#BlogElul via the Movies 3 – Tootsie’s Intention

It is it action or intention? I suppose it depends on the circumstance. Often we hear, “I tried really hard” and that counts for something. Teddy Roosevelt wrote in 1900: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort.”

We praise hard work as Americans, as Jews. But we also cherish success. The intention behind our actions is vital as a moral victory, but it is our actions – and even our results – that ultimately define us.

In one of my all-time favorite movies, Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s character is full of intensity and focus. Early in the movie, he argues with his agent about his fantastic work in various shows including his role in a commercial as a tomato:

“I was a stand-up tomato: a juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato. Nobody does vegetables like me. I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway. I did the best tomato, the best cucumber… I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass.”

Essentially he is a drive, self-important jerk. And this is partially because he is unsuccessful. (He is also unsuccessful because he is a jerk). But success changes everything. Our drive now mutes, or at least dulls, our flaws as quirks and idiosyncrasies. As he succeeds in the film, masquerading as Dorothy Michaels, a female daytime soap star, he is seen as a true actor. His personality flaws that previously ostracized him are now overlooked, forgiven, or, at least, tolerated. Continue reading

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