The past is like a big, gigantic, massive weight on Maverick's shoulders. We gradually learn that Maverick has this hang-up about his father, a Navy pilot in Vietnam who supposedly disobeyed orders and shamed his family name (read: shamed Maverick). Maverick doesn't learn the real truth until much later, and for most of Top Gun he flies as if he's trying to prove he's not his father. He just seems angry about his past, and Goose calls him out on it, essentially telling him that it's starting to affect his flying. Speaking of Goose, his death becomes an additional weight on Maverick's shoulder, a part of the recent past that also affects Maverick's performance. In the end, Lieutenant Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick, must learn to put the past to rest, and move forward with his life and career.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Why do we only gradually learn about Maverick's past? Why doesn't the film tell us the whole story right away?
- Is Maverick a little too hung up on the past? Why or why not?
- How is Viper's relationship to the past (his experiences in Vietnam) different than Maverick's? In what ways is it similar?
- Does Viper expect Maverick to get over Goose's memory a little quickly? Why or why not?
Chew on This
The past can be one of the biggest burdens ever. Maverick, for example, can't seem to stop flying against his father's ghost, his own past.
Maverick is unable to grow and become best pilot he can be until he knows exactly what happened in the past, what happened to his father.