Monongahela Junior High School had a bad case of Top Gun fever in 1986

We had “a need for speed,” although none had a driver’s license. Like Maverick and Goose, my friends christened ourselves with cool aviator nicknames. Rick demanded our science teacher call him “Ace” Jennifer signed the notes she passed in the hallway between classes as “Jax.” Unfortunately, I was known as “KB” because our imaginations didn’t stretch far enough to imagine a Black aviatrix.

Our adolescent hormones stampeded while replaying the volleyball scene with Cruise and Val Kilmer. Cruise and Val Kilmer’s “Iceman” hustled for dominance, unshirted and oiled up for the gods

I briefly considered a career as an Air Force pilot until I realized the complexity of math and science needed to fly.

Terri Nunn’s operatic soaring vocals in Berlin’s melancholic Take My Breath Away, coupled with the opaque blue lighting, set the stage for the ideal sexual scenario. I decided I wouldn’t lose my virginity when the time came with three thrusts on a shag carpet. When I finally had sex, it would be Top Gun style – cast in shadows and caresses against a lyric backdrop

I am a little more excited than I ought to be with the release of Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 film

Maverick promises to be a mix of the thrilling aerial acrobatics we saw in Top Gun and an elegy to the passage of time. Tom Cruise is no longer the charismatic, young daredevil longing to prove his worth to his dead father. Cruise is almost 60. He is now old enough to be the father or even grandfather of the young recruits he’s training

Cruise represented the prolific, aspirational, masculine energy of the 1980s at its zenith. Regardless of one’s ethnic or economic background, audiences imagined themselves in Cruise’s winsome smile and reckless ambition. I was just a 13-year-old Black girl from New Jersey at the time. But like Cruise’s Maverick, I wanted to be the “best of the best.” I longed to prove to my parents that I was worth their sacrifices.

Maverick is older, and so am I. The film hints at the passage of time with its brilliant sunset hues and vague warnings that “not everyone might come back” from the latest, urgent mission. Audiences now see Cruise’s films because he represents a tenacious authenticity. In an increased use of CGI and robotic aliens, Cruise seems strangely human. He breaks his ankle while jumping across buildings, holds his breath underwater for six minutes, and hangs off the side of a plane for the Mission Impossible movies. Yet, his most incredible stunt is aging.

I am looking forward to making a playdate with my inner 13-year-old to watch Maverick and cranking up “Take My Breath Away” on the drive home. Only this time, my need for speed is more like a quiet hunger.

Kerra Bolton is a writer and filmmaker based in the Mexican Caribbean. In a former life, she was a political columnist; Director of Communications, Outreach, and Oppositional Research for the North Carolina Democratic Party; and founder of a boutique strategic communications firm.


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