In the pilot of the TV show Preacher, the space entity tries to find a host and targets a religious figure. And then we see a news title showing "TOM CRUISE EXPLODES".

The TV shows a news scene with the caption 'TOM CRUISE EXPLODES'

Obviously a nod to the actor's association with Scientology. But how does the maker get away with it? Did they take special permission to use it for the show from Tom Cruise or the Scientology heads?

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    You should try watching South Park sometime ... Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 19:44
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    @RBarryYoung South park is parody show, this is not
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 19:51
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    Actually it is, just slightly more subtle. For instance having the "Meat Men" as enemies is clearly parody/satire. Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 15:39
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    Several religious leaders blow up in the show. This isn't because of any flaw in their character, but merely because the entity is trying to find a suitable vessel to occupy. So, unless Tom Cruise objects to being thought of as a religions leader (and his public association with scientology suggests not) why would he object? And what basis would there be for any complaint?
    – matt_black
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 10:32

1 Answer 1


IANAL but my understanding is that provided the name of a public figure is used for satire or commentary the program makers are protected under the First Amendment (Free Speech) of the US Constitution.


Satire and parody are important forms of political commentary that rely on blurring the line between truth and outrageousness to attack, scorn and ridicule public figures. Although they may be offensive and intentionally injurious, these statements contain constitutionally protected ideas and opinions, provided a reasonable reader would not mistake the statements as describing actual facts.

Because liability for satire and parody hinges on a reasonable person’s belief about the truthfulness of the commentary, you would be wise to consider various factors that may help ensure that a reasonable person would recognize your material as protected ideas and opinion rather than actual facts that could be defamatory. The context of the entire publication is important, so no single factor included below is guaranteed to protect you from liability, nor is an inclusion of all of these suggestions necessary:

Still, if Cruise had objected violently, the program makers could have removed the footage from the previews that were distributed. According to reports Cruise "wasn't happy" but it seems clear that he wasn't that unhappy enough to do anything about it.

Seth Rogen @ CinemaBlend.com

"We might have got a call from his camp just kind of asking what the story was. I’m not sure how that wrapped itself up."

Rogen also admitted that he would rather not have to deal with issues regarding other celebrities.

"I’m a coward. I try to avoid those kind of things at all costs.".

...and again

Seth Rogen @ Vulture.com

Given that the show blows Tom Cruise up in the pilot, what do you all plan to say to him the next time you see him?

Seth Rogen: "I actually know Tom Cruise, so it's fucked-up. I will run into him. I'm praying he has a good sense of humor about this. I don't know how I would feel if someone exploded me, so it's hard for me to say. I hope he gets it, because I don't know if I would. But I hope he gets it, is what I'll say. You only explode people you're big fans of."

  • You should probably add that this is about defamation of character. It's in the link now, but it belongs in the answer as well IMHO.
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 22:22

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