Created By: eroock on March 28, 2017 Last Edited By: eroock on November 4, 2017
Troped

Obligatory Earpiece Touch

Characters communicating via earpiece will feel the need to touch it frequently.

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http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/touching_the_earpiece.jpg

"Stop touching your ear!"
James Bond, Casino Royale

Any character equipped with an earpiece for communication, like bodyguards or Secret Service agents, will at some point reach up with their hand to their ear to emphasize that they are indeed listening to someone talking. This visual cue can also be played for suspense in cases where we don't hear what's been said over the line but we know by the touch of the ear that an import order has been issued and the hero is now in danger.

Truth in Television for two reasons: the earpiece makes a very convenient place to put the activation button (look at a Bluetooth earpiece or watch the drive-thru employee at a fast food joint) and pushing lightly on an earpiece makes for a tighter seal, which could mean the difference between hearing or missing a vital message.

Compare Removing the Earpiece.


Examples:

Film — Live Action
  • The Agents in The Matrix do this whenever they receive new orders from the mainframe. Since they don't communicate much except vague menace, this cue is important to signal that they are going to try something new next.
  • The NSA agents pursuing videographer Zavitz from Enemy of the State all have earpieces, mainly to receive updates from spy satellite pics taken by Mission Control. One agent in particular expects the target to emerge on his street, and fingers his earpiece because he's on a busy, noisy midtown Baltimore thoroughfare. He gets the brotherly counsel from Mission Control: "Turn around, you idiot." Ah, teamwork.
  • Early in Casino Royale, Bond and another agent are surveilling a runner for a terrorist organization. The other agent repeatedly fiddles with his earpiece, much to the frustration of Bond, who scolds him for doing it and tells him not to draw attention to himself. Sure enough, their target notices the other agent while the agent is pushing on the earpiece and makes a run for it.
  • One assassin from Fair Game sent to eradicate attorney Kate McQuean and her squad of bodyguards knows that his surviving targets are aware they're in mortal danger, and he needs to know Detective Kirkpatrick's location from his cohorts, who are using thermal imaging to track their victims. This assassin repeatedly asks, "Where is Target Three?" while holding his earpiece, because this intel is critically needed. The response is "He's right in front of you!" Sure enough, the assassin looks up to see Kirkpatrick firing bullets into him.

Literature
  • "Comm-beads" from the Ciaphas Cain novels apparently have the controls built into the earpiece, as Cain specifies tapping them on a regular basis. (And on one occasion, in Death or Glory, he doesn't realize he left his comm-bead behind until he tries to tap it.)

Live-Action TV
  • In Sherlock episode "The Final Problem", Mycroft talks to Sherlock via earpiece and both characters use the touching gesture while talking.
  • Reese from Person of Interest does this every time he talks to his handler, Finch. In the second season, it was retconned that the touches allowed him to turn the earpiece on and off, a feature not expressed in the first season.
  • In Westworld, we occasionally see staff touch their earpiece while communicating.
  • Arrowverse
    • In Arrow, Team Arrow frequently touch the comms in their ears when communicating. It seems to serve as a means of turning them on and off.
    • In The Flash, Barry's comms, shaped like lightning bolts, also has Barry pressing them when using them.
    • In Legends of Tomorrow, the Legends also use comms with characters sometimes touching them while using them. In fact it appears that touching them actually turns them on and off, as Martin Stein demonstrated.
  • In Star Trek, Uhura would often touch her earpiece when concentrating on an incoming communication.

Video games
  • Henry Stickmin Series: In Infiltrating the Airship, this trope naturally shows up when you select the "earpiece" at the start of the game.

Web Video
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • March 28, 2017
    zarpaulus
    The earpiece is also a convenient place to put the "talk" button.

    You know security teams tend to use walkie-talkies to keep in contact with on another instead of cellphones, right?
  • March 28, 2017
    SquirrelGuy
    Didn't Lt. Uhura do this often in Star Trek: TOS?
  • March 28, 2017
    Madrugada
    Yes, but she did it so consistently that it was probably that she was touching the activation switch., as ~Zarpaulus mentioned. The other characters always touched their comm badges to talk. That's makes it a Justified Trope for Trek
  • March 29, 2017
    Koveras
    • The Agents in The Matrix do this whenever they receive new orders from the mainframe. Since they don't communicate much except vague menace, this cue is important to signal that they are going to try something new next.
  • October 10, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The NSA agents pursuing videographer Zavitz from Enemy Of The State all have earpieces, mainly to receive updates from spy satellite pics taken by Mission Control. One agent in particular expects the target to emerge on his street, and fingers his earpiece because he's on a busy, noisy midtown Baltimore thoroughfare. He gets the brotherly counsel from Mission Control: "Turn around, you idiot." Ah, teamwork.
  • October 10, 2017
    Snowy66
    Live Action — TV
    • Arrowverse
      • In Arrow, Team Arrow frequently touch the comms in their ears when communicating. It seems to serve as a means of turning them on and off.
      • In The Flash, Barry's comms, shaped like lightning bolts, also has Barry pressing them when using them.
      • In Legends Of Tomorrow, the Legends also use comms with characters sometimes touching them while using them. In fact "Star City 2046" reveals that touching them actually turns them on and off, as Martin Stein demonstrated.
  • October 10, 2017
    TheWanderer
    • Early in Casino Royale 2006, Bond and another agent are surveilling a runner for a terrorist organization. The other agent repeatedly fiddles with his earpiece, much to the frustration of Bond, who scolds him for doing it and tells him not to draw attention to himself. Sure enough, their target notices the other agent while the agent is pushing on the earpiece and makes a run for it.
  • October 11, 2017
    Koveras
  • October 11, 2017
    Rytex
    Going off The Wanderer's comment, I'd even say the page quote should be:

    "Stop touching your ear!"
    —James Bond, Casino Royale 2006
  • October 11, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • One assassin from Fair Game sent to eradicate attorney Kate McQuean and her squad of bodyguards knows that his surviving targets are aware they're in mortal danger, and he needs to know Detective Kirkpatrick's location from his cohorts, who are using thermal imaging to track their victims. This assassin repeatedly asks, "Where is Target Three?" while holding his earpiece, because this intel is critically needed. The response is "He's right in front of you!" Sure enough, the assassin looks up to see Kirkpatrick firing bullets into him.
  • October 12, 2017
    AndreaTx
    Live Action TV
    • Reese from Person Of Interest does this every time he talks to his handler, Finch. In the second season, it was retconned that the touches allowed him to turn the earpiece on and off, a feature not expressed in the first season.
  • October 13, 2017
    Antigone3
    "Comm-beads" from the Ciaphas Cain novels apparently have the controls built into the earpiece, as Cain specifies tapping them on a regular basis. (And on one occasion, in Death or Glory, he doesn't realize he left his comm-bead behind until he tries to tap it.)
  • October 14, 2017
    SquirrelGuy
    Can someone more familiar with the film Wag the Dog confirm/elaborate? There was a scene where the President is speaking on a TV in the background, and someone says he can get the President to say anything he wants. When the interested party does give a suggested phrase, the President on the TV screen, touches his ear, then repeats the line in question.
  • October 16, 2017
    eroock
    Let's discuss the trope name. Following variations come to mind: Opinions?
  • October 16, 2017
    AndreaTx
    It seems to be conveying the same idea as Pstandard Psychic Pstance, so I think I would god with Obligatory Earpiece Touch.
  • October 27, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bumping just to know that it had been prematurely launched then unlaunched.
  • October 27, 2017
    eroock
    Any more votes for Obligatory Earpiece Touch?
  • October 28, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    ^ I vote for it.
  • November 3, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Do you think everyone's gonna do this in the future where wireless headphones are going to be the norm?
  • November 3, 2017
    eroock
    Related question: Is there a name for a trope which we can assume will only reach peak use some time in the future?
  • November 3, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    @alnair20aug93 : "in the future?" Yes, because there will always be spurious noise that tends to interfere with one's listening. Can you really imagine a world where listening to Franz Schubert or Gerbils Inna Blender goes without any doofus sticking his nose in and asking ,"Whatcha lis'nen to, buddy?"

    @eroock : "some time in the future?" Speculative fiction, perhaps. Though there's always the danger of Science Marches On, and the prognostication turns to Zeerust.
  • November 4, 2017
    eroock
    Okay, any last comments before launch?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=elrpj9v1fcw6ar4p4hljd3dv