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The ‘Top Gun’ Sequel Is Flooding Reality TV With Weird Military Propaganda

Don't mind this military promo in the middle of your favorite reality TV show.

Actor Jay Ellis on the set of 'The Bachelorette' promoting 'Top Gun: Maverick,' holding up the arms of winning and losing contestants.
Screenshot via BachelorNation/YouTube

This fall, my favorite (“favorite”) marriage of two seemingly random things — reality television and U.S. military propaganda — is rearing its ugly head again for the promotion of the Top Gun sequel Top Gun: Maverick.

The movie has been pushed back repeatedly from its original July 2019 release date, thanks first to production issues and then to the pandemic, but it’s finally scheduled to hit theaters in May 2022. Paramount Pictures and the U.S. Department of Defense — which collaborated extensively on both the original Top Gun and the new one — seem to have put those two extra years of lead time to use for its promotional plan for the film, because primetime reality television can’t seem to get enough of the Maverick cast. (Why is it all happening now instead of May? My guess is that these shows filmed way in advance and were pegged to the movie’s previous release date, which was, you guessed it, November 2021.)


You’ve Been Watching Army Propaganda This Entire Time

This isn’t a random relationship — Hollywood’s extensive history of joining forces with the U.S. military to create American entertainment has been documented by researchers such as Tom Secker and Matthew Alford. And I must emphasize, what benefits Maverick at the box office also ultimately benefits the U.S. Navy, not because of money specifically, but because time and again film and TV that valorizes the U.S. military and Department of Defense normalizes the existence and necessity of the military and U.S. empire. (It also acts as a recruiting drive.) That is generally speaking. More specifically, these Hollywood projects often rewrite historical narratives on foreign policy and otherwise literally promote the military (see: everything Captain Marvel).

But I digress. This is more specifically a blog about some of the weird shit that Paramount and the U.S. Navy settled on doing to help promote Top Gun: Maverick to mainstream, and perhaps younger, audiences. This month, cast members have appeared on ABC’s The Bachelorette and MTV’s The Challenge — two shows I watch and also two places where I was not expecting Top Gun actors to randomly pop up — in order to promote the film, while putting contestants through Top Gun-ish tests of strength.

On a Nov. 2 episode of The Bachelorette, Top Gun actors Jay Ellis and Glen Powell put all the Bachelorette contestants in what appeared to be an airplane hangar filled with military jets. They then outfitted them in jumpsuits and sat them in a spinning chair to fight G-forces while they “professed their love” for Bachelorette Michelle Young. Then, they made them “dogfight” by jousting one another. It is not enough to simply describe this scene to you, dear reader, which you can watch for yourself below.

A week later, on a Nov. 8 episode of The Challenge, Powell again, along with co-stars Danny Ramirez and Monica Barbaro, appeared in a clip on the show promoting the film. They also related the day’s challenge to the naval training that they underwent in preparation for Top Gun: Maverick, as detailed in this EXCLUSIVE blog that ran the day after on People magazine’s website: “The Challenge Players Battle for ‘Maverick’ Status in Special Top Gun-Inspired Challenge: WATCH.” From the article:

“Being in this film was a dream, but nothing could have prepared us for the vigorous and intense training program we had to complete before stepping foot in an F-18 fighter jet,” Barbaro says. “We even had to complete an official naval aviation survival course, you guessed it, underwater.”

“Now it’s your turn,” Ramirez adds. “Today, we’ll see who’s the maverick of this mission.”

“Hanging behind me, there is a custom-built aircraft,” [host TJ] Lavin points out. “We’ve created this aircraft to emulate Top Gun‘s iconic fighter jets.”

Again, the show’s contestants were dressed in pilot jumpsuits, and filmed a segment of themselves just posing to intense music (not shown in the clip linked below, for some reason!). It was all very dramatic and very corny and all very much exuding to the audience how cool it is to be in the Navy. I must (must? not really, but will) emphasize that I’m a fan of this show generally, and yes, it is always this corny and dramatic regardless of the inclusion of the Top Gun challenge and cast. Regardless, that’s likely part of the reason why Paramount — on top of sharing a parent company with MTV — greenlit the promotional segment in the first place.

Of course, this is just the beginning of Top Gun: Maverick‘s military propaganda press tour in the six months that it has left to boost the film (and the navy). There’s the viral Vanity Fair shoot, and these extra military-related appearances that Powell has already done this year. But I am getting ahead of myself. For now, we will enjoy all things good (read: bad) about the Top Gun: Maverick rollout so far: airplanes! The military! Dog fighting! Reality TV competitions! Underwater training! Good old-fashioned corporate synergy! It’s good. It’s all good.