“Tootsie” (1982) – Directed by Sydney Pollack Essay

The drama “Tootsie” is about an unemployed actor – Michael Dorsey who wants to raise fund for his friend’s drama and therefore he decides to work for money. However, as he is serious in acting, directors find him difficult to get along with; therefore, Michael can only cross-dressed to be Dorothy Michaels in order to get a job. In my opinion, the drama presents the idea of gender stereotypes, which shows the idea of biased view on different gender.

For instance, in the 1980s, there are raising concerns on striving equal status between two genders, however, there are still prejudice in people’s mind, such as female cannot be the leaders since they are rather emotional. In the drama, Michael Dorsey is a protagonist which refers to the main character who changes his/her attitude during the play, from the beginning of the play, Michael is a person who thinks he can handle things well and treats his acting as a major goal in his life. However, as a male, he does not know how to handle the relationship seriously.

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After his experience in acting as a female, and the “inspiration” of how Ron, his “soap opera” director treats Julie, he starts to change his attitudes towards women. In the following scenes, they show how Michael changes and how the dramatic meaning show that writer wants to communicates with audiences. Michael Dorsey talks with Jeff at their house after the first day of acting Background When Michael starts his first job bring a woman in the soap opera, he goes back to the house and has a talk with his friend, Jeff. They talk about the experience in the first day of drama; also, how the director, Ron, treats him and Julie.

Jeff seems not interested in and started to get annoyed about the attitudes of Michael. Analysis The scene demonstrates the variations between two characters’ moral stances, how Michael thinks about Dorothy and also the languages used in the informal setting. This shows the meaning about views on moral issues between male and female, what prejudgment Michael has, also, Michael starts to notice Dorothy’s intelligence on handling difficulties. Through these dramatic elements, the dramatic meaning of gender stereotype is created.

In the beginning of the scene, Michaels is combing the wig of Dorothy and says “she (Julie) is a very… very attractive girl, and she is not dummy, I don’t know why she hangs around with that director, he treats her like… Jesus… nothing! ” This implies Michael thinks intelligent woman should not act like a “dumb blonde” who only relied on her looks rather than on intelligence (Sherrow, 2006). This is a feminine stereotype that Michael prejudges, without knowing Julie, he might not change his conception towards actresses who hang out with directors.

As we can see from the setting, the room is messy, clothes are everywhere, but Michael as a man, and surprisingly he is combing the wig carefully, which on the one hand shows that he respects his work, on the other hand, as he says, Dorothy deserves it as she represents a strong image of being her own master. According to McDonald (1996), “Our apparel was given us as a sign distinctive to discern betwixt sex and sex and therefore one to wear the apparel of another sex is to participate with the same, and to adulterate the verity of his own kind. This specifies that when Michael dresses up as Dorothy, he experiences what a female experiences and to be, not only act like a female. For that reason, Michael expresses that Dorothy’s disobedience towards Ron is something that he did not expect. I started to think that Michael is changing during the play as he tries to understand what a woman will be faced in working environment, at that century, women are difficult to express their own feeling as men are much more powerful in making decision in working environment. Meanwhile, the phone rang; Jeff wants to answer the phone but Michael stands up to stop him.

This is the climax of this scene, while the phone continues to ring, Jeff and Michael are talking over at the same time, which raises tension between two characters. On the one hand, Michael thinks the call is for Dorothy, and the moral stance do not accept if there is a man in a woman’s house. If the call is for Michael, he afraid that Sandy will suspect him and more troubles follows. On the other hand, Jeff thinks that he should answer the call rather than lets it rings. Due to the contradiction, Jeff goes out and to show he cannot stand for this. This shows that female and male have different moral stances.

When a single woman lives with a man, people will think that it is not supposed. However, a man might only think that it is troublesome to be blamed by his girlfriend. The language used in this scene shows language varies according to settings. In this scene, where there are only Jeff and Michael, Michael says “I would kick his arrogant ass” in order to show how deep he hates Ron. This can be only say in informal setting and these lines emphasize how intimate Jeff and Michael are. Dorothy Michaels’ opinion about “nicknames” in the studio Background After Julie finishing a scene that coached by Dorothy, Dorothy being praised.

At the same time, Ron feels jealous and asks others to continue the shooting in order to stop the praising. Ron called Dorothy as “tootsie” and Dorothy expresses her own opinion. Analysis This scene demonstrates what women expected to be treated by men, simply, the wants of women. Also, it demonstrates the tone and the language structure used in order to reach the mood of drama. Through these dramatic elements, the dramatic meaning of gender stereotype is created. After the shooting, Julie and Dorothy praise each other while Ron says “so much for the elaboration. This line expresses his anger and jealousy towards Dorothy as he expects Julie should thank him rather than Dorothy. And therefore, this jealousy generates him to stop the conversation and asks other crew to continue their work. Moreover, he asks Dorothy to take a break by saying “Tootsie, take 10. ” From the previous part of the drama, we know that Michael dislikes Ron calls everyone “Honey” “Dear”, etc, and therefore it drives her to expresses his view on these nicknames. When Dorothy says “Ron, my name is Dorothy, not… just Dorothy” Ron did not expect Dorothy will have this kind of reaction which creates a conflict from his wants.

Dorothy continues to emphasize the male crews have their own name and she should have her own name also, nevertheless, she spells “D-O-R-O-T-H-Y” to Ron in order to emphasize her anger. During the scene, the name- Dorothy appears repeatedly and it causes audience to think about the meaning behind, it stresses women want respect from others, not only male. We can see that the scene is not taking place in the private condition, but a work place, which emphasizes that woman is no more powerless in work place, they can also express their own opinion.

Furthermore, Dorothy and Ron are both standing up, shooting at the same angle, it signifies the equal status between them. And the interesting part is that, Dorothy is a man and he speaks out for women, which creates an irony, which audiences know that Dorothy is a man but the characters do not know this fact. (Colebrook,2004) This scene creates a contrast between Dorothy and Ron’s attitudes towards women. While Dorothy respects women having their own names and Ron thinks that calling women “tootsie” will make them feel more comfortable.

After the one-way conversation, Dorothy leave the current studio and goes to the other part of the work place, and the angle still stop at the studio and we can see that Julie does not stay with Ron but she decides to take a look of Dorothy. This action reveals that Julie also agrees with what Dorothy says and she believes that women do not only deserve the name “Tootsie”. Conclusion In my opinion, the second scene is driven by the former part of the movie, when Michael acts as Dorothy, he understands more about women’s thought.

During the second scene, it is not the first time that Ron calls Dorothy “Tootsie” this kind of nicknames; however, it is the first time Dorothy speaks out his own view. This shows that Michael changes his attitudes as he thinks that women should be respected, with equal status as men do. Both of the scenes are demonstrating how Dorothy affects Michael and what Michael responses to these, in other word, the character transformation. Under the social environment in 1980s’ America, men are gradually cooperating with female in work place, the society is no longer male-dominating and the film shows that male can also understand what female feels. Inside the film, the soap opera also describing the society, female is no longer the one who tolerate, but to take revenge.


Colebrook, Claire. (2004) Irony. London and New York: Routledge. McDonald, Russ. (1996) The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare. Bedford: St. Martin’s. Needlands, J. and Dobson, W. (2000) Drama and Theatre Studies at AS/A Level. London: Hodder ; Stoughton. Sherrow, Victoria. (2006) Encyclopedia of Hair: a Cultural History. California: Greenwood Publishing Group.