What you see is not who you are

The above clip, which happens to come from one of my favorite actors in one of my most favorite movies, is one that is near and dear to me. I can tell you honestly that I am not surprised by the depth of his epiphany or the sincerity in which he professes its effect on his perspective. I appreciate it. I appreciate him acknowledging his utter disbelief that the reflection he saw in the mirror after being made up and transformed (in the visual sense) as a woman did not reconcile with the beautiful being he felt himself to be until he saw his reflection. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve felt that way myself. It’s the main reason that I believe the less time a person spends in the mirror, the more inner power they have access to. The movie ‘Tootsie’ only served to reinforce what I already know to be the truth: if you are projecting beauty from within, what’s on the outside is soon secondary to those whose sight is not limited merely to the eye. If you don’t see Dorothy Michaels as a beautiful woman by the end of the movie, perhaps you need to watch it again.

Since its release, I would estimate that I have watched Tootsie hundreds of times (at least!) in the last 35 years. I basically know every line and action in the movie and I’ve analyzed it, scene by scene over the years, my analysis altering in deference to the perspective shift that one would expect as one transitions from teenager to middle-aged, single to married, childless to parent, etc… Throughout the years, though my interpretation of the characters and situations in the scenes may have shifted due to changes in how I related the content to what was current in my life at the time of viewing, the one variable that remained constant was the believability factor of Dorothy. Though I consider Dustin Hoffman to be one of the most magnificent actors of our time, I never felt he was “acting” Dorothy. Dorothy may have been the character that his character (Michael Dorsey) was playing in the movie, but just as his character insists to his agent in the movie, “I am Dorothy. Dorothy is coming from inside of me.” As a viewer, we are not manipulated by comic overzealousness into believing a story about a man playing the role of a woman, but instead, witness to a man growing in his consciousness of becoming a true and decent human being. Given what Mr. Hoffman says in the above clip, this growing of consciousness was not limited solely to his movie character, which makes it even more meaningful. At the end of the movie when the character of Julie tells Michael that she misses Dorothy, I always sympathize because I so want Dorothy to be a real person that I miss her too. He tells her that she doesn’t need to because Dorothy’s right here (tapping on his heart) and then goes on to say one of my favorite quotes: “I was a better man with you, as a woman, than I ever was with a woman, as a man. I just need to learn to do it without the dress.”  Brilliance. I’ve got more of that learning to do myself…

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