by Val Kilmer, I think the highlight, emotionally, of it, for me anyway, and that leads actually into one of our next points here. But I just want to cap that off, toxic masculinity, the beginning of the movie in the bar. If you got it, the wrong information from pickup artists like I did back 17 years ago, you might study that scene and think, that AMOGing, that’s what we need to do. It’s not. Even the screenplay is not written that way either. It’s not saying that you should be this way. That doesn’t work. But it’s interesting to just see it this is what these frat boys are doing. [24:49.2]
I saw this actually when I was a college student, a total nerd on a tour from McGill University for the Model United Nations, MUN, representing McGill University, and then at the after-parties at the bars at Yale University and the one we did at Harvard and Brown, and we toured around and represented McGill for this, there were always the West Point guys dressed in their military uniforms and they were very alpha, and so we were all immature. The girls, every time we went out, any attractive girl from our school, we’d go pick her up. She was just banging many guys. They were sleeping with a different guy every night. This was not everyone, not all the girls, but a disproportionately greater number of the attractive women.
Anyway, then the West Point guys would do this sort of posturing, so when I saw the movie, I had recognized there was that, whereas at McGill University, you would generally see that a lot less because the pull of the city of Montreal was a lot more than the campus life. But in these little microcosms of campus life in the United States where liquor laws prevent people under 21 from drinking, you see a lot more concentrated immaturity and the stakes seem higher when they really shouldn’t be. Anyway, you see this kind of posturing a lot in university campuses. [26:10.0]
I saw this among some frat guys in Arbor as well, but those West Point guys were probably the closest I’ve seen in real life to that type of AMOGing in the bar that you see in Top Gun. But to some extent in every club around the world, when things are hopping, you are going to see this type of posturing between guys when they think a girl is watching and they’re trying to, in a way, win the girl.
I used to get really good at this sort of thing and I was thinking under the misperception, this illusion, that it actually made me look more attractive, but I now and several years ago can recall realizing the kind of disappointment of the women who are like, Yes, Dave, you won that one, but so what? Let’s come back down now, that kind of thing. [26:58.0]
There were some or a couple skirmishes that I lost. I’d be outnumbered or something or they got some surprise reinforcement in terms of frame control or whatever, and me thinking that made a big difference and then looking in the eyes of the women, only looking back at looking at the eyes of the women, realizing that, seeing that kind of disappointed look again, but for other reasons. The whole thing doesn’t really matter. In fact, it makes you look bad that you’d even have an ego battle at all because it actually makes you look insecure and immature that you would even enter into that.
Okay, so toxic masculinity in the bar, moving into some more toxicity, and especially in Top Gun 2, the reason why Maverick, and I keep referring to him as Maverick, the reason Maverick didn’t tell Rooster about why he pulled his application and set him back four years, set his career back four years, at the request of Rooster’s dying mother. You see this quite a lot in this kind of toxic parenting, but it’s also very common in toxic masculinity that you step into this kind of self-sacrificial white knight role. “I’m going to take the hit and sacrifice myself and let them hate me.” [28:10.5]
But actually what’s happened is, when you don’t allow somebody to get the truth and you might think that, so what you’re already doing, because it’s toxic parenting, is at some point, this child will grow up and be able to have the maturity to handle the truth. When you think they can’t handle the truth, you are what we call infantilizing them. You’re treating them like infants, and this actually takes their autonomy away.
This prevents them from having this opportunity to grow, when you control the truth you think that you’re protecting them from the truth. But, actually, you’re not giving them a chance to tackle or wrestle with the truth, and, instead, they wrestle with a lie. When you wrestle with a lie, it doesn’t actually allow you to adapt to the real world, especially for the person who is withholding the truth from them. [29:01.2]
Now, this happens a lot in toxic societies. I’m in Asia right now this is par for the course in Asian society where you withhold truth or facts, or how things will end up, because you don’t think the people, the audience or the listeners or your citizens, or your children, can handle it, and in any case, you don’t want to give them that control anyway, so you are going to make the decision of what’s going to happen and then it doesn’t even matter what they think. You are going to do what’s best for them.
“For their own good” is the phrase of toxic parenting. “For your own good.” I get this when you are literally intellectually incapable of understanding, so if you’re five years old and your brain is still forming and you haven’t hit puberty yet. You don’t want to just throw on them all this truth about sexuality when they haven’t even hit puberty yet or when they’re still in the beginning of grappling with puberty, right? So, you do make these conscious choices. [30:00.3]
Now, that’s why the delaying or actually the withholding of truth to Rooster, because he was at that age and was coming of age as a man of 18, I guess, and then pulling his application, set him back another four years, that’s borderline. But I actually think when a boy hits 16, he’s ready to get a lot of truth. Especially if one of his parents has died tragically, he has already been forced to grow up and this guy can handle a lot of truth, if you allow him that opportunity, you give him the truth and then you hold the space for them to grapple and wrestle with it and maybe even punch you in the face and maybe punch the wall and just feel whatever they’re feeling as a result. But if you withhold the truth from them forever, you prevent them from ever growing.
Now on the subject of growth, we get to the third point on grief and grief work, and that beautiful scene between Maverick and Iceman in Top Gun 2, where Iceman tells him, “It’s time to let go,” and that was such a beautiful phrase and just stayed with it on the screen there, “It’s time to let go.” [31:04.6]
That was the turning point for Maverick to actually begin to let go and do his version in the movie, as simplistic as it can be, of a kind of grief work of tackling that grief. Actually, this is so important. It’s not very well depicted in the movie, but it’s represented there in the plot, this turning point of beginning to let go, of even seeing that as desirable and a necessary phase.
This grief work is so important for all the guys who are still bearing so much resentment and bitterness toward the women who hurt them, and then, in some cases, for the incels, MGTOWs and the Red Pills, to all women, it’s time to let go or you will be stuck and you’ll be replaying the same nightmare you’ve already lived through and are still living. It’s time to let go. [31:57.3]
I actually have a very powerful guided meditative experience in my courses, “Heart” and “Rock Solid Relationships” and “Freedom U”, called “Letting go”, and another version of it based on the Hoʻoponopono. Anyway, for the guys who have gone through the course, you know what I’m talking about. “Rock Solid Relationships” walks you through a multimodal sequence on detoxifying your masculinity, and a big part of it is a process of letting go of the burdens that you’ve been holding onto consciously and unconsciously and beginning to see that that is the way through, not getting your revenge, not retaliating, not AMOGing the bad guy, not beating the competition.
None of that will matter. It will not take you forward in your growth and that’s what kept Maverick stuck in his life, personal life, especially, and Iceman knew it. He was the mentor in that movie and was telling him, “It’s time to let go” and “We need the real Maverick,” right? It’s time to let go and go through that grief work. [33:05.0]
The final point is about ego and narcissistic supply and repression, and acceptance and approval. Okay, so it is a big theme. They’re all wrapped up together. This is one big point. I didn’t notice this until I read the reviews after watching it, and as I was preparing for this podcast episode, I was reading more and more reviews and I saw a theme in the reviews by especially the American reviewers, but by kind of men all around the world, especially in Western countries, but especially in America.
It’s reflected in this catchphrase that I think they were trying to embed in the movie, “Don’t think. Just do,” and that was Maverick’s main lesson to Rooster, “Don’t think. Just do,” and repeated it over and over. The screenwriting is great. The first Top Gun had so many iconic phrases that still live with us now, and I think, “Don’t think. Just do,” they’re trying to do something like that with this movie. [34:01.0]
It is part of the reason I think that explains why there was such an emotional reaction from men, in America, especially, to this movie, which otherwise is a very simplistic, straightforward hero’s journey with some incredible stunts and camera work and cinematography. But the emotion of it, especially the romance, there are so many clichéd moments.
I remember so many times my wife and I looked at each other and just remarked how cheesy this movie was. It was so cheesy, but it was a summer blockbuster kind of movie. Yeah, it’s kind of like tongue-in-cheek cheesy, but there was so much cheese. That romance was so cheesy and didn’t do a good job explaining how a bar owner would own a boat, a sailboat, and a $250,000 rare Porsche that she drove up at the end, though it turns out she’s an admiral’s daughter as I looked up in the reviews, but that wasn’t explained at all in the movie. [35:04.7]
Anyway, there were so many of these things that were happening that were just so cheesy and I didn’t understand this incredible outpouring of emotion among so many men. Then it dawned on me, “Don’t think. Just do.” The big part of what men are relating to in that movie is a sense of acceptance, and even more than that, that everything’s going to be okay and America is going to win, because the other way to look at it and this is the criticism of the original Top Gun as well is the sort of jingoism, so to speak.
If you’ve ever watched, hopefully, you’ve seen, because if savvy with the world and how the world is going, if you’ve been reading Ray Dalio’s Changing World Order, which I highly recommend, or any other if you’re with it in terms of global world affairs, you would know about China and you would know how big the Chinese box office is and you would know that the Chinese box office is mostly siloed from the Western box office, and they have totally different movies, but they have one point whatever billion people, 1.4 billion people, so they’re their own dominant movie machine. [36:04.0]
One of their biggest hits ever, I think maybe the biggest hit ever so far, is Wolf Warrior 2, and I’ve seen that. If you haven’t seen it, go see it, if you want to get up with the world and the other big hits in China, and they’re incredibly patriotic. A lot of it is doing for the Chinese what Hollywood has been doing for Americans for, I don’t know, four or five decades of a kind of brainwashing of a kind of patriotic “Yeah, we are the best” kind of thing.
What I appreciated in these movies actually, and I know the right-wing guys didn’t like it, was the fact that the enemy was unnamed and it was not immediately obvious, and in any case, they don’t make anything about the broader context of what this battle is supposed to be about. It’s just bad guys. We’re the good guys and we happen to be American, but we’re the good guys and we’re going to beat the bad guys. Super simplistic. This is the type of thing teenage boys, even 10-year-old boys love to see. I totally love it. It’s like that simplistic G.I. Joe stuff. Big fan. Sure, it’s a lot of fun. [37:07.0]
But realized that, in a way, it felt like watching Wolf Warrior 2, but built or made for Americans, and I was reminded of what moviemaking was like 20 years ago when it was unapologetically America was the savior of the world and had the best, the brightest, the biggest, the fastest of whatever, the richest, and the rest of the world will supplicate to us and we are the best.
I get it that there are a lot of guys who are feeling beleaguered, besieged, attacked by the world, especially even just for being men, and this is one of those movies that lets you just as a man or as an American feel like everything is okay, you’re going to win in the end, and everything is all right. “Don’t think about it. Just do it.” Don’t think too hard about the real world or real life. Just do it. The doing it is whatever you’re supposed to do, get your job done or whatever. Live on. [38:06.5]
I get it. Acceptance feels really, really good, and there’s no reason you can’t have movies like this. It’s the summer. That’s what it’s for. You’re supposed to have these sort of empty, but feel-good, simple, fun movies and this is one of those, and it’s just interesting to see how much emotion is being generated by this. Maybe kicking off the summer blockbuster season. Maybe guys still aren’t used to this sort of thing where there is no ambiguity and there’s no complexity. It’s straightforward, and even the bad guys, you’re not asked to think too hard about them, and it’s just fun and with great stunts and so on.
But if you are a viewer or listener to Masculine Psychology Podcast, you are interested in the gray and the complexity and real life, and the “Don’t think. Just do”, I mean, if you have a task and you’ve got to get it done, okay, sure, go for it. Then, if you’re in the middle of a flow experience, then, yeah, just keep going, if you want to do well at it or to enjoy it. [39:13.4]
But as far as your life, in general, I would say stop doing. Don’t fall into the doing trap, including the “do more” trap. Don’t fall into the “just doing” trap and stop and reflect. Stop and think. Stop and consider, and notice and observe. Stop and be mindful. Notice things. Don’t just charge headlong.
I know that I see this with guys who have been in the self-help journey for a while. They get tired. They get exhausted. They feel like they’re being beaten up. They feel like they’re never good enough. They feel like they can’t do it, even with something as simple as meditation, which literally is just sitting in silence with your eyes closed. If you can sit in silence with your eyes closed for X amount of time, five minutes, 10 minutes, you have done it.
Yet I see so many, the vast majority of people who actually attempt this think that they suck at it and they give up. You can’t do it wrong. You can’t do meditation wrong. If you are sitting in silence with your eyes closed, it doesn’t matter if your head or your mind is swirling with lots of thoughts. That’s awesome. That’s what was needed. [40:14.5]
But, look, I totally get it. If you are tanked out, you’re tapped out on self-improvement, and I’ve actually attacked the whole self-improvement fetish, take a break. Take some time to just appreciate you for how you are right now and accept everything, because what happens is because you can’t grow unless you start from [a place of acceptance], you can only grow from a place of acceptance, you cannot grow in a healthy way from a place of criticism.
So many people are pursuing self-improvement from a place of criticism, and if you do it that way, it’s toxic and you’ll get exhausted, because it’s toxic. Just noticing how many people are responding so emotionally to a feel-good movie that tells you that you are going to win and you’re awesome, you Western military people. [41:05.0]
And just realizing this kind of corollary to this, and this will only increase because the Western, specifically American empire will decay and will fall. If you don’t understand this, you can look it up in Ray Dalio’s Changing World Order, who does a great job explaining it, but that’s not the only place it’s explained, of course. But time will tell, so we’ll see how it goes.
But it’s important that, as you’re in this transitional period, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of America. It’s just the end of an empire, and if you are in it or if you’re attached to it, it’s important for you for your mental health and for your survival and thriving to adjust for it as it’s happening. Then not to just be feeling beaten down the whole time and then go into denial because acceptance is not approval. It’s great to have that acceptance, but it doesn’t mean that then everything is hunky-dory in the sense of there’s no point in paying attention to what’s actually happening to others or real life, or what’s happening in the world, for you, for your context. [42:11.7]
Accepting doesn’t require approval. It just requires acceptance. You start from there. If you want things to be different or if you want the pain that you’re feeling to change or to stop, then you actually do have to go through grief work for instance or you do have to confront the toxicity in your mindset or your lifestyle choices, and that would be good for you because that is the way to growth and healing.
But you start from a place of acceptance so that you don’t require. If you’re coming from a place of criticism, you’re going to require the sort of denial version of a story that’s thrown to you in order for you to relax and give yourself a breather, right? It’s really important. From the therapeutic perspective, I would prefer you go to a therapist rather than a life coach or just self-help. [43:04.5]
A good therapist will begin from a place of acceptance with the assumption that you actually don’t need to be fixed and it’s just a perspective switch, and you can get all that feel-good, all those good feelings, without needing to approve of everything, so you can think and do. Okay, you can do, but also not require turning your brain off or closing your eyes or closing your ears to reality and what’s actually going on in your life. Okay, you can enjoy the good feelings of simplicity without closing your eyes to the complexity, right?
Just as a caveat, kind of the last parting words on Top Gun, just in the response to the type of reviews that I’ve been seeing, and it’s not even so much the reviews, it’s more of like the customer reviews. Not the professional reviewers, but more the customer reviewers, especially among, as far as I can tell, the majority of men and many of them in Western countries, most of them, many of them in America. [44:11.7]
I get that it’s coming in the context of feeling beaten up, beaten down, not appreciated, not accepted, and that this movie helps you to feel all those things and it’s such a relief. If you’ve been beaten down, you’re like, Yeah, give it back to them. The world should see this, because we’re not such bad people. It’s true that you’re not such bad people, but it’s important also to embrace and open your eyes, to embrace the change, open your eyes every once in a while, and maybe you can take more recovery time and more rest and more appreciation for yourself, and not require growth from a place of criticism, but instead growth from a place of acceptance.
Hopefully, that makes sense to you. I took a movie that was really simple and feel-good and I complexified it for you, because that’s what I saw, and maybe seeing this will also help you see and avoid some of the toxic traps that are out there that you might have fallen into that I fell into as a result of misreading or having a naive view of the original Top Gun. [45:17.2]
Then also seeing some life lessons that you can take from it in terms of grief and narcissistic supply or ego supply and white knighting, and AMOGing and the toxic masculinity. Hopefully, that will help you to see that, because if you don’t see this, you might end up taking the wrong principles from this movie about what masculinity is or about when to withhold or to withhold truth from people that you don’t think can handle it forever, and then to live in denial and prefer denial rather than opening your eyes to the complexity, and instead of taking care of yourself, loving yourself and giving yourself enough self-care and self-acceptance and appreciation. [46:00.0]
If you want to do it right, you can do that grief work in my courses like “Rock Solid Relationships”, going through the letting go process and all the therapeutic processes that I keep recommending in these episodes. You can do that in my courses that you can access through the “Platinum Partnership”.
Also, if you want to get that dating info and that dating knowledge, which would become so much easier to implement after you’ve gone quite a ways through the therapeutic process, all of that is accessible in the “Platinum Partnership”.
All right, so welcome to the 50th episode. I look forward to welcoming you into the 51st, and until then, please give me a like or comment. Especially I want to hear any feedback that you’ve got. I also want to hear if you like these movie reviews. I’ve been doing them more because people have been asking for them and they’ve been getting a good response, but this wasn’t what I originally had in mind when I started this podcast, so let me know if you want more of these or if I should just stick with the straightforward psychological analysis. But let me know. I want to hear the feedback.
Also, if you like this and benefited from it in any way, please share with anyone you think would benefit from it. I’d really appreciate that, and until next time, be well. David Tian, signing out. [47:12.0]
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