Rob Abrazado (flatvurm) wrote,
Rob Abrazado

Changing facial hair in fiction

So it goes like this. Occasionally I'll get a little extra time on my hands good for blogging, but nothing interesting has happened lately, so I figured recently that just to keep up in the habit of blogging, I'd dust something off from the ol' queue and throw it out there for consideration. This will keep the blog active, maybe stimulate conversation of some kind, and hopefully shrink my queue.

So today's topic: The propensity for fictional characters to have static facial hair stylings. I was thinking a while back about how long-running fictional characters don't seem to change their facial hair much just for the hell of it. Certainly there aren't a lot of real people who do that, either, I guess, but I feel I know more people IRL likely to occasionally change their facial hair style than fictional characters. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with recognizability; probably not a lot of television shows, say, benefit from rapidly changing the appearance of their characters. Bad for branding.

I'm thinking mostly of television series, I guess. It seems the best opportunity for a strongly visual medium with long-running (and therefor familiar) characters. Also noteworthy on this topic, I think, is that people do change facial hair for single episodes sometimes. I'm thinking of Peter growing a beard on Family Guy; all the guys on Cheers engaging in a beard-growing contest on one episode; Dan grew a beard when he was in a coma for two or three episodes of Night Court; and George and Jerry from Seinfeld sported mustaches in a single scene that I recall.

Anyway. When a character does change his facial hair, it seems like a major event to me. As a viewer, I mean. As an event in the fictional world, reactions vary. Today's exercise: what are some examples? When has a long-running, familiar character changed their facial hair, and what kind of response did it get? Here are the ones I've come up with:

1. Frasier on Cheers grew a beard at some point and kept it for a while. I remember this was a big deal on the show, and it was actually the inspiration for the aforementioned beard-growing contest. I also don't recall for sure, but didn't he lose the beard again before the series ended?

2. Beeacher from Oz. I remember that, while Beecher started off clean-shaven, he ended up changing his facial hair all the damn time. This always seemed to pass without comment on the show.

3. Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Riker moving on to facial hair was one of the great transformations on television, IMO. It's been a while since I've been exposed to TNG, but really the only person I can recall bringing up Riker's facial hair was Q. :) (Q materializes a couple women to fawn over Riker. Riker to Q: "I don't need your fantasy women." Q: "You weren't this stoic before the beard." Women disappear, reappear fawning over Worf.) Once Riker went bearded, he never went back.

What do you guys have for me?

EDIT: Just thought of number four.

4. B.J. started on M*A*S*H sporting a mustache, but had it partially shaved off by Hawkeye in one episode, and then went clean-shaven after that. At least for a while; I don't remember if he grew the mustache back.
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