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Character Tics
aka: Character Tic

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Monk frames the scene.
War Doctor: Are you capable of speaking without flapping your hands about?
Eleventh Doctor: [exaggerated shrug] Yes. [claps hands together]

Facial expressions and physical gestures as idioms. Some of these were invented for television, some came from the wild, but TV certainly gives them extra attention — it's a big way that TV differs from the stage.

Things like Spock's "Fascinating" eyebrow-raise, the wide eyes of surprise, the "these people are crazy" eye-roll, the scoff of derision, the furrowed brow of anger, the other kind of furrowed brow of concentration, and the lip-curl of disgust.

Animation has its own pile of these, like bulging or heart-shaped eyes, or Anime's sweat drop of embarrassed exasperation.

These are distinct from Reaction Shots, which have a narrower and more specific meaning.

When it's a character in a video game performing the action over and over because the developers programmed a perfectly good action and want to get as much out of it as possible, it's Going Through the Motions.

In general, video games that go through the motions can have some positions that look unique enough to seem like a character tic, which may or may not be intentional, and if not, likely becomes Ascended Fanon in a sequel if enough people think of it as such. Fighting Games in general give each character a trademark pose (or even more than one) that they assume upon winning.

A subtrope of Body Language and a supertrope to Nervous Tics and Characterizing Sitting Pose. This may be justified if the specific gesture is a Magical Gesture, or otherwise a way to guide/throw out their powers. Twitchy Eye is a specific type of character tic used to convey anxiety, rage, or impending psychosis, Maniac Tongue similarly indicates mental instability, and Badass Fingersnap is a yet another type of tic. For specific gestures done while deep in thought, see Thinking Tic. For the verbal version, see Verbal Tic.

Compare The Tell, for when the characters do more than just a gesture, as a sign for their characterization and condition.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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  • Mechamato: Amato sometimes draws his thumb across his face in a self-assured gesture, as seen near the end of the opening sequence.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • Batman tends to... loom at every available opportunity.
    • Given the way comic-book physics work, there is no possible way Superman (or any other hero, for that matter) needs to raise one arm when he takes flight. Yet... it looks cool. Although it may be so that anything he smashes into hits his fist first instead of his head.
    • Supergirl used to put her finger to her mouth as she puzzled out some conundrum in early issues of Action Comics. That quirk that has been seen every now and then even in modern comics.
    • Robin (1993): Callie Evans likes to keep her hands busy and is usually chewing on something. She often brings along a yo-yo and gum to keep her from chewing on straws or her fingernails and to keep from fidgeting.
    • Wonder Woman: During the Golden Age, Etta Candy's "Woo-Woo!" often bordered on a tic, as she would say it reflexively when others said just about anything.
    • Batwoman: Kate Kane has a tendency to stare at bodies of water (usually rivers) when she's in a contemplative mood.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Superhumanly agile characters Spider-Man and Nightcrawler will often crouch or even drop to all-fours for no reason other than because it looks dynamic and to show off how flexible they are.
    • X-Men:
      • There is plenty of evidence that Professor X, Jean Grey, Rachel Summers and all the various telepaths can use their mental powers without pressing their fingers to their temples (and optionally extending one hand) — doing so would appear to be the telepathic equivalent of sticking your tongue out the corner of your mouth while aiming at a target: it just feels like it helps, even though it serves no purpose.
      • Magneto appears to reflexively extend his hands to guide his magnetic powers (one hand for minor uses, both for really big stuff). It clearly isn't necessary, though, as he will occasionally remain motionless when using his powers for intimidation purposes, presumably a conscious decision to imply that a foe is beneath his notice. There has been evidence that he can use his powers better when using his hand, but like the example below, it's probably just to help him focus.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars:
    • Lightning McQueen has quite a handful. For instance, he has a habit of licking his lip or sticking his tongue out, usually when thinking of something. When racing, he smiles usually, but when he begins to struggle or fall behind, he grits his teeth with an angry expression. He also jiggles a tire when lost in thought. He also flashes his lucky stickers or revs up his engine when showing off.
    • Mater has a habit of whistling through the gap in his buck teeth, as well as driving backwards.
  • Coraline:
    • The Other Mother drums her fingers on the table when agitated or excited.
    • Coraline cocks her hip and slouches when annoyed.
    • Wybie tilts his head, a trait also shared by the cat.
  • Disney Animated Canon: Animators often watch the footage of the voice actors recording so that they can give their mannerisms to the characters.
    • The Little Mermaid:
      • Ariel sighing so that it blows her bangs upward, and biting her lower lip when she's excited or upset.
      • King Triton buries his face into his palm whenever he's ashamed or depressed.
    • Beauty and the Beast:
      • Belle pushing back that lock of hair that always falls out of place.
      • The Beast has a tendency to pull on the back of his neck when he's ashamed or frustrated and will Face Palm when depressed or exasperated.
    • Aladdin rubs the back of his head when he's embarrassed, raises a single eyebrow when he's interested, and wiggles his eyebrows when he says something suggestive or has more than one meaning.
    • The Princess and the Frog: Tiana squinting one eye when she cringes. Anika Noni Rose also asked if she could be left-handed like she is.
    • Villainous example; Maleficent from Disney's Sleeping Beauty has a noticeable habit of lifting her hand up to her chest when speaking, a habit she shared with her voice actress, Eleanor Audley.
    • Frozen:
      • Elsa wraps her arms around herself whenever she's feeling stressed.
      • Anna bites her lower lip a dozen times throughout the movie.
    • Tangled: Rapunzel narrowing her eyes. Rapunzel also has a little half-laugh she'll do when she's excited (or nervous).
    • Brother Bear: No matter whether he's a human or a bear, Kenai tends to rub the back of his head and neck whenever he's anxious or uncertain.
    • Zootopia: Judy Hopps has a few. When in a normal mood, her ears are perked up, but when feeling downcast, they droop. Her nose twitches when frightened or suspicious over something. She also rapidly thumps her foot on the ground when annoyed.
  • In Fantastic Mr. Fox:
    • Mr. Fox tends to whistle and then click his tongue, which he calls his "trademark".
    • Several characters have gotten goofy eyes at some point, but most often, it's Kylie.
    • Ash spits on the floor when he's in a bad mood.
  • How to Train Your Dragon:
    • Nearly every move Hiccup makes is a character tic — from waving his arms around while he talks, to tilting his head when he's curious, to petting Toothless every time they do something dangerous and/or cool while flying.
    • Astrid has a habit of brushing back her bangs, but only around Hiccup. She also has the habit of deliberately injuring (or sometimes, kissing) Hiccup and saying, "That's for (blank) and that's for everything else!"
    • Toothless the dragon makes a sound similar to a cat's purr but not continuous, whenever he approves of something.
  • In Inside Out, Sadness lies on the floor whenever she's being particularly mopey.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
    • Adding the to list of Twilight Sparkle's tics, when she's human in this film series, she often keeps her hands bent at the wrists with her fingers coiled at the first knuckles, as if she still has hooves.
    • Sunset Shimmer gets a Hand Behind Head habit after the first movie. She also shares Twilight's tic above, though she does it less often, being more used to her human form.
    • Twilight Sparkle's human Alternate Self, as seen in Friendship Games, often grasps and pulls on the side locks of her hair when embarrassed.
  • Strange Magic:
    • Roland likes to twist one his curls between his fingers in order to show off how good-looking he is.
    • Marianne frequently brushes or blows bits of hair out of her face.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the Mario Bros. share a tendency to roll their arms at the shoulder after getting hurt.
  • Turning Red:
    • Ming has the habit of biting her lower lip when she feels embarrassed, like when telling her daughter about the family's... "inconvenience", that is, the red panda transformations.
    • Priya has a distinct sideways head bop when she's grooving or she's being snarky. She also has a tendency to wave her hands as though she's casting a spell when trying to intimidate people.
  • Up has Kevin do this. Like:
    • Swallowing and retching Carl's walker.
    • Cuddling Russell.
    • Tapping Carl on the head with her beak.
    • Hissing at Dug.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • CM Punk twisting his wrists as a warmup before his match.
  • Goldberg had a tendency to lean on the ring ropes during promos in the ring.
  • John Cena fidgets with his hat during promos sometimes, usually taking it off and rubbing his head during "Awkward" or "Thinking" moments.
  • After he unmasked, Kane used to constantly touch his hand to his face during matches, as if checking for blood. With the mask on he'll usually throw his head back, to keep the hair out of his face.
  • If Kevin Nash has one free hand (or both), you can bet he'll be flipping his hair back. In real life, people have also noticed his tendency of keeping his hand in his pocket.
  • Lex Luger had this unhealthy obsession with touching himself. Proof:
  • Minoru Suzuki often sticks out his tongue for no apparent reason after a promo. Oh, and also beating up some Young Lions at ringside.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin will cock his head left and right while cutting a promo.
  • The Undertaker points to someone or something during promos with the hand holding the mic. Always.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: Kermit tends to scrunch his face in (by means of his puppeteer clenching the hand operating his head) whenever one of the other Muppets does something particularly nonsensical.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Don Music bangs his head on the piano when he's frustrated. This caused parents to complain their kids were copying him, so the writers scrapped the character as opposed to, y'know, scrapping the tic.
    • Bert facepalms and/or keels over when frustrated.
    • Mr. Johnson also keels over when frustrated, as does Grover.
    • When Elmo is bemused, his left eye sinks into his face. He and Zoe also walk slowly when sad.
    • When Big Bird is frustrated, he rants made-up words. When he's unhappy, he'll often walk slowly and/or do a mournful Aside Glance.
    • Natasha "shakes her shoe and says, 'cuckoo'" when she's happy and she also blows raspberries a lot.
    • Julia flaps her arms when she's excited, although that's more supposed to be because she's autistic than because she's Julia.
    • Abby levitates when really happy.
    • Suzie Kabloozie leans right into the screen a lot.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Mirielle's habit of offering food to people when she's introduced to them, or when they seem to be in distress, seems at times to be an instinctual tic.
    • To help her concentrate when using her superpower, telepath and musician Zia will tap out a beat with her hand or foot.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Atmosfear: Anne de Chantraine has a tic (curling her lip or moving her head back rapidly) that pronounces itself more and more as the time elapses.

    Web Animation 
  • Hazbin Hotel: Alastor tilts his head when talking to people — at one point he turns his head 180 degrees when he's watching Niffty cleaning. He'll also narrow one of his eyes at the same time when something catches his interest.
  • Homestar Runner: The titular character has a tendency to twitch his head back and forth whenever he's speaking.
  • No Evil: If Kitty/Kajortoq is angry or frustrated, one of her ears will twitch.
  • Simon's Cat:
    • Both the cat and the kitten will point to their open mouths when hungry.
    • Jazz, due to being grumpy, scowls a lot.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive: Grace has a habit of holding her hands in front of her, a bit like a squirrel. Grace's squirrel hands make her recognisable even when she's transformed into a duplicate of someone else.
  • Mob Psycho 100: The Phony Psychic Arataka Reigen is shown in the anime to wave his hands around wildly before making a gesture, possibly to play himself as more mysterious or powerful than he actually is.
  • Murphy's Law: Radic has a habit of holding her chin when in thought.
  • Outsider: The Loroi diplomat Tempo tends to place her right hand palm-first over her chest when talking, both verbally and through telepathy, and to stand with her arms crossed and her left foot placed in front of and angled with respect to her right.
  • Questionable Content: Most characters will raise an index to their faces when thinking aloud.
  • Sleepless Domain: Zoe the resident Shrinking Violet will often hold her hands together in front of her body, particularly when she feels anxious. Fans have compared her stance to that of a baby pangolin.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Bunbun has a habit of cleaning himself during conversations, particularly ones he's apathetic to.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil has a habit of ruffling his hair whenever he's insecure about his situation.
  • Sunstone:
    • Lisa from this BDSM webcomic has a habit of biting her lip when she's turned on (or if she badly needs to pee). Ally, her friend and mistress, loves it.
    • Occasionally we see Ally rubbing her wrists when she's anxious, there's a reason for this.
  • Tower of God: Novik chewing his thumbnails.

    Web Videos 

Alternative Title(s): Character Tic


Will Riker

Riker has a distinctive way of sitting down.

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