Tootsie

I remembered Tootsie being on TV a lot when I was a kid and loving it, so I was hesitant to get it out again. Tootsie got an Oscar for best supporting actress in 1982, and was nominated for a ton of others.

There is no need for me to explain the plot or admire the performances in Tootsie.  Probably everyone knows that stuff.  Still, it’s interesting to see Bill Murray and Geena Davis in supporting roles.  Bill is Bill.  He’s been hitting those deadpan notes for thirty years and I never get tired of them.  Dustin is great.  He really is an amazing comic actor.  He can also be deadpan as crazy happens around him, or he can babble out of control, or he nail a physical gesture.

Which is me talking about the performances in Tootsie.  Something I said I didn’t need to do.

Two thoughts about Tootsie then.

First off, it’s a very strange movie about feminism.  Actually quite an effective one, because when Tootsie responds to sexism we are able to laugh and get the point.  Which is way better than feeling like we’re being lectured.  I can sense, as I write this, that there are hundreds of academic essays and blog posts about the feminism of Tootsie most of which originated in an enjoyment of the film, but which endless close analysis spoilt.  This is me quickly moving away from such things.

Secondly, (and inevitably), there are some nice 80s touches in the movie.  Signals of things to come.  Because it is very early in the 80s there is a mix of late 70s fashion too, but three shots suffice to show you the 80s hidden in the background of Tootsie.

Pink and grey interiors.  Tootsie is an older woman so she is wearing brown.  Brown was pretty damn popular in the 70s, but pink and grey were 80s.  Jessica Lange likes the scheme so much she is wearing it.  Her apartment has glass shelves and funky knick-knacks.  Hard to say why interior designers suddenly decided glass table tops, and pink with grey defined modernity but they sure went for it.  My issue with glass top tables was that they were made of glass and that meant you could see through them which meant you kind of ended up feeling like you were all sitting around the top of an aquarium for crotches.  Men had to be on guard against awkward pant bagging around the crotch area, women had to keep their legs crossed even when dining, and there was no chance for a quick, discreet underpant adjustment while seated.

Please note the dude on the left.  He’s young, he’s cool, he wears colours that aren’t brown.  In this street scene we see a general fashion trend unfold behind the fantastic walking dialogue.  Middle-aged and old people walking around in lovely brown on brown ensembles with sensible hats, and young people busting out light pinks, and blues, and funky hats, and (frankly) looks that are pretty contemporary seeming in 2012 (check out the black dude on the far right) even down to the tight jeans and trainers or gym shoes.

The very final shot of the movie allows two 80s icons to appear before the screen freezes for the credit roll over.  I give you exhibit A: tight-pant roller skating guy, and exhibit B: ghetto-blaster dude.  Roller-skater guy is a transitional figure from the late 70s into the early 80s.  Ghetto-blaster dude is herald of break dancing, rap and hip hop (and black people in movies).  Also we can note the general all over move to tighter jeans and fitting T-shirts.  None of that floppy, flared crap for the 80s (well except for the peasant look that Jessica is working).

One thought on “Tootsie”

  1. Films like Tootsie opens up a whole area of inquiry learning for teachers and students.
    Especailly what does it feel like for a man having to live as a woman? How does the lead character feel about earing women’s clothes and makeup? etc.

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