‘Top Gun: Maverick’: Why the Patch on Mav’s Jacket Is Way More Important Than You Realized

by Craig Garrett

In Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell flies the Taiwanese flag despite objections from China, suggesting a possible change in Hollywood going forward. The long-anticipated sequel to Top Gun is receiving universal praise for its fidelity to reality.  In an age of superhero films that lean too much on CGI, Maverick went old school. They managed pulse-pounding action using practical effects. Tom Cruise insisted on real locations and cockpit camera rigs rather than green screens. Whenever possible, the actors did their own stunts. This added to the ground feel of this summer’s biggest blockbuster. It also made Cruise one of the most successful people in Hollywood this summer.

Top Gun: Maverick has gone to great lengths to capture the essence of the leading characters, their military service branches, and their aircraft-based operations. Many noted one such detail directly on Tom Cruise’s character. Maverick’s leather jacket has a Taiwanese flag patch on the back. 

In the real world, pilots’ patches can represent a variety of things, including deployments, aircraft flown, and professional milestones. In the Top Gun cinematic universe, the Taiwanese flag patch is a tribute to Maverick’s dad. It turns out that Maverick’s father flew a co-mission with Taiwan during Vietnam.  Maverick’s Taiwanese flag patch is an important character detail, but the significance of the banner goes just being a plot point.

Top Gun’s Patch choice potentially symbolizes a big change in Hollywood

The Top Gun: Maverick‘s Taiwanese flag patch was a visual symbol of filmmakers cutting ties with China in order to gain financing and distribution. Due to its population alone, China represents a huge box office. Hollywood wants as many of those 1.4 billion Chinese citizens to buy tickets as possible. Many Chinese firms provide financial incentives to Hollywood productions, too. However, China also has very strict values and doesn’t allow many things to happen in their movies. They often reject films featuring elements such as strong religious overtones, homosexual romance, and pro-American stances.

Hollywood often placates China to ensure their movies play there. They often cut scenes from their films that the Chinese Communist Party finds sensitive. It even got to the point where scripts for film and tv were being altered for China’s sake alone. For instance, according to BuzzFeed Apple TV+ told content creators not to anger China. There were rumblings that some content would have to be cut from Top Gun 2 after its trailer dropped in 2019.

Maverick’s iconic Taiwanese flag patch was removed, and a seemingly random pattern with the same color scheme appeared in its place. The motivation was obvious: the Chinese Communist Party sees Taiwan as a province of China, not as a sovereign nation. However, this censorship wasn’t enough for China. The film’s supposed pro-American message infuriated a Chinese tech giant, Tencent, who withdrew financial support. So when the film was finally released this year, the correct patch was back.

Of course, Top Gun: Maverick went on to break box office records this summer. Tom Cruise and Paramount managed this without any Chinese financial backing. Hopefully, this will be noticed by other studio heads. You don’t have to pacify China at the expense of your art. A solid cast, story and production values will attract audiences without the need for foreign financing.