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6.5.5 Body Language: Legs & Feet

Believe it or not, it is becoming harder to find good body language in films these days, especially legs and feet language; Shots have become tighter, and new directors careless...

Leg Crossing:
Sharon Stone Leg Crossing
Fig. 1: Sharon Stone in "The Specisialist".

This beautiful leg crossing is because of the large 40 degrees outwards angle, pronouncing the legs. The side angle, not shown in this plane, is actually very small here.

Legs over each other come in several versions, of which five are discussed here.

The standard leg crossing posture is shown in Fig. 1.

In this standard version, one leg stands straight and firm on the ground, and the other wraps above it, knee over knee.

The legs form both a side and outwards angle.

in general, the more slim a person, the more acute the side angle will tend to be and many fat people cannot do this posture at all.

It should be noted that the large outward angle (40 degrees) shown in Fig. 1 is a more feminine style to pronounce the legs and should not be confused with the side angle.

In the "American" leg crossing version the upper leg forms 90 degrees side angle with the standing leg shown in Fig. 2.

This posture is common to males with challenging attitudes but is not practicable by strong women.

A female doing this posture is challenging men on equal work basis and is not concerned with her femininity at all.

American Leg over Other
Fig. 2: The American "Male" Leg Crossing Version

 

Feminine Leg over Other
Fig. 3: Cynthia Khater shows the correct Feminine Leg over Other Version

The added hands behind head (hands supporting head Fig. 2) gesture provides firm evidence that the person in concern is feeling positive, proud, achieving and ready for challenge.

The presentable feminine version of leg crossing is quite commonly used by women with a preservative background.

In this version, the legs are put parallel next to each other. Both the side and outwards angles are deliberately eliminated, and the legs are held at an angle with the ground.

 

The last version discussed here is the "loose" version of leg over the other.

Here the legs are spaced to form a large side angle (Fig. 4).

The degree of the side angle here is dependent on the couch or chair height. the lower the seat, the wider the angle can be.

The outwards angle will not be present in this posture.

This formation, like Fig. 1, pronounce the legs in the frontal plane of the female, and is concidered some form of mild seduction.

If you know men making this posture, this might be a great indication that they are gay.

The final posture discussed in this section is crossed legs while standing (Fig. 5).

This posture shows that the person wants to be alone or unfamiliar with the people around. It is closing about oneself.

Loose Leg over Other
Fig. 4: A Loose Feminine Leg over Other Version
Rachael Taylor Crossed Legs
Fig. 5 (Right): Rachael Taylor shows her legs crossed at knees combined with hands in her pockets.

Awkward Sitting Patterns:

It is natural for a person to extend his /her legs or put one next to him /her in completely informal places (Fig. 6).

Doing such postures in front of others, except close friends, is considered rude.

Although many people who sit informally infront of others do not intend to be rude, in fact, these people lack self esteem and will continue to be disrespected because of this behavior.

It should be noted also, that people who sit on the ground are considered by many, low self esteemers. In formal cases, it is not acceptable at all.

Sharon Stone Leg By Side
Fig. 6: Sharon Stone in "Scissors" makes herself home.

The reverse seating posture is made when a person wants additional courage to make a verbal attack or to prove a point (Fig. 7).

He /She is using the chair as a psychological shield.

In such posture, if the legs are held back slightly below the chair, the person may be trying to appear non-offensive, but still feeling tense about the argument.

When the legs are held straight apart like in the figure, then the person wants it to look serious and wants a resolution.

Another strange posture is arching the legs inwards usually when seated (Fig. 8).

This rediculous posture makes the girl look naive and shy. Some of them are, others who pretend to be like to use it.

Cynthia Khater Reverse Seating
Fig. 7: Cynthia Khater showing a reverse seating posture
Rachael Taylor Legs Arched Inwards
Fig. 8: Rachael Taylor Posing Shy
again...

Raising Legs for No Reason:

When women in particular raise their legs, they are trying their best to be seductive (Fig. 9).

When such postures are made infront of strange men, it shows the woman in concern doesn't have any restrictive manners.

The higher the leg is raised, the more the woman is trying to seduce.

Shown in Fig. 9 is only a small amount of raising the leg.

It is common for play models, making such postures, to extend the leg totally upwards for a maximum effect, but it has been decided not to show such examples here.

You can click here for an example.

Catherine Zeta Jones Raised Leg

Fig. 9: Catherine Zeta Jones holds her leg up
in this picture to stress she is loosened up.
This is stressed by the shallow clothes too.

Legs Over Tables and Important Objects:

Whenever someone puts his /her leg(s) over a table or an important object, it shows that the person is trying to be in control or possessive about the object.

A person putting his foot above his car bumper is claiming ownership. The hand may denote a similar role, but the foot stresses the effect more.

Legs over tables is an important example of this behavior, very common to movies.

In general, it is considered a possesive, dominant, or bold behavior.

In Pizza House (2004), I started the scene of Ms. Rita Barsona with her legs over her desk (Fig 10).

It meant that she was in total control of her office and company, and had a challenging attitude.

Rita Barsona Legs over Table
Fig. 10: Ms. Rita Barsona's legs over table in "Pizza House"
shows her boldness and control of her post.

In Transformers (2007), the Director totally neglects the meaning and application of legs over tables.

In this much celebrated shot of Rachael Taylor's legs over the table in the interrogation room, it is clear that the sole interest of the director is to show her nice legs (Fig. 11).

Rachael Taylor Legs over Table
Fig 11: In "Transformers", the director shows Rachael Taylor's legs over table
without regarding the connotative meaning.

However, Maggie (Rachael Taylor) is in no situation to claim control over the interrogation room.

In addition, the composition of the picture suggests rudeness and humility to her friend, Anthony Anderson, which is staged facing her legs. She is independent and smart, but not rude.

Had her legs been shown is this posture at Anthony Anderson's place, it would have been totally applicable; She can make herself home at her friend and show some dominant attitude with her legs over a couch or something, and still we get to see her legs.

Leg Spacing:

Leg spacing is a strong indication about the politeness / rudeness, or shyness / courage.

In Fig. 12, Catherine Zeta Jones plays a polite and rather shy woman who isn't certain of what she wants. Her legs are close to each other, supported with her defensive arm gesture.

In Fig. 6, the model shows a reverse seating posture in which the legs are widely spaced. This provides a challenging look to back up the reverse seating denotation as discussed in the section before.

One note to remember about wide leg spacing though: some people may do it due to physical reasons, such as obesity or discomfort; not necessarily because of a challenging or bold attitude.

Catherine Zeta Jones Close Legs
Fig 12: In "The Terminal", (Catherine Zeta Jones) Emilia's sensitivity is stressed by her body language.

Ankle Crossing:

The ankle cross, or (legs crossed at ankles), is usually a denotation that the person is secluded with his own thoughts.

In Fig. 13, Emilia (CZJ) is having her own thoughts of what to say to the interrogator (antagonist) played by Stanly Tucci.

Foot Pointing:

In general, the foot may denote the object or subject of attention.

As shown in Fig. 14, the model is pointing her foot away from the speaker, perhaps towards a door. This indicates that she wants to drop the subject and go.

Similarly, an interested person is likely to point his /her foot towards the person of interest.

This action is both made in standing or sitting position.

Catherine Zeta Jones Ankle Cross
Fig 13 (Above): Another shot of Catherine Zeta Jones in "The Terminal" with her legs crossed at the ankles.

Fig. 14 (Right): the Model here points her foot away from the speaker, denoting her wish to quit.

foot pointing away