Line: These are good people, George.
Context: Michael is in his agent’s home office bemoaning the catastrophe his life’s become. The scene is a parenthetical compliment to their first scene together in George’s work office in which Michael is told that his exacting standards and righteous outbursts have alienated the acting, directing, and producing communities on both coasts. Michael defends himself by declaring his dedication to his craft. “I bust my ass to get a part right!” “Yeah—and you bust everybody else’s ass, too!”
But this is a different Michael, and he puzzles George. Michael’s actions since taking on the Dorothy persona have created a professional crisis—in that his unbreakable contract might have him working for the rest of his life as a woman—but more importantly he realizes he’s about to emotionally devastate a number of people close to him. Mind you, this is a person who broke a tryst scheduled immediately after his birthday party because he spied a prettier stranger, and had to walk around another party with the remnants of a drink thrown in his face after failed pass at a woman who was not his date. And while George would not have known about the first event he knew Michael’s history, and as a fellow invitee to the second party might well have guessed reason behind Michael’s wet clothes at the second party. And while he’s learned to shrug off most of Michael’s odd statements (“There’s a woman inside me!”), “These are good people, George” throws him for a loop.”
“What’s weird about you?” he replies. “Since when do you care how people feel?”
That was something Michael learned on the job as Dorothy. It is articulated on set when her co-star tells her character, “You’re an incredibly insensitive woman!” and Michael/ Dorothy improvises, “Stop thinking of me as a woman and start thinking of me as a person. That’s what Southwest General is made of—people!” Michael had been surrounded by the theater community—directors, playwrights, producers, agents, and god help us, actors. But not until he takes on the role of Dorothy—who as a woman he presumes is more caring and diplomatic, and learns is smarter than he is—does he start thinking of them as people. Good people, most of them. Others he comes to understand better than they think, but that’s another lesson.Usage: In our lives, we occassonally cross paths with those who baffle and annoy us. Often because they are retarded. While it isn’t entirely fair to pretend that women have a corner on empathy, Tootsie is good enough to flatter us so. “These are good people, George” is a reminder that our fellow creatures are also fellow strivers and worthy of compassion and respect. That we should their feelings in mind and not cause them needless hurt. And, as we also learn from Tootsie, it’s not like we have to marry them.