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Among drama students, "Milking the Giant Cow" is a term that refers to the practice of holding your hands skyward (or merely gesticulating wildly) to show emotion. May be accompanied by a Skyward Scream.
If they fall to their knees while doing so, they are contractually obligated to raise their hands to the heavens, grasp the invisible teats, and pull down a few times, as if milking an oversized bovine.
This also occurs when a character just can't sit still. A character may pump his hands up and down theatrically while speaking... "for emphasis". If played for laughs, he will be holding a beverage (or some sort of blunt object) — which will of course go flying everywhere.
An artifact of stage acting (with the intent that granny in the back row could see what was going on), generally deprecated amongst modern actors.
If it is done in order to Chew the Scenery, it may be necessary to Milk The Cow. Not to be confused with Ham and Cheese. Unless the actor chooses to milk while ordering Ham and Cheese to chew. Or other dairy products.
- Leslie Nielsen perfected the "wildly gesticulating while holding a drink" version.
- Both Kevin Michael Richardson and Mark Hamill did this while voicing their respective versions of The Joker. This is usually carried over into the animation.
Anime And Manga
- Duke Red often does this while monologuing about his various mad science schemes in various Osamu Tezuka productions, especially Metropolis. It's actually rather effective there, since he's supposed to be completely unhinged.
- Dragon Ball: Vegeta has a tendency of doing this.
- Code Geass: Lelouch Lamperouge, being a Large Ham, does it all the time. Even when simply removing a contact lens, which coincidentially unlocks his Geass power, but that's details. At some point, C.C. asks him why he needs to be so theatrical when he uses his Geass, and he tells her to shut up.
- It should be obvious to C.C. and the audience; if he's only exposing his eye during the instant of one command, a flourish would draw the required attention to that eye.
- Mazinger Z: Big Bad Dr. Hell was prone to make this when he was monologuing, mainly in the original manga and Mazinkaiser. Especially when night had fallen and he was outdoors. Evil Is Hammy, indeed.
- Stellvia: The Stellvia's captain does an epic arm flourish when ordering to fire the last remaining laser shot that can save Earth from imminent destruction in the final episode.
- Itsuki Koizumi has been shown doing this from time to time in the Haruhi Suzumiya anime. Kyon also does this at one point during the last episode of the Endless Eight arc.
- In one Zits comic, we get a long series of panels showing Jeremy "dance" by jumping up and down while pumping his fists. Hector says he looks like he's milking a kangaroo.
- All Fall Down: IQ, card carrying ham, has one of these moments in church.
Film — Animated
- Aladdin: Jafar milks the giant cow quite a few times. Even on the cover art!
- Disney's Pinocchio: Large Ham Honest John waves frantically and points with his walking stick at every opportunity. The wrist motions can make one wonder what the artists were going for here.
- Ralph Bashki's The Lord of the Rings movie had Gandalf and Boromir doing this a lot.
Film — Live Action
- Rudolf. Klein. Rogge. Consider Rotwang in Metropolis, for instance...
- A staple of silent film in general, thanks to the lack of dialogue to convey thoughts.
- In The Room, Tommy Wiseau wildly throws his arms downward while uttering the film's most famous line, "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!"
- In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, young Tom Riddle does this.
- Since the actors of Bitter Lake performed the entire movie in fursuits with largely immobile faces, they resorted to overacting the body language in a desperate attempt to sell the flat vocal acting.
- David Prowse milks the proverbial cow like he's getting a bonus for every hand gesture he makes.
- During his incredible speech, Arthur Jensen of Network milks the giant cow like a cross between Hitler and a television evangelist.
- Doc Brown of Back to The Future wildly gesticulates whenever he speaks. In the Making Of, director Robert Zimeckis said Christopher Lloyd was taking inspiration from the conductor in Fantasia, and described him as 'conducting the world'.
- John Moore's humorous fantasy novel Heroics for Beginners specifically cites this term:
He stood in the center of the room, his head thrown back in silent laughter, his arms raised above his head, his fists clenched in that famous, overly dramatic gesture known to theatre students everywhere as "milking the giant cow." Yes, it was hokey and cliched, and Voltmeter knew it, but he loved doing that gesture anyway, the quintessential stance of a man mad with power.
Live Action TV
- Rome The Forum newsreader played by Ian McNeice punctuates his hammy news bulletins with stylized gestures and poses that were actually used by professional speakers and politicians at the time. At one point Lucius Vorenus tries to use them during his brief attempt at politics, but completely fails to make them seem impressive.
- Baron Vladimir Harkonnen of the Dune mini-series, also played by Ian McNeice. Just watch this
- Doctor Who: The Master is Evil Is Hammy personified, but hasn't entirely got the hang of this.
- The current Doctor Matt Smith delves into this consistently, though considering what type of character he's playing, it really, reelly works.
- In Power Rangers, suited characters often kick the wild gesturing Up to Eleven. It's especially noticeable when still suited outside fight scene (like figuring out device, etc.) In the early years, these gestures would be accompanied by the same swishing-through-air sound as martial arts strikes. What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome??
- Along with his oddly placed vocal pauses and emphasis on unusual syllables, this is a key element to the William Shatner acting style, famously perfected as Captain Kirk on Star Trek: The Original Series. Indeed, one filk song ("Star Trek Rhapsody") even name-checks it:
- Angel. Wesley does this while spoofing the Buffy/Angel romance in "Fredless".
"Oh Buffy, I love you so much I almost forgot to brood!"
- Gackt must have a clause in his contract that requires him to do this at least once per music video and stage performance.
- The video for Disturbed's Indestructible uses this several times. Hell, every Disturbed video contains a little of this, as do the live shows. The singer is one great big ham.
- The director for the Music Video to Elton John's song I Want Love accused Robert Downey, Jr. of doing just this. Her solution? Taping his hands in his pockets to remind him that understatement worked more for this concept (the idea was just Downey walking and lip-synching to the song in a cold 'institutional' building). Works, too.
- Vocalist Kamijo has always been partial to a nice piece of stage, but he takeshis wild dramatic gesturing Up to Eleven in the last couple of minutes of Versailles' Ascendead Master PV. The rest of the band join as well- if they can get away with taking their hand away from their instrument for a minute, they do just that and make it worth it.
- Shirley Bassey does this every time a song has a big finish. And most of her numbers have big finishes.
- King Diamond shows us how it's done.
- Microsoft 3D Movie Maker: Because of the fairly cartoonish style, many of the actions are Milking the Giant Cow. The limitations of the graphics technology at the time play a part in this too. For instance, since there was no way to animate a person convincingly speaking over recorded dialogue, the action for talking was for the characters to lean forward, nod their heads, and wave their arms around. It was Better Than It Sounds.
- This is pervasive enough that William Shakespeare ranted about it in a Character Filibuster in Hamlet. Yes, Shakespeare troped it first.
Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently...
- In the same dialogue: Be not too tame neither:... [but] suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end [is to hold] the mirror up to nature... Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve... O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise... [that] have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
- In the Reduced Shakespeare Company play The Complete History of America (abridged), Reed tries to mime steering a car, but his gestures are off enough that Austin tells him, "Stop milking that cow!"
- In Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, depending on the actor (although this is usually done by the actors) Erik (The Phantom) does this so often he could be considered the Giant Cow Dairy Farmer.
- Subtly lampshaded in Rent; when Maureen is doing her protest, she raises her arms dramatically--but she's actually milking a cow when she does it.
And I lowered myself beneath her giant udder... and sucked the sweetest milk I have ever tasted.
- Justified trope for games that use a Super-Deformed art style--since the character's face is often just a very tiny rectangle with even tinier dots for eyes, extremely exaggerated body language is necessary to get the emotion across. Even motion capture has not escaped this trope. Given the limits of technology, it's not (yet) possible for mo-cap to pick up subtle gestures and facial expressions, so many actors are encouraged to unleash their inner Large Ham.
- Especially true in early-90s Adventure Games of the point-and-click variety. The graphics were just advanced enough to animate body movements to go along with the Mouth Flaps, which can get tiresome when the player had the option of full audio in games like Gabriel Knight, since the wild gesturing (on a loop) was a lot less noticeable in the time it takes to simply read the dialogue on-screen.
- Monkey Island Stan the Salesman and its sequels parodies this by flailing his arms wildly no matter what he's saying. It also serves to draw attention to his Unmoving Plaid jacket, making it even more amusing.
- In Ape Escape 3, Specter and Dr. Tomoki have a tendency to do this in FMV cutscenes, making them look like mad puppets.
- Xehanort from Kingdom Hearts tends over-exaggerate with his hands throughout the series, but his latest (or earliest?) incarnation as Birth by Sleep's Master Xehanort takes milking the giant cow (of darkness!) to a fine art. The man is seemingly unable to make speeches without making clutching/grasping motions of some sort.
- Justified with his Nobody counterpart, Xemnas, As nobody's have no hearts they also have no emotion therefore have to exaggerate their feelings.
- Old Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots, complete with Skyward Scream. "liquiiid!" Also, Liquid Snake in The Twin Snakes. He seems to have graduated top of his class from the William Shatner School of Acting.
- The Legend of Zelda CDI Games: The cut scenes: "Gee, it sure is boring around here!"
- Xenosaga: Virgil is seen doing this in Episode One, when lecturing about the expendability of realians.
- The characters of Final Fantasy VIII indulge in this a fair bit.
- The lawyers on the stand of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series are entirely animated in dramatic gestures — including on the cover art; made all the more hilarious in various "Phoenix Wrong" gag dubs.
- In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army and Raidou Kuzunoha VS King Abaddon, Dr. Victor is made incredibly awesome by his abuse of this.
- In the in-game cutscenes in Heroes of Might and Magic V, the characters have a very small pool of body language expressions, almost all of which are highly overblown and Hammy.
- In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the Lord of the Necromancers spends five minutes pacing around Gabriel and communicating entirely through his hands during his Motive Rant, possibly because his face isn't visible.
- In Silent Hill 3, Vincent is never able to keep his hands still while talking.
- Ghirahim, the villain of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, does this to keep in line with his Evil Is Hammy persona while expressing his anger over Zelda being snatched from his grasp.
- The animation for the "Rally" combat action in Dragon Age is this; Loghain, already a Large Ham, is particularly fond of this action. In the sequel, loose cannon party member Anders does this while casting Firestorm, accompanied with "MY MAGIC WILL DESTROY YOU!" or wordless screams of rage for maximum ham potential.
- Dark Souls has an emote that does this called "Praise the Sun" where you raise you arms above you head in a "V" shape. This emote is exclusive to members of the Warriors of Sunlight.
- According to Nigahiga hand motions accompanied with Cluster F-Bomb are the first lesson to being Gangster.
- Homestar Runner: Rather Dashing does this in the Peasant's Quest movie trailer.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Captain Hammer does this in his first scene, while standing on top of a moving van.
- MasakoX, an anime reviewer at That Guy With The Glasses, does this so often that there's a dance.
- Doctor Steel combines this with a Skyward Scream in The Dr. Steel Show Episode 1.
- Protectors of the Plot Continuum Agent Isaiah does this in the nightmare where he turns into a Marty Stu.
- Characters in Eight Bit Theater do this occasionally to represent despair, surprise, or just to emphasize a point. Of course, it's because Eight Bit Theater is a Sprite Comic of an 8-bit game, and thus has few sprites to express any emotion. Occasionally, it's lampshaded. ("Put your hands down!")
- In The Secret of NIMH, Mrs. Brisby does this at least once, mainly as a way for the animators to underline her anxiety.
- In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Grim does a 3-way combination of this, a Big No, and a Skyward Scream after Billy tells him that he flushed Li'l Porkchop down the toilet.
- The Venture Brothers resident cow-milker is Dr. Orpheus; he'll gesture wildly even if saying rather mundane things.
- In the crossover episode of Captain N and The Legend Of Zelda Cartoon, everyone celebrates by lifitng their arms up and down.
- Daffy Duck in the Great Piggybank Robbery and other Looney Tunes.
- Hexadecimal in Re Boot very often, though it's justified: her mask changes off-screen with every swipe of her hand.
- Katara, while mocking Sokka for his big ears, decides it is necessary to mime "elephant ears" using her hands, along with pointing dramatically as if she has an objection. Apparently this is a genetic trait: later, in season two, Sokka gets a little...intense while cheering and booing during the earthbending tournament.
- Rarity in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is prone to this, as per her Large Ham tendencies. The characters in general all seem to fall under the constant movement variant as even when they're just talking to each other, there's constant movement.
- Adolf Hitler had a tendency to do this while giving speeches. His IMDb page lists "dramatic hand gestures" under trademarks.
- It was very common to gesticulate like that in Central European rhetoric at the time; speeches from people opposed to Hitler feature similar gesturing (though less froth-mouthed screaming).
- Michele Bachmann in her respone to the 2011 State of the Union address.
- MMA fighter Anderson Silva has a tendency to do this at extremely emotional moments.
- When the terms of the Arab Maghreb Union (a common market treaty between Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Lybia) were being read out, Muammar Gaddafi started waving his fists in the air with a smile (he was known for having been particularly obsessed with a Pan-Arabian/Pan-African union).