"I got a little advice for you. It happens in movies and novels all of the time. The soldiers who never shut up about their girls back home, Retirony
they don't make it."
's equally devious sister
, not that either of them have photos of the other
. Whenever a character shows the others a picture of their family and/or loved ones, they're shot to the top of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
It mostly works as a cheap "look at my lovely family" moment so we feel bad for them when the character dies. This isn't immediately lethal though; it usually takes a while to kill the character because it bumps the Red Shirt
into the Mauve Shirt
's sweet spot for "less likely to die meaninglessly, much
likelier to die meaningfully because it'll hurt more."
It also may indicate the character's willingness to die for someone else. Since their family is dear to them, they'd willingly make a Heroic Sacrifice
for their friends or True Companions
The variation where the picture directly
leads to the character's death could be seen as a subtle acknowledgment
of the trope.
Contrast Personal Effects Reveal
, which often involves finding a family photo after the death. (If said person was an antagonist of some sort
that the protagonists shot, expect a heaping helping of irony and/or regret.)
See also Retirony
and If We Get Through This
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Anime & Manga
- Physica from Macross 7, has to be the master of this trope. Not only does he show us a picture of his wife and daughter before he's killed in combat, but he's about to be re-united with his family a day late for his daughter's birthday, and the photo he shows us is in a handmade music box for the daughter's birthday. He tugs more at our heart strings by telling us that his daughter doesn't recognize his face... What's more, after he dies a senseless death and his team mate (one of the Love Triangle) goes to deliver the birthday gift/family photo to his wife and child, it's implied that his wife was cheating on him. This series doesn't kill very often so they make sure to get their millage. The only other death of note is the Heroic Sacrifice.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Lt. Colonel Hughes carries a photo of his fiancée with him during the Ishbalan war. Genre Savvy Colonel Mustang then points out that if they were in a war story, carrying a photo of her around and showing it off so proudly would be a sure-fire way to die ironically on the battlefield. It's subverted as this is a flashback and the audience knows that he does make it back to his girlfriend and marries her and has a kid. This is a reference to the fact that all through the series, he's showing off pictures of his daughter and occasionally of his wife... Double Subverted as he is the first important character to die.
- Plus, the family picture partially causes Hughes's death: he drops it in the phone booth, Envy sees it and is able to transform into his wife, and poor Hughes can't stab him to save his own life.
- Played with in manga Hohenheim's case: he chats about his family picture with a young mother on a coach, the coach gets attacked by thugs, Hohenheim gets shot while defending the other passengers... Turns out that he's putting his near-invincibility to good use and that the thugs don't manage to kill or even wound him no matter how many times they shoot him. " How cruel... Shooting so many times. Oh good, the picture has nothing."
- Gundam 00:
- The moment Kinue Crossroad was seen looking at the picture of her family, it was obvious her time was up. Didn't take long.
- Season 2 has the same thing happen to Barack Zinin.
- Sergei Smirnov is arguably killed by at least five family photos on his mantelpiece at home.
- Strangely subverted in the second OVA of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, where Mr. Gilboa looks at at a folded piece of paper that the audience views from the back side, only for it to be revealed to be just written orders
- In the Excel Saga anime, the titular main character is working part time at a construction site where her co-worker Pedro weeps passionately about being separated from his adoring family. Naturally, he provides us with a photograph as well as some lampshaded flash back footage. Later on, the construction site catches fire and he dies horribly when he runs back into the inferno to retrieve his family photo. That doesn't stop him from becoming a major character, though.
- In Saikano, all of the characters that carry the photos of their loved ones to war die horribly. Their loved ones die too.
- The first episode of The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk lampoons this trope heavily.
- Happens picture-perfectly in the second volume of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Joseph and Cesare accompany a young Nazi soldier and friend of Cesare to witness the Three Men In The Pillar, and the young man shows them a picture of his girlfriend. Guess who's among the first victims when the men awakens?
- Miaka takes a happy picture with her True Companions in the middle of Fushigi Yuugi. Four episodes later, Nuriko dies and triggers the death domino.
- Subverted in Zipang. The American pilot of the Dauntless divebomber keeps looking at the picture of his wife just as it looks like he's about to ram his plane into the Mirai. However, he jumps off and parachutes to safety just before impact, carefully keeping his wife's photo before he does.
- Played with on Digimon Tamers. During the final arc, we see a scene where one of the computer programmers none-too-subtly looks at a framed picture of him and his son and granddaughter, which is actually used to cement the implication that his granddaughter, who appeared a few episodes earlier, was really Dead All Along. Nothing happens to the programmer in question.
- Done ridiculously fast in Legend of Galactic Heroes's early episode, where you can't count to 6 before the two Alliance gunners die after one shows the Fatal Family Photo to his friend.
- The manga of Black Cat has an accountant for the mafia show off a picture of his family to Train and Sven. Being, well, a runaway from the mafia, he gets killed by an assassin shortly after.
- Rurouni Kenshin: While he doesn't have a photo to show off, Tomoe's fiance Akira begins talking to his comrades about how the two of them were childhood sweethearts and that he was going to marry her once the war was over (a war he got himself involved in in order to impress her though she actually liked him the way he was but could never properly show her affection ).... right when Battousai shows up. Later on, the events that took place would turn into a Personal Effects Reveal for Kenshin aka the aforementioned Battousai, since he overheard Akira saying Tomoe's name - who would end up marrying Kenshin and later die for him - right before he killed him, though he never thought anything of it at the time. He'd only realise who he was and how important Akira was to Tomoe much later.
- Happen in early episode of Tekkaman Blade, a professor is killed after he shows Takaya/D-Boy his families photo before his Heroic Sacrifice. While D-Boy's anger against the military because of said events is normal for well... Normal person, it feels REALLY out of character if we considers how D-Boy acts up to this point, and the fact that his rage is against the millitary member. That is until you see what happen to D-Boy's later on the series.
- Averted in Robotech: New Generation and Shadow Chronicles, where Scott and Marcus carry the locket showing Marlene around - and survive, often just as one of few.
- In Naruto Shippuden, a picture of Gaara and his siblings falls off the bedside table, and the crack in the frame is mostly over Gaara. This is a Foreshadowing that something very bad is about to happen to him. He gets better, though.
- Subverted in the first film of Ghost in the Shell. An average joe garbageman has been brain-hacked into helping the villain attack a politician, and tries to show a picture of his estranged kid to his partner. Not only is he captured alive, but learns that due to the brain-hack, his family doesn't exist. The picture was of himself.
- In the backstory of Detective Conan, this happened many years ago to Superintendent Matsumoto's partner and best friend, Morimura. He was about to marry and once he showed Matsumoto a picture of his sweetheart... and few later he was fatally hit by a Serial Killer's car, bleeding to death in Matsumoto's arms. The trope is sort-of discussed as well, since Matsumoto and other policemen talk about how, whenever a member of the police talks openly about his/her beloved or make them a promise, they tend to become more reckless and often end up injured or dead. Which almost happens to Takagi at the end of the case: trying to impress his girlfriend Sato, he ultimately gets involved in an Alone with the Psycho situation that almost kills him.
- Slightly subverted in the original G.I. Joe comics during 'Nam'', Snake-eyes was always carrying around a picture of his sister as a good luck charm... while he doesn't die he is horribly wounded and the picture is damaged... when he gets back to The States he learns that it is his family who dies... so the photo didn't do in the soldier but did in the family. To further twist the knife, the other passenger in the auto accident that killed his family was the brother of a used-car salesman. The salesman became so embittered over the accident that he started a scheme for revenge that ultimately led to him forming Cobra and becoming Cobra Commander.
- Played straight in the first issue of IDW's Transformers: All Hail Megatron. A pilot who goes into battle against the Decepticons has a picture of his girlfriend taped inside his cockpit. He doesn't last long.
- In Harry Potter and the Curse's Cure Hermione's ex-military uncle mentioned to Remus that he once slit the throat of a terrorist camp sentry while the latter was busy looking at a picture of his wife and three kids.
- A Kingdom Divided subverts this trope; a soldier points out to Vinyl Scratch that people who show around pictures of their families don't often make it home, and is killed in the group's first battle, while Vinyl survives.
- Played utterly straight in Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War, in which a Korean soldier shows his comrades a picture and promptly bites it in the battle of Pyongyang.
- In the beginning of Shooter Swagger's spotter shows off a picture of his wife and has a chat with the main character about her. He is dead within four and half minutes. However, the wife in question is a Chekhov's Gunman; she turns out to be the only person Swagger can go to for help.
- Averted in The Hobbit. Glóin carries a silver locket that contains pictures of his wife and young son, Gimli. He survives the Quest for Erebor and later shows up in The Lord of the Rings at the Council of Elrond.
- The Core: Sergei shows those damn photos so often that anyone with half a brain can see that he won't make it out alive.
- Alien vs. Predator (the first movie): Then again, the victim's photos were the only distinguishing thing about his character (most of the other characters weren't so lucky).
- Deliberately averted in the original Alien; the filmmakers didn't want any conversations about family members the crew might have had back home.
- Averted in Apollo 13. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise look through family photos aboard the crippled spacecraft, but the crew survives the journey home.
- Black Hawk Down has Mike Durant showing others a photo of his family. Long after the Black Hawk he was piloting crashes, he's surrounded by Somalians and his photo is lost in the crowd. He survives the entire conflict as a hostage, and is eventually released afterward.
- Also, Shughart is shown making a call to his wife before the mission, Lorenzo is holding his "death letter", and Wex is seen drawing a picture for his daughter. All three die, though given that this was based on real events they were Doomed by Canon.
- In The Terminator movie, Kyle has a picture of Sarah Connor he treasures.
- Films about pilots in wartime will usually have one guy with a photo of his sweetheart tucked into his instrument panel. As often as this happens, you'd think aircraft designers would include a picture frame just next to the altimeter.
- Leads to a death in the film The Sum of All Fears, in what is perhaps the most literal example of this trope in action, where an Israeli pilot's picture of his wife and kids falls off his plane's control panel, his brief distraction of quickly picking the photo back up and placing it into it's original place is long enough that he doesn't notice the surface to air missile that's flying towards him until it's too late. In the DVD Commentary, Tom Clancy himself states that this is the reason why various Air Forces do not allow pilots to bring up family photos.
- In Red Tails, we actually get to see/get to know the girl in the photo. She's an Italian girl dating one of the African-American plane jockeys, and they actually get engaged just before he plays chicken with a German fighter ace and 'wins'. Putting a person behind the face kind of takes this trope to the next level.
- Independence Day. As Russell Casse is flying underneath the invader's ship, he looks at a picture of his three children in the cockpit just before he performs a Heroic Sacrifice by flying his jet into the ship's primary weapon and destroying it.
- Subverted in Top Gun. In the opening sequence, Cougar has a photo of his wife and newborn son in his cockpit, and the sequence does make it look like he'll crash, until Maverick guides his plane down. Cougar then resigns his commission for fear of widowing his wife and orphaning his son.
- Parodied and lampshaded in Hot Shots! One of the pilots shows everyone pictures of his perfect family, and his beautiful, perky wife even shows up at the base to tell him how things are going with the house they just bought. He also puts off putting the single last signature needed onto the insurance on his life until after this flight, and takes some crucial evidence to the JFK assassination and a winning lottery ticket along with him. He also walks under a ladder, has a black cat cross his path, and accidentally breaks his wife's mirror. His call sign? Dead Meat.
- One of the cops at the beginning of The Last House on the Left remake is talking to his colleague about his daughters and their pictures are shown. Is done in such a hammy way it hurts.
- It happens in the ending of The Hitcher remake; one of the cops on the cop bus that's carrying John Ryder takes out a photo of his daughter.
- Doubly-subverted by Grig in The Last Starfighter, when he shows the hero a picture-cube of his family. Grig ultimately survives, and since he has twelve thousand offspring, the cube starts flashing rapid-fire/near-subliminal images of every last one of them.
- During the Joe Don Baker film Final Justice (as presented on MST3K), Joe Don Baker's Texas lawman is looking at family photos with his partner, moments before the partner is gunned down:
Joe Don Baker
: Travis is a cute kid. Yer a lucky man, Bob. Crow
: Uh oh
- Used as foreboding in Deep Impact. When Jenny's estranged father returns and gives her several family photos, it begins a series of events where Jenny gives up the chance to escape the mega-tsunami created by the smaller half of the comet and spends her last moments with her father.
- Subverted in Transformers, at least partially. Jorge Figuerosa talks about going back to his mother's house and eating alligator stew, while Captain Lennox actually talks to his wife via webcam and sees his baby. Neither of them die in the movie (although Fig was supposed to die, the scene was cut).
- We see a brief shot of Dryden's picture of his wife and kids on a table when James Bond kills him in the opening of Casino Royale.
- Nikolai from Predators shows a photo of his two children and becomes the next to die. Edwin steals the photo and uses it to gain sympathy from Royce and Isabel. He too dies shortly afterwards.
- In Anthony Mann's Men in war, American soldiers find the family photo on the corpse of a North Korean.
- Boris's snapshot of Veronika in The Cranes Are Flying, which comes out just before his fatal mission—although he didn't mean to show it, it fell out when he was taking his papers out of his greatcoat.
- Played straight and subverted in Das Boot. Lieutenant Werner looks at family photos from Cadet Ullman, Navigator Kriechbaum and the Chief Engineer. At the end, Ullman gets killed in an air raid, Kriechbaum gets wounded and is rushed into an ambulance that leaves just before the air raid, and the Chief survives.
- Hostel: Oli makes the mistake of showing off pictures of his daughter, and to an Elite Hunting customer, no less. Given that this is Hostel, keeping the photo hidden probably wouldn't have helped.
- Agent Fielding pulls one out in Timecop.
- In Apocalypse Now, it is not a photograph but a tape recording of the family back home. And the character is dead before it finishes playing back.
- Played with and likely inverted in Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve has a picture of Peggy in his compass. He specifically takes it out before Red Skull's plane crashes and it's the last thing he looks at. Steve survives and wakes up seventy years in the future all right ... but Peggy is most likely gone by then.
- Saving Private Ryan has an interesting variation in that technically it was a letter that Caparzo reveals after getting shot by an enemy sniper. Said letter gets taken by The Medic, Irwin Wade, with the presumed intention of mailing it after the mission. Wade dies about half-way through the film, and the letter is taken by Captain Miller, who gets shot during the final battle. It is even cleverly lampshaded when Reiben is seen removing the letter from Miller's coat as he is dying, with an extremely uneasy look on his face.
- In Oliver Stone's Platoon one of the fresh replacements immediately and actively shows off pictures of two girlfriends he's got back home. He doesn't even survive the first night out in the jungle.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: The Baroness makes Duke promise that he'll take care of brother and not let him get hurt. He is of course killed, and is her Start of Darkness. Subverted, he didn't actually die.
- King Ralph turns this trope inside out in the opening sequence. The British Royal Family (out to a very extended degree) poses for a group photo and are all killed in a freak accident, setting up the title character as the next King.
- In Gravity after the third astronaut on the spacewalk besides Stone and Kowalsky dies, we see a photo of his wife and son floating alongside his body. That also shows us what his face looked like, as there's a large hole punched through it.
- In Godzilla (2014), Joe Brody dies roughly 20 minutes after finding an intact photo of his family in their old house. Subverted with Ford, who brings out a photo of his wife and son and has a close call soon after, but ultimately lives to the end.
- Gets parodied towards the end of Black Dynamite. While walking through enemy headquarters, somebody suddenly pulls out a family photo and shows everybody. He almost immediately gets killed, followed by Black Dynamite saying "Who saw that coming?"
- Referenced in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Jingo, where a young soldier who has been killed is remarked to have shown his sergeant a picture of his girlfriend the night previous.
- Harry Potter. Lupin shows a picture of his newborn son, not too long before getting killed.
- Played with in Dan Abnett's Straight Silver. Gutes laments that he has no photographs of his dead daughter and granddaughter; they had intended to send him some after, but then Chaos destroyed their planet. Then he dies.
- Inverted in The Things They Carried. In one section, Tim O'Brien is showing Kiowa a picture of his girlfriend when an attack on the camp begins. O'Brien survives, but Kiowa doesn't.
- In Graham McNeill's Warriors of Ultramar, a Guardsman has just such a photo. He survives the battle, and Uriel tracks him down in the hospital and is shown it. And then he survives the war and tracks down Uriel in the hospital, and Uriel is envious of him, having a family to go to.
- Beckendorf from Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Before moving out on their mission to blow up the Princess Andromeda, Beckendorf pulls out a picture of his girlfriend, Silena. A mere fifteen pages later, he is dead. The worst part? Silena was a spy, and because of the spy, the mission was expected, which lead directly to him getting killed.
- All Quiet on the Western Front:
- In a variation, after Paul kills a French soldier he finds pictures of his wife and daughter.
- The uncle of the schoolmate of Paul give his boots to his nephew when he enlist, needless to say, he die and then one another take the boots... and die too...and so on.
- In the Halo Expanded Universe novels, some of the otherwise nameless soldiers and personnel have families back home, but are still just as expendable in the novels as they are in the games. To name an example, the first guy you see die from the first game dies while clutching a picture of his family.
- Referenced in Tanya Huff's Confederation of Valor series. The first book has one of the soldiers offering to show another one a video of his four-year-old doing a silly dance - until a more Genre Savvy soldier stops the both of them.
- In Laura and the Silver Wolf, the father of an Ill Girl Laura brings her their photo from earlier days. This is the last time she is awake in the real world.
- In The Naked and the Dead, Sociopathic Soldier Croft captures a Japanese man. Croft first treats him so nicely, that he ends up showing him a picture of his family. Croft then shoots him in the head.
- Averted in A. E. van Vogt's short story "Vault of the Beast." Parelli has just received a radiogram advising him that his wife had a baby boy. Then a monster attacks, but Parelli survives.
Live Action TV
- White Squall, by Stan Rogers, features a rookie sailor on the great lakes not quite cautious enough of the dangers of the eponymous meterological phenomenon. He's eager, enthusiastic, cheerful, first to sing, ... and only too happy to show around the picture of his wife, whom he married in the spring; so:
- This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVniRPGByCI) music video is about three friends who go to war. One of them looks at a picture of the three of them together and reminisces about their times at their village. In a subversion, he does in fact survive (though is left crippled) , but one of his friend in the picture does not .
- A Discussed Trope in the Battlefield: Bad Company blog by Sweetwater (We're dead, 6/16/2008), calling Haggard and Bobby Sanford stupid for discussing home, and for Sanford showing a photo of his wife and daughter, calling that particular action 'like signing your own death warrant!'. As You Know, his proof for it is war movies. Also played straight as the Sanford guy does die (apparently, by a tank while trying to defecate).
- There was something similar to this in a web game that used to be on My Chemical Romance's website during The Black Parade era, only the trope is averted if you shot down enough enemies.
- Dragon Age: Origins:
- Ser Jory of Redcliffe. He mentions his pregnant wife back home. Bad move, Ser Jory. The trope is played straight when Duncan kills Jory as the latter tries to back out of the Joining ritual.
- At least Duncan apologizes as he disembowels him.
- Gears of War:
- Inverted in Gears of War 2, where Dominic shows everyone a picture of Maria, his wife who had gone missing in the war. It turns out that She was captured by the Locusts, put into a Work Camp and gets a Fate Worse Than Death. So Dom has to kill her.
- The first Gears of War plays it straight with Rojas. The first mention of him is when you see an unidentified corpse from a bridge, and one of your squadmates says something along the lines of 'I hope that's not Rojas. His little boy turned two last week". The corpse you saw WASN'T Rojas, but you do find his mutilated body later.
- Ace Combat Zero has Patrick "PJ" James, who was the Butt Monkey of the Crow Team of fighter pilots due to his girlfriend back at the air base. Nevertheless, both as Crow 3 and as Galm 2, he's perfectly fine. Well, until after successfully destroying the WMD controllers inside the Avalon Dam, he announces to you that he's going to propose to her when he gets back...
- In the introduction sequence of Xeno Gears we see the Captain open up and look at a photo locket before he sets off the Self-Destruct Mechanism. As the scene plays out the camera focus pulls back to show us that it's a photo of his (presumed) wife and child. On a second play through of the game you realise that they bear a remarkable resemblance to some of the characters in the game that follows.
- Resident Evil:
- Barry Burton is a nut for his family and keeps a photo of them in his pocket. Later in the game, If the player decided, Barry will be knocked off a cliff to his death, leaving the photo of his family behind. In a reverse example, in Jill Valentine's ending (if Barry survives, and if the player dosen't rescue Chris Redfield) Barry will show the same picture to Jill and talk a bit about his family
- In the original, if you do things wrong while playing as Jill, Barry will be fatally mauled by a monster and give you his family picture before dying.
- Defied in Grand Theft Auto IV: there's a mission where the characters are ambushed by the Feds and have to run. You're riding with the guy who was supposed to watch for them, who says it's because he was distracted thinking about his wife, who he just got married to. He offers to show Niko a picture in the middle of the chase. Niko's response: "I don't want to see a fucking picture!" He actually can die, but you have to shoot him yourself to make it happen.
- Done more than once in the Metal Gear franchise:
- In Metal Gear 2, Snake and Natasha/Gustava take cover in a sewer and she tells him about her mother and ex-fiance. As soon as she leaves the sewer, she gets blown up.
- In the Metal Gear Solid radio drama, Snake teams up with an original character named Allen Iishiba to save Meryl after she and a crew of UN Peacekeepers crash lands on a hostile territory. While resting, Allen talks about his childhood girlfriend waiting for him at home. Needless to say, Allen doesn't get to see his girlfriend again.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Sokolov shows Snake a picture of his wife and daughter. He gets tortured to death in the very next cutscene.
- Also in MGS3, Johnny Sasaki shows Snake a photo of his family if you trigger the cutscene. If you feel like being a complete asshole, you're free to kill him as soon as you escape afterwards. Otherwise, feel free to subvert it.
- One of the items you can get from the Cola Wars battlefield in Kingdom of Loathing is the "picture of a dead guy's girlfriend", found in the backpack of a dying soldier.
- Heroes Over Europe plays it straight. Since the beginning of the game, a friend of one of the main characters keeps mentioning his beloved wife. Fast forward a few missions, and he gets hit by a german plane; he refuses to bail saying he can hold the plane together. Sure enough, a few minutes later his remains are inside the flaming wreckage.
- Inverted in Metal Slug. Why does Allen O' Neill keep on coming back from the dead? According to the developers, it's because he's Made of Iron... and has a wife and kid to go back home to.
- In Civilization, The idle animation of the infantry unit will show him looking a wallet photo, hold it close to him with a warm bubbly feeling being putting the photo back in.
- Subverted in Max Payne 3. During the game, Max is fighting a gang in a Brazilian nightclub, when he runs into a vacationing family man and ex-cop. The ex-cop is about get out a photo of his family from his pocket to show it to Max, but he blows him off before he (and the audience) can see it, telling him that he should seek cover instead. The ex-cop proceeds to make occasional appearances throughout the whole game and makes it out alive.
- The last ending slide in Fallout 3 is of James' portrait with his child in Vault 101, whose appearance changes depending on the Lone Wanderer's race and gender.
- In Tomb Raider (2013), one of the relics is an old photograph of a young woman that belonged to an American soldier. On the back of the picture is a message from the soldier's sweetheart promising to marry him when he returns home. Lara observes "Someone looked at this picture many times. It's been folded and unfolded repeatedly...He never returned home. This island has taken so many lives."
- In Axelay, the game starts with a locket of what is presumed to be a picture of you and your family, and you bring it with you. Should you fail to complete the game, the locket will be this.
- Major Dale Buis is reported as "showing his new friends pictures of his three young sons" shortly before being attacked and gunned down by six Viet Cong guerrilla fighters.
- A Wehrmacht (German) soldier in World War II told an account of being overrun by the Russians at Stalingrad. The soldier next to him took a small picture of his significant other from his pocket, had a last look, tore it into tiny shreds and subsequently shot himself.
- Let's be honest: This happens to almost every soldier who doesn't make it home.