A few years ago, I noticed feminist friends on social media sharing widely a video clip in which Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman opens up about playing Dorothy Michaels, the lead character in the 1982 hit film, Tootsie. In the clip, offman recounts his surprise the first time he saw himself in costume. “I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive,” he says. But apparently what shocked the actor even more was the reality that some of the men he encountered, men who didn’t know he was in costume, ignored or dismissed him because they assumed he was an ordinary, homely woman. As a result, Hoffman says he had an “epiphany” about how he and men in general undervalue women they don’t find physically attractive. “There’s too many interesting women,” the actor says, holding back tears, “I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”
Hoffman, it turns out, may not have made passes at middle-aged redheads in glasses, but he is alleged to have seriously mistreated some of the women he did take an interest in. Recently, news emerged that the 80-year-old actor is yet another prominent man to be accused of sexual abuse in 2017: what the women’s studies textbooks of the future may very well refer to as The Year of Creeps. The clip referenced above, once a shining example of Hoffman’s enlightened attitudes about gender, is at this “Me Too” moment, a glaring example of the actor’s hypocrisy.
Put another way, it’s a glaring example of nice-guy hypocrisy: the brand of duplicity unique to men who move in progressive circles and espouse progressive ideas, but who are, behind closed doors, about as enlightened as Donald Trump. 2017 isn’t just the Year of Creeps, after all. It’s the year of Creeps Who Say All the Right Things. From Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor to Louis C.K. and George Takei, the ever-expanding annals of alleged abusers in Hollywood and beyond is full of liberal darlings: men who until recently made the “right” insights, supported the “right” causes, appeared in the “right” projects, and in Takei’s case, advocated fiercely for social justice and took frequent shots online at public figures who undermined it.
It’s no wonder why so many American conservatives are reacting to the avalanche of sexual abuse allegations in Hollywood with a kind of morbid glee. Smug liberal Hollywood, for a long time one of the loudest voices against injustice of every kind has at long last been exposed as a hotbed of injustice in its own right. Celebrities who rant at award shows about the moral bankruptcy of conservative politicians, provoking standing ovations from their equally indignant peers, are for the first time being forced to sit down and look inward at their own toxic culture.
But more importantly, so are ordinary people. If something good is to come from the Year of Creeps it’s this: Sexual predators going forward may think twice about abusing those around them in fear their crimes will no longer be swept under the rug. And the nice-guy hypocrisy of alleged predators such as Dustin Hoffman will serve as an invaluable reminder to young people everywhere that a person’s progressive politics do not determine his behaviour around sexual consent. A man can shout “your body, your choice” from a rooftop; it won’t stop him from committing acts of sexual violence or coercion. The guy you’re crushing on in English class may have read and thoroughly enjoyed A Room of One’s Own. This doesn’t mean he won’t show up at your dormitory unannounced after a night out drinking and demand entry. An actor can put on a wig and a shiny red dress and later profess through tears to have learned great truths about the inner beauty of average women. This doesn’t mean, however, that when the door is closed and the cameras aren’t rolling, he will treat those women like human beings. Most nice guys are nice. But watch out for the ones that lay it on a little too thick.
Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.