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‘Tootsie’ star Dustin Hoffman says he was ‘brainwashed’ about beauty standards

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There’s too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed. – Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Toostie" — a comedy film about an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a woman to get a part — but in a new video says the film "was never a comedy for me."

In the video, Hoffman describes how the film changed the way he views women and the pressure society places on them in regards to beauty.

A women's "geek" site, The Mary Sue, recently revived the clip from a 2012 interview Hoffman did with the American Film Institute. In the video, Hoffman recalls the early planning for the film "Tootsie." The first challenge, for Hoffman, was having the makeup and costume departments transform him into a woman.

His transformation into the character Dorothy Michaels was impressive, but Hoffman was still disappointed.

"I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive. I said, 'Now you have me looking like a woman, now make me a beautiful woman,’ ” he recalled. "If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible."

But, according to Hoffman, the makeup artists simply said, "That's as good as it gets."

In the video, an emotional Hoffman said:

"It was at that moment I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying. Talking to my wife, I said I have to make this picture, and she said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn't fulfill — physically — the demands that we're brought up to think women have to have in order to ask them out.'

"She says, 'What are you saying?' And I said, 'There's too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.’ ”

The video has received more than 4 million views, with most views occurring in the past week. This same week, a BBC commentator called the now women's Wimbledon champion "not a looker" before she headed into the finals of one of the world's premiere tennis competitions.

Many have pointed to the video as an indicator of the continual pressures that women face every day to look and act a certain way.

Beauty Redefined, a body image project started by two University of Utah students, commended Hoffman in a Facebook post for acknowledging the issue.

"That daily disappointment, shame and desire to fix ourselves is exactly what industry leaders in media, beauty, weight loss, fashion, etc., would have us feel because it leads to major profits. But it is soul sucking," Beauty Redefined posted Tuesday. "It limits our potential. And it's time to feel something different."

In a blog post response to the video, Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post similarly wrote, "The idea that women have to be beautiful in order for men to find out that they are interesting is ridiculous. But that’s what’s being sold in movies, in all those ads with moisturizer, in all those montage sequences. You were interesting all along, but until you do something to your nose, no one will notice."

But while the video offers insight into the physical appearance pressures women face, it also offers a solution: sharing experience.

In her column for the U.K.'s Guardian, Jane Martinson wrote, "His story confirms that there's no substitute for experience. Men can't imagine the daily tedium of being sized-up and judged on their figure, face and general grooming before they've even opened their mouths because they don't have to. But wouldn't it help if they knew?"

Katie Harmer is a journalism graduate of Brigham Young University and writes for Mormon Times. Email: kharmer@deseretnews.com Twitter: harmerk