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"I've waited a long time for this... the finger pyramid of evil contemplation." (clasps fingers)
—Roger, American Dad
Particularly devious and magnificent villains have a habit of putting their hands together at around chest or mouth level, with fingers either interlocked or tip-to-tip (in which case it shouldn't be confused with Shy Finger-Twiddling).
One possible reason behind this gesture is that when a person lies, they often unconsciously cover their mouth with their hand (as if to prevent the lie from escaping their lips). Thus, putting both hands in front of your mouth means that you're lying big time. Another reason is that in Real Life body language, people tend to automatically steeple the hands when feeling overly confident, or superior to whoever they happen to be speaking to. Someone who does this too often will quickly come across as arrogant. But this pose has the advantage of completely blocking arms and chest, making their body language impossible to read anymore.
The word usually used for this action in novels is "steepling".
A play on Clap Your Hands If You Believe. Bonus points if combined with ominous lighting, Scary Shiny Glasses, a slight Slouch of Villainy, a Beard of Evil or a Kubrick Stare. Double bonus for a Psychotic Smirk. Not related to Intertwined Fingers. Usually.
See Hand Rubbing for the poor man's version of this trope.
- Gendo Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion, as shown in the page image. His trademark covering-the-mouth variant is often called "the Gendo pose". For a while adding the "Gendo Hands" to existing works were a meme. (As a bonus, using the pose repeatedly helped cut down on animation costs.)
- Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist does this, too, whenever he isn't out on a date.
- Kimbly, Envy, first Greed and even Edward Elric do this at least once.
- Lelouch from Code Geass commonly does this while his plans go as expected. When they fail... he does all sorts of different gestures.
- Sasuke Uchiha is seen doing this at the beginning, just to show how much of a Disney Anti Hero he was. Oddly, after his genuine Face Heel Turn he doesn't do it again until some time after joining Akatsuki.
Sasuke: "I'm sorry, I was practicing my Gendo Ikari impression."
- Shikamaru also does the tip-to-tip style while he's planning. It gets mistaken for a hand sign.
- Tsunade did this on occasions.
- Gaara seems to have picked up this habit when he's sitting down lately too. It seems to be a replacement for his usual standing-up habit of crossing his arms.
- Light from Death Note does this on occasion, most noticeably after he talks the task force into not making him kill his sister.
- Takashi Ooi does this a lot as well.
- Shizuku from Kämpfer does this to help show the audience that she's a particularly cunning and devious Student Council President.
- Johan does it while talking to a small orphaned boy (who, as a result, attempts to commit suicide later in the day). The screen focuses on his hands for a long time before panning out to show his face.
- Zeera, Emperor of Ruin is often shown in this pose when plotting the future of his Litchi Hikari Club.
- Doc, resident Mad Doctor in Dawn Tsumetai Te.
- Seemingly subverted in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force: Hayate does this in chapter eight but nothing has come of it yet.
- Treize Khushrenada from Gundam Wing.
- Used humorously in Pokémon when James, of all people, does this while guiding Jessie, Meowth, and the twerps in landing an out-of-control rocket.
- Magneto does this.
- The comic book adaptation of The Thrawn Trilogy has Grand Admiral Thrawn doing this often. That, or cradling and stroking a creature that is probably intended to be a ysalamiri. Notably he doesn't do much of either in the novels, but Magnificent Bastards steeple, and Thrawn is a Magnificent Bastard, so "steepled" is the second-most common way his hands are drawn in the comic, in other official art, and in fanart. The most common way his hands are positioned is undeniably clasped behind his back, a gesture of restraint. Notably you can't clasp your hands behind your back while sitting, and steepling just looks stupid when you're standing up.
- The Boomer has been doing some thinking.
- Subverted by a Yakuza boss in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, who does this when asking a subordinate to apologize for a rogue yakuza shooting Kyon. He doesn't intend to deceive them and honestly wants to apologize.
- The Matrix: Agent Smith, while interrogating Neo.
- Bram Stoker's Dracula: Old Dracula does this when he's laughing at Johnathon Harker.
- Nicolae Carpathia as depicted by Gordon Currie in the Left Behind film series.
- Judge Claude Frollo is often depicted as doing this in promotional material. See?
- Vice-Counsel Dupont does this at the climax of Equilibrium and drops the pose in a most satisfying Oh Crap moment when Preston kills Brandt in a Single-Stroke Battle.
- In one scene in Out Of The Past, Whit Sterling does this while having breakfast with Jeff.
- Sherlock Holmes does this often.
- Havelock Vetinari of Discworld.
- The Magician Trent in the Xanth novels does this - while he's not precisely a Chessmaster, he's definitely a pretty smart cookie.
- Albus Dumbledore in cordial confrontation mode.
- Most depictions of Salazar Slytherin (like the one on JKR's Wizard of the Month) will have him doing this.
- Dravis of the Descent novelizations is fond of this.
- Artemis Fowl often makes this pose when he's revealing something particularly devious/unexpected
- The cynical executive put in charge after the buyout of the Hitchhiker's Guide offices, Vann Harl, does the finger-steepling thing while talking to Ford Prefect in Mostly Harmless. The narration marvels that this gesture has not yet been made a capital offense.
- From The Dresden Files, Marcone often steeples his hands, very much like Xanatos. In the illustrated RPG book, nearly every time you see Marcone he's doing this.
- Subverted in Heroes Die, where Kollberg laces his fingers together not as a sign of deception, but to try and keep calm while talking to the Board of Governors.
- Tang Shou Dian in the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters.
- Machiavelli in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Almost inevitable, really.
- One of the trademark gestures of Tywin Lannister, though other characters are known to do it too.
- One of the priests of the Many Faced God, when teaching Arya how to lie, mentions that some people will instinctively cover their mouth when lying, which is the Truth in Television part of this trope.
Nina: Are you planning something devious?
- Profit. Look at the picture!
- In one episode of Corner Gas, Wanda teaches Lacey on when to use "schemey fingers"
- Igor is always doing this in the Persona games. He seems to be manipulating humanity into following a higher path; but enjoys seeming sinister in doing so. It certainly helps that he would look creepy enough without it.
- That being said, he still THE nicest (and most helpful) supernatural entities you will find in any Shin Megami Tensei game.
- Kohaku in Tsukihime clasps her hands while talking with Shiki after having sex in her own route. Since she'd been trying to manipulate him to kill Akiha, this might make sense, but it's actually a subversion. She wasn't lying to him, and she later tried to stop Shiki and the then-insane Akiha from killing each other.
- She does drug him so he can't come after her immediately after that though.
- Kane, Magnificent Bastard he is, is quite fond of doing this.
- Shizune from Katawa Shoujo seems to like "tenting" her hands and otherwise follows the personality tropes associated with this to the letter, though as far as chessmastery is concerned, all she's got to show for herself is a mean game of Risk.
- In the Baldur's Gate series, evil-aligned mage Edwin is shown clasping his hands in this fashion in his character portraits.
- Walter Peck has pulled one in the game version.
- House of the Dead has Goldman pulling this while discussing his plans.
- Andre Oliveri from Ace Combat Joint Assault.
- Colonel Longhena is shown having a habit of doing this in the Do Don Pachi series.
- In Devil Bear the parody character of Rainbow Brite is striking a Gendo Pose while plotting at her desk when the Daivas show up.
- In Girl Genius, Klaus Wulfenbach pulls this off with a Humongous Mecha. Check it out. Isn't it just—wait, What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome??
- Dale in Questionable Content exhibits a textbook example of the Gendo Pose while plotting.
- An example from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
- In Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, Dr. Horrible was practicing this.
- David Xanatos of Gargoyles. Just see for youself. And yes, he is indeed magnificently devious.
- The Simpsons: Mr. Burns's signature line "Excellent" is usually delivered in this pose (the tip-to-tip version), though he is usually tapping fingertips, not clasping.
- After coming up with a plan to get back at someone he felt had wronged him, Roger from American Dad expressed delight that he would get to do this, calling it 'the finger pyramid of evil contemplation'.
- Slade from Teen Titans.
- Discord [dead link] from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- Lucius on Jimmy Two-Shoes engages in this on occasion.
- Megavolt on Darkwing Duck.
- Oil Slick the Decepticon is currently[when?] the only Transformers toy who can cross his fingers like this. Probably for good reason.
- Lex Luthor pulls one in the pilot episode of Superman: The Animated Series.
- On the Aeon Flux episode "Thanatophobia," one character tells off Goodchild for being too soft on Breen citizens trying to escape the city while making this pose. It's even more disturbing when you notice that this man is missing every other finger.
- Former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing during a presidential debate.
- A specialist explained it is a good pose to protect yourself from body language reading.
- Since this pose does hide the character's mouth, it's also useful in animated works on a low budget - the animators only need to draw one picture of the character, not a collection of pictures that differ only in where the lips are at any given time.