By admitting how Tootsie outed his bias towards women, Dustin Hoffman opens up a dialogue about women's dating habits.
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This week, Dustin Hoffman earned a fuzzy little spot in women’s hearts, after a clip from a 2012 interview for the American Film Institute went viral.
In the clip, the actor, now 75, talks about how he came up with his look as Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie—the 1982 movie where he plays a struggling actor who secretly cross-dresses to win a role.
After talking to co-screenwriter Murray Schisgal about the character, Hoffman decided that he couldn’t play the role unless he looked, convincingly, like a woman. So he went to Columbia University and had students do his makeup. He was dissatisfied: While they made him look like a woman, he was not a beautiful one. Dorothy was funny, smart, interesting, witty, and unique—an extension of Hoffman himself. But, the actor realized, she’d also be invisible because she wasn’t beautiful.
“I know that if I met myself at a party,” he said in the clip, “I’d 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 to ask them out.”
He realized, basically, that he was an asshole. He choked back tears: “There’s too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”
He ends on an emotional note: “That was never a comedy for me.”
Hoffman’s revelation isn’t shocking to those of us who don’t look like Gisele. Ladies who are outside the realm of culturally conventional looks are often branded weird or eccentric.
And Hoffman’s revelation is also not shocking to those of us who do look like Gisele. Men pay attention to you in the street. You get compliments. People want to be your friend. Studies show that attractive people get hired more often and paid better. Physical beauty also seems to signify, subliminally, that someone is healthy and strong—survival of the fittest and all that.
While reactions to the three-hanky clip have been mostly warm, some have pointed out at least one inconvenient truth. Around the time Hoffman was making Tootsie, he divorced his first wife and married a woman who was 11 years younger than her. (It’s not clear which wife he tells the much-vaunted story to.)
The most interesting dialogue prompted by the clip is whether or not women are as shallow as men, with regards to looks. Male commenters have pointed out that women often want to go out with hotter guys, and that the only unattractive guys who get women are rich. But the truth is somewhere in between.
Research shows that women place a higher value on a sense of humor, intelligence, compassion, and yes, financial stability than they do on whether or not their date looks like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. (One could also argue that Clooney is so sought after because he seems intelligent and appears to have a good sense of humor, particularly about himself. He’s a full package).
Women seem know what men don’t—that not everyone can have abs like Ryan Gosling, and that the man of their dreams might be closer to Philip Seymour Hoffman or John C. Reilly. And if they do get a mega-hottie, there’s probably a steep tradeoff. See also: Ryan Lochte.
Also, it’s worth noting that Hoffman’s own ego had to be bruised first for him to understand what women around the world have been battling for centuries. Hoffman is decent-looking as a man—pleasant in features, if perhaps a bit short for most women, with a barrel-full of charisma. This was more than enough to be successful in society and in Hollywood. But as a woman, he was homely, and in a sex-obsessed, youth-obsessed culture, that made him nearly worthless. And that had to hurt.
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