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. It's just any attempt to soften the edge of a villain (or Anti-Hero
) by showing him engaging in a moment of kindness.
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
could also work (if the people they favor aren't evil). Contrast Kick the Dog
(doing something evil to establish an evil personality), Must Make Amends
(when a character tries to undo or atone for having Shot The Dog
), Bait the Dog
(when this is darkly subverted