Running in Heels in Hollywood Movies

So this has been on my mind for a while, but then, anything related to shoes always is. Be patient and read on to find out more.

Germany’s lockdown back in the spring of this year (which year is it, again?) and consequently spending more time at home led me to increase Netflix subscriber numbers. This, in turn, led to some nostalgic movie viewing, such as…

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Miranda Priestly, played by the inimitable Meryl Streep, regardless of what one thinks of the character, was one of the cinematic figures on my list who contributed to not being afraid of going grey. Then there’s Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, who says the truth about those belts looking the same, but unfortunately finds no supporters at Runway magazine.

Morning Glory (2010)

Becky Fuller, wonderfully played by Rachel McAdams, wants to succeed in her job so bad, even we can taste it, and we’re both sympathetic and a little scared of her. Funny, why wasn’t I scared of Miranda Priestly? Lots of good dialogue in this one, also thanks to Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. Moving on.

Jurassic World (2015)

I saw this one in the movies (in another life) and I enjoyed it a lot. Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, makes for a stylish workaholic within the walls of the enormous dinosaur park, until circumstances prove she’s more than an executive in a pair of heels.

Thus we come to one of the common themes in all three films (and many others): all the aforementioned characters run in heels, with Claire’s jogs and sprints after the dinosaurs run amok probably taking the cake, although spending hours on your feet during Paris Fashion Week or running after colleagues and disgruntled news anchors in attempts to persuade them to do work might be right up there. Kitten heels are also hard to run in, by the way, so that one’s not a way out.

The distinction is that all the shoes involved were pointy stiletto heels with thin soles balancing women of various height and stature. As someone who has tried various types of shoe, fully embracing the trial and error experience, I have been astounded again and again over the years that the Hollywood myth of a woman being able to run for her life or to make a deadline in those heels was being perpetuated with such persistence. No amount of calm, seemingly rationalized discussion afterwards during interviews and panels could convince me otherwise. Isn’t it a shame as well that instead of focusing on storytelling, acting, plotlines, technology, moral issues, good old entertainment and action, all that juicy stuff we seek out movies for, both the media and viewers get sidetracked by these ridiculous scenes?

OK, so the aforementioned movies each have half or more than a whole decade on them, and maybe things will change. I still enjoy different types of shoes and I can understand the appeal of a heel (that sounds cool when you say it out loud). Heels add a certain type of elegance to an outfit, they change your walk and some of them simply look beautiful. The trick is simply to pick the right type of heel that neither adds to long-term foot damage or turns enjoying the day to getting through the day – big difference. If it were a nicely cut, balanced, not too tall block or at least thicker heel, I could maybe believe those running scenes, based on personal experience. But stillettos? Instead of enjoying the movie, I spend my time tensely expecting the heel to snap and our character to break her ankle.

The bigger question arising from this (you might think random) topic, yet again, is not even how much creative license we’re willing to accept, but what kind of fantasy we want to be sold, a question which applies to both male and female characters. I’m all for escapism and suspending disbelief, but I suppose when we are watching stories about “real” people, there’s an internal line we draw somewhere. With the tip of our suitably chosen shoe.



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