“Show me the way home, honey”
I saw Top Gun recently, in “drive in” form at an airport. It was technically “sit in form, “ (only no one was protesting the pejorative representation of minorities). I hadn’t seen the film in years. As a grown woman, it told a very different talespin.
The thing that remains unrealistic for me in this story is simple. I’ve had a lot of great things happen to me in airports. I’ve had equally pleasant experiences with pilots. But the exploitation of your students for research purposes is never ok.
An intelligent, beautiful woman (with a supremely bad ass car) finds herself a bit bored after nearing the apex of her career. After earning the phd, she’s been considering taking a job in Washington, but isn’t sure if she should “Lean In,” or not.
A substantial portion of the introduction to the film is devoted to making it be know that The Taxpayer is a very real entity that should not be forgotten about, under any circumstance. (note: the tax payer is mentioned more times than there are female or POC characters. Just saying.)
The taxpayer would go on to fund her climb to success. She seems conflicted not by this as much as what happens with the teacher/student dynamic.
While teaching, she gets distracted by her students. Mostly because they are all very sweaty, and sometimes show up at her house asking to shower. As a teacher myself, I would probably call the cops, but this was a different time? Maybe?
But there is one student that sends her head into the clouds. With his statistical impossibilities, and his Schrödinger-like teeth (one is in the middle of his face, yet not in the middle of his face) he ruffles her lovin’ feelings. Maverick.
His skills are adequate, bordering on mediocre. He makes made decisions based on pathos. But that’s what makes his math work. He has these classified (aka legendary and formidable) encounters with Russians. But to speak of these renegade skills outside of the classroom would be a threat to national security.
They bed each other. Shortly after, a fellow student, Goose, dies. Goose dies because of engine failure that Maverick couldn’t have predicted—a tribunal clears him of this. But as the expert she backs down and pretty much says, “shit happens scientifically, sometimes.”
It’s a cautionary tale. First, don’t be a shitty teacher. Do not tell your unstable students where you live. Secondly, Lean In to your career, on the ground, without your head in the clouds, or someone will die.
As I think about my own career path I come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to give redemptive feminist readings to movies like “Top Gun.” And in the words of Michael Scott, I’m going to stick with non-government research. Because I feel the need. The need for tweed.