Created By: batgirl1 on October 2, 2011 Last Edited By: alnair20aug93 on June 10, 2017
Troped

Old Timey Ankle Taboo

Back then, a woman's bare ankle was hard-core pornography.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Upped for Grabs by Alnair.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/il_fullxfull262709126_1.jpg
The Belle Was Slowly Pealing, 1908

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking...

If a show has an episode set in the 1800s or early 1900s, or is referring to that era, expect mention to be made of The Ankle Taboo. This is often played for laughs; a picture of a bare ankle will be referred to as pornography, and the sight of one will induce much shock, scandal and monocle-popping. Other times, "can't show your ankles" will simply be used as short-hand to sum up all of the repressiveness of that era. Note that a *lot* of things we tolerate today were severely frowned upon in those days (and vice versa), but the exposed ankle is probably one of the easiest, quickest, and (in today's culture) silliest examples of Values Dissonance that a show can portray, and thus works best for a quick gag.

A subtrope of Fully-Clothed Nudity and Our Nudity Is Different.

See Also: Changed My Jumper for when this comes into play with time travelers.


Examples

Fan Works
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom the joke about "unshorn fetlocks" started out as the pony equivalent of this. There's nothing in canon about it but fans took to having Princess Luna, who was stuck in the moon for a millennium, freak out at the sight of stallions having unshorn fetlocks.

Film
  • Les Visiteurs. In a medieval version of this trope, the king considers his mistress lifting her dress past her ankles to be incredibly risqué.
  • Because Bobby Hayes from R.I.P.D. was from The Wild West, his favorite thing to ogle at on a woman is her ankles.

Literature
  • George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman was born at just that point in time when atttiudes were changing and prudishness descended on Britain. His whole life could be seen as a rebellion against Victorian morality - which at the other end of his life had become the ankle taboo. Something Flashman was somewhat opposed to.
  • Making Money. Professor Feedle has been dead for several centuries but is still as randy as he was when alive. So when Moist makes a deal with him to let him haunt a strip club, he asks if it's "smutty" and if the women show their ankles.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long mentions when he travels back in time to 1917 that he is surprised at the thrill it gives him to see a woman's ankle when it happens to get exposed. He also mentions that he is careful not to let anyone catch him looking.

Live-Action TV
  • Horrible Histories: The "Surfing the Web Safely" video has a prudish Victorian going online and being shocked by all kinds of smut: such as women showing their ankles, or appearing in public without gloves.
  • In an imagine spot on Married... with Children, Al Bundy has an Imagine Spot where he's an old west cowboy and after stopping a hold up at a general store he asks for a nudie magazine called "Bare Ankle."
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries two-part episode "Stroll on the Wild Side", a shy librarian is found to have a rose tattooed just above one ankle. The coroner Dr. Grace shows it to Murdoch and they discuss its rarity and how it could be revealed by the woman raising her skirt. Viewers also learn such things are very rare: there's only one tattoo artist in the whole city of Toronto at the time (circa 1900), and the artist tells Murdoch that the librarian was his only female customer.
  • An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation has the Enterprise pick up a colony who live like stereotype Irishmen from centuries ago. In one scene, Riker is having a conversation with one of the women from the colony and she lifts up her skirt to show her ankles, indicating she wants a realtionship with him.

Music
  • From The Shins' "Turn A Square":
    Just a glimpse of an ankle and I
    React like it's 1805
  • In the music video for "Amish Paradise" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, two Amish teens are seen looking at a supposedly erotic magazine, with the centerfold girl lifting up her long skirt to show her ankle. This illustrates how the Amish live by very old-fashioned values.

Web Original
  • The CollegeHumor page on "If the Internet Always Existed" has bare ankles on the 1900 version of YouTube.
  • In the Nostalgia Chick's review of Kate & Leopold, she lists "can't show your ankles" as one of the problems with Leopold's time period.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Simpsons Tall Tales" has a segment set in the 1800s, where the buy-your-photo section of a log flume ride has to deal with a shot of a lady "flashing her private parts". It's her ankle, and the man running the shop claims he'll take care of it before shiftily stowing it in his pocket as if it were porn.
    • In "Lady Bouvier's Lover" Marge's mother, Jacqueline Bouvier recounts how she was arrested for wearing a Old-Timey Bathing Suit because it exposed her ankles.
    • In "All About Lisa", Bart and Homer become coin collectors researching a double-struck "Kissing Lincolns" penny, which was made in 1917 when the sight of a woman's ankle caused three days of rioting at the Philadelphia mint.
    • In "The Burns and the Bees", Mr. Burns' cheerleaders for his basketball team, the Basket-Belles, do this. Due to Values Dissonance, the spectators boo them for being boring.
    Mr. Burns: Enough of this vulgarity! Back to your brothels, harlots!


Index:

Community Feedback Replies: 58
  • October 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    A subtrope of Fully Clothed Nudity.

    On Gor the sight of a free woman's ankle, even when covered by a a boot, is quite indecent. This of course on a world where Beautiful Slave Girls regularly go around in public nude.
  • October 3, 2011
    foxley
  • October 3, 2011
    c0ry
    I'm fairly certain this trope is in a "dirty magazine" in the music video for Amish Paradise, by Weird Al.
  • October 3, 2011
    randomsurfer
    This absolutely must be the page quote.

    In olden days a glimpse of stocking
    Was looked on as something shocking...
  • October 3, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Not sure if this is an example or if it is something else:
  • October 3, 2011
    surgoshan
    • Wheel Of Time plays this up. Women showing their legs is woowoo, and some men do have very nice calves.

    Web Original
  • October 3, 2011
    JusticeReaper
    Could this also fall under Foot Focus?
  • October 3, 2011
    batgirl1
    Hrm, should we get something rolling for "unusual ideas of which parts are private", or does Fully Clothed Nudity cover everything there?
  • October 3, 2011
    Fanra
    [Some parts below striked out because the trope description changed.]

    No need for the trope description to be ethnocentric. There are current cultures today that still believe that viewing a woman's ankle is taboo.

    • A burqa; also transliterated burkha, burka or burqua, is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman's loose body-covering, plus the head-covering, taking the most usual meaning), plus the face-veil.

    • In Robert A Heinlein's Time Enough For Love, Lazarus Long mentions when he travels back in time to 1917 that he is surprised at the thrill it gives him to see a woman's ankle when it happens to get exposed. He also mentions that he is careful not to let anyone catch him looking.
  • October 3, 2011
    nitrokitty
    See also Changed My Jumper for when this comes into play with time travelers.
  • October 3, 2011
    batgirl1
    @Fanra - well, I've mostly seen this trope present itself in the form of

    "Oh, look! We are in Victorian England!"
    "OMG, an ankle!"
    "Le gasp!"

    So I'm not entirely sure whether this trope should be Ankles plus that specific setting, or just a foot-based version of Fully Clothed Nudity. I personally feel like it's more tropey as the former, but we can open the floor for discussion on that point. For what it's worth, I've never actually seen a show where the gag plays out as

    "Oh, look! We are in Muslim country!"
    "OMG, an ankle!"
    "Le gasp!"

    nor have I heard "Ankle taboo" as shorthand for "Islam is strict". If this is different for other countries' media, then maybe we can expand it to cover; unless of course people decide that my logic is flawed and we should expand it anyway. These are just my thoughts.
  • October 4, 2011
    Fanra
    nor have I heard "Ankle taboo" as shorthand for "Islam is strict". If this is different for other countries' media, then maybe we can expand it to cover; unless of course people decide that my logic is flawed and we should expand it anyway.

    The description was written differently before. As it is written now, there is no need to mention what I said as far as that. Now the trope is just Victorian ankles, while before it was, "see how in modern times no one cares if a woman shows off her ankles or other parts as long as it isn't nipples and vulva". I was saying that isn't true everywhere. But the trope description has changed and there is no need to mention some modern Islamic and other cultural taboos.
  • October 4, 2011
    Chabal2
    Supposedly some people back then even covered the piano legs, as their shape was abominably suggestive to the perverted male mind.

    • Making Money: Professor Feedle has been dead for several centuries but is still as randy as he was when alive. So when Moist makes a deal with him to let him haunt a strip club, he asks if it's "smutty" and if the women show their ankles.
    • Les Visiteurs: In a medieval version of this trope, the king considers his mistress lifting her dress past her ankles to be incredibly risqué.
  • October 4, 2011
    Antigone3
    In Take A Thief, Skif notices at one point that two whores being taken off by the Guard to ID a body have pulled their skirts down to cover their ankles, and as I recall it's noted as looking more respectable. I'll check when I get home to confirm that.
  • October 4, 2011
    randomsurfer
    An anecdote about Winston Churchill.
    While visiting America one year, Winston Churchill attended a buffet luncheon at which cold fried chicken was among the dishes served. Churchill, delighted, returned for a second helping. "May I have some breast?" he politely asked. "Mr. Churchill," his hostess replied, "in this country we ask for white meat or dark meat."
    Churchill apologized profusely and, the following morning, sent the woman a magnificent orchid with an accompanying note. "I would be most obliged," it read, "if you would pin this on your white meat."
  • October 4, 2011
    elwoz
    Kimono Fanservice mentions in passing a similar fetish for a different body part: the nape of the neck.
  • October 5, 2011
    Nora
    From The Shins' "Turn A Square":
    Just a glimpse of an ankle and I
    React like it's 1805
  • October 5, 2011
    randomsurfer
    If I recall, this was used as a gag in The Great Race.

    Possible page picture: [1]

    (Submitted by Jonny B, edited by Random Surfer because posting pics in replies breaks ykttw.) (BTW, surgoshan already posted it.)
  • October 6, 2011
    ArtFever
    ^I second that page picture. It manages to be funny while explaining the trope in the easiest way possible.
  • October 9, 2011
    MoG2
    Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise".
  • February 6, 2013
    batgirl1
    Okay, now that Our Nudity Is Different is up and running, I wonder if this will be able to fly as a Sub Trope. Thoughts?
  • February 7, 2015
    jormis29
    Another for The Simpsons
  • February 8, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
  • January 9, 2016
    jormis29
    bump
  • January 9, 2016
    Snicka
    An example already mentioned above, but I'll give it more context.

    Music:
    • In the music video for "Amish Paradise" by Weird Al Yankovic, two Amish teens are seen looking at a supposedly erotic magazine, with the centerfold girl lifting up her long skirt to show her ankle. This illustrates how the Amish live by very old-fashioned values.
  • January 9, 2016
    foxley
    • Horrible Histories: The "Surfing the Web Safely" video has a prudish Victorian going online and being shocked by all kinds of smut: such as women showing their ankles, or appearing in public without gloves.
  • January 10, 2016
    Chernoskill
    ^^This was the first thing I thought of when I read the title of this trope. Well done :)
  • January 10, 2016
    Snicka
    ^ In fact, the image from the music video would be an excellent image to illustrate the trope. Unfortunately, this is the best quality picture I could find online.
  • January 11, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    • In the Murdoch Mysteries two-part episode "Stroll on the Wild Side", a shy librarian is found to have a rose tattooed just above one ankle. The coroner Dr. Grace shows it to Murdoch and they discuss its rarity and how it could be revealed by the woman raising her skirt. Viewers also learn such things are very rare: there's only one tattoo artist in the whole city of Toronto at the time (circa 1900), and the artist tells Murdoch that the librarian was his only female customer.
  • January 14, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    Fan Works
    • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fandom the joke about "unshorn fetlocks" started out as the pony equivalent of this. There's nothing in canon about it but fans took to having Princess Luna, who was stuck in the moon for a millennium, freak out at the sight of stallions having unshorn fetlocks.
  • January 14, 2016
    AgProv
    Real Life
    • Note this social attitude was most prevalent in a time where it was common for prudish ladies to dress tables and chairs in modesty covers concealing their legs, as by association of ideas, even a well-turned table leg could provoke the mind of a man to lust...
  • January 15, 2016
    Kartoonkid95
    • More Simpsons examples:
      • In "All About Lisa", Bart and Homer become con collectors research a double-struck "Kissing Lincolns" penny, which was made in 1917 when the sight of a woman's ankle caused three days of rioting at the Philadelphia mint.
      • In "The Burns and the Bees", Mr. Burns' cheerleaders for his basketball team, the Basket-Belles, do this. Due to Values Dissonance, the spectators boo them for being boring.
      Mr. Burns: Enough of this vulgarity! Back to your brothels, harlots!
  • January 15, 2016
    BOFH
    Comic Books
  • September 9, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    It's kinda ironic/semi-hypocritical that in the Victorian era, you can't show your ankles, but having an Impossibly Low Neckline is okay...
  • September 10, 2016
    triton
    Despite usually being Played For Laughs, this was actually Truth In Television durring the Victorian era. Since women (and people in general) were more covered up back then, when a woman showed off her ankles it was considered sexy.

    Live Action Tv:

    • In an imagine spot on Married With Children Al Bundy has an Imagine Spot where he's an old west cowboy and after stopping a hold up at a general store he asks for a nudie magazine called "Bare Ankle."
  • October 6, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Ankle BUMP.
  • October 6, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Also, exposed ankles at the time were also a sign of immaturity or of the working class; As in the case of the former, a lady is expected to cover her ankles once she comes of age, the latter is due to function and mobility as a floor-length full skirt would only impede her.
  • October 7, 2016
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television
    • An episode of Star Trek The Next Generation has the Enterprise pick up a colony who live like stereotype Irishmen from centuries ago. In one scene, Riker is having a conversation with one of the women from the colony and she lifts up her skirt to show her ankles, indicating she wants a realtionship with him.
  • October 21, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Ankle Bump.
  • October 22, 2016
    AgProv

    @alnair20aug93: George Mac Donald Fraser, in his Flashman novels, has Flashman note that he was born and got his early education in the time-period where the pendulum was turning, and the free and easy, rather licentious, social mores of the Georgian era were dying out. To be replaced by what we later came to know as the suffocating social strictures and prudish mores of the Victorian period. Flashman lives through the latter years of this transition period, and notes, gloomiliy, that the relatively free fashion style of the Georgians - loose dresses for women - is gradually being supplanted by layer upon layer of additional clothing and tight lacing. He does note that one thing appears not to change with the fashions and social attitudes: low necklines and plenty of visible decollletage. I think at one point Flashman does reluctantly gree that a woman might show as much udder as she likes - but it's perhaps best if she keeps her legs covered. In his world-view this made things more interesting later, in private. so the victorians were preserving long-established social standards concerning what was considered appropriate for a woman to put on display - they weren't inventing it out of nowhere? (Bared legs for women only became "acceptable" in the 20th century lageely after WW 1. Although a Georgian trend dseplored by the Victorians was men only wearing knee-britches, with stocking legs from the knee down - full-length trousers put a stop to THAT sort of thing...)
  • October 23, 2016
    Snicka
    Is this Up For Grabs?
  • December 1, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    Probably.
  • December 29, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Ankle Bump. And @Ag Prov, two things: Use paragraphs, and be Clear Concise Clever.
  • December 29, 2016
    AgProv
    ^ Well, happy to oblige.
    • George Mac Donald Fraser's Flashman was born at just that point in time when atttiudes were changing and prudishness descended on Britain. His whole life could be seen as a rebellion against Victorian morality - which at the other end of his life had become the ankle taboo. Something Flashman was somewhat opposed to.

    Better?
  • December 30, 2016
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Namespaced work names.
      • Blue Linked work names.
      • Corrected spelling (oggle).
      • Added punctuation (periods at the ends of sentences).

    The first Web Original example violates Weblinks Are Not Examples and has been marked as such. It needs more information about how it fits the trope.
  • December 30, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    ^^ Cool.
  • December 31, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    This was troped but it's been backpedaled, right?
  • January 25, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/il_fullxfull262709126_1.jpg
    The Belle Was Slowly Pealing, 1908
  • January 27, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bump.
  • January 28, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    I've checked the OP's activity and her last activity was from last year.
  • February 3, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    So, Up For Grabs anyone?
  • February 24, 2017
    Malady
    ... What's with that picture?

    How about It Happened One Night as shown in the picture for Show Some Leg?
  • February 24, 2017
    randomtroper89
    Foot Focus has not been a trope for a long time.
  • February 24, 2017
    foxley
  • March 20, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bump.
  • May 11, 2017
    foxley
    This YKTTW has been here for almost 6 years and has 17 hats. I'm going to launch it this weekend.
  • May 12, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Sure. Before that, does this go with Forgotten Trope or Dead Horse Trope?
  • June 10, 2017
    Brandar
    • Film**
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