Helping Granny Cross The Street
I'll help this frail old lady to show everyone how awesome I am!


(permanent link) added: 2012-01-11 17:33:47 sponsor: PapercutChainsaw (last reply: 2013-07-09 09:47:41)

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Whenever a character wants to be good (or, perhaps, only appear good), he or she will often resort to public acts of kindness to random strangers. Upon seeing a frail little old lady standing on the side of the road, our "hero" will naturally try to help her get to the other side, usually without asking her if she wanted the help or not. If the character is particularly strong, they will often pick the poor granny up and just carry her across, especially if they are in a hurry.

Usually, this ends with the old lady complaining that she never wanted to cross the street in the first place, but our "hero" has usually rushed off to do some other heroic deed by then. If the old lady is a particularly crabby one, she will usually give her helper a biff with her walking stick or handbag.

This sort of behaviour is common among Boy Scouts, or their fictional equivalents.

The straight example of the "helping the old lady across the street" bit has pretty much become a Dead Horse Trope these days, which is why the only examples you'll see in modern media involve the subversion of the old lady never wanting to cross in the first place, or crankily belting the hero with their cane or handbag. It can also be a stock excuse, especially among villainous types who are late.

This is the quintessential example of Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help -- it's almost kind of a Sub-Trope.


Examples:

Advertising
  • One ad for the Boy Scouts parodies this. Two Scouts offer to help an old lady cross a ravine. On a zipline. And she forgot to take her purse with her.
  • An old Inland Revenue advert in the UK featured a man taking the old lady across the street. She then whacks the man and darts back across the street in order to catch the bus she was waiting for.

Comic Books
  • MAD Magazine had a series of comics based on this trope. The final one subverted it - the scout ignored the old lady in favor of a young attractive one, and an older scout master had to comfort the poor granny.
  • In the Spanish comic books Zipi y Zape, this seems to be the twins' favourite good deed, according to the number of times it appears in the comic.
  • In the French comic books Iznogoud, the Caliph encounters an old man who wants to get to the other side of the street. The Caliph helps him, then the old man wants to get back to the starting point because that's now the other side of the street.

Film - Animated

Film -- Live Action
  • Lemonade Joe: Parodied when the villainous Horace Badman tries to invoke this trope as a part of his evil scheme. He wants to overcome his nemesis and hero Joe, and as a bonus he plans to seduce Joe's fiancee Winifred. He disguises himself as an old blind man and pretends he can't cross the street. He knows that kind-hearted Wini will offer him her help, and then he could lure her into a saloon and finally kidnap her. It nearly backfires when a cute little girl is quicker than Wini.
    Little girl: Sir, I'll help you cross the street.
    Horace: What? Shoo, you brat! Herod should get you!

Literature
  • Subverted in America (The Book) in a section about campaign propaganda that claimed Caligula's enemies "smeared" his reputation as, well, with such accusations as helping an old lady across the Appian Way.

Live-Action TV
  • The Odd Couple: During the opening credits montage we see an old lady who is being helped across the street by a scout. Felix approaches them and offers to do it instead. He gets quite insistent; so the granny hits him with her handbag to make him let go, and the scout slugs him too.
  • The Russian show Yeralash has at least three cases.
  • In The Goodies episode Silly Scouting, Graeme and Bill, playing overage boy scouts, are trying to earn a proficiency badge for Helping Old Ladies Cross the Street. A sequence of madcap visual humour ensues, where Graeme is seen chalking a billiard cue and setting up trick shots involving Old Lady Number One with side-spin off the cushions into old Lady Number Two....

Newspaper Comics
  • Conversed and parodied in an arc of FoxTrot where Andy bans Peter from playing violent video games and instead gives him a game called Nice City (as opposed to Vice City). At one point he scores points for helping an old lady across the street.

Puppet Shows
  • In Mongrels Nelson the Fox helps an elderly chicken across the street. He takes the time to also ask the question of "Why did the chicken cross the road?"[[hottip:*:The answer is: she saw a black man walking along the street and thought he might mug her, turns out she was just a casual racist]]

Theatre
  • In Bells Are Ringing, Ella, trying to con Inspector Barnes out of trying to arrest her, compares her job to saving downed baby birds and this:
    If it's a crime to help old ladies cross the street,
    Then put men in jail!
    Without bail!
    Bread and water from an old tin pail,
    If that, if that's a crime.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: in a Treehouse of Horror episode Homer is dead and needs to do one good deed to get into Heaven. Ghost!Homer sees Agnes Skinner who wants to cross the street, so he lifts her up and flies her across. She is paniced, not knowing that she's being helped by a ghost. She complains that everyone can see up her bustle, and then has a heart attack and dies after Homer lands her.
    Um, I'm pretty sure she was going to be the next Hitler.
  • It's occasionally mentioned that the girls in The Powerpuff Girls do this, but it's not usually shown - it's usually listed as another one of their many good deeds.
  • Sponge Bob Squarepants: Happens to Mr. Krabs at one point. The gag is brought back near the end of the episode; the scout walking him into his old room at his mother's house.
  • In one Looney Tunes short, Daffy Duck goes on a Candid Camera-type show where he tries to help an old lady cross the street. She hits him with her umbrella all the way.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rainbow Dash feels outshined by Mare Do Well, and unable to find anyone in need of rescuing, obstinately insists on "helping" Granny Smith cross the street even though she didn't want to cross it at all.
  • Maya And Miguel: During a montage where Miguel tells Maya all the times her ideas have made things worse, one of the clips is her "helping" an old lady across the street. The lady was actually waiting for a bus, and Maya's "help" caused her to miss it.
  • An episode of The Flintstones has an episode where they and the Rubbles end up camping with a group of Boy Scouts. In one scene, a pair of boys "help" (she didn't need it) walk Betty across the camp. When Betty tells the second boy he already walked her, he tells her she only counts half as much as an old lady.

Real Life
  • The "Muddy Road" Zen Koan:
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl" said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"
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