On July 6, Jill Pantozzi of The Mary Sue posted a video from the American Film Institute’s archives that has since gone viral. In the clip of an interview conducted last year, actor Dustin Hoffman talks with quite a bit of emotion, choking up even, about a revelation he experienced while made up as a woman during a screen test for the film Tootsie. Hoffman recounted:
“…When we got to that point and looked at it on-screen, I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive. And I said, ‘Now you have me looking like a woman. Now make me a beautiful woman.’ Because I thought I should be beautiful. If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible. And they said to me, ‘That’s as good as it gets. That’s as beautiful as we can getcha, Charlie.’
And it was at that moment that I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying, talking to my wife, and I said, ‘I have to make this picture,’ and she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on-screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out.”
As the YouTube version of this interview climbs toward 4.5 million views, Hoffman is being applauded throughout the media for copping to his shallowness. For example, during a Boston radio show this morning, one female and two male disc jockeys lauded Hoffman for breaking into tears during the interview and admitting that, prior to his epiphany, he had based a woman’s worth on unfair standards of beauty.
That would be great if Dustin Hoffman truly deserved these accolades, but he doesn’t, in my opinion, and I’ll give you two reasons why.
First, Hoffman’s views about women didn’t really evolve with his revelation – they only shifted a little bit, as evidenced by a remark he made prior to choking up over himself:
“I did go to Columbia and I asked them if they would spend the money to do makeup tests so that I could look like a woman. … I just somehow intuitively felt that unless I could walk down the streets of New York dressed as a woman and not have people turn and say, ‘Who’s that guy in drag?’ or turn for any reason, you know, ‘Who’s that freak?’ Unless I could do that, I didn’t want to make the film…”
Who’s that freak?
Right. So Mr. Hoffman can have an epiphany over the judgement of a woman’s date-worthiness that’s based on her perceived beauty, but if she’s not feminine enough, and I wonder how many trans and non-trans women he would put into that category, she is not only ineligible to be considered for a date, but she is relegated to the “freak show”?
That’s the first place Mr. Hoffman still got it wrong. The second comes at the end of the quote given above,
“I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on-screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out. … There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”
The demands that he was brought up to think women have to have in order for him to ask them out because he had been brainwashed… There are plenty of men who, similar to Hoffman, are exposed throughout their lives to the sexist standards of beauty and femininity that society imposes upon women, yet who ask out women of all types of physicality and gender expression. But if Hoffman doesn’t, it’s not his fault because he was brainwashed?
With all due respect, Dustin Hoffman won’t get my applause for his epiphany until he takes some responsibility for himself, stops acting as though he had no choice when he snubbed women who didn’t meet his requirements of beauty, and understands that he shouldn’t classify women as freaks when they don’t fall under his standards of femininity.