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Tootsie and What Women Want

tootsie.jpg what women want.jpg

Hey, it’s me again…
Seeing Tootsie over the past week made me think of another related film—What Women Want (with Mel Gibson).

Considering context:
Tootsie (1982) was directed by a man, Sydney Pollack (who also directed The Way We Were, and The Interpreter), and written primarily by men.
While What Women Want (2000) was directed by a woman, Nancy Meyers (who also wrote/directed Something’s Gotta Give, and wrote Private Benjamin and Father of the Bride I and II) the majority was written by women.

Considering content:
Both involve men experiencing what a woman goes through everyday—like putting on make-up, wearing tights (by the way I hate it when people refer to it as “pantyhose,? and underwear as “panties?—it’s probably too late for comments, but doesn’t it give you this weird feeling. I don’t think degrading is the right word, but it’s somewhere in that area.)…anyway, so being in a heterosexual relationship (although Tootsie ventured somewhat into lesbianism…can’t remember if What Women Want did it too), doing your hair, being discriminated in the workplace, etc.

Considering form:
Both films were very similar.
In the comedic scenes, the editing was generally fast and the dialogue was witty and quite hilarious. The dramatic/romantic moments were slower, and things seemed to pause and focus more on facial expression.
From time to time product placement is integrated (but I think more so in What Women Want)

In maintaining the spirit of our most recent discussing, I personally think that both of these directors are feminist filmmakers (in regards to the majority of their films). Tootsie and What Women Want both involve a variety of women (age, ethnicity, size, class, etc) and deal with the “woman experience? (what it means to be a woman, “what women want,? what they go through, etc.) I think they also seem to generally empower women by exposing both strengths and weaknesses, and bring a sense of gender equality (the male sex trying/willing to understand a woman, while sympathizing and relating to the same strengths and weaknesses.)

Also, here's an interview with Nancy Meyers on What women Want
"Nancy Meyers Talks About What Women Want"
J. Sperling Reich

here's one of the interesting questions in the interview:
" Q: Would What Women Want be a different film if a man had directed it?"

"NM: I think it would be quite different. The inner thoughts of the women … There are no women in this film who talk about, "My thighs, or my hair." There is none of that. It's not clichéd thoughts that you think a woman might have. More about having someone understand or appreciate them. Recognize them or listen to them. I'm not sure a male director would have gone for those things. I think they may have gone for sexier things. I find some of the thoughts are unexpected in the movie, and I think that's because a woman was behind the movie."


I just watched this and am considering using Tootsie in a class on Images of Men and Women. It is funny, but do you think it is degrading in any way that the only way the women characters in the movie get their act together is by following a man acting as a woman? If I look at the movie strictly from the protagonist's viewpoint, then it is about a man realizing how women get mistreated. But the female characters don't do much for themselves. Any thoughts?

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