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Stroke the Beard

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"When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more... intellectual?"
Lt. Commander Data while trying on a fake beard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

This is the need for either Old Masters or Wicked Cultured villains to stroke their beard as a compulsion. Evil types usually do this while preparing their Evil Plans, sipping A Glass of Chianti, and indulging in Villainous Slouching. This version is somewhat discredited today.

These people don't necessarily need an actual beard, as even placing their hand on their chin where a beard would be while in thought can suffice.

This trait has several faces; the meticulous planning and deep thought this trope usually suggests tends to be associated with evil. The good type usually suggests a zen-like peacefulness. Some also liken it to shrinks stroking their Freud-like beards. The overarching theme with this trope is intellectualism (or at least sneakiness).

Not to be confused with stroking someone's else's beard (which is typically a flirtatious or possessive gesture).


Compare Putting On My Thinking Cap.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • In Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space, TuMok tells of how he consulted a Hermit Guru on Olympus Mons. Lacking a beard, the guru strokes the icicle clinging to his chin.
  • Papa Smurf does this on occasion in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf stories. It becomes a habit that, when he becomes clean-shaven in "Empath's Wedding", he finds himself playing around with his mustache due to the lack of facial hair.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: As said in Production Model: Tasbaal tried to, but he lost his beard:
    "You will have to create a new imp variant that has a stronger connection to the dungeon heart, and imprint some of your own personality on it. Possibly erase its own mind first, but destroying a mind is much simpler than rebuilding it anyway," his hand went to his collar in an unconscious gesture, grasping for something that was no longer there. "Alternatively, you could torture some of your useless goblins to death and use their tormented ghosts to-"
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Mister Mxyzptlk sprouts a beard to stroke while pondering Izuku's complaints about their "game". He then proceeds to shave all of it off with an electric razor.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Pai Mei of Kill Bill was awesome at this.
  • Robin does this in Robin Hood: Men in Tights while pondering an archery contest. Then flicks his fingers clean.
  • Star Wars: In the prequels, Obi-Wan Kenobi usually strokes his beard meditatively just before doing something totally badass. He and Anakin Skywalker spend a good minute stroking their chins, signaling to each other on how they should make their getaway from General Grievous in a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith.

  • Judge Dee often does this.
    • And is most put out when he starts to do so in The Chinese Gold Murders only to have the villain start stroking his even more impressive beard first. He is vindicated in the end, though, when the villain's beard turns out to be false.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Guan Yu is one of the earliest examples. Just watch any Chinese opera show featuring him as a character.
  • In Dragonlance, a dwarf stroking his beard is considered an insult to the party he's speaking to.
    " Stroke your beard the wrong way, and the dwarves will bar the gates to the mountain once again." - Tanis Half-Elven
  • Archeologist Radcliffe Emerson had a beard when he met Amelia Peabody, but not after they married; he still strokes his chin meditatively as an action-equivalent to a Catchphrase. The habit has even been picked up by other characters, including his daughter-in-law.
  • Some Discworld characters have done this, including Vetinari, Abrim, and some of the older and wiser dwarves, who of course all have beards.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. Grand Maester Pycelle would stroke his long white beard to give himself an air of wisdom. Unfortunately after Tyrion Lannister has Shagga forcibly shave it off during an interrogation, he loses this implied authority, just looking like a sickly old man.
  • In one Artemis Fowl book, while deep in thought, the narration mentions that Artemis would've stroked his beard if he had one.
  • In Two Worlds: Anthony's classroom aide, Bradley, is a hipster who has a habit of doing this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The quote above comes from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Data tried to emulate Riker Growing the Beard. The end result was so ridiculous that Troi had to excuse herself before she completely broke down, and Geordi only did a marginally better job of holding back his laughter.
  • The Pushing Daisies episode "Oh, Oh, Oh, It's Magic!". The magician does this when he tells Emerson in a very dramatic voice that he needs his help in solving the murders of his assistants.
  • In an episode of Modern Family, some of Manny's friends draw a beard on his face with magic marker while he's asleep. He strokes his drawn-on beard this way while plotting his revenge.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Stand-Up Comedy 

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • A certain Mr. Phoenix Wright is always stroking his chin in court while thinking.
    • In Investigations, Quercus Alba does it when cornered
  • Several characters in Daughter for Dessert do this while thinking.
  • Commonly done by thinking characters, most notably Dennis, in Double Homework.

    Web Animation 
  • The Vampair: The Duke strokes his goatee at the end of "Oweee" as he formulates a plan.

  • Homestuck: The wizards in Rose's story, Complacency of the Learned, have a habit of stroking and bothering their beards that could charitably be called compulsive. The excerpt seen in the comic spends a solid paragraph describing how they do it anywhere, on any occasion, as something of a default neutral pose.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Sokka of Avatar: The Last Airbender does this almost continuously while in his Wang Fire disguise, whether he's pondering something or not. (Though since he is the idea guy and an engineering genius, it's probably safe to assume that there's something planning-related going on in that head of his.)
  • In Futurama the professor reveals his prized possession is Leonardo Da Vinci's beard. Cue Fry putting on the beard and stroking it while the professor is discussing the great minds he admires. Fry then destroys the beard on accident, revealing the beard had a map inside.
  • Tenzin from Sequel Series The Legend of Korra is prone to doing this. This would make his Uncle Sokka so proud of him.
  • Papa Smurf in The Smurfs (1981) can be found doing this.
  • Sifu Lo in Seis Manos strokes his beard a lot, cementing him as a typical Old Master type. It also cements his status as an Expy of Pai Mei, including the fact that he's actually an Evil Mentor.

    Real Life 
  • In Peking Opera stroking your beard = thinking.
  • Jewish men stroking their beards when studying or thinking is so iconic that it became the traditional ASL sign for a Jew or Jewish. (The more modern sign is imitating rolling a Torah scroll.)


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Evil Beard Fixation



The Kahuna lampshades it.

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Main / StrokeTheBeard

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