In the film Speedy (1928), Harold Lloyd's character gives himself the finger into a distorting mirror at Luna Park, about 24 minutes into the film.
The gesture has been involved in notable political events.
The gesture dates back to Ancient Greece and it was also used in Ancient Rome. In some modern cultures, it has gained increasing recognition as a sign of disrespect, and has been used by music artists (notably more common among hardcore punk bands and rappers), actors, celebrities, athletes, and politicians. The index finger and ring finger besides the middle finger in more contemporary periods has been likened to represent the testicles.
The Cynic philosopher Diogenes, pictured by Gérôme with the large jar in which he lived; when strangers at the inn were expressing their wish to catch sight of the great orator Demosthenes, Diogenes is said to have stuck out his middle finger and exclaimed "this, for you, is the demagogue of the Athenians".
On the cover of Moby Grape's first album, Moby Grape, band member Don Stevenson was caught flipping the bird at the camera.
Sometimes, though, the "mistake" is actually an intentional euphemism meant to indirectly convey the gesture in a medium where a direct description would be inappropriate. Bush, former President of the United States, accidentally made the gesture while on a diplomatic trip to Australia.
However, the photo remained fairly obscure until 1998, when producer Rick Rubin made it the centerpiece of an ad in Billboard criticizing country radio for not giving airplay to Cash's Grammy-winning album Unchained.
Professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin is also famous for flashing one or both middle fingers as part of his gimmick.
Many cultures use similar gestures to display their disrespect, although others use it to express pointing without intentional disrespect toward other cultures.
The gesture is usually used to express contempt but can also be used humorously or playfully.
A year ago, Moscow retaliated by banning many Western agricultural products.