The Picture Came With The Frame
Byers: What about your daughter?
Susanne Modeski: I don't have one. I'm sorry...
Byers: The photo?
Susanne Modeski: It came with the wallet.A person's family photos are revealed to be those that came with the frame (or wallet, photo album, anything meant to display photos). Something about the life they lead has turned out to be a lie. Perhaps it is a picture of their Girlfriend in Canada or the Stepford Smiler has gone crazy and made up a family for themselves. Of course, people who pose as models for stock photos must have families so it's also an easy trope to logically play with. Can be part of a Personal Effects Reveal. For when the picture that came with a frame turns out to be a valuable work of art, see Priceless Paperweight. A subtrope of The Reveal so Spoiler Warning.
— The X-Files, "Unusual Suspects"
- In Ghost in the Shell, garbage truck driver's wife photo in his wallet is actually a photo of a dog, since he's been ghost-hacked by The Puppet Master.
- In The Temp, a film about Stepford Smiler treachery at a cookie factory, uses this as its reveal. However it's not quite much of a reveal as it shows that the character we think is kind of nuts from everything she does before in the film, is in fact definitely nuts. Apparently the proper reveal was changed at the behest of Executive Meddling (or rather Faye Dunaway Meddling in this case).
- The Game: Nicolas finds a missed price tag on a lamp in Christine's apartment, leading him to suspect that the place has just been decorated as a set by CRS. He confirms this by opening the frames of her family pictures and finding that they're cut from magazines. (Given the nature of the plot, it's possible he was supposed to discover this.)
- Played for laughs in Napoleon Dynamite, when Napoleon and Pedro discuss getting dates for an upcoming dance. Napoleon lies to Pedro about having a hot girlfriend from out of town, and shows him a picture of her. The picture was a professional photo shoot of a model, which Debbie had given him earlier in a sales pitch.
- In The Blind Side Leigh Anne Touhy provides a baby picture of Michael by getting one of an African-American baby from the internet.
- This happens in the Québécois film Cheech: a depressed character envies his neighbour's perfect girlfriend, who turns out to be a random model in a picture frame. (The neighbour is so lonely and disturbed that he even serves food for his imaginary girlfriend at meal times.)
- Nobody makes a big deal of this in The Room, but the eponymous chamber is full of framed stock photos of spoons. Nobody takes notice in-universe. Special screenings, on the other hand...
- Subverted in Monk. Randy Disher claims that he has a girlfriend, and shows the picture of a beautiful woman. Sharona points out that the photo came with the wallet. Randy explains that his girlfriend is a famous "wallet photo model". It is true.
- The picture Susanne Modeski has of her "daugher" in the The X-Files episode "The Usual Suspects". She's a top organic chemist who worked for the Advanced Weapons Facility and the evil government people are looking for her. She doesn't have a daughter, but she made her up to gain sympathy of the Lone Gunmen.
- C.C. said it to Fran on the show The Nanny.
- Phoebe's grandmother's MO on Friends. She convinced her for years that her father was the model in the photos. And her grandfather was Einstein.
- Played with in Malcolm in the Middle, when Lois takes Jamie to have his picture taken. They all come out horrible, and she ends up using the baby on the shop's ad to show to her co-workers.
- A variation in an episode of House: when Cuddy is suffering from depression and cold feet after adopting a baby, Wilson shows up at her house with what he says is an age-progression photo of her daughter he had done, to make her feel better about the potential of the child she's raising. When it doesn't work, he admits it was just the picture that came in the frame.
- In one episode of CSI: Miami, an office worker's "son" is a child model; the photo is actually from an advert. The scribbles and such decorating the man's office wall were his own work, to convince the boss he had a family in order to get time off on holidays.
- On Cheers, the guys create a fake suitor for Carla, including sending a picture. When she realizes this is a photo that came in a wallet, she's even happier to find her admirer is also a model.
- In an episode of All in the Family, Mike and Archie get into yet another argument when the former suddenly trails off...
Mike: What am I doing? This is the man who buys a wallet and keeps the picture of Fay Wray in it!Archie: If she was good enough for Kong, she's good enough for me!
- In White Collar, one of Neal's cover identities is a well-to-do family man. Just before going to speak to one of his sources, he buys a wallet just so he can show off his "wife and son" on the photo inside. Lampshaded when the source tells him he barely recognizes the little tyke since he's apparently grown so much since the last time Neal came by.
- In Dead Like Me George does not use the picture that came with the frame, but cut out a photo of a man and a woman from an advertisement and framed it. She puts the picture of her "parents" on her desk at Happy Time to support her undead identity, Mille.
- In the Married... with Children episode "Kiss of the Coffee Woman":
Al: Why do you think I carry your baby picture in my wallet?Kelly: That's not me, Dad.Bud: That's the picture that came with the wallet!Al: Hey, when I bought this wallet I had a choice: a little boy, or a little girl. I picked the little girl. She's... symbolic.Kelly: She's Chinese, Dad!Al: That's what I was hoping you would be!
- Referenced in the John Michael Montgomery song "That's Not Her Picture" ("...it came with the wallet"). Also recorded by Jason Sellers.
- Garfield: "Only Jon would keep the picture of the girl that came with the wallet."
- Rich Hall tells a joke about keeping the photo of the happy family that came with his wallet and trying to pass them off as his own. If anyone figures out it's a stock photo, he'll claim he comes from a family of professional wallet photo models.
- Played with in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. The pendant Wright carries is of his daughter, but the pendant and the photo are not his.
- Scary Go Round reverses this trope here: The picture that is assumed to have come with the frame is actually Shelley's sister Erin. She was Put on a Bus to Hell, with the side effect that absolutely nobody remembers her anymore.
- Sixteen does this on the Christmas special, to show how lonely Ron the mall cop is.
- In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, it's revealed that the photo of Fred's mother came from a magazine.
- An episode of Tiny Toons has Hampton trying to cook a lobster. The lobster begs, "I've got a family," and shows some pictures. Hampton glares and says, "I've got the SAME family. THEY CAME WITH THE WALLET!"