Most often seen in the Sitcom.
The term originated as someone taking on a partner in order to conceal the fact they are having an affair with a married individual. It spread wildly when adopted by the gay community where it is a woman who pretends to be a gay man's lover to make him appear heterosexual to others. The woman, like a beard, makes the gay man look more masculine. Men can be beards for lesbians as well, and these are sometimes called Merkins, after the pubic wigs (have fun looking that one up on Google image search - NSFW). Either use of the term (but particularly with regards to gay men) is how you're most likely to hear it used in Real Life. Extremely popular in mainland-China at the moment as parents who don't know what homosexuality is/pretend it doesn't exist exert considerable pressure on their kids to get married (to people of the opposite sex; the other thing isn't allowed in China anyhow) and have kids of their own, regardless of any 'phases' they might (claim to) be going through.
A man dated by a lesbian to make her appear straight is known as 'a frock' in British English. A frock makes a woman appear feminine much as a beard makes a man appear masculine.
Gay men who marry The Beard do this generally as an elaborate refusal to come out of the closet. They "prove" it to themselves and others that they are not gay because they have a wife (that they never touch) so they most definitely are not leading a gay lifestyle.
Occasionally, someone's Beard will have to be someone they're in a Will They or Won't They? situation with. It usually ends up pushing them closer, but gets a Snap Back at the end.
Not to be confused with Growing the Beard, where a show significantly improves at some point; with the Playful Hacker of a technology startup, which consists (so they say) of The Beard and The Suitnote the Beard, to handle the technology, and the Suit, to handle the business side ... and to stop the Beard from walking into traffic or excitedly explaining his proprietary secrets to the first person who expresses an interest; or with Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants, whose nickname is The Beard. Or with tropes about facial hair.
Supertrope of Undercover as Lovers, Operation Jealousy, Citizenship Marriage, Shock Value Relationship, Boyfriend Bluff.
In Love Hina this sort of thing happens a couple of times. Once when Keitaro plays boyfriend to Motoko in order to keep her from being forced back to run her family's dojo. The punch line is that when it is exposed, the sister decides to force them to get married. This also a different take on the Will They or Won't They? instance where the Beard (or the person using the Beard) is a rival to the other part of the Will They or Won't They? couple.
Ginta and Arimi pretended to be each other's beards in Marmalade Boy to get Miki (Ginta's crush and best friend) and Yuu (Arimi's ex boyfriend) back, respectively. However, they ended up falling in love with each other and hooking up for real.
In the anime version, Ryouko Momoi agreed to temporarily be Namura-sensei's beard in regards to Meiko Akizuki; he thought he wasn't worth all the trouble Meiko had already gone through, and wanted her to be free. Eventually, when this messed up Meiko even more, Ryouko grew tired and told her the truth. Namura recognized it wasn't working and broke the charade off, dating and eventually marrying Meiko.
Implied to be why Prince Schneizel of Code Geass keeps appearing with Nina Einstein in public - as his aide and brother drop very big hints about his true sexuality. Of course, Nina herself is desperately in love with the prince's little sister...
Possibly also why Lloyd got involved with an arranged marriage with Milly. Although he's likely asexual as opposed to gay.
When matters of honor came to a head in Ranma ½, Akane and Ranma pretended to be married so Ukyo would give up her claim. It backfired spectacularly —Ukyou didn't let up, indeed, she raised the stakes, and the two "lovebirds" ended up increasingly flustered at each other— and they never, ever, tried that again.
In the Rosario+Vampire manga, Tsukune is forced to play the beard for both Kurumu and Mizore at the same time, in order to convince their respective mothers that they have successfully seduced Tsukune. An interesting take on this trope is that the beard and the people using him are all part of the same Harem.
In Maria†Holic Kiri decides to act as a lesbian beard to Kanako so that the jealous Schoolgirl Lesbians won't think that Kanako is involved the popular Ishima Ryuuken. Since Kanako really is a closet lesbian, this could have been a pretty original and interesting side plot... but unfortunately the matter got dropped for no adequately explained reason and nothing ever came of it.
The Day of Revolution: Megumi, a young transexual in transition, is having trouble adjusting in part because all of her former Nakama are doggedly pursuing her now that she's Jumped the Gender Barrier. So her best friend/therapist Makoto suggests Megumi use her younger brother Mikoto as a beard—knowing full well that Mikoto's interest in Megumi is genuine—because a) it's fun to tease her little brother and b) a little respectful, gentle male attention may just be the ticket for Megumi.
Light in Death Note pretended that Misa was his girlfriend in order to A) appear more normal and B) convince Misa to help him kill L. He also told his mother and sister that he had a girlfriend before he met Misa, as an excuse for being out of the house so often.
In the Sasameki Koto manga, Tomoe suggests that Sumika get a fake boyfriend to help her PR while she's campaigning for student council president, and they settle for Akemiya, who happily goes along with it... and unthinkingly shows up to their date in his crossdressing persona. Or not so unthinkingly, since he knows he's trying to woo a lesbian with a soft spot for cute girls, and also feels far more at ease in the security blanket of crossdressing.
Mawaru-Penguindrum eventually reveals that the relationship between Tabuki and Yuri is this, and is a mutual setup in order to get Tabuki's first love Momoka back — and it turns out Yuri also loved her. Also is this trope in the more traditional sense in that Yuri is apparently gay or bisexual.
In Shinshi Doumei Cross, Shizumasa/Takanari makes sure to maintain one at all times so as to avoid being jumped by the school's female population. It's initially Maguri, and later becomes Haine.
Nisekoi basically revolves around this trope, with the main characters — Raku and Chitoge — paired off by their fathers, good friends and yakuza bosses, to prevent a bloody feud between their gangs. And that was after both teens got off to a bad start when Chitoge accidentally bumped onto Raku, causing him to (temporarily) lose his precious pendant, given to him by a long-forgotten childhood love. As much as they openly claim to hate each other's guts, they soon discover that their fake romance is slowly becoming real.
In Batman, Bruce Wayne's girlfriends are little more than an endless string of beards — not because he is gay (Joel Schumacher's films notwithstanding), but because he must deliberately stay emotionally distant and unavailable to avoid the risk of giving away his Secret Identity.
In The Muppet Show Comic Book, Fozzie's mother is coming to visit. As she's under the impression that he's not only successful and the partner of a noted detective (because he told her so), she's bringing a girl with her, clearly intending to play matchmaker. Not wanting to be fixed up with some loser, Fozzie gets Skeeter to pretend to be his girlfriend. Then he meets the girl bear...
There's a scene in the graphic novel Shortcomings where Ben, the main character, has to act as this for his gay friend Alice when they go meet her parents at church.
Watchmen's Silk Spectre is the beard for Hooded Justice, though only mentioned in the comics.
Justine was, in part, this for Dr. Manhattan. At that point he'd drifted too far into Blue And Orange (a)sexuality.
When Mayor Hundred of Ex Machina announces his support for gay marriage the night after a date, she assumes he's just using her as a beard. At the end of the arc he attempts to mend fences, and admits to Suzanne he might have had *some* ulterior motives for going out with her. Hundred remains effectively Married to the Job and dismisses questions about his sexuality as unimportant.
Hundred: You have to understand, my mind sometimes makes...makes tactical decisions before the rest of me -
Suzanne: Oh, cut the bullshit. Just tell me, completely off the record, are you gay?
Hundred:...Do you mind if I come inside? (he goes in, the door closes. End of issue)
The Tangled Web starts with Mara pretending to be Luke's girlfriend to keep away a Fangirl with a highly influential father. Luke lasts about a day before it becomes real.
In Refiner's Fire, Harry asks Ginny to be his pretend girlfriend to keep away a crowd of... interested... schoolgirls. After a couple of weeks, he asks her out for real.
Princess: Marlene assumes Julien was using her for this when he comes out as a female-to-male Transsexual, and is very, very angry.
In many fandoms, characters falling in love after one character forces the other to pretend to be their boyfriend/girlfriend because they accidentally told their family that they had one, is extremely common. No less hilarious, though.
In thisNCIS fanfic, Tony's grandmother left him a trust fund that he'll get access to when he turns forty, but only if he's been married for at least a year by then. He's starting to run out of time, so Gibbs offers to help him out. They get married, figuring they can get a divorce once the year is up and Tony gets his money. Naturally, they end up falling in love and stay married.
Kyon Big Damn Hero example: after rumor goes along the school of Kyon is engaged, most of the "unclaimed" girls of the SOS Brigade get one to prevent unwanted romantic attention: Haruhi and Kanae have each other, while Mikuru has Shutaro. Ultimately, the trope gets Zig-Zagged as all the aforementioned girls, Kyon's fiancee and Yuki are working together towards a Marry Them All scenario with Kyon (with Shutaro being actually Kyon in disguise), meaning nobody is actually faking their relationship.
In Changing of the Guard Harry ran a one-man company called Metamorphosis which provided a "perfect stranger" for whatever your needs might be. A good chunk of its business involved his pretending to be the man (or woman) in the lives of clients who preferred not to tell their families that they were gay or lesbian.
In Knights of the Founders Roger Davies and Cho Chang were each other's beard one Valentine's Day before they were both "out."
As does the 2004 Australian film Strange Bedfellows, which some have argued is not a coincidence.
Cant Buy Me Love seems to play this trope straight. The main character, an unpopular nerd, helps a popular girl. In return, she pretends to be his girlfriend, so he can become more popular. It works almost too well. However, it subverts the trope when the girl falls in love with the nerd
In My Best Friends Wedding, Julia Roberts' character asks her (gay) male friend to pretend to be her boyfriend in order to make the titular other male friend jealous so he doesn't marry his fiancee.
The movie The Proposal features an ambitious Canadian publisher (Margret Tate) who is about to be deported (and lose her job). She pressures her straight male subordinate to temporarily marry her so she can stay in the US. His parents find out and insist on having the wedding in Alaska. Hilarity Ensues
Green Card features this as the central concept. The main characters marry each other, the man in order to receive a green card to stay in the US, the woman in order to move into a desirable NY flat that is for married couples only.
The Spanish film Inconcientes portrays a gay subculture where it's common for gays to marry lesbians for the sake of outward appearances. Sample line: "Would you like to dance with me? My wife would like to dance with your wife."
In Bend It Like Beckham, Tony plans to "propose" to Jesminder so that her parents will allow her to attend college and pursue her dreams of playing professional association football in America. Jesminder ultimately refuses, since she does not want to lie to her parents, and immediately explains the ruse behind the proposal. However, in effect she would actually have been his beard, as the film had earlier revealed that Tony was actually gay, which completely surprised Jess.
The Wedding Date is based entirely on a twist of this trope - the main character hires a male escort to take to her sister's wedding (where her ex-fiance is the best man). She ends up falling for the escort, realizing what a jerk the ex is, and patching up the relationship with her sister. Aren't romantic comedies great?
Pretty Woman. Edward hires Vivian to pretend to be his girlfriend for social purposes.
The Wedding Banquet. A gay Taiwanese-American landowner marries one of his tenants so that she can get a green card and his parents will stop matchmaking for him. Hilarity Ensues.
In Easy A Olive makes up a relatively innocent and tame story of how she lost her virginity over the past weekend, but the rumor mill spreads it so far and blows it so wildly out of proportion that she gains a reputation as a slut almost overnight. When talking to Brandon, a friend dealing with torment and bullying due to his sexuality, she mentions how drastically a person's social status can change after a single juicy story and she agrees to pretend to sleep with him in order to convince the school he is straight. This is amazingly successful (For him, anyway) and soon many other unpopular boys are coming to her for help looking cool.
Russian Dolls, the sequel to The Spanish Inn, has Xavier convincing his lesbian best friend Isabelle to masquerade as his girlfriend for his grandfather, as Xavier is worried his grandfather will die before he finds someone to be in a relationship with. Isabelle is incredibly grumpy through the whole thing (mostly because she has to wear a dress) and forces Xavier to wear the dress as well as makeup, referring to him as "my wife" for the rest of the night as payback
Used in Georgette Heyer's Cotillion: Kitty persuades her cousin Freddy to pretend to be her fiancé in an Operation Jealousy. Later, she pretends to be flirting with her other cousin, Dolph, in order to cover up Dolph's love affair with another woman.
Played less idyllically with Lord John and Bree from the later Outlander books. She's pregnant. He's gay, and a good many years her senior, as well as close friends with her dad. Considering the time period, it's not the unhappiest of matches— they get on pretty well after a while— but she doesn't seem to see him as much more than a human shield to cover up being vastly preggo. (Her way of persuading him to declare their engagement? Threaten to publicly out him. Which would mean public disgrace and death. Nobody said she wasn't a bitch.) Naturally, this doesn't last. She gets her man, and... well, he doesn't die. And that's good. Right? Don't worry. She gets... better-ish.
Rosa and Sammy in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay get married in 1941 for a double-purpose: Rosa is pregnant by another man, who had then run off (for an unrelated reason), and so needs a husband, and Sammy is secretly gay.
In the novel Thrones, Dominations, the "boyfriend" of a missing actress tells Lord Peter Wimsey that their relationship is only friendly; she dates him to scare off an unpleasantly lecherous colleague, and he dates her because it makes him appear straight.
At the start of the Dexter series of novels, he explicitly refers to Rita as a beard and a disguise used to make him appear more ordinary and normal. Of course, in his case, being gay would be a lot more socially acceptable than the real story.
In The Wake Of The Lorelei Lee, the titular ship is taking a group of female convicts to Australia. Since they have a cool captain, the crew of the ''Lorelei Lee are allowed to get married to the prisoners, if the women agree. Pretty much everyone on board likes this idea, so they all pair off... except for Jacky, who is promised to another, and Higgins, because he's gay. The two of them act as the beard for each other.
In the Emberverse, Rigobert de Stafford and his wife Delia are beards for one another in the neo-medieval (and extremely homophobic) Portland Protective Association. She even refers to him as "my dear beard" in a letter. Thanks to a turkey baster, they have several children together. Meanwhile, Delia is in a monogamous relationship with Lady Tiphaine d'Ath.
In Jasmine Cresswell's Love for Hire the main character made up an imaginary boyfriend to avoid her mother's concern about her love life. Faced with being forced to produce said boyfriend as an escort to her unrequited love's wedding to her sister, she told a regular customer at the bakery she owned that she'd pay him for agreeing to play the role.
Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre pretends to be in love with Blanche Ingram so that Jane would "fall as madly in love with him as he was with her".
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Margaery Tyrell is The Beard for Renly Baratheon, who is more interested in her brother Loras. It's something of an open secret that Renly and Loras are lovers, but Renly's supporters don't seem to mind as long as he's not too gay to father an heir on Margaery. The ruse is so transparent that no one finds it surprising or worthy of suspicion when Margaery (truthfully, so far as the reader can tell) claims that their marriage was never consummated.
In an early episode of Kate And Allie, the titular characters played The Beard... for each other! They pretended to be a lesbian couple to avoid having their rent increased (as two divorced mothers with kids, they were considered to be two separate families).
In a later episode, Kate was hired to portray the wife of a client to help him get promoted. She ended up falling for his co-worker.
One episode of Who's the Boss? had Tony Danza and the woman he was housekeeping for switching between pretending to be married for one person and trying to prove they weren't married for another.
In "Mrs. Al," recurring character Al is searching for a new apartment. The one good place he finds won't rent to singles, so Samantha agrees to pretend to be his wife. Of course, as the landlord had already met her, she invokes Wig, Dress, Accent to act as a Dumb Blonde wife named Candy.
Inverted trope in Veronica Mars in the episode "Donut Run," in which it is vital to Veronica and Duncan's ploy that the FBI believe they have broken up.
On NCIS, it is very frequent for agents to pose as couples for one reason or another.
30 Rock: In order to make his ex-wife jealous, Jack has Liz pretend to be his girlfriend. This, of course, in an early episode where there was UST.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy and Willow both play the beard for Xander in one scene in "Teacher's Pet" in order to protect his ego.
In Season 4's "Fear Itself" Buffy says "He wanted the candy, I was just the beard." with regards to her Father taking her trick or treating on Halloween.
Similarly, Castle is dismayed when his daughter stops wanting to trick-or-treat with him. "But you have to come with me. You are my candy-beard!"
Spaced used this - the two main characters wanted a flat, but had to pretend to be a couple to get it. It later transpires that the "Professional Couples Only" line in the flat's advertisement was an error inserted by the person working at the paper, and that the whole deception was unnecessary. Unfortunately, this is only revealed after the landlady uncovers the lie, and is deeply hurt by it.
In Coupling, Patrick's constantly one-upping co-worker was showing up with his wife and Patrick had to keep up the facade that he was married to a real looker. He recruits Sally to be his beard, but when the co-worker's supermodel wife shows up, Patrick throws Sally over for Susan. A humiliated Sally gets Susan's boyfriend Steve to be her beard, until it's too much for all of them and Steve proposes to Susan in front of everyone - and Patrick couldn't be happier for them. *phew*
In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Married", Monk and Sharona pretend to be married in order to investigate a criminal at a marriage counseling retreat.
Occasional Wife (1966), a short lived Situation Comedy, was based on a "junior executive pretends to be married to get ahead in the company" variant of this trope.
Friends "The One in Massapequa" features Ross and Rachel pretending to be married to perpetuate a lie Ross's parents have told their friends. Naturally, this makes Ross and Rachel realize (yet again) their feelings for each other.
Jennifer Aniston had already played the trope in the movie Picture Perfect, in which her character seeks both a promotion and the affections of a man who is only attracted to women who are taken.
And, again, in "Film/We'reTheMillers", this time playing a just-fired and freshly evicted aging stripper, who is recruited by her Jerk AssMan Child petty dealer neighbour to play the mom in a beard family for smuggling purposes. Forced to bring an RV brimming with contraband marijuana across the Mexican border as a last chance to clear a debt that he might otherwise not survive, the juvenile middle-aged slacker must improvise, fast, and decides his last chance is to assemble a fake family of similar local misfits and failures, impersonating the very picture of squeaky-clean Americana that would never get a second look from customs and law enforcement, and thus hide in plain sight. The roster is filled out with a homeless runaway from their block and the alcoholic neighbor's neglected awkward geek son. Starting out with mutual disgust and distrust all around, the ragtag bunch is forced to method act to maintain their cover, and in the process of enacting the silliest cliches they can come up with, grow more and more attached to the lie... Which turns out to be everything that had been so very lacking from the real lives of these four embittered and lonely losers.
Jack on Three's Company pretended to be Janet's husband twice, once to please her parents and another time to placate Chrissy's father. He also pretended to be Terri's husband to help her get a promotion and ward off the advances of her lecherous boss.
The whole premise of the series is an inversion: Jack is wearing a fake shave, so to speak.
In Ugly Betty, Marc "dumps" Amanda as his beard, and she gets revenge by forcing him to use Betty as a new "girlfriend" to show off to his mother.
The sitcom Ned And Stacey had this as its primary plot. Though the couple, an advertising man who wants to get promoted and a woman who wants to live in a nice place, actually do marry to keep up the story.
Mike and Carol did this in an episode of Growing Pains; they both wanted to move out of their parents' house and pretended to be a married couple in order to rent a one-bedroom apartment, as it would be cheaper than a two-bedroom. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues.
In an episode of Seinfeld called The Beard, Elaine becomes the beard for a gay man that she ends up falling for.
Elaine: He went back to playing for the other team. Here's the thing. Being a woman, I only really have access to the, uh... equipment, what, thirty, forty-five minutes a week. And that's on a good week. How can I be expected to have the same expertise as people who own this equipment, and have access to it twenty-four hours a day, their entire lives?
Jerry: You can't. That's why they lose very few players.
JJ was this for Emily when he was her date to the Love Ball in season 3. Naomi's Anguished Declaration of Love to Emily in season 4 also suggests that she's had a lot of beards, when she says she "screwed guys to make [her feelings for Emily] go away."
In the American remake, Tea admits that she lets her parents set her up with the sons of family friends to keep them in the dark about her lesbianism.
Wonderfully used in How I Met Your Mother when known womanizer Barney Stinson was revealed to hire an actress to play the part of his wife... not to cheat or otherwise hurt anyone, but to fulfill a promise to his dying mother to get married. The actress went off script claiming to be pregnant. Then Mom got better. Barney even went to the extent of hiring a kid to play their son.
And of course, earlier on in the series, Lily pretended to be Barney's wife so his one-night stands would leave in the morning and never bother him again.
In The L Word, back during Dana's Transparent Closet phase, she and her male tennis doubles partner served as The Beard for each other... a highly ineffective ploy, considering her tendency to absent-mindedly ogle women, and his over the top Camp Gay personality. And in a later season, Jenny and the actress who's playing her in the movie she wrote are in a relationship, but at her agent's insistence, the actress takes a male date to her public appearances.
In Boston Legal, this is probably the best place to put the Denny and Alan marriage. Whilst there is no doubt they are not in a physical gay relationship, it is done to keep Denny's estate from being devoured by the government when he dies.
Only partly that; if anything Denny threw that in to sweeten the pot when first proposing to Alan. It's mainly done as Denny has started to suffer the effects of Alzheimer's disease, and Alan is the only person he trusts to care for him when Denny is no longer capable of looking after himself.
It also gives Alan spousal privilege, meaning that anything Denny tells Alan can remain secret/private as Alan cannot then be forced to reveal it in court.
Lois and Clark go undercover as as honeymooners in a Metropolis hotel for a story.
In Desperate Housewives, Susan's boyfriend Jackson comes back to ask her to marry him so that he won't be deported back to Canada. It doesn't work, since Dave called INS on Jackson when he realizes Jackson is a potential witness to his crime.
In an episode of The Sentinel Jim and Megan pretend to be a married couple to go undercover, claiming that Blair is Jim's nephew. It would have been more convincing if Jim and Blair had pretended to be the couple.
Another episode had Jim claim to be married while undercover to fend off an advance from a thief. This let to some funny moments when Blair phoned Jim minutes later and Jim dropped affectionate terms like "sugar" and "honey" into the conversation.
An episode of Law & Order: SVU had a woman accidentally find out that she was this for her boyfriend, a closeted NFL star. She was decidedly pissed about it.
Chuck and Sarah. A recent episode lampshaded it and the actual sexual tension between them by having Chuck and Morgan discussing it after Morgan found out Chuck was a spy and had that their entire relationship was a cover. The episode was actually entitled "Chuck vs The Beard"
Tattletales was a 70s/early 80s gameshow featuring famous married couples. As well as on occasion Charles Nelson Reilly and Dick Sargent with "their gals" Marsha Wallace and Fannie Flagg. Host Burt Convy would just substatute the words "your gal" for "your wife" when reading the questions.
The Frasier episode "Out With Dad" has Martin pretend to be gay to avoid having to double date with Frasier's date's mother. When she then tries to set him up with her uncle, he grabs the nearest available beard to rebuff him - which just so happens to be Niles.
"The Two Mrs. Cranes" has Daphne pretending to be married to Niles (to his delirious surprise), as an excuse to avoid reconnecting with an old boyfriend. And Frasier being married to Roz (as Maris), but that was just out of spite by Martin.
On Degrassi, Ellie pretended to be Marco's girlfriend during high school to throw off suspicion, until they started developing a co-dependent relationship because of it.
That isn't the first, or last, time this is used. Toby was J.T.'s beard to push away Liberty's advances. Alex and Paige invoked Girl on Girl Is Hot to get into a party before they were dating (and before Paige knew she was bi). Jay started out as Manny's beard to annoy her parents. Anya was unknowingly Riley's beard, and then Fiona took the job when she figured Riley was gay.
There was a second-season episode of Boy Meets World called "The Beard." Shawn can't choose between two girls, so while he goes out with one of them, he recruits Cory to "sit on" the other, lest he should change his mind. The girls are none too happy about this stunt, and their schoolmates loudly proclaim them to be "scum."
Glee: Quinn points out this is what people are going to think she is after her boyfriend Finn joins Glee Club.
Actually played straight later when Kurt attempts to be more like his father (ie straight) and dates Brittany.
Sam dating Santana. Later, when she learns that Karofsky is as deep in the closet as her, she blackmails him into going to the prom with her as part of a scheme to get Kurt back and increase her standing with the rest of the club (specifically Brittany).
Ally McBeal: Ally and Elaine kiss to make a man persistently asking Ally out to think that she's a lesbian.
The Office: A story arc in Season 7 involves Angela dating a (state) senator whom Oscar believes to be gay. The implication is that the senator is using Angela as The Beard. Foolishly, Pam denies that this trope even exists.
In Episode 9 of Leonardo, Lisa's mother arrives, wanting to bring her back to her Arranged Marriage. Lisa claims to be married to Macchiavelli.
Sofia: Well, Niccolo, I can see how much you like my daughter. But if you think I'm stupid enough to be taken in by this charade, you've got another think coming.
Used in The Big Bang Theory when Penny's dad came to visit. He hadn't met Leonard before but was apparently very approving of Penny dating someone with an advanced degree and a steady job (she's known for dating stupid delinquents) and was disappointed that they had broken up. To get him off her back she recruited Leonard to pose as though they got back together, which Leonard found to be hilarious (she was the one to break up the relationship) and took the opportunity to not only bond with her dad but also make out with her and generally do sugary couple-like things.
Sheldon had his own situation with Amy Farrah Fowler, who asked him to meet her mother (both are generally asexual and dislike being treated as a couple). He took it as an implication that she considered them to be dating and the idea terrified him. When he finally discussed things with her she explained that her mother was overbearing and wanted her to have a love life, so Sheldon was to fulfill that role. Upon meeting her mother, they frequently talked about how much sex they have together.
In "The Transporter Malfunction", Raj goes on a blind date with a girl his parents found for him. Things seem to be going well, until she reveals that she is a lesbian and thinks that since Raj is also gay they should get married so they can get their strict Indian parents off their backs. Raj indignantly says that he is not gay, but considers actually getting married to her because he thinks he will never get married otherwise.
Godiva's: Two characters of Indian descent, Ramir and Rajni, are pressured into an Arranged Marriage. While they do like each other, Ramir can't stand the thought of being a married man, and Rajni is a lesbian. She lets Ramir know, and proposes a union of mutual beardship, where they would live together but sleep with other people. Ramir agrees, but has a change of heart and leaves her at the altar.
In the final episode of Cheers, Sam recruits Rebecca to act as this for his meeting with Diane. Diane, meanwhile, brings another man with her to the meeting. It all falls apart when Rebecca's estranged boyfriend comes back and proposes to her, followed by Diane's date's boyfriend arriving to reclaim him from Sam.
In one episode of ROY, Roy grabs a random girl and claims she's his cousin Sophie to disguise the fact that he went to see a kiddie film.
Amanda from Pan Am seemed to be the perfect match for Teddy...until she kisses Maggie on the lips. When Ted eventually finds out, she proposes that they get married anyway so that they can see the people they really want to see while still being married. Ted agonizes over it, but eventually calls it off even when Amanda tries to get Laura, who she correctly deduces has a mutual crush with Ted, to be Ted's mistress. However, then Amanda tells Ted she's pregnant...
Noah's Arc: Guy's fiancee is apparently unwittingly a Beard.
In a later episode of One Tree Hill, a double beard occurs when Alex agrees to pose of Josh’s girlfriend so he won’t have his career ruined by being outed as gay, and he agrees to pose as her boyfriend so the media will pipe down about the sex tape of them that was released, which could ruin her career.
One of the cases the titular character takes in '’Eli Stone'' involves a Pakistani woman fighting not to be deported because she married a gay man in order to obtain a green card.
Shows up in Game of Thrones much more blatantly than the vague, scattered hints in the book version. Margaery Tyrell is this for King Renly Baratheon; he made her his Queen after he allies himself with House Tyrell. In a slight twist, he is actually sleeping with Margaery's brother Loras. Reportedly there were some who thought the show writers had invented this plot, but Word of God says that it was supposed to be obvious.
In Bomb Girls, Betty starts dating Ivan after she's nearly outed and fired for being gay.
In That '70s Show when Hyde is dating Jackie, Jackie convinces Hyde to shave his beard by saying that attractive men don't have beards. She uses a Ken doll as an example.
Jackie: Ken doesn't have a beard.
Hyde: Barbie is his beard. No straight man wears shorts that tight.
"Can You Forgive Her?" by Pet Shop Boys is about a beard who finds out about the subject's sexuality and torments him about it. "She's made you some kind of laughing-stock/Because you dance to disco and you don't like rock/She made fun of you and even in bed/Said she was gonna go and get herself a real man instead"
They also did "Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend", which was reportedly inspired by a photo of George Michael with a beard, and written about the singer's experiences dating one.
Jens Lekman sings "Nina I can't be your boyfriend/So you can stay with your girlfriend" in "Postcard to Nina"; she wants to spare the feelings of her Catholic father.
Played with at the end of the musical Anything Goes. Reno Sweeney dresses up as a Chinese woman and pretends to have had Lord Evelyn Oakleigh's lovechild, so that he can break his engagement with Miss Hope Harcourt (who is in love with Reno's best friend, Billy Crocker). Reno and Evelyn do eventually get married (in a double wedding with Billy and Hope), which possibly subverts this trope.
But Reno was in love with Lord Oakleigh before she agreed to play the abandoned lover. It was the reason she agreed to do it in the first place.
Cyrano de Bergerac: Viscount de Valvert is willing to marry Roxane so Count De Guiche will bully her to be his mistress. Lampshaded by Cyrano at Act II Scene VI:
Cyrano: Ay! Husband!—dupe-husband!... Husband a la mode!
In The Taming of the Shrew, Tranio, a servant disguised as his master Lucentio, publicly courts and becomes engaged to Bianca Minola to get her other suitors out of the way. Meanwhile, the real Lucentio, disguised as Bianca's tutor, is privately winning her heart and arranging an elopement.
In Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush and Morgan LeFlay have to do this in order to convince Coronado De Cava that Guybrush is not trying to steal his lover, the Voodoo Lady, away from him. De Cava is a little...unhinged...from being stuck in a giant manatee for a long time.
Junichi in Da Capo acts as Mako's beard to help her get rid of an unwanted female admirer. While the motive is genuine, the very first day of acting she's already feeling awkward and begins to treat it more and more as though they were really going out.
In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Kanon is this to Jessica during the school festival in EP2, since her friends have been teasing her about not having a boyfriend (though Jessica does in fact have a crush on Kanon). However the series heavily implies that Kanon and his "sister" Shannon (who's also Jessica's oldest friend) are actually the same person.
This trope forms the basic premise of My Forged Wedding, a Romance Game in which the protagonist must, for various reasons, pretend to be the fiancee or wife of one of six attractive men. Since it's a romance game, it goes without saying that the feigned relationship soon becomes more real than they'd intended.
In Kissed By The Baddest Bidder, Eisuke can't directly reject Carolina Bucci's extremely ardent and determined pursuit of him because offending her will sour his business relationship with her father's Mafia family. He therefore decides to have the protagonist pose as his girlfriend, claiming to have fallen deeply in love with her in order to convince Carolina that there's no chance of winning him over.
Shanna from Fans! pretends to be a closeted lesbian in high school, and starts calling her boyfriends "beards." Her friends aren't fooled, and sometimes don't realize she's even ''trying'' to be a lesbian. Later, when she's no longer pretending to be closeted, she's still pretending to be a mundane, but she has started watching classic science fiction late at night. Katherine agrees to be Shanna's "beard," this time giving her an excuse to be with the fans she won't really admit she likes.
Rumisiel is Ash's beard on Misfile, to Ash's eternal annoyance. While it makes Ash's life easier because she doesn't have to deal with guys hitting on him because he is currently transformed into a girl, Rumi's presence has strained Ash's relationship with one of his best friends, netted her Rumi's angelic ex-girlfriend as a psycho-stalker, and forced her to be Rumi's beard for his brother, who Can Not Tell A Lie and therefore isn't allowed to find out the real reason they are together.
Leslie Rudd has Kittie in Friendly Hostility might have started out this way, but it is a valid ship in its own right per Word of God, and Leslie/Kittie/Deringer can be read as a canon ship by the end of the series if the reader wants it to be.
At Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, Bladedancer (once male, now female against his will) has a girlfriend, but accepts a date with Chain Lightning so no one will realize that Bladedancer likes other girls. Only problem? Chain Lightning really likes her, and she finds that she likes him.
A bizarre version of this trope appears in the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series full length episode of Zorc and Pals, when Zork (the giant, male, world-destroying god evil) pretends Bakura (who is arguably male)is his wife so that his mother will stop pestering him to get married. Hilarity ensues.
Naturally, The Simpsons did this. Homer and Selma had to fake marriage in order for Selma to be allowed to adopt a child. Apu and Marge did the same for Apu to get out of an arranged marriage.
And there's also the time Troy married Selma to resurrect his career in light of rumors of his fish-related "sexual abnormality".
And with Marge's other sister, Patty, her onetime relationship with Skinner might've been a retconned form of this, since Patty was eventually revealed to be a lesbian.
Considering the fact that the throw-away-line "There goes the last lingering thread of my heterosexuality" became accidental canon, it's entirely possible that Patty just "discovered" being gay, or was bisexual and now leans entirely towards women. Not an unrealistic situation.
Cleveland's boss Mr. Waterman from The Cleveland Show occupies a Transparent Closet but has a wife. In the first episode where she appeared, Mr. Waterman is putting together a Santa costume and calls for his beard, at which point Mrs. Waterman appears...holding his Santa beard.
On King of the Hill, Dale's dad, Bug, tried to pull off the gay version of this trope when he was still in the closet. After Dale's wedding, Bug was flirting with an attractive Filipino caterer when Dale came into the room. He quickly grabbed, in his own words, "the nearest thing in a dress"—which happened to be the bride, Nancy. Twenty years of estrangement followed.
American Dad! had an episode centering on this. The Smiths' gay neighbor Terry promises his partner Greg that he'll come out to his domineering father...but gets cold feet at the last minute and instead claims that Stan's wife Francine is his girlfriend, and that Stan and Greg are "the homos from across the street". Terry's dad seems to buy it, despite the obvious signs and Stan not doing a single thing to act gay.
In Kim Possible, Doctor Vivian Porter's boyfriend Oliver was actually an android she created to accept credit for her ideas because people had trouble accepting that someone with supermodel looks could also be a genius. When the truth is revealed, Doctor James Possible immediately offers her a job.
English actor Charles Laughton married Elsa Lanchester (of Bride of Frankenstein fame) yet continued to see men. One day, Lanchester came home to find Laughton on the sofa in flagrante delicto with a rent boy. She told him that she didn't mind, but went completely mute for three months in shock. She later told a friend that she'd had no idea Laughton was gay, but added, "Remember, he was a great actor!" They never divorced.
Because he married her so soon after first being accused of child molestation, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley's unsuccessful marriage was widely rumored to be this.
Liza Minelli is often (snarkily) said to be this for her last husband, David Gest.
A few years ago, Ian Wishart claimed that the then-Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, was a lesbian with a gay husband. Controversy ensued.
According to the celebrity gossip blogs and their commenters, any woman who dates a handsome young Hollywood celebrity is a beard, because every last one of them is gay. Even when these men are serial monogamists who eventually marry, they're still gay, and the women they date are sniffily referred to as "the professional beard" and given the side-eye from there on in. Not surprisingly, Hollywood doesn't seem to have a large population of sexually active women (straight or lesbian) or conventionally unnattractive gay men, as the wishfully thinking gays and SlashRPF fangirls that populate these boards don't have any use for them,
Based on this, there's a persistent rumor that Taylor Swift is either gay or is the beard for all her boyfriends, because most of them have been suspected to be gay at some point, despite the fact half of the people she is supposedly the beard for have never actually dated her.
In China, because of the immense pressure to get married and have kids, somewhere around 80% of the gay population marries straight people. This has resulted in an interesting phenomenon where various places will host "fake-marriage markets" where gay and lesbian people can meet and look for someone who is willing to play the beard for them (and vice versa).
Played for laughs — English comedian Barry Cryer was classified "honorary gay" by his close friend Kenny Everett. Kenny insisted that his wife of 40 years and four kids were just a smokescreen.
Rock Hudson's three-year marriage to Phyllis Gates was done for this reason.
U.S. Representative Michelle Bachman is assumed to be one by the left-wing blogosphere for her husband, Marcus.
Fran Drescher lived this trope for 18 years before her husband found out he was gay. It became the basis for her show Happily Divorced, and she and her ex-husband are now very much Amicable Exes after a period of not speaking to each other.
Upon hearing that Alan Turing might have a girlfriend in an in-development biographical movie about him, a lot of people assumed the movie was trying to erase his sexual orientation and the fact that his death is often attributed to Cure Your Gays backfiring. It turns out that despite being gay, he was engaged to a woman at one point.
Arthur C. Clarke had a very, very, very brief marriage, entered into with very little notice and exited within a period of months. Despite his admission (in his biography Odyssey) of bisexual experiences and his statement that "we're all a little polymorphously perverse", he never formally came out of the closet. Later in life he faced accusations of paederasty and homosexual paedophilia, which delayed his acceptance of a knighthood (at his request) until they had been put to rest. One is left to draw one's own conclusions.
Portia Di Rossi was married to Mel Metcalfe and indicates that she married him for two reasons, citizenship and to help her acting career by looking straight. She is now married to Ellen De Generes.