I rarely go social justice warrior, but something in this film made the progressive side of my values light up. Sure, some snide things were said in Some Like it Hot, another classic Hollywood film centered on cross dressing, but that film gets a pass for being from such a distant era. There is no way it should be more cognitive of possible offenses than Tootsie with its 1982 release date.
Well, get ready to cringe.
I laughed enough to enjoy the film (that classic gender confusion humor y’all), but there were three things that made me take pause: the destruction the main character caused, the attempted rape scene, and how the best woman ended up being a man.
This movie is so tangible in the beginning. A highly-relatable college grad returns home to family and friends who no longer understand him. He spends most of the summer in the pool adrift which is a metaphor for the rest of his life: no direction, just aimless bobbing. He enters into an extramarital relationship with a middle-aged friend of the family. The perfect counterpart, she too is aimless in life’s journey but from a very different perspective.
But then things get weird. REALLY WEIRD. Like, rage swinging a Christian cross strange (spoiler alert!).
The hippie movement must have been one hell of a drug.
The seminal works of cinema from this time period which reached historically significant status play as complete messes today. The storylines are disjointed, the desire to give a middle-finger to the man supersedes everything else, and virtue-signaling tramples any legitimacy of authenticity. This last one is particular paradoxical as the movement’s ostensibly purpose was to reveal some truer and more pure self.
It’s a shame, too, with Midnight Cowboy. Even within the typical moral morass, Voigt and Hoffman both put on such good performances that by the end we somehow care what happens to these two, even though the previous two hours is a mess.