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The Secret Behind Mark Wahlberg’s Movie Goatees

We connected the dots between the actor’s bearded roles — and the results will shock you

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It struck me the other week, as I was working on my prestige cable teleplay (American Tea, a gritty retelling of the Boston Tea Party with an anachronistic pop soundtrack), that my brain has been subconsciously filing Deepwater Horizon — directed by Peter Berg; starring Mark Wahlberg as Deepwater Horizon; can we please get Kate Hudson a real comeback, like, a real one, I mean; out Friday — into an odd little subgenre. Odd, and oddly specific: the subgenre of Movies Where Mark Wahlberg Has a Goatee.

‘Deepwater Horizon’ (Summit Entertainment)
‘Deepwater Horizon’ (Summit Entertainment)

In many ways, Movies Where Mark Wahlberg Has a Goatee — “Goatee Wahlberg” for short (this is the term to use around Goatee Cinema lovers; thank me later) — is bigger than a genre. It’s an idea. What kind of idea? The kind that says, Look, this is my same face, but also with some hair on it, maybe shaped like a circle. The kind that says — I’ll be honest: That’s pretty much all it says.

But what does it mean?

First, and before we get any further, here are a few of the movies where Mark Wahlberg does NOT have a goatee: The Gambler, Ted 2, Pain & Gain, Ted, The Fighter, The Departed, Invincible, The Italian Job, Planet of the Apes, Three Kings, Fear. This is important. Clarifying that a little more: Picture Mark Wahlberg (the American actor/producer). Now picture a goatee (the American beard varietal). In the movies listed above, along with a number of others, those things — this is the important part — do not appear together.

‘The Gambler’ (Paramount Pictures)
‘The Gambler’ (Paramount Pictures)

Alternatively, here are the movies where Mark Wahlberg does have a goatee: Transformers: Age of Extinction, Daddy’s Home, Mojave, 2 Guns, Entourage, Lone Survivor, Contraband, Shooter, Four Brothers, I Heart Huckabees, The Perfect Storm, The Yards. These are the 12 films that form the ideological foundation of Goatee Wahlberg — and whose lineage, as of today, Deepwater Horizon now joins.

Goatee Wahlberg has many secrets … one of them potentially lethal.

Let’s figure them out:

Mark Wahlberg’s face is optimally suited to the goatee.

The beard — especially when full — holds a special place within the Hollywood Leading Man face-having tradition. Rarely is Full Beard a default setting: Whether it’s a movie or a magazine cover, generally speaking, clean-shaven is the sensible, presentable choice. Full Beard, on the other hand, is a change of pace, an offseason curiosity — a way to show the world that one’s face contains multitudes.

But don’t let the low stakes fool you: Full Beard is very important. Reputations are won and lost, legends are made and destroyed, on ventures into Full Beard. We know which of our leading men have gone Full Beard and lived to tell about it; and we know which of them have gone there and never come back. I can scarcely think of a leading man in history who has made an unimpressive Full Beard debut and, in its aftermath, found his star completely intact.

Well, actually, I can think of one: Mark Wahlberg.

‘Lone Survivor’ (Universal Pictures)
‘Lone Survivor’ (Universal Pictures)

Here is Mark Wahlberg’s dirty secret: He grows a very bad beard.

Because Mark Wahlberg’s Full Beard is really just a glorified goatee.

But where a lesser movie star might have accepted “perma-goatee” and shied away from facial-hair auteurism … Mark Wahlberg has repurposed it as one of his signature features. Suddenly, instead of “Mark Wahlberg can grow only a goatee,” the narrative becomes “Mark Wahlberg is optimally suited to the goatee.”

‘Daddy’s Home’ (Paramount Pictures)
‘Daddy’s Home’ (Paramount Pictures)

It isn’t beautiful, but it’s something. And that’s beautiful.

There are two microgenres within Goatee Wahlberg: the Fashion Goatee and the Function Goatee.

Every Wahlberg goatee will invariably reveal itself as one or the other. The dictionary defines “Fashion Goatee Wahlberg” as “any goatee that a Wahlberg character sports because he thinks it looks good on him.” It defines “Function Goatee Wahlberg” as “any goatee that a Wahlberg character sports because he deems it otherwise necessary, beyond the realm of aesthetics.”

Here is the full list of Mark Wahlberg Fashion Goatees, ranked from least to most amount Mark Wahlberg thought each looked good on him:

8. 2 Guns (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “bad.”)

7. Mojave (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “not bad.”)

6. Entourage (Mark Wahlberg gave the impression that he thought this goatee looked “only OK,” but he secretly thought it looked “fine, all things considered.”)

5. The Yards (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “pretty good.”)

4. The Perfect Storm (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “I like Boston sports.”)

3. Contraband (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “really good.”)

2. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “borderline iconic.”)

1. Daddy’s Home (Mark Wahlberg thought this goatee looked “fucking incredible.”)

‘Daddy’s Home’ (Paramount Pictures)
‘Daddy’s Home’ (Paramount Pictures)

And here is the full list of Mark Wahlberg Function Goatees, ranked from worst to best function:

5. Four Brothers (Mark Wahlberg used this goatee for “looking tough.”)

4. Shooter (Mark Wahlberg used this goatee for “staying off the grid.”)

3. I Heart Huckabees (Mark Wahlberg used this goatee for “navigating the existential.”)

2. Deepwater Horizon (Mark Wahlberg used this goatee for “turning on Kate Hudson via Skype.”)

1. Lone Survivor (Mark Wahlberg used this goatee for “being the lone survivor.”)

‘Lone Survivor’ (Universal Pictures)
‘Lone Survivor’ (Universal Pictures)

Having a fashionable goatee makes Mark Wahlberg more likely to die.

Out of everything that Goatee Wahlberg stands for, there is one thing it stands for most of all: the idea that Mark Wahlberg could die. Don’t worry — he probably won’t. But he could. And the more often he has a goatee, the more likely it is to happen.

How is this possible? And how do I know?

I checked. We ran the numbers on every credited film role of Mark Wahlberg’s adult working life — while isolating for the dual variables of “has a goatee” and “dies.” And (no spoilers, I promise, not even for Entourage — just kidding, he lives in Entourage) here’s what we found:

In Mark Wahlberg’s 22 movies without a goatee, he dies only one time. Put another way: When Mark Wahlberg does not have a goatee in a movie, he has a 95.45 percent chance of survival. Being clean-shaven essentially makes Mark Wahlberg immortal.

‘The Departed’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)
‘The Departed’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)

On the other hand: In Mark Wahlberg’s 13 movies with a goatee … he dies two times. Which means that, when Mark Wahlberg does have a goatee in a movie, his chances of survival drop all the way down to 84.62 percent. Being goateed makes Mark Wahlberg — still hard to kill, if you tried to kill him it would be a joke, he would kill you in seconds — more than 10 percentage points easier to kill.

Which is to say: Having a goatee makes Mark Wahlberg … relatively mortal.

‘The Perfect Storm’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)
‘The Perfect Storm’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)

And now you see why Goatee Wahlberg is such an important idea. When Mark Wahlberg has a goatee … he isn’t just forgetting to shave; or pretending to be tough; or coming up with a really dope disguise, you’ll never find him; or trying to get Kate Hudson to Skype nudes to the Gulf Coast. He’s doing so much more than that: He’s teaching us how to be human.

Goatee Wahlberg is the idea that it’s OK to be flawed, and that it’s great to feel beautiful, and that honestly everyone looks smart with that one kind of glasses on.

It’s the idea that, whatever our own version of Mark Wahlberg’s goatee is, having it isn’t an ending — it’s a beginning. It’s the idea that all we can do is try our best. That life, like Mark Wahlberg’s face, isn’t always clean-shaven.