David Heinemeier Hansson

August 1, 2022

A way out of the danger zone

The new Top Gun has everything America needs right now: Confident, competent, and charismatic execution. It has premiered at a time when everyone here seems to have lost faith in the grander, uniting project of this country, and thus reflects an inspiring counter to the prevailing fatalism. It's as subversive as an unironic American flag pin at a hipster café. It's quite literally Maverick. I highly recommend it.

It's also a useful flashback to the year 1986, when the original movie first appeared. While I was only seven years old then, and didn't exactly have a lot of nuanced opinions of America, I do remember the vibe and the cool. America was very cool to a Danish kid growing up in Copenhagen in the 80s. And Top Gun was part of that cool.

But the actual America of 1986 was in dire straights on a whole host of issues back then too. While people are rightfully concerned about the increase in crime in 2022, there were over three times as many homicides in 1986 as there are today in New York City (where I'm sitting writing this). That in itself was a 20% surge over 1985. It wasn't looking good in many other American cities at the time either.

I'm sure many Americans were seriously dismayed by the direction of the country back then, like most are today, but when talking to people my age, it still seemed like a happier time. Maybe that's just the tinge of nostalgia coloring the recollection. Or the limits of what kids and teenagers remember from their youth. But maybe it's more than that too.

Yeah, things aren't great in America right now. Pick almost any topic, and you can find strife and lack of spirit. But that's exactly why we need films like Top Gun. Not just as a healthy reprieve from movies that wallow in everything that's broken, but as a reminder that this moment right here, is just a snapshot. America isn't destined to head off the cliff. It can turn things around. Just compare those homicide stats from New York City in 1986 to those of 2022.

But to turn things around, you need to have some faith that it can be done. Top Gun oozes that faith. It's time for America at large to find it too.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.