Day 8 of The Finicky Cynic’s “June Jour Challenge” and she gives us a real zinger of a prompt: Today, we have to talk about a movie or movies that have changed our lives. And, yes, we must add specifics our answer. I say this one is a zinger for me since I am not a cinephile, usually staying home to watch sports on TV, or at least some show still sitting on my DVR when I have the time to pry my eyes away from the computer. And if I am surfing channels and come across a movie on TV, oftentimes the film is halfway over and I don’t have a complete idea of what’s going on, though I may watch if it looks well made.
Of course, that’s not to say I haven’t gone to check out a flick at the movieplex. These days, though, the average movieplex is full of blow-out-the-budget content (e.g. pyrotechnics, CGI special effects, not-so-original franchises). Yeah, that stuff isn’t worth my $12 (or however much a movie ticket runs these days). But I am open to any film recommendations, be it big or small, old or new. Matter of fact, F.C. herself has made some movie mentions on her blog if I’m not mistaken.
So you get the idea of why thinking about a movie that I’ve seen start to finish and affected my life or perspective on things is a hard question for me to answer. (I don’t know if a film ever actually changed my life, so forgive my altering the question at hand.) Nevertheless, I did wrack my brain today (a day off from work certainly helped) and thought about the movies I do recall seeing in the past. And as far as a film that affected my perspective as a crossdresser, I’d say it would definitely have to be this one:
When Tootsie when it came out at the end of 1982, I was 13 years old, very awkward when interacting with others, and still very insecure about wearing my mother’s or sister’s clothing when they weren’t around. Which made me enamored with the film’s premise when seeing trailers on TV or hearing of the near-universal praise it gained: A male actor unable to gain steady work poses as an actress, finds work on a soap opera, and becomes an instant sensation. I was enamored, too, by how downright stunning and credible Dustin Hoffman appeared in full drag; I mean, look at that movie poster!
I never had the chance to see Tootsie when it ran in theaters (living in a small town with the nearest film house a long drive away can be the pits sometimes); and when it did originally air on TV, I still felt awkward seeing it with the family out of fear I’d laugh too loud at the jokes (I want to think they watched something else that night anyway). When I did see it rerun on ABC one Christmas Eve night — alone, in my room, on an old, cruddy, 12-inch black-and-white set — I watched attentively and, yes, laughed with knowing enjoyment at the laugh lines. Yep, it was one nutty hospital for sure.
I was probably more impressed, though, by all Hoffman’s actor character went through: He was too headstrong and intractable as a male actor and acting teacher. But, while posing as a woman, he improved as a person over the course of the movie, changing his attitude and behavior towards his colleagues as well as becoming less of a cad towards women, saying as such to Jessica Lange’s character in the final scene. I imagine other crossdressers have similar feelings of being well rounded thanks to their time in women’s clothing; I know it has made me empathetic towards the fairer sex.
I believe Tootsie also helped me become further enamored with — and, yes, I must admit, aroused by — the feminine persona. “Dorothy Michaels” played “her” soap opera character as a composed, strong-willed person who takes no nonsense, a positive tact that real women in all professions may appreciate, and that men should learn to appreciate whether or not they’ve walked a mile in high heels. That unyielding approach became part of “Dorothy’s” appearance, in my mind, and seeing that in a drag queen’s performance is alluring to me. Before Tootsie, men in drag on TV and film were just played for laughs and little else. It was usually, “Ha ha, he’s put a wig and a dress on and acting all feminine just to get out of this predicament. Now that’s comedy! Ha ha!” Really? It may still be that way sometimes even after Tootsie, but the film showed that adding fierceness to the femininity can be funny as well; in fact, Tootsie showed that it can gain the “woman” true respect.
This post is getting me a hankering to see Tootsie the next time it’s on TV. If and when it appears, I definitely want to DVR it and see it again.