You might not guess it from all the weird shit I post on this here website, but my tastes in the bedroom are simple. A little face-sitting, some occasional period sex and access to a woman’s unshaven armpits — I’m not yet allowed to write about that one — are all I really need. Not wholly “conventional” interests, I suppose, but nothing outright unusual. I’d put foot stuff in the same category: I appreciate the appendage, will gladly incorporate it into foreplay, but it’s not a fetish, and I don’t have what’s called a “Flintstones dick,” i.e., one that can only be operated with feet. It’s just that when presented with a cute, painted toe, I’ll suck it, okay? Normal.
But because of one selfish man, I can’t say this without sounding like a pervert of the highest order. For years he’s labored to make any dude who happens to admire a woman’s feet in elegant sandals feel as if he’s harboring a sick, criminal secret. He’s so powerful in his industry that we average foot-positive guys are helpless to stop him.
His name: Quentin Tarantino.
Yes, your college boyfriend’s favorite director has a foot fetish. It’s an infamous and, if you spend any time whatsoever with his work, inescapable fixation.
So prominent are close-ups of feet in his nine films, the question “What’s Up With All the Feet in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’?” can only be explained by the arrival of a younger generation not steeped in Pulp Fiction. Whether it’s Bridget Fonda propping up her heels on the coffee table as she takes a bong hit (Jackie Brown), Uma Thurman squishing a human eyeball into carpet with her toes (Kill Bill) or Diane Kruger trying on some shoes at the request of the Nazi villain who’s about to strangle her (Inglorious Basterds), the foot is Tarantino’s undying muse. And let me tell you, it’s getting worse.
As evidence, I submit Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the auteur’s newest three-hour ode to the ironic artifice and mirrorings of cinema. It follows an ensemble cast of characters — some real, some not — in the months leading up to the Manson family murders of 1969. And while we’ve rolled our eyes for decades at Tarantino’s feet shots as an incidental motif or visual signature, Once Upon a Time raises the haunting possibility that he staged a $90 million feature production around this very monomania. To be clear, I’m not kink-shaming Tarantino; remember, I respect feet as much as one can without being an active user of some celebrity foot database. What I cannot abide, however, is a filmmaker who has forsaken his interest in narrative to gratify a libidinal urge — especially since I have inclinations of my own in that department.
For shame, sir! This is not how I wish to see myself represented in art! We live in a society!
Though I’m sure that repeated viewings of this “love letter” to mid-century L.A. would yield many more examples of Tarantino’s lens focusing on actresses’ arches, we need concern ourselves with but a pair of egregious oversteps. One is a driving scene in which Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) picks up a hitchhiking hippie girl who goes by Pussycat (Margaret Qualley). Not two seconds after occupying the front passenger seat, she has her bare soles — caked, it appears, with the yellow grime of walking shoeless in Burbank — pressed against the windshield. This tactile image so dominates the screen that you’re bound to miss what the characters are saying, as Ringer writer Michael Baumann complained, likening it to “a fetish porn parody of Midnight Express.” His colleague, Kate Knibbs, called these “filthy feet” the worst part of the movie, quipping that they were “a better argument against joining a cult than all the murder.”
Oh yeah, spoiler: Pussycat is one of Manson’s girls, and a detour to Spahn Ranch, the dusty outpost where the group was plotting Helter Skelter, has you wondering if this piece of Hollywood lore wasn’t just Tarantino’s excuse for cramming dozens of bare, dirty hippie feet into frame simultaneously.
But elsewhere amid this sprawling tale, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) decides to walk into a matinee showing of a movie in which she happens to feature. She’s there on a whim, alone, to secretly observe the audience’s delighted reaction to her performance. It’s a tender sequence with at least one magical grace note: Tate produces unlikely, enormous, adorable glasses to watch herself. Of course, Quentin can’t help ruining the mood, and soon Tate has propped her own bare, blackened feet on the seat in front of her, the camera all but rubbing our noses in them. As with the car windshield thing, it’s a juvenile and gratuitous move, one I figured for yet another manifestation of Tarantino’s puzzling belief that this is a common, comfortable way for women to sit. It was only in reading press about Robbie’s turn as Tate that I realized the horrible truth: This was meant to be a historically accurate tribute to feet.
Seriously. Robbie told the Hollywood Reporter: “Sharon apparently hated wearing shoes, and she would sometimes put rubber bands around her ankles to make it look like she was wearing sandals so she could get into restaurants.” Suspicious that this was pure fiction cooked up by Tarantino for justification, I went looking for another source… and found it. In 2009, an L.A. Times piece on a Sharon Tate-style retrospective opened with the same anecdote: “Her closet may have been full of designer dresses, but Sharon Tate was a flower child all the way down to her toes. Most comfortable barefoot, she used to skirt the ‘shoes required’ laws in snooty late-1960s Beverly Hills by looping leather string around her toes and across the tops of her feet, and then tying the ends around her ankles.”
My god, I thought, was this the entire reason for Once Upon a Time? Was the year of the Manson family just the Trojan Horse for Quentin’s ultimate foot film? Had he actually sunk this low? I struggle to conclude otherwise.
Allow me to reiterate this: Tarantino is well within his rights to salivate at the sight of feet. I don’t even mind that he keeps tricking me into paying top dollar to see this smut in the theater — honestly, good for him. It breaks my heart, though, to realize that in the course of his career, he’s created an unfair stereotype of the Foot Guy that will never be erased: self-indulgent, immature, cartoonishly horny and distracted.
That this accurately describes who I am as a person is, of course, beside the point: You shouldn’t be able to assume all that about me the instant I confess that a fresh pedicure is a personal turn-on. Dammit, Quentin. Damn you to hell, a hell where all feet have been replaced with another set of hands. I hope you’re happy dragging our community down into your podiatrist’s dungeon. What a tragedy, Mr. Tarantino: You had the whole wild world of Hollywood at your feet — and somehow, that’s as far as you got.