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Pet the Dog

This term was coined by cynical screenwriters, basically meaning: show the nasty old crank petting a dog, and you show the audience, aw shucks, he's all right after all. Often used to demonstrate that a Jerkass is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or, if more limited, that the character is goal oriented rather than sadistic and/or thoroughly evil. If used as an Establishing Character Moment then you skip right past the jerkass phase.

Of course, this doesn't mean specifically petting a cute animal, but any sign of nobility within a morally ambiguous character.

Sub Tropes include Photo Op With The Dog, Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, Morality Pet (a character's entire relationship with a villain is one long Pet the Dog moment), and Androcles' Lion (where the dog would later reward the one who petted him/her). Compare Licked by the Dog. A few ways to pet the dog include: being an Anonymous Benefactor, I Was Just Passing Through, and Even Evil Has Standards. Demonstrating Moral Myopia can also do the trick, by proving the character is not actually It's All About Me but does regard at least someone else as having rights. Contrast Kick the Dog, Must Make Amends (when a character tries to undo or atone for having Shot The Dog), Bait the Dog (when this is darkly subverted).

Example subpages

The Dog Was the MastermindTropey the Wonder DogLicked by the Dog
Kick the DogPt/Índice de TraduçãoMoral Event Horizon
No Challenge Equals No SatisfactionHappiness TropesThe Pollyanna
Quintessential British GentlemanA Polite IndexPlaying Nice for Now
Personality PowersCharacterization TropesPhone-In Detective
Patrick Stewart SpeechIdealism TropesThe Pollyanna
Kick the DogJustForFun/Tropes of LegendShoot the Dog
Only the Pure of HeartGoodness TropesPragmatic Hero
Kiss of the VampireHeartwarming/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Bram Stoker's Dracula
Affably EvilOverdosed TropesNarm
Crowning Moment of HeartwarmingTearJerker/Hell's KitchenToo Good for This Sinful Earth
Peace PipeImageSource/PhotographyPoverty Tropes
Pervert Revenge ModeComedy TropesPet Heir

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