I just love this! Dustin Hoffman got very emotional in an interview with the American Film Institute as he remarked on his experience playing a woman in the movie Tootsie. In the film (which, if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend!), Hoffman plays a 30-something, struggling actor who lands the role of a lifetime when he pretends to be a woman. His character, Dorothy Michaels, is an intelligent, middle aged woman with a snappy wit and charm but is not, by society’s standards, the most attractive female… because, well, she’s Dustin Hoffman in drag! I think the points that Dustin brought up in the video above ring so true in our society. Hoffman was shocked when the Tootsie make-up artists couldn’t make him look more attractive as a “realistic” woman. He fully expected that the female version of himself would be a hot chick! However, he wasn’t, by his own standards, and it was a sobering revelation. Hoffman saw then, for the first time, how he too subscribed to society’s expectations of female beauty, by his terms, he was “brainwashed”. That the bar is so high even he, couldn’t meet it if he was a woman. Of course, I’m paraphrasing, please watch the video above and see how deeply this revelation resonates with Hoffman. I’ve always admired him as an actor and I think this really proves his investment in the characters he plays. Hoffman’s investment in the character of Dorothy made him realize the immense value of women beyond their physical appearance.
On this blog I’m constantly publishing style and beauty related posts. Per my own critique of society’s pressure on female beauty, I might seem like a hypocrite! And maybe you think I am, but what I really hope is conveyed by my blog and beauty/style-related posts is exactly what Hoffman is touching on in the interview: a celebration of self. I share photos of me in outfits, or how I like to do my hair, etc., not because I want to apply more pressure to you females out there, but because I want you to feel good and adventurous being YOU! I’m all about defining your own sense of style and beauty, regardless of trends, so that you feel amazing about yourself, not because it’s the brainwashed way to be. Maybe blue lipstick or tattoos make you feel amazing, or maybe the perfect cardigan and heels propels you through your day…basically, whatever superficial thing that is an extension of your inner being is what you should celebrate and endorse.
When I was talking about writing this post I told Joey I was going to start it with the question; “Do you know a guy, who’s with a girl, whom you wonder ‘what does he see in her’?” and Joey said, “I was going to say just the opposite, that you see ugly dudes and wonder, ‘why the pretty girl has chosen to be with them?’!” Our conversation made me come to the conclusion that,’it’s the same darn thing!’ Both judgments are based on the physical looks of the woman! In Joey’s scenario, the woman is so attractive that she has a value placed on her that makes her able to choose what she wants in life. And in my scenario, the woman is not that attractive and thus the man is judged for choosing to be with her, regardless of what HE looks like and regardless of her merits, beyond HER looks! Both view points suck and are so one-sided because the guy’s appearance is never weighed as heavy as the female’s. Men are always first described by their humor, business position or smarts and then maybe their hair color (or lack there of)… women, on the other hand, are first described by their physical appearance and then their business, social or personality traits… let’s change that!
Women are multi-demensional and so much more than their first perceived physical hotness. Just like Dustin Hoffman said, he felt as though he has missed out on knowing some amazing women because they didn’t measure up to his barometer of attractiveness. Men have dressed up as women for centuries and always play an extreme version of femininity (think drag queens). Yes, men’s testosterone give them broader sholders and an adam’s apple that makes them inherently more “male”. However, Dustin Hoffman set out to be a believable female, not a RuPaul (who makes a totally convincing Barbie woman BTW) or a grotesque man-woman, but a real-life female with a life beyond her bra size.
Hoffman succeeded in playing a man, playing a believable woman because he loved the character Dorothy for everything that she was. In an age that tries to blur the lines but still succombs to the gender roles of generations past, I say we accept this lesson coming from a man, who played a lady, who changed the man, who shared with us, and hopefully inspire us to not judge a book by its cover…. or shall I say, not judge a book, by its boobs!
What do you think? What are your thoughts on beauty ideals? Do you feel there is too much value placed on a women’s appearance? Are we brainwashed? Do you feel that men miss out on some amazing women because of society’s imposed judgment of physical looks? Dustin Hoffman has been married to the same wonderful woman for many years, so hearing these words coming from him is heart-warming. Being a man who has stayed married in hollywood and raised two independent and intelligent daughters is impressive and honorable. But what if these thoughts were coming from a reformed womanizer? Is it a revelation or is he just encountering the truth? Share your thoughts below in the comments… please!
In this photo from the 1982 film Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman plays an actor who dresses as a woman to land the lead in a soap opera. Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award, the film was nominated in 10 categories with Jessica Lange winning for best supporting actress.
Other men who played female characters in film (more here):
John Travolta in Hairspray