The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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“Assume a virtue if you have it not.”

I saw Tootsie again a few weeks ago (remember the 1982 film that featured Dustin Hoffman in drag?). It was a grand comedy and a great success, mostly because Hoffman was so believable in drag. He also had a wonderful supporting cast with Jessica Lange and Teri Garr, and a fine script.

The scenes I love the best are those in which he tries out for acting parts as his normal male self and is summarily rejected, sometimes even before speaking a line. No one likes him. He’s either too short or tall, too old or young, and on top of all of that, too difficult to manage. There are plenty of other more malleable persons out there who are more than willing to be anything the directors wish them to be. The irony is that it is only after he becomes something he’s not, a woman, that he gets a part in a play.

To me, this is a metaphor for how we’re expected to conduct our lives in modern society. Perhaps I’ve lived in the Midwest too long, but almost no one is real here. It is strictly forbidden to be emotional or to say what’s on your mind (if you’re a guy). The expectation is that you are to play the role prescribed by your boss, family, and spouse right to the end. Any deviance and you’re a non-person. (By the way, I’m just a guilty as everyone else. Read my reaction to the wine shop owner in the Banishment post below.)

Tootsie is funny, because the main character becomes too successful in his assumed role, and, of course, falls in love with a woman who thinks he’s another woman. This forces him to face the classical male dilemma. Do I reveal myself for what I am (and get shot down) or continue pretending (and never get what I want and need). The ideas are Shakespearean and the comedy is worth another look.

April 9, 2009   Comments Off on “Assume a virtue if you have it not.”