A friend of mine posted the following on facebook yesterday:
Dustin Hoffman on playing a woman in Tootsie (1982):
“If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible. And they said to me, ‘Uh, that’s as beautiful as we can get you.’ And I went home and started crying to my wife, and I said, ‘I have to make this picture.’ And she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think that women have to have in order for us to ask them out.’ She says, ‘What are you saying?’ and I said, ‘There’s too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.’ It was not what it felt like to be a woman. It was what it felt like to be someone that people didn’t respect, for the wrong reasons. I know it’s a comedy. But comedy’s a serious business.”
Another mutual friend posted this video today on the same thing — it’s a slightly different version of the same story and well worth watching, particularly for the last line, which is different from the above:
This is what I’ve been saying — there are so many beautiful people in this world and it has zero to do with their physical appearance and everything to do with who they are as people and how we feel around them. We get so caught up in trying to look a certain way or fretting that we don’t or can’t look a certain way that we forget that it’s the inner work that matters. We get so caught up in focusing only on how a person looks that we forget that there’s an actual, multi-dimensional person living inside that body, with feelings and opinions and everything!
Society brainwashes all of us to only look for or to only be Manic Pixie Dream Girls and when we don’t find them/can’t be them, so many of us are beset with an overbearing disappointment, jadedness, and/or shame that we carry around with us and let colour the rest of our interactions. It takes a certain amount of bravery to break out of that. Here’s one woman’s journey: I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Likewise, when women break out of that or never really go for that in the first place, there, too, can be an enormous fog of disappointment, jadedness, and bitterness that we’re consumed with because it seriously narrows the playing field, so many men having been brainwashed. And yes, I know I’m taking a heteronormative approach here. I also know that despite being queer but living most of my life on the outskirts of the queer community, I still haven’t really witnessed the same level of “physical beauty = prize” as an overarching theme within the general queer-female community.
I can only hope that Dustin Hoffman changed how he interacted with women after working on this film. I applaud his sensitivity. I can only hope that every person who has read or listened to his words has been able to see women with new eyes.
And I can’t help but wonder whether het-/bi-women do the same to men — overlook them because of their appearance. Are women as equally brainwashed as men? I’d like to think that we’re more forgiving, but is that just a stereotype, too? I think this may end up veering into Nice Guy territory, so I’ll cut it short here.
It ain’t the shell that counts, folks.