• Shoes don't belong in the bed - even on TV, writes Jinghua Qian. (Unsplash, Dorian Hurst )Source: Unsplash, Dorian Hurst
A rogue sneaker is all it takes to smash through the suspension of disbelief.
Jinghua Qian

18 Jun 2019 - 8:32 AM  UPDATED 18 Jun 2019 - 8:33 AM

Sometimes, you’re enjoying a nice night in with an oversized kebab and your favourite streaming service, when suddenly something shocking comes into view. You narrow your eyes at the screen. Could it be? Surely not!

It’s shoes on the bed.

Now, I understand that in some cultures, it’s considered acceptable to wear shoes indoors. But shoes on the bed is a different kettle of fish. White people I’ve consulted are as baffled and disgusted by this behaviour as anyone else. In real life, no one lets their dirty soles touch their sheets or sofa but somehow it happens all the time in movies and TV shows.

Here are some of the most egregious examples of shoes on the bed.

1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (aka TATBILB)

Look, I have no idea why I, a 30-something queer, even watched this hetero teen rom com. To be honest, it’s probably because after seeing over 100 episodes of The Fosters – a sappy family drama centred on a lesbian couple and their five kids – I think of Noah Centineo as my son and occasionally I like to check up on him.

Anyway, TATBILB was celebrated as a win for Asian American representation in film with a biracial Korean and white protagonist, Lara Jean, played by Vietnamese American actress Lana Condor. That makes it all the more disconcerting when Lara Jean’s sister, Margot, not only hops onto Lara Jean’s bed with shoes on, but then GETS UNDER THE COVERS.

It might seem incredibly petty, but it’s the details that make something feel authentic. While Lara Jean’s Korean heritage isn’t central to the movie’s plot, it is part of the fabric of her character. So on the one hand, we have gentle references to the family’s culture and their shared grief, like the scene where the white dad tries to make Korean dishes to remind the sisters of their late mother. On the other hand, we have shoes in the bed. We know your parents didn’t raise you like this.

(While researching this article, I discovered that heaps of other people are upset about this, and apparently Netflix is a repeat offender.)

2. Take My Wife

A friend recommended this sitcom starring Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher when I was complaining about how you never see butch-on-butch romances in TV and film. While the show rates for queer representation, it should come with a warning that it is absolutely rife with scenes where people casually sling their sneakered feet onto beds, sofas, and other soft furnishings.

The most ridiculous example is this scene where you see Rhea and Cameron wake up and there’s a black lace-up boot on the bed. It’s not attached to a person and it’s not attached to the plot. It’s just there to make you mad. What’s worse is that Rhea and Cameron, a real-life comedian couple who’ve since split up, essentially play themselves in this show so that makes you wonder how they behave in their own house, and how many shoes were involved in their break-up.

3. Project Runway

We all know reality television isn’t real and here’s the proof: a photo of a Season 17 contestant – or should I say, character – from the fashion design competition with her boot-clad feet on the couch. Because no one actually does this in real life, right?

The offending feet belong to Tessa, who’s not very likeable even without the footwear faux pas, which leads me to believe that this moment has been manufactured by the producers to turn us against her. What better shortcut to a villain edit is there than shoes on the sofa?

4. Sex Education

There’s so much to like about this British high school drama-comedy from Netflix, particularly Ncuti Gatwa’s story arc as the frank, loyal, and gutsy Eric, a character who starts off as the typical gay best friend but soon develops well beyond that. But oh gosh, the shoes.

Unlike Project Runway’s Tessa, Maeve (played by Emma Tachard-Mackey) is mostly pretty sympathetic – a street-smart and book-smart entrepreneur hoping to make her way out of living in a caravan park. Yet here she is, lacing her up boots with the sole clearly touching the edge of the bed linen. And as in TATBILB, it’s not even her own bed!

Highly Commended: The Bold Type

A light-hearted drama about three 20-something women working at a fashion magazine, The Bold Type will never be celebrated for realism: salaried staff writer Jane (Katie Stevens) is apparently only tasked with writing one feature story each month, and every single sentence she pens is personally edited by the editor-in-chief in hard copy. Nobody does any work, there are no subeditors, and the commercial pressures of print publishing today are vaguely flagged without seeming to impact the plot.

Kat (played by Australian actor, Aisha Dee) has somehow managed to live in New York as a biracial black woman without ever thinking about her race until age 25 when she has to write a bio describing herself. Everyone calls the magazine website the “dotcom”. All of these things are happening in 2019 and it’s frankly implausible.

One thing the show does get right is its representation of shoes, and specifically their proximity to soft furnishings. The main trio – Jane, Kat, and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) – are often shown taking off their shoes, such as in this sweet scene where they kick off their heels before tumbling into bed together.

Highly Commended: Killing Eve

If you somehow don’t already know, black comedy spy drama Killing Eve zeroes in on the perverse, absurd, and utterly electric bond between a British intelligence officer, Eve (Sandra Oh), and the assassin she’s pursuing, Villanelle (Jodie Comer). It’s very silly but very entertaining.

Villanelle is stylish, petulant, vengeful, and extremely sadistic. She’s not shy about stringing a gaping corpse up in front of a crowd, letting its guts pour onto the floor like tinsel in a Christmas window display. She has no family or country or ties that bind; she seems to operate outside society.

So if there were ever a character who could justifiably wear shoes on the bed, as a way of illustrating her outlaw status, it would be Villanelle. But when she steps into Eve’s home, Eve asks her to take her shoes off. And of course, she obliges.