In Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill slowly unwinds his middle finger like a jack-in-the-box as men gaze at him from the other side of smart glass warning of his imminent “obscene gesture.” Flipping the bird has now become interstellar, the latest in a long history of imaginative fingering.
The gesture has evolved beyond a simple way to say “fuck you.” It’s the obvious and subtle threat between the fingers, no longer happy to simply pop up, now it dances in many forms. Some fling it in anger, some let it tease, and some see theirs blown off. It can be bloody, robotic, disembodied, Tank Girled and adamantiumed.
If Hollywood put half as much effort into storytelling as they put into creative uses of the middle finger, many of the industry’s problems would be solved. For now, we have the following 10 birds, some of which are part of the “Movie Middle Finger”video montage featured way down. Is your favorite missing?
At its heart, flipping the bird is a gesture of anger and ultimate frustration, necessary whenever words fail. Jennifer Aniston’s Joanna is chastised for only having the bare minimum 15 pieces of flair, and the crappy boss at her crappy job tells her she should be expressing herself. He thinks a slew of buttons will do the trick, but ultimately she needs just one piece: her middle finger.
One person’s insult is another’s loving tease. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) teases Celine (Julie Delpy) into speechlessness when they reunite in Paris, so she waves her fingers and asks him to say “stop.” When he does, of course, she has a middle finger to greet him. This moment shows the ubiquitousness of the gesture. It’s a succinct response that sometimes works better than words ever could, even for the wildly verbose who spend all of their time talking.
Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) has never had any patience for assholes, so when a fellow interviewee harasses her at the law office she’s applying to, she pulls out her middle-finger pretend lipstick, reapplies and recaps. The brief scene ups the stakes from the teen television show, perfectly encapsulates Veronica’s trademark lack of idiot patience and is the perfect clue that she couldn’t, no matter how much she tried, quench her desire to battle jerks.
Penny Lane’s (Kate Hudson) middle finger is relatively simple. She waves at the teen girls running alongside the road, and when they wave back, she turns her hand and whips out the finger. The superficially catty gesture is certainly a nyah-nyah moment, but it also encapsulates her position as a travelling teen. She’s not only giving the finger to them, but to the mundane mediocrity of school and the life expected of her as a teen girl.