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For the Boys: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, The Journey of Michael Dorsey

This Movie Bad Girl of the Week is aimed at all the guys out there and if you pay attention you might learn a thing or two by the time we are done. This week I am tackling Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey who ends up on a Daytime Drama by gender-bending himself into an alter-ego: Dorothy Michaels. Along the way Michael learns a lot about the world women live in and gets a rude awakening about how some men (including himself) treat those ladies. So grab a pair of high heels and some lipstick guys as we enter the world of Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels. The movie is, of course, “Tootsie”. I hope you have a fun ride!

Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie" pictured here as Michael Dorsey and his alter-ego Dorothy Michaels.

Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie” pictured here as Michael Dorsey and his alter-ego Dorothy Michaels.

In “Tootsie” we meet Michael Dorsey, an actor who is a master of his craft. Sadly for Michael he is too much of a perfectionist. He lives with his roommate Jeff and has a neurotic girlfriend named Sandy who is an emotional train wreck. The three are hoping to get enough money raised to do an off-Broadway production of Jeff’s new play.

Sandy hears of an audition for the  Daytime Drama “Southwest General.” They are looking for a woman to play the role of hospital administrator Emily Kimberly. She asks Michael to go with her to offer encouragement. He goes with Sandy and she is out of the audition in less than 2 minutes saying she wasn’t right for the part. Michael asks to speak with a friend that works on the show only to discover that he is in “The Iceman Cometh” on Broadway. He goes to see his agent because he was promised an audition for that production. After a heated argument George tells Michael that he is too difficult and no one will hire him. Micheal with a mischievous smile simply says “Oh yeah”

We cut to a shot of Michael dressed as Dorothy walking down a busy New York Street on her way to audition for the role of Emily Kimberly on Southwest General. This is where the movie should fall apart, yet Dustin Hoffman is such a gifted actor you will often forget he is Dustin Hoffman and believe that Dorothy is really a woman.

Dorothy arrives for her audition and meets the show’s director Ron Carlisle who gives her less than a glance and tells her she is not right for the part. When she asks why he tells her that he is looking for a specific type and that she is not threatening enough. Dorothy angered  goes into a speech berating the director for wanting a caricature of a woman where having a powerful position in the hospital will make her look masculine or ugly. This outburst gets Dorothy the audition and the part. Now Michael can raise the $8,000 to produce Jeff’s play.

Dorothy Michaels as Emily Kimberly, the new hospital administrator on Southwest General.

Dorothy Michaels as Emily Kimberly, the new hospital administrator on Southwest General.

Michael will get his agent George to go along with his deception to be on the show. George is not really comfortable with this but agrees to keep it secret.

On the first day of shooting Michael realizes that he will have to kiss John Van Horn in a scene. John has been on the show longer than anyone. He needs the teleprompter because he cannot remember dialogue and to Micheal’s dismay, he finds out the women on the show refer to John as the tongue. When it comes time to shoot the scene Dorothy hits John in the head with her clipboard and comes up with new dialogue.

Michael’s relationship with Sandy is something else. He cannot tell her that he got the job she wanted because she has the low self-esteem. One night he is trying on Sandy’s clothes while she is in the shower. She gets out and catches him in his underwear. He tells her he wants to have sex. This will complicate their relationship. Sandy is bitter about the show and hates Dorothy telling Michael that the character is not tough and that she would be better off making up her own dialogue. This is exactly what Dorothy begins doing. Dorothy becomes the most popular character on the show.

Julie Nichols is the female lead on the show. Michael is instantly attracted to her. Julie is dating Ron, the show’s director. Michael cannot stand the way he treats Julie (or any other woman) He is condescending, patronizing and doesn’t treat Julie well at all. At one point Michael sees Ron kissing another actress on the show. Little does Michael realize that the behavior he hates in Ron is pretty much the way he treats Sandy.

We watch Dorothy rise in popularity doing photo shoots and interviews.  She is on the cover of every woman’s magazine. Women all across the country have found a new icon and they all want to be just like Emily Kimberly. Dorothy is a new role model for women everywhere.

Dorothy Michaels and John Van Horn waiting to shoot a scene on Southwest General.

Dorothy Michaels and John Van Horn waiting to shoot a scene on Southwest General.

Dorothy, begins to form a strong relationship with Julie. Dorothy is at first a friend and eventually becomes like an older sister to Julie. They spend lots of time together and Julie looks to Dorothy for advice and support. Julie introduces Dorothy to her dad Les. We can see that Les is very taken by Dorothy. Michael goes as far as tossing Sandy aside so he can go on a trip with Julie to see her dad for a weekend. Michael is falling in love with Julie and Les is falling in love with Dorothy.

Back in the city Dorothy’s contract is coming to an end.  Michael is horrified when Dorothy is brought to the office and the show’s producer tells her that she is so popular that they picking up her option to keep her on the show another year. Michael has the money he needs to produce Jeff’s show and wants to be off the soap opera. He contacts his agent and is told that the show has a legal option to keep Dorothy on the show.

That evening Julie calls and asks  Dorothy to come over and babysit for her. She is going to break up with Ron. Michael agrees. Julie gets back from her break-up and is upset. She confides in Dorothy how important their friendship is and that she wishes in some way that she could have something more. Dorothy leans in and tried to kiss Julie. She jumps back believing that Dorothy is a lesbian. At that moment Michael is desperately trying to explain to Julie that he is not a woman the phone rings. It is Les. He is in the city and wants to speak with Dorothy. He invites her out for a drink and she accepts.

Michael as Dorothy attempts to kiss Julie.

Michael as Dorothy attempts to kiss Julie.

Much to Michael’s horror Les has invited Dorothy out because he is in love with her. He proposes marriage, giving her a beautiful engagement ring. Dorothy tells Les that she will need some time to think. Michael leaves the club and heads home. When it seems things couldn’t get worse… he arrives home to find John Van Horn waiting on Dorothy. John is drunk and tries to get in Dorothy’s pants. Jeff arrives home at that second and the situation is resolved. John believes that Dorothy and Jeff are a couple. He apologizes and leaves.

The following day at the studio the cast and crew discover that they will have to do one scene live. Dorothy stops by Julie’s dressing room. Julie tells Dorothy that she can’t be her friend because she doesn’t want to lead her on and to please let her dad down gently about the proposal. Michael decides it is time. During the live broadcast he goes off script and pulls his wig off admitting that all this time Emily (and thus Dorothy) was indeed a man. Julie, furious, walks up and slugs him.

We jump to a few weeks later. Jeff’s play is underway. Michael goes to see Julie’s dad to apologize and return the ring. He makes his feelings for Julie known. He catches up with Julie to apologize to her. She tells him she misses Dorothy. He tells her Dorothy is right here. She does forgive him. As they walk off together we hear Julie ask if she can borrow one of Dorothy’s dresses.


What can we learn from Michael Dorsey?

I am not suggesting that anyone dress in drag although it could be a fun experiment for one day or night to see how people treat you as opposed to how they would if you walked out the door being yourself.

Michael as Dorothy has to deal with Ron Carlisle. He is patronizing and condescending to Dorothy because she is a woman. Also he addresses the women on the show as “honey” and “darling” yet addresses all the men by first name with respect. Michael quickly becomes aware that this is in his own behavior as well and this causes him, as Dorothy, to go on a rant at him about being treated with respect. Michael won’t do this again being he now knows how it feels to be treated without the same respect a man would give to another man.

How many times do you catch yourself saying “Good morning Bob” to one co-worker then you see a female co-worker and say “Good morning sweetie” rather than using her name? This does happen and it is something to keep in check. Sweetie is a term of endearment and should be saved for those closest to us and not our co-workers.

Michael is terrible to his girlfriend Sandy. He gets the job on the show and lets it consume him. He also starts to fall for his co-star Julie. He keeps making excuses and keeps lying to Sandy with his dual life. She remarks to him after they have sex to just let her know if it over so she can have the pain now. He tells her everything is fine but does not follow through as promised.

If you are in a relationship where you are not happy just get out of it. Do not string the other person along. It is not fair to them. If you know they are not the person you want to be with, then don’t pretend that they are. You may cause them some hurt feelings. It is better to cause the hurt feelings than dragging it out with a lot of false hope and empty promises.

For the guys that think women have it made and all they need to do is put on some make-up and a pretty outfit…try it! I dare you to. Michael learns quickly that women have to work at it. We shave our legs and armpits, we wax our eyebrows, bikini-line and facial hair if there is any. Most women would kill for the chance to just shave a face once a day instead of taking a weed whacker to our entire body. We need to make sure that our wardrobe compliments our figures (if we were men the wardrobe wouldn’t matter near as much) We put on make-up to removes visible blemishes and bring our eyes out.  It is a double standard many times and this rant is not directed at all men. This is directed at the men that have a preconceived notion of what a woman needs to look like to be taken seriously in a world (especially business) largely run by men. You would get a new found respect for women if you did this for any length of time.

Michael gets in touch with his feminine side. He is having to live as a woman every day being the show cast him that way. This includes his seeing his co-workers outside of the soap opera. They are all firmly under the belief that Dorothy is real. He learns a lot about women and himself by doing this having conversations with Julie in particular. She opens up to him in a way she would not have if she knew he was a man.

We all have a duality of a male and female traits. It is very good to get in touch with both. Men are supposed to be macho and tough while women are supposed to be gentle and in touch with emotions. I call “Bull” on that. Why can’t people be tough and sensitive to other’s feelings? Why can’t a man and a woman who are friends have a deep and meaningful conversation where we can talk about desires, dreams and feelings? We are all human. Give it a try. Have a serious conversation with someone of the opposite sex and drop what society has deemed you should be like as a man or woman.  Talk about sports, relationships, family or any other subject of your liking. You might be surprised at what you learn about each other.

We will wrap here. Although this is aimed at men, it does apply to the ladies too. Think about what it would be like to walk around in the skin of someone of the opposite sex 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It may open your eyes in a whole new way about them…and yourself. toots36








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