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Hand Rubbing

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"The best thing about alcohol hand gel in hospitals isn't the hygiene, but that everyone walks around like they're hatching a dastardly plan."
Katie, Facebook comment

Hand Rubbing is the act of rubbing the palms of your hands together. The friction of the gesture can be used to provide heat in a cold environment, or it can simply convey excitation or expectation. The Other Wiki has a whole article on the subject, but here, we will focus on rubbing hands as a trope.

There is an eerie specificity in fiction to reserve this gesture for Smug Snake type villains. Used car salesmen, lower-end Corrupt Corporate Executives and the Dastardly Whiplash will gleefully rub their hands when things are going their way, but a true Magnificent Bastard always opts to clasp his hands instead. In a bygone age, it was also the signature habit of the Greedy Jew. Even when otherwise positive characters do this, there's nearly always a sinister undercurrent.



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  • Asterix villain Tullius Destructivus (In English, Tortuous Convolvulus), pictured at right, had a habit of this.
  • Garfield had a strip where Odie is plotting something, as evidenced by his Hand Rubbing. Garfield then clarifies that he's plotting to rub his hands together.
  • A variation of this occurs at the end of The Thing: Northman Nightmare. After dealing with and killing the titular shapeshifting alien, the two surviving Vikings sit around a fire to wait for another supply run in several months. The Vikings' leader, Rodmar, notices Hord rubbing his hands together as he comments wondering what the next group of Vikings will find when they get there. Thing is, Hord's hand was cut off at the start of the comic—he's been infected by the Thing.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet, two sinister characters are seen rubbing their hands.
    • An unnamed Depraved Dwarf, the Gardener's minion, rubs his hands when Nick Carter (The Ace of a Great Detective) brings Adele, a mysterious plant to his hotel room, and he's pleased that he can get it back for their boss. He also rubs his hands when he moved a carpet and made police commissioner Ledvina fall down. It's always accompanied by hilariously ominous giggling.
    • The Gardener rubs his hands when his final revenge has just started. One of his mortal enemies is about to get eaten by Adele, the carnivorous plant from the title.
  • In Lemonade Joe, or Horse Opera, gunman Grimpo rubs his hands when he and his "kids" Coyote Kid and Pancho Kid are going to torture Lemonade Joe. Fortunately for Joe, Cold-Blooded Torture gets spoofed as any other trope in this movie, so he only gets his clothes destroyed and he gets mighty dirty, however, he really looks like he suffers a lot.
  • In Safety Last! Harold Lloyd is in a jewelry shop, fretting over a selection of engagement rings under the watchful eye of a Jewish jeweler, who is rubbing his hands together. Distressed by his indecision, Lloyd absent-mindedly starts to mimic the shop-owner's hand rubbing.
  • Where Now Are The Dreams Of Youth: Tetsuo, a college student who has suddenly been put in charge of the family corporation after his father's out-of-nowhere death, arrives at the office for his first day. One of his underlings bows and then starts rubbing his hands together in an unsettling manner while talking. Tetsuo sees this, grabs the man's hand, looks at it curiously, and then shakes it.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Sheldon does this in The Big Bang Theory episode "The Raiders Minimization" while plotting his revenge against Amy for ruining his favourite movie. When Amy sees him doing this and inquires about it, he passes it off as 'applying moisturiser'.

  • This is the trademark pose of rapper Birdman, as seen in several music videos.


    Video Games 
  • In DC Universe Online, as the base of operations for players are released, there is a special message for villains.
    Calculator: It occurred to me that you're lacking one of the best parts about being a villain. The evil hideout. I mean, what kind of villain are you if you don't have a place to rub your hands maniacally and make with the evil plotting?
  • Dr. Fred, the Mad Scientist from Day of the Tentacle, has a sprite whose static animation consists of this.
    • Although in Fred's case, there's nothing particularly sinister about it-he's just jittery from the permanent caffeine high he submits himself to so as to avoid sleepwalking (by avoiding sleeping).
  • Ace Attorney
    • Frank Sahwit's default sprite has him pulling this constantly. Given the Reverse Whodunnit nature of the case involving him, it's just one of the many features that show he's the bad guy.
    • Colias Palaeno from the last case of Ace Attorney Investigations also does this constantly. Combined with his overly chipper attitude, it seems like a clue that he's hidding something... but nope, he's entirely genuine and one of the most helpful secondary characters in the entire series.
  • This is one of Tali's Character Tics in Mass Effect 2. If you watch her closely during her trial, you'll notice she is nervously twisting her hands and fingers together. If romanced, she almost does this during the final romance scene, but consciously restrains herself from doing so.
  • This is a habit of the CIA mole in Splinter Cell due to having OCD.

  • Girl Genius: ...and suddenly the captain is rubbing his hands together and affirming that "We're not pirates. He didn't count."
  • In El Goonish Shive, Ellen does it here as she thinks about her plan for getting Elliot in trouble.

    Web Original 
  • The Happy Merchant is an antisemitic jewish caricature portrayed doing this pose.

    Western Animation 
  • Mr. Burns does this on occasion in The Simpsons. Word of God is that this is supposed to be like a praying mantis.
  • Superfriends 1973/74 season episodes.
    • "The Androids". Dr. Rebos rubs his hands together after he captures Superman using artificial kryptonite.
    • "The Balloon People". Dr. Noah Tall rubs his hands together when he thinks he's about to capture the title characters.
  • Phantom Limb attempts to perform this gesture in The Venture Bros.. The effect is diminished somewhat by the fact that his arms and hands are invisible.
  • In Megamind, there is a large crowd of children clappin in the finale. One of them is Hand Rubbing, trying to be like the titular hero.


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