The beard is a difficult thing to unravel. Simultaneously utterly manly and supremely goofy, this mass of hair smack-dab in the middle of the face has had a long, proud, and bloody history. Regardless, the prevailing standard of beauty inexplicably prefers the pre-pubescent glow of non-threatening, hairless manboys (see: Justin Bieber; Taylor Lautner; the entirety of British boy band One Direction).
It has been a dark, dark time for beards.
But take heart, the torch remains lit! Three cheers for these five bored and needy Hollywood stars for donning wacky beards ISO credibility, distraction, and Oscars (aka "I just had to get inside the character's head, and find their truth, you know?")!
1) Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
It takes true testicular fortitude to elevate the visually disturbing wispy-beard to something befitting the face of one of the world's sexiest men. Johnny Depp has such epic balls. He also appears to have joined the ranks of exceedingly beautiful and eclectic celebs who "ugly it up" to take a stand against social conformity, to flip the cultural illusion of beauty on its ear, and to beat back the mundane horror of their perfect, empty lives.
After a proud filmography chock-full of characters with interesting beards and/or mustachios, Depp struck a solid blow in defense of the beard when he gave Captain Jack a devilishly forked goatee, decked out with beads, bones, bugs and other random bonus stuff. Well-played, matey!
2) Chris Hemsworth as Thor
The incredible popularity of Hemsworth's portrayal of the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, both in his own movie, and in the Summer megahit The Avengers, was a clarion call for modern-day Beardos to distinguish themselves from their Hipster cousins and keep spreading the word about the unexpected joy in keeping a bunch of hair on your face! Back to the Thunder God, the oddly metrosexual Thor always keeps his classic beard very neatly trimmed.
Note: Thor's light blonde beard puts him at risk of wispiness. Fortunately, his use of a nigh-indestructible cosmic god-hammer makes him badass enough to have whatever kind of beard he wants. You go, Thor!
3) Actor-Director Beard: Mel Gibson directing Apocalypto
Many say that Mel's religious fanatic father poisoned his mind as a child; he never stood a chance. Others blame the endless entourage of sycophants and yes-men for warping his sense of reality, and entitlement. But I know the truth ... the powerful beard Mel donned circa Apocalypto gave him a hubris so grand, he could never recover.
In fact, he believed that through his beard, he could hear the voice of God, commanding him to go on anti-Semitic and misogynistic rants to TMZ. Heed this cautionary tale, and warn all beard-bearers of the dangers of beard-related megalomania. Beware.
4) Worst TV Beard: Brian Austin Green as David Silver in Beverly Hills, 90210
Graduate of the Marky Mark School for White Rappers
Stuck as the "geeky little kid" on a flagship Fox show? Just add a rap career! Don't believe me? Just ask Married: With Children's David Faustino (aka Bud Bundy aka Grandmaster B), or Brian Austin Green (who we refer to around the Comediva offices as The BAG).
Both of the wannabe impresarios tried to establish "2 legit 2 quit" real-life hip-hop personas. BAG went so far as to add a super-lame wispy attempt at a beard to boost his street cred. Ron Swanson would vomit at the sight of it, and refuse to honor it with the honorific of Beard.
RIP Scott. Never forget. He never had a chance to grow a beard. :-(
5) The Ben Affleck Triptych:
Beard Hero™ and defender of masculinity, Ben Affleck, receives a special honor for his work on behalf of Beards everywhere.
Exhibit A) Ben Affleck popularizes the "Scruff Beard"
More than just unkempt and not quite a beard, Affleck's use of the shaped-scruff look fought back against the bland, baby-bottom-smooth boy band crisis of the late 1990s, and established him as clearly not cherubic Matt Damon.
Exhibit B) Ben Affleck sports an "Ugly-Ass Goatee" as Holden McNeill in Chasing Amy
A mis-step, but a bold one! Affleck goes all-out and plants this massive block of felt ALL over his mouth and chin. This had to hurt his love life, folks! That's true commitment, choosing beard convictions over getting laid... Beards have no truer friend than Ben Affleck!
Exhibit C) Ben Affleck goes "Full 70s" as Tony Mendez in Argo
If you thought the "Ugly-Ass Goatee" was extreme, then you're definitely not ready for Ben Affleck to crank the style capacitor to retro and go spectacularly "Full 70s!" That's right, he goes ALL THE WAY! Huge, open collars, gold chain, a full beard, and the shaggy '70s hair! When Affleck goes, he goes big ... or he shaves. He NEVER goes home.
And there you have it.
A closing thought: always respect the power of the beard. As Lord Tennyson wrote, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Just ask this guy:
I would like to take a moment to wish special thanks to the 1970s, for it is because of you that we still have beards around at all!!! This decade saw so many unshaven thespians on the screen that the front row is still picking hairs out of its teeth.