If you get The Creative Times once a month, you will have already read some of my thoughts on Tootsie, therefore I should apologise if what follows will sound a bit too familiar for your liking. Not everyone gets The Creative Times though, right? And why not of course? Sign-up on the left dear reader!
Tootsie is often referred to as 'that movie with Dustin Hoffman in drag' but I must tell you that every time I hear that one, my heart plummets all the way to my heels. How about this: frustrated unemployed creative proves that with hard work and perseverance one can accomplish anything. Believe me, the 'in drag' side of things isn't something that ever struck me as the most important aspect in Tootsie, for Michael's plea is one that is painfully felt across the creative world, superseding geographical, historical, sexual and religious boundaries. In other words: if you've ever struggled to meet your basic needs while dying to follow your creative call, this is the movie you should watch.
When I wrote a little piece about Ignore Everybody, one of the things I decided to focus on was the author's message regarding creative output and financial obligations, the upshot of which was don't quit your day job. I began watching Tootsie as a child but I must have probably notched sixty viewings over the years before I realised that in the beginning Michael (and his flatmate Jeff) is working as a waiter.
Of course the grand plan is to get an acting job, something that he has done for years whilst teaching his other unemployed actor friends in his spare time (a-ha, those who can do teach, see Monday's post).
But the problem with Michael is that he is better than many other actors out there. He is not just better; he is outstanding except for his profound inability to suffer idiots. When his agent George tells him that no-one will hire him because his reputation is so bad, he figures out that it is his identity he needs to change in order to leap into the creative job he craves so badly. Hence enters Michael as Dorothy Michaels, actress extraordinaire who lands the coveted role of Emily Kimberley in day-time TV show Southwest General.
This may seem extreme and I would say that it is precisely the in-depth transformation undergone by Michael that makes Tootsie so compelling. But of course if you write fiction you will note that identity and transformation are often closely intertwined and their combination lies at the core of stories that work. The Michael we meet at the very end of the movie is a completely changed man, even though he isn't dressed as a woman any longer. His metamorphosis is epitomised by the immortal line spoken to Julie, the woman he loves, 'I was a better man with you as a woman, than I ever was with a woman as a man'.
Things we can all learn from Tootsie regardless of our creative endeavours, of what job we have, we crave, we think we should have or others think we should have:
1– There is no work in the accepted sense of 'work' (=permanent, paid) but you have to find ways to work;
2– Do not expect corollary individuals in your life to understand, or even be sympathetic to, your job search, be this aimed at a creative job, at one that only pays the bills, or at any in between;
3– Keep your progress and plans to yourself, although you can usually share among like-minded individuals. You will never find another writer, actor, musician, painter and so on snorting at your efforts, but office-based individuals may be quite hurtful without barely realising it;
4– You can find day jobs that keep you going while you pursue your creative endeavours and lots of these can be connected to your creative identity. I personally find editing extremely satisfactory and indeed one with writing, no matter what I edit and no matter what I write, but I am interested in people and change management too;
5– You will need to go the extra mile many times over, every day. This may not entail anything as radical as cross-dressing, but learn to be patient because you will need to be;
6– On top of patience you will need stamina, intellectual and physical. Drill into your skull that rejection isn't that meaningful and that being rejected thousands of times does not mean you always will be;
7– And you will need to be daring as well. Be daring in your own way.
In week four of the course I am going to post a few clips off Tootsie in relation to creative expectations. You can still sign up today!