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Our character is trying to show that he (usually a man, occasionally a woman) is cool, casual, and intent upon whatever is being said by their superiors. The character does this by artfully leaning in a doorframe, putting one foot up on a chair or other set-piece, or flipping an armless chair around and sitting facing the chair-back. While not always taking part in the dialogue, they are engaged in the scene as an on-camera observer, and ready to interject an idea or quip.
If they are a Cowboy, Swashbuckler or Loveable Rogue, they will lean back in an armless chair with one or both feet propped up before them, taking care to keep one or both knees locked and their legs close together, typically with their boots crossed, to suggest manliness and a firm grasp on one's
sexuality numerous leather belts and sidearms. Unlike the effete, Slouching Villain who wraps his arms over the armrest and splays his legs in an undignified fashion (perhaps to allow room for a Go-go Girl or Cat), the masculine Anti-Hero, by contrast, may rest one elbow/knee insouciantly over the head of his chair, while the other is held by his side, ready to reach for a weapon, usually chewing on manly finger-food in the meantime (or a cigar).
Generally, this behaviour isn't received well in the real world when one is being briefed by one's occupational or military superiors, regardless of established familiarity or friendship. You
almost never see this in polite characters, at best, especially when standing, it's a form of Rebel Relaxation.
Optional: If seated, they may hunker down on an open stool with their knees out and their feet up, and lean far to their left, all the way back against the wall, as if to suggest rebellion against the laws of gravity itself. The "hunker down" pose is always a sign of a good guy that you'd like to have a beer with. They may tent their fingers above their head, lean forward with both elbows draped over a piece of furniture, stare upward into space with optional headgear covering their eyes, or fiddle with a prop, as if to indicate that they already know where the discussion is going.
If the character is actually a bad guy, compare Slouch of Villainy. The villain's underlings may do this pose, however, to indicate that they are a force to be reckoned with, especially if they are a hired killer with no particular loyalty to the Big Bad. If so, expect them to be lounging in the shadows from the feet up.
Contrast the Captain Morgan Pose, where one foot is placed forward in brazen display of one's
balls leadership prowess.
As a purely practical consideration, having a character lean on something can often be a useful trick to improve the composition of a scene, as it plays down the fact that human beings are taller than they are wide, while television screens (especially widescreens) are wider than they are tall.
A comedic variation of this is to have the character lean to appear cool, then mess it up by falling over, or something similar.
Unrelated to Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
- Flo from the Progressive commercials does this when she is talking to the Badass Biker.
- There's a commercial currently out (think it's for 1-800-Contacts) where the presenter starts to lean on the furniture before there's anything there to lean on, and a table (along with some contacts) magically pops up beneath his elbow. He's just that cool.
Anime & Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist's Ed Elric is rather fond of this. He once did it in a church, just to be extra rude.
- In Episode 24, when Al discovers the new hideout of the refugee Ishbalans, Scar is seen leaning against a wall to deliver a few sparse comments on who Al is, that he's not a threat, and why their new hideout is (literally) underground.
- In Princess Tutu, Autor leans forward onto a piano when he's essentially bossing a character around. (Although this may be more because he's trying to assert himself more than a casual gesture.) He also has a tendency to lean against a wall with his arms crossed. Fakir also does this at least once or twice.
- Mirielle of Noir occasionally leans against her desk chair when talking about new jobs, and Kirika also does this at least once when deep in contemplation.
- Joe of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman could invariably be seen propping up a wall while the rest of the team sit attentively on a couch.
- Han Solo is Leaning on the Furniture in the Mos Eisely saloon when introduced. All that's missing are the spurs on his boots.
- The Comedian does this in Watchmen while the very first meeting of the Watchmen are being briefed, complete with a newspaper and a flask of whiskey.
- In Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, part of Steve Martin's Training Montage involves learning how to casually approach and lean against a pillar while holding a cocktail.
Live Action TV
- Riker does this incessantly in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Due to the actor's physical build, this was probably originally to make sure that he was actually in frame for his scenes.
- Dr. McCoy does this all the time in TOS, as well--when on the bridge, he's always leaning against the captain's chair or the console or another convenient piece of furniture. This troper suspects he might be dipping into his stash of Saurian brandy a little more frequently than he lets on.
- Riker's most iconic variant of this now has its own trope: the Captain Morgan Pose. He does it in plenty of other ways as well.
- Q was also quite fond of this trope, especially when he was using furniture that directly belonged to- and would undoubtably anger- Picard.
- Not at all unusual in scenes between Mulder and Scully on The X-Files. A ten-inch height difference between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is probably the main reason for this.
- In the Las Vegas CSI series, Nick Stokes and Sara Sidle do this frequently, though they straighten up if someone other than their CSI team comes into range.
- The doctors (particularly Chase and Kutner) from House tend to do this during the differential diagnosis. Then again, so does House himself, regardless of location, so he's probably not too worried about them disrespecting his authority. He also has a good excuse, missing part of his leg and all.
- Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fond of this. When he made the transition to Angel and was rendered incorporeal, the actor mentioned how tiring it was not being allowed to lean against things during shooting.
- All three presenters on Top Gear tend to lean on the cars they are discussing or reviewing.
- Manny from Black Books swings a chair around and sits on it, unfortunately crushing his bits in the process. "Sat on myself to some degree there..."
- Later on, he does it again *High-Pitched Voice* "that was a particularly bad one...."
- In the pilot for Happy Days Richie leans on the doorframe of his date's apartment when he's talking to her outside. Which is also the side of the door the doorbell is on.
- Avon of Blakes Seven liked to lean on most things, particularly when talking to people. His intention was probably to unnerve them.
- In the first episode of Red Dwarf Rimmer (apparently still not used to being a hologram) leans on a console and goes through it.
- Guy of Gisbourne tends to do this, as pointed out several times in the DVD commentaries. It has been jokingly suggested that it's to minimize the (sizable) difference in height between Richard Armitage and Keith Allen.
- Olly in The Thick of It tries this in Malcolm's Number 10 office. It does not go down well: "Feet off the furniture, you Oxbridge twat. You're not on a punt now."
- Done in a Not-So-Innocent Whistle kind of way by Chandler Bing in an attempt to see if the maid had stolen Monica's bra. When she turns around and sees him, he insists "I'm leaning. This is where I lean,"
- Conversations between Don Draper and Roger Sterling in Mad Men tend to involve one or the other standing and the other Leaning on the Furniture (both Jon Hamm and John Slattery are pretty tall, so it probably helps keep them in-frame). When Bert Cooper is around, it often ends up looking like a round of "Standing, Sitting, Leaning."
- Draco Malfoy in A Very Potter Musical constantly tries to do this, usually falling over what he tries to lean on.
- Not sure how much this counts, but, while he is rarely seen inside the Narumi Detective Agency, the title character of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, when he is seen (usually in cutscenes), is always, without fail, leaning against the stair railing.
- In Shelby's segments of Heavy Rain, the player can have Shelby lean dramatically against the nearest available surface as he asks his questions.
- As the page image shows, Robo-Ky of Guilty Gear is fond of this...so much so that his table pops out from a panel in his arm so he can lean against it.
- David Jackson does this in a flashback during v1 of Survival of the Fittest, leaning back in his chair so it rises onto its back legs, and putting his legs on the table. However, this wasn't so much to be rude as to relax, as he was exhausted from practice earlier. Amusingly, he is sitting back to back with Jack O'Connor, his teammate, so not only is his chair resting against Jack's, but they converse (with a Shout-Out to Battle Royale) without even facing each other.
- It's only for a moment, but in Kickassia, Ma-Ti leans against the wall during N. Bison's dream sequence.
- Danny tried this once in Danny Phantom by leaning his hand on a tree to play off as a cool guy to his crush Paulina. Unfortunately, his nervousness triggered his invisibility, causing his entire arm to go intangible. He came crashing down, much to his embarrassment.
- Truth in Television: It is genetically built-in for anyone from thirteen to mid-twenties to lean on any available object whenever possible. Do not move this to Slouch of Villainy, please.