The Interpersonal Communication in Tootsie

Interpersonal communication is the communication that occurs simultaneously with another person in an attempt to mutually influence one another, usually for the purpose of managing relationships. Dustin Hoffman encountered and altered his interpersonal communication skills while playing the character of Michael Dorsey in the film Tootsie. Tootsie examines a gender bending, cross-dressing male in the mid 1980s. This movie was a script for its time as well as the future as its ideas on relationships between men and women still hold in todays society.

Tootsie stars Dustin Hoffman as a talented but troublesome actor, unemployable due to his reputation. Out of desperation, he dresses up as “Dorothy” to win a role as a woman on a daytime soap. He continues his charade of the sexes for a full year. Michael faces many interpersonal relationships throughout the film between himself as a male along with what it means and feels like to be a woman.

Michael faced stages of relationship building as a male and as a woman, in some cases with the same person.

Michael was turning a friendship into more of an intimate relationship with a fellow actor (Teri Garr). Michael reached the intimacy stage with his new love however, as Dorothy, Garr despised him/her. Garr watched Dorothy enter Michaels apartment leaving Garr with a hostile and uneasy feeling on Dorothys intentions with her new man. In a chance encounter, I believe Garr and Dorothy would reach the turmoil stage quickly. Garr was able to hold two very different relationships with both characters.

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Michael and Dorothy conformed unknowingly to societies views of the loving man and the man stealing woman in turn changing Garrs reaction to each.

Dorothys nonverbal and verbal communication changed dramatically from her original form as Michael. Dorothy used her small, frail and grandma like appearance to her advantage to create her overall image. She played on societys views on how an older single woman should act and live. He/she showed their image building skills by not answering the phone at his/her apartment. Michael/Dorothy thought if someone from worked called and the phone was answered as Michael he/she would be ruined. Michaels roommate volunteered to answer the phone for him/her however; this was still not appropriate, as an older woman should not be living with an unmarried man. Michael and Dorothy were also dramatically different in how they spoke. Michael could not obtain a job due to his reputation as a difficult actor but Dorothy could as a strong out spoken women. Michaels attitude towards acting and himself was viewed as arrogant but as a woman the same attitude was viewed as strong. Dorothy used the societies stereotypes when ever and where ever he/she felt appropriate. Through her manipulation she was able to view life as a women and view herself as a man.

“Tootsie” examines gender roles and differences, and seems to conclude that women are better than men. Each relationship in the movie with either Michael or Dorothy changed dramatically when the secret was discovered. This can be most seen in Dorothys relationship with Jessica Lange. Lange was not willing to continue their relationship when she felt Dorothy was a lesbian when in fact it was simply Michael acting on his attractions for Lange. Lange followed this relationship snag by the separation stage. The relationship turned completely sour by Langes confused feelings about Dorothy when it was discovered that she was Michael. Langes idea of a girlfriend relationship was tarnished with the intrusion of a man in her life as well as her bed. Gender bending roles in life and in the movies are difficult for most individuals to absorb as we are so set in the stereotypical views of what each gender should and should not do.

Finally, whether we are female or male each individual carries valuable qualities. Societies views on each gender mold and shape how each of these qualities will be accepted in the overall society. Michael in the end learned that he could manipulate relationships to get what he wanted, a job. He discovered society has a great impact on the acceptance of each individual in relation to how they act, speak and presented themselves. In his final lines, Michael admits that he was better as a woman than he is as a man.

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The Interpersonal Communication in Tootsie. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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