Despite being a movie about airplanes, the most memorable part of Top Gun has always been the volleyball scene. I’m sad to report that Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t feature a homoerotic volleyball scene, but it does include some topless football, and if you’re here for the volleyball, it’s pretty close.
As I mention in my review, Maverick is a little too true to nostalgia, and the football scene is another example. Taken in the context of the larger film, that seems a bit forgiving, but it also feels like the folks in Top Gun: Maverick are going to get the most out of wanting to indulge themselves. Maybe it works then, even if the movie itself feels a bit disjointed because of that loyalty.
The beach soccer scene comes just as training time for an upcoming mission is cut short and takes place under the guise of teamwork. In that sense, it’s successful – there’s a lot more camaraderie in this scene than the more competitive, trenchant nature of 1986 – but the only real friction in the movie is between Rooster and Hangman (and more broadly, Rooster and Maverick ) and it’s not set to the range. Perhaps examining why the scene is there defeats its purpose, however. What is important is simply that it exists.
Top Gun’s volleyball scene was mocked and praised in equal measure for its homoerotic undertones. In some 20th century films, homoeroticism is a deliberate subversion of exceptions, a play of transgressive rebellion against the repressive and homophobic character of 20th century society. The implicit but never-stated gay couple in Alfred Hitchcock’s rope comes to mind, as do the nuances of Fight Club that echo Chuck Palahniuk’s original novel. Top Gun is not one of those movies. That’s how masculinity was in the 80s.
With bare torsos, oiled muscles, thick mustaches and tiny shorts, the pinnacle of masculinity in 1986, Top Gun was homoerotic by accident. It would have been very easy for Maverick to be embarrassed by this story, to hide it, maybe even rehabilitate it by straightening out the beach sports scene. Luckily for those looking for the vintage Top Gun experience, Maverick is bold enough to bring back the tone of the original.
We see Miles Teller, shirtless and sweaty, rocking the ‘stain, dancing in slow motion. We see very deliberate homoerotic shots on the men and much simpler, superficial shots on the female recruits – it would have been easy to have the women in bikinis to sort out the balance of Val Kilmer’s rippling pecs in 1986, but at Top Gun spot: Maverick double down.
I don’t think, even if people remember it, that anyone will see Top Gun: Maverick for the volleyball scene. But at the same time, I think a lot of people are going to be happy that it’s there. Not just because it’s fun to memorize, but because it’s such an important part of Top Gun history, and one worth remembering as the series comes to life again.
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