Barefoot Suicide

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In Japan there is a custom for people to take off their shoes before entering their homes, as to not track dirt into their houses. As a result of this line of thinking there is also a custom where people take off their shoes before they enter the afterlife as not to track dirt and such into their ethereal destination.

As a result of this Truth in Television, abandoned pairs of shoes in Japanese media have become symbolic of suicides. Despite this it seems to pop up in non-Japanese media a lot. This is due to a common psychological effect. Suicides tend to be planned meticulously and leave all their valuables and belongings behind before taking their life.

Compare Seppuku, another Japanese form of ritual suicide.


Examples

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     Anime & Manga 
  • Happens early on in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei when the professor tries to hang himself.
  • A woman does this early on after being Driven to Suicide in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
  • A humorous subversion happens in One Piece, where Nami takes off her sandals before pretending to jump off a cliff in Weatheria, to trick some old men into letting her stay for two years.
  • When Asuka is found naked in a bathtub in Neon Genesis Evangelion after undergoing the Trope Namer for Mind Rape one of the indications that she's trying to kill herself (either by possibly slitting her wrists or simply starving herself) is the fact that her shoes are placed on top of her clothes which are folded neatly to the side of the tub.
  • In the movie of Revolutionary Girl Utena it's strongly implied that Anthy is about to jump off the side of the Rose Garden when Utena goes to confront her, with one shot lingering on her bare feet on the edge. This mirrors a scene in the TV series when the same thing happens but with the addition of Anthy being in her nightgown and more explicitly about to jump off the roof of the dorm, and she actually does go over the edge before Utena catches her and pulls her back up.
  • Discussed Trope in Detective Conan: Sera dismisses a death as a suicide despite the dead person's shoes having been found arranged neatly on the nearby roof of a building—it's a convenient visual symbol for fiction, sure, but very few suicides actually do this by the time she's a detective.
    • The "Phantom of Baker Street" movie has Hiroki Sawada remove his shoes and stand at the ledge of the balcony (living in a company's skyscraper) before cutting away to a scene minutes later when his superiors, who have been trying to get into his room, find his shoes...
  • In the first chapter of Zodiac PI, a student's body is found hung behind the gym. The fact that her shoes are kicked off, helter-skelter, is taken at first as a sign that it she committed suicide - but Lili, her classmate, remembers that the girl was always very neat and tidy in life, and would doubtless have put her shoes down neatly. She then deduces that the real killer hung her body there, walked away backwards in her own shoes to leave no second trail, and then threw her shoes towards her body.
  • At one point in Tokyo Godfathers, a character notes that if he wanted to kill himself, he'd take his shoes off and jump off a bridge. Behind him, a woman is preparing to do exactly that. Thankfully, he realizes it and stops her.

     Film 
  • In the 1966 Japanese movie The Face of Another, a young woman takes off her shoes before walking into the sea to end her life.
  • Takashi Ishii's Freeze Me has Chihiro remove not just her shoes and socks, but strip down to her birthday suit before stepping onto her apartment terrace, where she disappears in a flash of lightning. It's presumed that she jumped to her doom at that moment. This is done to slough the shame of her past before stepping into the afterlife.
  • A half-version in Inception. Mal, trying to get her husband to commit suicide with her, slips off one of her shoes while sitting on the ledge and lets it fall, to demonstrate she's serious about jumping and that The Apple Falls Far.
  • Subverted in Forrest Gump: Jenny absentmindedly slips out of one of her shoes while standing by a bridge, asking if she'd fly if she jumped off. Forrest is a little worried to hear her say that. Later on she actually does try to commit suicide, but doesn't take her shoes off and ultimately grows too scared to jump off.
  • In Lenny Abrahamson's Garage, Josie takes off his baseball cap and shoes and neatly arranges them before committing suicide in a river.
  • In the original Lethal Weapon, the prostitute that falls to her death from a building onto the roof of a car is barefoot.

     Live Action TV 
  • In the opening scene of Orphan Black, Beth Childs takes off her shoes and blazer before walking into the path of a moving train.
  • In Caprica, when Amanda Greystone is preparing to jump off a bridge, the camera shows a dramatic close-up of her feet gingerly stepping out of her shoes first.
  • Used as a plot point in an episode of The Commish: Tony happens to see a man fall off a bridge into the river in an apparent suicide but Tony realizes that he must have been pushed over because people usually take their shoes off before jumping and this man didn't.
  • In one episode of Mad Men, Don Draper tries to sell his ad idea for a hotel in Hawaii. The proposal has a tag "The jumping off point" and the scene implies suicide (in several ways) there are left shoes on the beach and footprints in the sand. The clients voice their concern, but Don insists it might be just a personal association. Then the others start discussing a movie with a similar scene (later identified as A Star Is Born). When Don asks later his cretive director if that seriously makes him think of suicide, he answers eagerly while munching on a Danish pastry: "Of course! That's what's so great about it!"

     Music 
  • The man in Collective Soul's "The World I Know" video takes off his shoes before stepping up to the ledge to jump. For good measure, he takes off his socks too. It's not shown if he puts them back on after he changes his mind.
  • The music video of "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt is of the singer taking off his hoodie, shirt, and shoes, then his watch, and then all of his other belongs in a row by a ledge before he jumps. Overlaps with Snow Means Death.

     Video Games 
  • In Yume Nikki, some shoes can be found around where Madotsuki jumps off the side of a building, before the credits roll with a blood splatter in the middle of the screen. While she doesn't actively take them off, the shoes being present from the beginning of the game hint that it's been planned for a while, at least before the beginning of the game.
  • Super Dangan Ronpa 2: Ibuki is found hanged with her slippers on. This is a hint that she was actually murdered.
  • Moeka is found with her shoes off after she hangs herself this way in Steins;Gate.
  • Yandere Simulator provides an interesting take on this. It's possible to kill other students by shoving them off of the school rooftop. In doing this, you'll automatically tear their shoes off as they fall and place them by the railing to make it look like a suicide. This provides an excellent means of disposing of a rival without getting caught, but if the body is found, the school will take notice and put up a chain-link fence around the rooftop.

     Webcomics 
  • Near the end of Anders Loves Maria, Tina is seen slipping out of her shoes before jumping in front of a truck.

     Real Life 
  • When Evelyn McHale jumped off the Empire State Building in 1947 and landed on a limosine, it seems she took her shoes off first. (Image is not super gory. She looks asleep, but she is dead.)

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