“You’ve got a lot to learn, Myrtle Mae, and I hope you never learn it.” These words, from 1950’s ‘Harvey,’ apply equally to sex and sanity. Harvey’s young women, Myrtle Mae and Nurse Kelly, are open and assertive about their sexual desires and frustrations. It is the older woman, Veta, who is inhibited. She flinches when a bosom jiggles and squirms when discussing sex. Society’s usual concept of sexual inhibition, as a natural innocence corrupted by experience, is flipped in Harvey: female sexuality is the natural innocence that experience disciplines into inhibition. Myrtle Mae and Nurse Kelly have a lot to learn, and we hope they never learn it.
You wouldn’t be entirely mistaken to assume ‘Barefoot’ is a light-hearted romcom centering on a free-spirited hippie who doesn’t like to wear shoes, instead of the story of a naive mental patient falling in love with an inveterate womanizer and gambler. The former certainly seems to be what the movie is trying to be.
‘Barefoot’ is emotionally manipulative, full of unchecked exploitation, sexism and ableism and worst of all, portrays a woman who supposedly has severe mental illness as something akin to a fairy tale princess.