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Affectionate Gesture to the Head
Adults will pat the head of a child to show them they've done well, tousle the child's hair affectionately to take the sting out of a teasing comment, or do one of the former in a playfully patronizing way.
Also can be done from one adult to another if one feels protective and affectionate of the other, or just wants to annoy them.
The gesture is done to and from people of both sexes, and can be gentle or rough, though the rough version is most common among boys and their dads/older brothers (or substitute father-figures). Expect the dad to be playfully rough, and the boy to shut one eye while letting his head move with the gesture and maybe complain.
The gesture can also be performed genuinely or insincerely. Expect the gesture to be done awkwardly by a closet Child Hater
This is mainly true of North America. In Asian countries, this may be considered rude, due to spiritual connotations.
See also Dope Slap
, which is a head pat of "You've Messed Up" and tends to be less affectionate.
Anime and Manga
- In Clannad, Tomoya does this to Nagisa.
- In Naruto Itachi's brotherly gesture was affectionate by definition. Possibly the most dramatic, emotionally-eliciting gesture you could give considering the circumstances.
- Young Gohan is patted on the head quite frequently — even by Vegeta — in Dragon Ball Z.
- One particular moment that stands out was during a flashback when Piccolo does this to a sleeping Gohan and promises that he won't let anything happen to him, cementing his Heel Face Turn and Papa Wolf status towards Gohan.
- In the Sengoku Basara anime when Shingen seems about to give a standard Megaton Punch to Yukimura but switches to patting and tousling his hair at the last second, telling him he's done well.
- In Higurashi, the missing character Satoshi Hojo had a habit of doing this, especially to Satoko. So much that when Keiichi does it to her in Tatarigoroshi-hen, it actually triggers her. Rika also does this to people when they're feeling down.
- In Baccano after thinking that he is going to die, Czeslaw gets a pat on the head from Maiza instead of having his life force sucked from him as he'd expected. This, along with the love that Isaac and Miria had shown him, leads to his breaking free from his past woes in a sweet moment.
- In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu often pats younger characters on the head as a sort of fatherly gesture.
- In Saiyuki, this is one of Sanzo's few outwardly affectionate gestures towards Goku.
- Mai gives one to Mii in episode 7 of Popotan, although it's more of a gentle nudge than a pat.
- In Heaven's Lost Property, Ikaros does this a lot, usually to soothe someone who is upset. One time, she even randomly did it to a Yakuza boss. The man's bodyguards are shocked by this violation of personal space and move to attack her, but the boss stops them and enjoys it.
- Astrea ends up doing this to Chaos.
- This is essentially the signature gesture of the Kasahara/Dojo relationship in Library War. The first one occurred when Kasahara was in high school and Dojo was her "prince". The next time he gave her one, it strongly reminded her of her "prince" and kickstarted their Slap-Slap-Kiss relationship. Pretty much every important the two of them have is accompanied by one.
- In Dog Days, this is a trademark of Princess Millhiore. Everyone she pets comments on how soft and gentle her hands are. Cinque also does it to her and a few other girls.
Film — Animated
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon tousles his little sister's hair pretty much whenever he sees her.
- There is a Touhou doujinshi where a very drunk Sanae asks to be patted on the head and called a "good girl". This has become something of a meme in the Touhou fandom.
Film — Live Action
- Casper The Friendly Ghost: In Casper: A Spirited Beginning, Fatso strokes Casper on the head while lying about them being uncle and nephew, it happens again in Casper meets Wendy, where Fatso strokes Casper on the head after his uncles and the witches save him and Wendy and once more in Casper's Haunted Christmas when they, Stretch, Stinkie, Spooky and Pearl are being banished to "The Dark".
- In Disney's Tangled. Mother Gothel pats Rapunzel "sweetly" on the head as a gesture of "affection" but also to remind her that she's dumb, helpless, naive, ditzy, etc. It is a sign that Rapunzel has grown up that she blocks the gesture and grabs Gothel's wrist once Rapunzel realizes who she is.
- In The Simpsons Movie, a kid in a commercial asks Tom Hanks to tousle his hair. Magic sparkles appear as he does.
- At the end of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Milo is saying goodbye to all his friends. When he comes to Mole, who offers a big hug, he hesitates before patting his head instead.
- In Toy Story 3, Bonnie's mother gently strokes her daughter's hair before she steps up to Andy to accept his toys.
- In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast strokes Belle's hair and cheek when they're having romantic moments. After the curse is broken, Belle sort of brushes his hair so she can better see his face, before they kiss.
- In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood pats the head of a child in a Hmong household as a gesture of kindness; the family of the child is shocked by this due to their cultural differences.
- Plot-relevant in Definitely, Maybe, as recognizing the gesture is how Maya works out which of the women in the story is her mother.
- WarGames. During the movie, Dr. McKittrick had been suspicious of and antagonistic toward David Lightman. At the end, after Lightman had prevented World War III, Dr. McKittrick tousled his hair in a friendly way.
- Boromir does this to Frodo in Lord of the Rings during their attempted trek over Caradhras. After picking up the Ring, he gives it back to Frodo only after an order from Aragorn. He ruffles Frodo's hair to lighten the mood, but the Fellowship stay wary.
- La Reine Margot pets her brothers' hair when they are upset about her wedding night. And again Margot pets Charles when he is crying after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
- Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet: Police commissioner Ledvina comforts detective Nick Carter when he was recovering from the attack by The Gardener's chamberlain. Tap on the Head and chloroform? He deserved the affectionate pat, plus Ledvina promised him fresh air and beer drinking, if he would feel up to it.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon shows his affection to Arya by mussing up her hair.
- In the October Daye novel One Salt Sea, the scary, unaffectionate Luidaeg gives Quentin's hair an affectionate ruffle.
- In Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, there is a part when the children's Aunt Anne comes to visit and Billy pushes her over the edge to the point where she yanks his hair. They get on better terms with each other, though, to the point where Aunt Anne gives Billy one of these.
- The X-Wing Series has Han Solo once vigorously muss up Wedge Antilles' hair as demonstration of the fact that he can get away with a lot as a General. For the record, they're friends.
- Used contemptuously in Galaxy Of Fear. Young Tash takes offense to Second Face Smoke, but this amuses the smoker, who puts a hand on her head and looms over her, then spins her towards the Bad Guy Bar door and shoves her. He's a serial killer, so she's fortunate he was amused. Later his brain ends up in her skull.
- In the Lucky Starr series, Lucky often tousles his smaller sidekick Bigman's hair to show affection. In Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, the affection is mixed with frustration, and Lucky goes as far as to "[seize] Bigman's hair affectionately and [tug] his head back and forth".
Truth in Television
- In Smallville:
- Chloe tenderly does this to Clark, who is unconscious, in Fever.
- He returned the favour in Onyx when evil (well, eviler) Lex knocked her out cold, and again in Abyss (along with a forehead kiss) before wiping her memories of his secret.
- In Devoted, Lois does a rough version.
- Played with on the kids game show Double Dare. In one of the physical challenges A contestant would have a slime filed balloon put on her hat, and then sit down receiving a pat on the head from a giant hand. This would break the balloon leaving her Covered in Gunge.
- In series one, episode one of Jeeves and Wooster, Bingo Little does this to Oliver Glossup (the boy he's tutoring) during dinner, dismissing something the boy just said.
- Community, as is expected of such a troperiffic show, discussed this. Jeff and Annie's relationship is characterized by him being an older brother to her, except that the increasing sexual tension is making that awkward and they can't keep it up, meaning their relationship has to evolve. The discussion ends with "We can't keep doing this kiddo," with a gentle chuck of the chin. "Can't we?" [long pause], "No, it's gross."
- JJ from Skins is forever having his hair ruffled; he's well aware that it's mostly patronizing.
"Then I'd tell Freddie and Cook to stop fighting over Effy before they hate each other forever, and not make me take sides. And they'd listen to me for once and not fucking ruffle my hair!"
And then about two minutes later, Karen [Freddie's sister] does exactly that.
- The X-Files: Mulder and Scully would frequently touch each other's forehead, stroke each other's hair, hold each other's head or cup each other's face. UST at its best.
- NCIS: The jury is still out as to whether Gibbs’ dope slaps to DiNozzo are kind gestures or an attempt to stop him being so... erm... so DiNozzo. DiNozzo claims he's sure they're affectionate.
- "The Duchess and the Devil" from Horatio Hornblower has this trope all over the place.
- The Duchess of Wharfedale is a lady who is cheeky, spirited, older yet still sexy as hell. She gently touches Horatio's face when she teases him about not having any razors to shave himself because he's in Spanish jail. That lady knows how to flirt.
- The Duchess affectionately strokes Archie Kennedy's forehead when he lies in bed, slowly recovering from his suicide attempt by starvation. Lucky Duchess and lucky Archie.
- Horatio caresses Archie's head and loose hair when he tries to take care of him and nurse him into health. He also hands him a cup of water and tries to make him drink. These are extremely intense hurt/comfort moments between Heterosexual Life Partners.
- Quite commonplace in professional team sports, and considered a bit less Ho Yay than a pat on the backside.
- My Girlfriend Is The President: Jun often does this to Yukino, and it always causes her worries to vanish instantly. Jun even complains that she's too simple-minded. He also does it to Ell in her route, and it works so well that, whenever Jun looks concerned, she starts doing it to him as well. It also works that way, though obviously more because of the cuteness than anything else.