Who do we deem worthy of attention?

[Dorothy Michaels’s screen test]

Rita: I’d like to make her look a little more attractive, how far can you pull back?

Cameraman: How do you feel about Cleveland?

Tootsie (1982)

I find myself in a curious position of power and influence these days.  I get to hire actors and actresses, artists, writers and engineers, for our Socratica productions.  The most visible of these, of course, are our on-screen personalities.  We cast people for their warmth and believability –  their chops as actors – and not because they are “hot.”  So far, we have cast people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, from a wide variety of backgrounds, who all bring something different to the table, and who speak a variety of different languages (so far we’ve recorded videos in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Russian, as well as videos for kids).

It’s got to be harder and harder for actors and actresses in Hollywood, when the definition of beauty and who is even considered for a role seems to get narrower every year.  Moms? Dads? High-school kids?  Cops? Lawyers?  Astronauts?  Vampires?  All these people are cast to be stunners, and it’s the same 20 people (or their look-alikes), seen over and over.  Are these really the only people we want to see on our movie screens?

A few weeks ago, I saw a touching video clip from actor Dustin Hoffman, who realized how many people are simply “written off” based on their physical appearance when he dressed as a “plain” woman for the movie Tootsie.

I’ve read some cynical reactions to this video clip, but I for one wish more people had this much of a heartfelt experience seeing life from someone else’s perspective.  As Henry David Thoreau wrote:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”




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