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Image credit: Tootsie, 1982

Anybody who knows me is aware that I am slightly obsessed with soap operas. Unfortunately my long-time daytime favorites were cancelled a couple years ago, and grief prevented me from latching on to a different show. But, the memories remain. Evil twins, medical emergencies, drug additions, torrid affairs- how could anyone not get hooked? Any time I want a taste of the ridiculousness, I head for my closet and pull out this week’s film, Tootsie. Dustin Hoffman as a man playing a woman to land a part on a TV soap opera is pure genius, and a fabulous love letter to the genre it skewers.

What shocks me about Tootsie is its expert handling of the still-contentious notions of feminism, sexual harassment in the workplace, and gender roles. As we are ensconced in a 24-hour news cycle about the first major US female presidential candidate, and the implications it has for women the world over, I can’t help but think- didn’t Dorothy Michaels already say everything that needed to be said on this subject in 1982? Did we just stop listening? As Dorothy, Dustin Hoffman becomes a better man as a woman than he ever was as Michael Dorsey. Dorothy tells off condescending directors, fights against chauvinism and harassment, increases the ratings for her show, and does it all while battling a five o’clock shadow. As our politicians fight about transgender bathrooms and reproductive rights, I can’t help but wish that everyone would stop and ask themselves the simple question- What Would Dorothy Do? Hand out electric cattle prods, that’s what!

The supporting cast of Tootsie is also stellar, with top notch performances by director Sydney Pollack, Bill Murray, Terry Garr, Charles Durning, and Jessica Lange. Oddly, the only Oscar awarded for this film went to Jessica Lange, for her performance as boozy soap actress Julie. In honor of Julie, who is never without a glass of white wine, while watching Tootsie I recommend drinking a White Wine Sangria.

White Wine Sangria

1/8 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

¼ cup mint leaves

1 bottle dry white wine

½ cup Cointreau

2 cups lemon-lime soda

1 sliced Orange, Lemon, and Lime

Boil sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes. Combine sugar mixture, wine, mint, and Cointreau in a pitcher. Cover and chill 4 hours. Stir in soda and fruit just before serving in ice-filled wine glasses.


Part of what I loved most about soap operas was the frequent incorporation of current events into the plotlines. From the AIDS crisis, to campus sexual assault, to mental health issues, daytime TV has always been at the forefront of social consciousness. The characters may make their point in designer clothing and perfectly coiffed hair, but like a cocktail, you need a little sugar to make the hard stuff go down easier. Dorothy Michaels may give a man a scathing lecture, but she’ll do it with a smile and a touch of charm.  Cheers!