Exposing Societal Issues in the Film “Tootsie”

The 1982 film “Tootsie” directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, is a comedy that touches on many different societal issues such as gender roles and stereotypes, workplace harassment, empathy and compassion, and the pursuit of fame and success. The movie follows a struggling actor named Michael Dorsey, who disguises himself as a woman named Dorothy Michaels to get a job on a soap opera. During this excursion, Michael is faced with the sad reality of how women are treated in American society, but more specifically the entertainment industry.

First off, “Tootsie” challenges traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Michael’s experience as a woman exposes him to the discrimination and sexism that women face in society, including being judged by their appearance and not their talents. The film also demonstrates how gender roles are enforced and how they limit individuals’ opportunities and potential. Another societal issue addressed in this film is workplace harassment. The prevalence of sexual harassment and how it is often dismissed or ignored is portrayed many times throughout the film. The character of Julie, played by Teri Garr, faces harassment from her boss and the issue is only resolved when Michael/Dorothy speaks up. 

“Tootsie” also highlights the importance of empathy and compassion. Through Michael’s experience as Dorothy, he learns to understand the struggles and challenges that women face in society. This helps him become a better person and gain a better understanding of how privileged he is as a white man. He uses the soap opera as a way to make statements regarding the issues previously mentioned and ends up becoming a major influence as Dorothy. He uses his power to make the world a better place, although people are not exactly happy when they discover that he is actually a man. The film also critiques the entertainment industry and the pursuit of fame and success. Michael’s desperation to land a job drives him to deceive others and himself, leading to complications and consequences that could have been avoided if the industry was a little more forgiving and considerate. 

Overall, “Tootsie” offers a humorous and thought-provoking commentary on various societal issues, encouraging the audience to reflect on their values and beliefs. 

Satirical Techniques in Don’t Look Up

The 2021 film, Don’t Look Up is a satirical comedy that uses many satirical devices to critique and make fun of various aspects of contemporary society. Techniques such as hyperbole, irony, and parody are used in order to fulfill the vision the filmmakers had.

To begin, the film uses hyperbole to exaggerate the numerous issues in society, such as the threat of an asteroid hitting Earth, the media’s obsession with sensationalist news, and the political polarization that prevents any effective actions from being taken. Probably the most obvious example of hyperbole in this film is the impending doom the scientists express when talking about the asteroid that is heading towards Earth. After their discovery of the asteroid is made, they attempt to bring this information to the White House, although it does not go as well as they planned. The use of hyperbole is seen again when the extremely self-interested President (Meryl Streep) dismisses the threat and is depicted as a power-hungry, egotistical leader. The White House Staff is also portrayed as dimwitted and incapable of recognizing this impending extinction. The exaggeration of these things creates a very frustrating feeling that the target audience can relate to.

Another layer to this satire is the use of irony. The film uses irony to highlight the absurdity of the situations portrayed. For example, the scientist’s warnings about the asteroid are dismissed as fake news by some politicians and members of the public, while the media is more interested in the personal lives of the scientists. This creates a sense of confusion within the scientists similar to the confusion many people get when observing the current problems in the world compared to what news outlets choose to talk about instead. In addition to the utter ignorance of this humanity-threatening event amongst news sources, the spread of misinformation takes place in the film as well. The scientists provide concrete evidence regarding the seriousness of their claims, however members of the public take to social media and try to denounce these claims as fake news. This may seem like an absurd thing to do and the fake news claims may have been a little far-fetched, however compared to how things work in today’s world, the filmmakers were not far off from reality.

Finally, another very prominent satirical device used was parody. This film parodies different styles of movies including disaster movies, political dramas, and talk shows. For example, the character President Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, is a parody of real-life politicians who are more concerned with their image and popularity than with actually governing. These parodies combined with the other satirical techniques mentioned earlier caused this movie to be a very impactful and eye-opening film that used satire to its fullest advantage.

Overall, Don’t Look Up uses a variety of satirical devices to lampoon various aspects of contemporary society, highlighting the dangers of ignorance, apathy, and polarization in the face of global threats.

How Does King Lear Demonstrate the Importance of Self-Knowledge?

Throughout the duration of the play, King Lear developed immensely as a character. Wealth, power, and status are what kept him sane in Act I, however when he condemned his only true daughter and was deceived by the other two, he lost all of those things along with his sanity. Losing everything that he cherished most quickly sent him into a spiral that resulted in him realizing what he actually cared about. It was the lack of Lear’s self-knowledge that ultimately led to the chaos and tragedy. Lear’s recognition of his true values demonstrates the painful journey it may take someone as stubborn and blinded as him to dig deep into their soul and determine who they are, what they want, and what is important to them. In Lear’s case, this meant being rejected by his daughters, thrown out into the real world, and experiencing multiple epiphanies that revealed to him the cruel mistakes he made as a king. Although he was a changed man in the last act, neither he nor his loving daughter Cordelia were able to partake in actual reconciliation. If he had been aware of Cordelia’s purity of heart and the love he felt for her as she did for him, his downfall could have been prevented. In my opinion, it was this sudden end to the profound bond Lear and Cordelia had formed that was the most significant tragic aspect of the play. There was an overall theme of being too late in this play that made Lear’s suffering that much worse. The more he discovered about himself, the more he realized how foolish he was.

I am a very foolish, fond old man (IV.vii)

Self-knowledge is something that takes wisdom and experience to obtain. However knowing oneself cannot change fate, for fate does not care how in tune someone is to themselves. Fate is defined as the development of events beyond a person’s control. Lear was accustomed to being in control of everyone and everything, which led to his apparent insanity when he realized that fate does not care what title he had or the amount of money possessed. This play teaches us to stay true to ourselves and to not be blinded by the distractions that obstruct our path. Lear himself was the perfect example of what happens if we let those distractions and intrusive thoughts take over.

How Much a Dollar Cost?

The song “How Much a Dollar Cost” is featured on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy award winning album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.” This album dives deep into the recesses of racial oppression and materialism as well as serving as an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Songs such as “Alright” and “Hood Politics” are both notable examples of the powerful message Lamar sends, but “How Much a Dollar Cost” stands out amongst the rest.

The song focuses on a specific incident that Lamar, the speaker, found himself in at a gas station in South Africa. The song is a combination of Lamar’s internal thoughts and conflicts and an interaction with a persistent homeless man, who asked him for 10 rand (one US dollar). Throughout the song, Lamar ponders the true value of money and why people such as himself make such a big deal out of it. His questions and wonderings all contribute to a bigger, deeper question: Can money cost someone their place in heaven? The song begins with a description of the environment Lamar is in and how he feels in this specific instance. In order to convey the sense that Lamar has a feeling in his gut that something is wrong, he uses the metaphor of a parasite in his stomach.

Parasites in my stomach keep me with a gut feeling, y’all
Gotta see how I’m chillin’ once I park this luxury car
Hopping out feeling big as Mutombo

Verse 1

Parasites are well known for their detrimental effects on their hosts, who gain nothing from the parasites being attached to them. The parasites in this case are Kendrick’s sins that are feeding off of his soul, which is described as his stomach. This line very creatively and powerfully demonstrates the feeling of guilt that people get when they are aware of any wrong doing on their part. The reference to Mutombo shows the vain attitude that Lamar has at the beginning of the song, even though he was driving past many homeless and poor people. This excerpt foreshadows the following verses to come, which includes Kendrick facing the homeless man that sparks a profound internal realization.

He’s starin’ at me in disbelief
My temper is buildin’, he’s starin’ at me, I grab my key
He’s starin’ at me, I started the car, then I tried to leave
And somethin’ told me to keep it in park until I could see
The reason why he was mad at a stranger
Like I was supposed to save him
Like I’m the reason he’s homeless and askin’ me for a favor
He’s starin’ at me, his eyes followed me with no laser
He’s starin’ at me, I notice that his stare is contagious
‘Cause now I’m starin’ back at him, feelin’ some type of disrespect
If I could throw a bat at him, it’d be aimin’ at his neck
I never understood someone beggin’ for goods
Askin’ for handouts, takin’ it if they could
And this particular person just had it down pat
Starin’ at me for the longest until he finally asked
“Have you ever opened up Exodus 14?
A humble man is all that we ever need”
Tell me, how much a dollar cost?

Verse 2

In this verse, Lamar pours effort into the details of the interaction he has and sets the final verse up for a climactic ending. The repetition of the phrase “he’s starin’ at me” emphasizes the power that the homeless man had over him in that moment. Kendrick could have easily ignored this man, but something urges him to stay. He becomes intrigued and angry and expresses his desire to make the man stop what he was doing. Lamar’s thoughts are interrupted by the homeless man asking him if he has ever read Exodus 14, a biblical story that includes God choosing Moses to lead his people through the Red Sea. This describes the power that one man in an influential position can have on people that look up to them. Kendrick knows that he is a man in that position and is reminded of the importance of staying humble. This line is also the first clue that the homeless man represents God. From this point on, Kendrick starts to have the realization that seems to be a divine intervention.

Guilt trippin’ and feelin’ resentment
I never met a transient that demanded attention
They got me frustrated, indecisive and power trippin’
Sour emotions got me lookin’ at the universe different
I should distance myself, I should keep it relentless
My selfishness is what got me here, who the fuck I’m kiddin’?
So I’ma tell you like I told the last bum
Crumbs and pennies, I need all of mines
And I recognize this type of panhandlin’ all the time
I got better judgment, I know when n***a’s hustlin’, keep in mind
When I was strugglin’, I did compromise, now I comprehend
I smell Grandpa’s old medicine, reekin’ from your skin
Moonshine and gin, n***a you’re babblin’, your words ain’t flatterin’
I’m imaginin’ Denzel but lookin’ at O’Neal

Verse 3

In this section of the final verse, Lamar starts to have a realization that he is wrong in his thinking and begins to ask himself why he is getting so angry over something so small. Nevertheless, he continues to come up with excuses and recognizes that his selfishness caused him to become wealthy. At the end of this excerpt, he ironically alludes to the fact that when he was struggling himself, he would have given the man some money, which exemplifies the effect being rich has had on him. He uses another excuse of alcoholism and tries to validate his claims by remembering when his grandpa had a drinking problem. He mentions Denzel (Washington) and O’Neil (Shaquille), which is a reference to the 1998 film “He Got Game”, a film in which Denzel Washington did not take Shaquille O’Neil seriously as an actor just as Kendrick isn’t taking this homeless man seriously either. The song ends with a climactic ending that reveals the true identity of the homeless man.

And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy
He looked at me and said, “Your potential is bittersweet”
I looked at him and said, “Every nickel is mines to keep”
He looked at me and said, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free
You’re lookin’ at the Messiah, the son of Jehovah, the higher power
The choir that spoke the word, the Holy Spirit
The nerve of Nazareth, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost
The price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss—I am God”

Verse 3

Lamar’s ego takes a hit at the beginning of the excerpt when the homeless man calls his potential bittersweet. Kendrick is provided with a global platform that can affect people in many positive ways, but that is tainted by his greed and lack of humility. The dialogue also alludes to another biblical verse in which Jesus decides who will enter the gates of Heaven. Kendrick has a revelation that causes a rebirth within him. He refused to lend the man a dollar before he realized that he was God incarnate. Kendrick’s unwillingness to give the man (God) a dollar costs him his spot in Heaven.

There are many possibilities as to how much a dollar truly costs. For the homeless man, a dollar meant everything. To Kendrick, a dollar meant nothing. This was a test to see whether or not Kendrick would give anything that God gave him back to those who truly needed it. This song took a situation that many people reading this are familiar with and, through the use of many powerful metaphors, made the listener contemplate how they choose to act and evaluate their true level of selflessness.

Growing Up One Move At A Time – 202 Checkmates

In 202 Checkmates, there are many instances where the reader can see a coming of age narrative. The main character gradually starts experiencing more real life problems within her family and, through playing chess with her father, is able to learn many valuable lessons. She is also able to see the decline in her father’s stability by how often they play and the reactions that her dad has. The PARENT/child binary is a big part of this short story and it works hand-in-hand with the theme of coming of age. The relationship between the main character and her father progressively becomes more mutual as the story continues on. At the beginning, she looks at her father with such curiosity and idolization. These feelings towards her father are present throughout the whole story, but at times, the reader can see the decline in her father’s state along with the idolization. The chess board that her father gives her for her birthday is a metaphor that represents the undying admiration that her father has for her and the tradition that they have been participating in. It is also a representation of the father’s poor financial decisions and where his priorities lie. This is a moment in the story where the reader can see a crack in the family structure that is seemingly held together by both parents’ love for their children.

Applying Benjamin’s Theory

After reading this excerpt from Benjamin, I applied her theory to the PARENT/child binary. I found that parents make certain decisions because they have a responsibility that they brought upon themselves. They love their children so dearly because they are responsible for the safety and care of the child that they created. Her theory also made me consider relationships within a family structure in general. The MAN/woman binary was interesting to me because there has always been a societal norm that guided the actions of a man and a woman in a relationship. The feminist movement has disrupted that norm and it is causing people to rethink the system. Many people consider this unnatural, but in reality it makes total sense. It is similar to a child wanting to have freedom from their parents. The child will eventually gain freedom, but will one day be a parent and be in control of their child. There will always be a time when the so-called “done-to” are going to take action and try to free themselves from a system that they were submitting to such as when people revolt against something that they consider to be unjust. After revolutions, people build up what they consider to be the right way to dominate and then the process eventually repeats itself.