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Affectionate Gesture to the Head

"Just pat me."
Annie Edison, Community

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.

Relational Troping:

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • Baccano!:
    • General rule with Baccano!: left-handed head pats are affection. Right-handed head pats? Not so much.
    • 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.
    • Subverted at the end of the 2002 arc with Fermet's return. His ambush of Czes is bad enough just with the massive creeper overtones he practically oozes all over his "favorite toy". When he makes it clear how utterly helpless Czes is against him... puts his right hand on Czes' forehead... and pets him before walking off to let the mindbreak settle.
  • 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.
  • 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 patting Chaos' head.
  • 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.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist Ed often pets Al's and Winry's heads to reassure them.
  • GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class:
    • Kisaragi gets patted from Noda and Tomokane after telling the story of how she came to buy a "god's pencil", then again from them plus Miyabi and Namiko after she explains that it "worked" (though it's pretty clear that practice was really what worked).
    • In a chapter image, Namiko seems to be giving Tomokane and Kisaragi one of these as the younger four of the five seem to be engaged in a group hug.
  • Hidamari Sketch:
    • Yuno is patted by her mother because she was worried about her father being at home alone.
    • Yuno gets one from Sae and Miyako at her explanation of Hiro's setting aside an onigiri.
  • K-On!:
    • Azusa is frequently patted against her will, even though it's what Yui used to calm her down when she blew up. But she does take it better when it's employed while they're reminding her that they haven't forgotten the club. (The others had been too involved in the play to practice for the concert.)
    • One time, when Nodoka jokingly asks the Hirasawa sisters if they didn't come out in the wrong order (Yui needs help with a math problem that Ui knows how to solve after glancing at it while setting tea she made down, Yui and Ui briefly interact as though they were the other way around; this gesture is part of it.
    • Nodoka pats Ui in the very next strip after being randomly hugged by her.
    • In K-On! High School, Azusa tries to reach kouhai Sumire's head, saying "Rub... head..." as she stretches for it. Sumire takes this as a request and confusedly rubs Azusa's head.
    Azusa: No, not me!
  • In one episode of Axis Powers Hetalia, France affectionately ruffles America's hair during the latter's hundredth birthday.
  • Taishi of Servant × Service occasionally pats younger women on their head out of unconscious habit, due to his sister.
  • Usui often affectionately pats Misaki's head in Kaichou Wa Maid-sama!.

    Comics 
  • During the "Obsidian Age" arc of Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter applies his fingers to Green Lantern's head to try and find out why he's having visions of the League being slaughtered. Lantern jokes that in some of the alien cultures he's visited, this would make them married.
  • During Flashpoint, Traci Thirteen goes searching for allies to help her stop a plan to kill all the belligerents in the war between the Amazons and Atlantis, and ends up freeing Circe, who was locked up by the Amazons. Circe refuses to help Traci because she figures the Amazons deserve to die for locking her up, but gives the girl a kiss on the forehead for her troubles.
  • In Runaways, Nico uses an affectionate head touch to administer a spell that forces Klara to sleep after her powers get out of control. Molly, whose parents used to do the same thing to her, is not pleased by this. Later, Molly is seen cradling Klara's head in her lap and running her fingers through her hair.
  • The last issue of Geoff Johns' run on Justice Society of America features Ted Grant giving his son an affectionate noogie.
    "I'd be your sidekick any day of the week, you pain in the ass."
    • A few issues later, Hourman tousles Stargirl's hair while suggesting that the reason villains seem to be avoiding her lately is because she's so cute. His wife Liberty Bell finds this patronizing.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the Back to the Future fanfic Ich Liebe Dich, Doc absentmindedly strokes Marty's hair while the teen is asleep.
  • 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.
  • In Field Of Innocence, Lu Ten ruffles his little cousin Zuko's hair before leaving for the Earth Kingdom.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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 Disney's Tarzan, the infant who will end up as Tarzan gets a genuine ruffle of his hair by his human father during the opening of the movie, for pointing out a great tree to build in.
  • 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.
  • 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 Beast's hair so she can better see his face, before they kiss.

    Film — Live Action 
  • 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 pats 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 The Last Picture Show, Sonny often shows his affection towards Billy by taking his cap off and putting it back on.
  • The Quick and the Dead. Lady is curt in response to Katie's adoration, until just before her first gunfight when Katie assures her she will win; the Lady then strokes Katie's hair in thanks. Subverted when she does win.
    Katie: Lady, I think you're great!
    Lady: (pushing past her) Grow up.
  • At the end of Attenberg, Marina gives Bella an odd affectionate gesture to the head just before Bella goes to have sex with Marina's dying father.

    Literature 
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon shows his affection to Arya by mussing up her hair. Arya later misses having him do this to her.
  • 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".

    Live Action TV 
  • In Stargate SG:1 Jack sometimes gently ruffles or smooths Daniel's hair to show affection or to comfort himself if he's worried about Daniel. He also does it to annoy Daniel sometimes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy stroking Dawn's hair.
  • In Smallville:
    • Clark does this to Lana quite a bit.
    • Whitney to Lana.
    • Chloe tenderly pats Clark, who is unconscious, in "Fever".
    • Clark pats Chloe in "Onyx" when evil (well, eviler) Lex knocked her out cold.
    • Clark gently touches Chloe in "Abyss" along with a forehead kiss before wiping her memories of his secret.
    • Clark and Lois start patting each other's head after they drop the Vitriolic Best Buds facade and start acknowledging their mutual attraction.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor is very fond of kissing companions and loved ones on the forehead as a reassuring gesture.
    • In "Shada", Chris allows the Doctor to wire his brain up to a man left braindead by a particularly brutal Mind Rape. The Doctor hooks him up to the machine, realises that Chris is finding it excruciatingly painful, and kisses him on the forehead out of pity. Then he kisses the Mind Rape victim on his forehead, 'for luck'.
  • Towards the end of the first season of Homeland, Tom Walker ties up an old woman and uses her home as a sniping post. After he's finished, he musses her hair before leaving.
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), the Mary Winchester in the wishverse stroke's Dean's face and kisses him on the forehead.
  • FridayNightLights once had Tim Riggins kiss Becky on the forehead as both an apology and a promise to come back for her.
  • The titular serial killer in Hannibal is creepily fond of stroking and caressing his victims' faces as he kills them.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Lampshaded in one strip of Dilbert, the Pointy-Haired Boss is criticizing Dilbert's work (while not being overly specific as to what's wrong). As Dilbert becomes more frustrated, the boss asks Dilbert to "come here so I may pat your head in a condescending manner".
    Dogbert: So you took the pat on the head?
    Dilbert: I didn't want to leave empty handed.

    Sports 
  • Quite commonplace in professional team sports, and considered a bit less Ho Yay than a pat on the backside.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • Harada Sanosuke in Hakuōki distributes these regularly to Chizuru and Ryuunosuke.

    Webcomics 
  • The Devil's Panties: A security guard condescendingly pats Jennie on the head in this comic.
  • In Drowtales, Nei'kalsa Tions Sarghress keeps her hand placed on the head of her younger brother Sar'nel as the two are made to watch Ariel beat Mir'kiin to death.

    Western Animation 
  • Casper Scare School: Mantha and Stretch stroke Casper on the head in "Vote for Casper" and "What Possessed You?" respectively.
  • The Simpsons: in an educational film, Troy McClure does this to little Tommy at the end.
    Tommy: You're...hurting...me.
  • Tom and Jerry: "Professor Tom" has Tom teaching mousing to a kitten. When the kitten does a good job, he gets a pat on the head.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has the titular Grinch patting Cindy Lou Who on the head before he gives her a drink and sends her back to bed.
  • In a certain comic based on The Powerpuff Girls, Buttercup gets annoyed with the Mayor's constant patting her on the head, to the point where she punches his lights out after repeatedly telling him to stop.
  • A standard gesture of affection among Gargoyles, the equivalent of kissing.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series: Hal does a "tousle the hair" to Amaya — an alien without hair — when showing her a kindness over a family loss.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Griffon the Brush Off", Pinkie Pie gives one to Fluttershy right before Gilda's party.
      Pinkie Pie: Don't worry your pretty little head about mean old Gilda. Your auntie Pinkie Pie's got it all taken care of!
      Fluttershy: I'm a year older than you.
    • In "May the Best Pet Win", Rainbow Dash gives a condescending pat on the head to Twilight Sparkle, when she asks if "coolness", "awesomeness" and "radicalness" aren't all the same thing.
    Rainbow Dash: You would think so. And that is why you would never qualify to be my pet.
    • In "Sisterhooves Social", Rarity's father gives Sweetie Belle a tousle as he praises her cooking. She clearly appreciates it.
    • In "Family Appreciation Day", Apple Bloom is patted by her Uncle Apple Strudel and Granny Smith.
    • In "The Mysterious Mare Do Well", Rainbow Dash gives Scootaloo a tousle/noogie when she thinks that Scootaloo's there to apologize.
    • Twilight gets a few of these in "A Canterlot Wedding".
    • Fluttershy gets one of these from Pinkie Pie again in Maud Pie when Pinkie tells her that the rocks used to make the rock candy are a secret.

  • Teen Titans: "Call All Titans": Jericho reaches down and pats an exhausted Beast Boy on the head after he climbs all the way to the top of the mountain to give Jericho a communicator.
  • Transformers Rescue Bots: Cody is frequently the recipient of head pats and hair tousles by every human adult on the show.
  • Steven Universe: Garnet does this fairly often to Steven Universe, enough so that it is seen in the opening. While all the gems are very affectionate towards Steven, it's especially noticable due to Garnet's normally stoic demeanor.

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