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Helping Granny Cross the Street
The quintessential example of Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help.

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.


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 United Kingdom 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.
  • A 1970s issue of Archie's Joke Book had a one-page joke in which Moose carried Miss Beazley, the high school lunch server, across a busy street, ignoring her protests. After they reach the other side, she tells him that she didn't want to cross the street in the first place.

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.
  • In Wyrd Sisters, some Genre Savvy (if not particularly region-savvy) actors keep offering to help the Witches cross the river, even though there isn't one nearby.

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.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard had one episode where Roscoe was up for a "Lawman of the Month" award and did this, believing the old woman to be an undercover judge. She whacked him afterwards, as she didn't want to cross the street.
    • Roscoe spends the whole episode trying to make a good impression and at the end, the award winds up going to Cletus.
  • In the 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....

Music Videos
  • The Mowglis' San Francisco has a non-ironic example; it shows the boys doing various good deeds inspiring others to "pass it on". An elderly man with a walker is waiting to cross the street so the band member carries him piggyback while a woman friend brings the walker.

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?" 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.

Stand-Up Comedy
  • In his Boyscoyt routine, Swedish comedian Martin Ljung noted that helping old women cross the street works on the Sometimes Principle: "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work at all."

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.

Web Comics
  • Played straight in The Bully's Bully when BB is shown doing this, to show the protagonist's kindness.

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 panicked, not knowing that she's being helped by a ghost. She complains that everyone can see up her bustle, and then she starts struggling out of Ghost!Homer's arms and he accidentally drops her into oncoming traffic.
    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, "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well": Rainbow Dash feels out-shined 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. Rainbow Dash promptly gets clubbed in the face with Granny's purse.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Tex Avery's Droopy's Good Deed, rival Spike tries to thwart Boy Scout Droopy by dressing in old-lady drag, pulling this trope, and kicking Droopy into the path of a trolley. It backfires, of course.
  • In Time Squad Otto suggests to Abraham Lincoln that he should try this instead of being a prankster. But Lincoln has other ideas, when he gives the poor old lady an atomic wedgie and she goes blindly into traffic because of it.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy imagines doing this when he becomes an adult. When he actually tries this after wishing to be an adult, the old lady pepper sprays him in the eyes and storms away. Cosmo and Wanda proceed to explain, "When a kid helps an old lady cross the street it's kind of cute. But when an adult does it, it's just plain creepy."

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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