Gender Roles in Tootsie
“Men are the same as Women.” Some see this as a tautology and others see this as a contradiction. This perceived similarity or difference between men and women is what forms the basis for opposing viewpoints and positions that lead to the concept of gender politics. The 1982 box- office hit Tootsie is an excellent example of gender politics and roles in our society. The writers of this film had particular perceptions about the roles of men and women and how they acted or reacted in various situations and spent time exploring many different aspects of these roles and reactions as the film progressed. One specific area explored in the film was how men and women react to the truth. With regards to this topic, the writers of this film are firmly in the camp that the statement, “Men are the same as Women,” is a contradiction. The film Toot sie presents an unequivocal statement that men and women react in extremely different ways to being told the truth, or someone being honest after concealing the truth. The writers present the idea that men react to being told the truth by presenting a stoic thoughtful countenance whereas the women react with alarm or strong emotions. Men are quiet, women are loud. While this may be an unintentional bias, it is there nevertheless. The film is fairly screaming to women, “You can’t handle the truth!” (A Few Good Men). The film, Toot sie, is can be summarized as follows: Michael Dorsey, played by Dustin Hoffman, is a brilliant and troublesome New York actor who has managed to alienate every producer on both coasts. Michael's agent George Fields, played by Sydney Pollack, can't even get his client a commercial and tells Michael he has been so obnoxious that he will probably never work again. Dorsey thinks otherwise; when he hears of an opening on a popular soap opera, he applies for the job- - even though the job is for a woman. Posing as Dorothy Michaels, Michael wins the part and becomes a
widely- known actress. Complications ensue when Michael falls for his co- star Julie, played by Jessica Lange, and as Dorothy, he is courted by Julie's widowed father, played by Charles Durning. The film resolves the issues and Michael ultimately finds that his disguise as a woman has made him a better man. The elements of the film that illustrate the writer’s idea that men handle the truth differently than women are sprinkled throughout the film in various comedic episodes. Once such episode transpires as Sandy, Michael’s girlfriend, comes over to Michael’s apartment after he had not returned her calls for over a week. Because of Michael’s cross dressing as Dorothy, he has been acting very furtive and this behavior has made Sandy suspicious. The following is her confrontation with Michael. Sandy. “Oh, Michael, don’t lie to me. Just be honest with me. Give it to me straight for once in your life. It’s so demeaning to listen to all of these stories. No matter how bad the truth is, it doesn’t tear you up like dishonesty. It leaves you with some dignity and self respect.” Michael. “You’re right. I’m not going to lie to you any more. I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m in love with another woman.”
Sandy stands and gives a blood curdling scream.
Michael. “Well ... I thought you asked me to be straight.” Sandy. “Yes. But I didn’t say I’d feel ok. I feel awful.” (Tootsie 127) Another example of this differing behavior between men and women is during a party scene in the film. Michael attends a party with his agent,George, and runs into Julie. When he sees her at the party he decided to try the honest approach Julie had earlier said she would like to hear. The encounter does not unfold as Michael expects.
Michael. “Can I tell you something?”
Julie. “Have I got a choice?”
Michael. “You know ... I could lay a big line on you, but the simple truth is - - I find you very attractive .. and I’d really like to go to bed with you.” Julie turns and hurls her drink into his face....
Citations: Toot sie. Dir. Sydney Pollack. Perf. Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Charles Durning, Dabney Coleman,
and Teri Garr. Columbia Pictures, 1982. DVD.
A Few Good Men. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Jack Nicholson. Columbia Pictures, 1992. DVD
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