For Reel

Tootsie (1982)
August 7, 2015, 1:42 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Sydney Pollack
2.5 Stars
TootsieThe 1980s have been viewed as a particularly problematic time in American feminism, with authors such as Susan Faludi arguing that it was a decade in which regressive tendencies in the media began to resurface, even as it was assumed that the women’s movements of the previous decades had “corrected” wrongs. Tootsie, though a charming, even well-intentioned comedy, is a particularly troubling case study of what the contemporary idea of  feminism was. There’s a nice sentiment in the film that stereotypical gender identities have a great deal of crossover–that is, “Dorothy” (Dustin Hoffman) can exhibit a man’s bluntness, and Michael Dorsey (also Hoffman) could casually have a great knowledge of women’s fashion–but it becomes hard to overlook the fact that this is a narrative about a man spearheading a feminist movement under the assumption that he’s learned so much about what it means to be a woman. Meanwhile, he’s emotionally manipulated a woman he claims to love (Jessica Lange’s Julie) and had to deal with the inappropriate histrionics of a new, liberated women who openly talks about shifting gender politics (Teri Garr’s Sandy). This problematic central conceit would trouble any film, but they’re especially hard to swallow in a film that very much brands itself as progressive.

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