There’s a video that has been making the rounds on the Internet right now, and with good reason. Back in 1981, Dustin Hoffman appeared in a film called Tootsie, about a male actor who pretends to be a woman in order to get a role on a popular soap opera. He slowly transforms from a ladies’ man into a feminist icon, recognizing what it means to be a woman and an actress in a patriarchal world. Tootsie is a comedy, and has popped uo on AFI’s Top 100 Movies and Top 100 Laughs. And it is very very funny. But, as Hoffman himself point out in this video, it is also much more than that.
I’d rather not explain exactly what Hoffman has to say about the way that Tootsie transformed him, because I think he speaks better for himself. Tootsie is very much about perceptions – the way that women are perceived, the way that men are perceived. It deals, very comically but also intelligently, with what it means not just to walk a mile in another gender’s shoes, but what it means to be a different gender. Hoffman’s character Michael Dorsey turns into Dorothy Michaels, and suddenly the way he’s treated by both men and women changes.
What’s most moving about the video is watching a male actor come to tears as he recalls just how skewed the world can be against women. He comes to the conclusion that men have also been brainwashed into believing that women are only interesting if they represent a particular kind of beauty. As he says:
‘There’s too many interesting women I have…not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.” That (Tootsie) was never a comedy for me.
It’s a touching video and, I think, an important one. Tootsie is far more than a comedy – it’s a meditation on what it means to male and female in our society. Things have really not changed that much since 1981. But if men like Hoffman continue to speak out, there’s a good chance that they will. Check out the video below.