Double feature: The protagonists of both “Tootsie” and “Superman” successfully carry off disguises that should be more transparent to their fellow characters than they are. The question is why – or, rather, how. This believability gap can’t be fully explained by our privileged knowledge, as viewers, of the heroes’ true identities.
The answer could partly lie in the films’ temporal and geographical settings – tough, gritty metropolises demanding constant vigilance from their citizens. These characters’ defenses are possibly too overtaxed to see through the implausible disguises with which they are presented. Or perhaps, tired of being suspicious, these citizens suspend their disbelief out of a desire to finally take archetypes at face value.
Both protagonists hide strengths, as well as vulnerabilities, under the habiliments of their alter egos. Both fall in love with a dreamy-eyed, tough-but-wistful woman from behind the oversized glasses of their respective disguises, and grapple with the sure dangers – and potential thrills – of revealing their true identities to them.
In this grappling – with honesty, intimacy, the complexity of the self – both films advocate for real bravery.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “Auntie P” and “Lauren Tucker Photography” at Flickr)