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Photo Op with the Dog

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It apparently doesn't matter whether the dog's happy about it or not...

"And our little girl Tricia, the six-year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it."
Richard Nixon, "Checkers speech" (September 23, 1952)

This is when a character makes a huge show of the petting act, in order to help the character's image. The act can sometimes be faked, but usually it's genuine, even if it's a meager act. In some circumstances, the character receiving it might find the act patronizing regardless of intention.

Can involve a literal photo op, but not always. One such way can be instead Helping Granny Cross the Street. The point is trying to make the character look good.

If this is a Villain with Good Publicity, this is of course one of the ways they have that good publicity.

If this is a Hero with Bad Publicity, it's usually an attempt to change their image, but it's rarely ever successful.

A subtrope of Pet the Dog and Sister Trope to We Care, Politicians Kiss Babies. Contrast What You Are in the Dark. It may overlap with Rich Kid Turned Social Activist. Can also be a form of Go-Karting with Bowser if the person really wants to cherish this moment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Super, Frost is revealed to actually do this with children he "saves", as he is a Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Dr. Heinemann from Monster tries one of these after his staff fails to save the city's mayor. The dog, however, doesn't take kindly to being used, and kills him.

    Comic Books 
  • In Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, a kid's comic featuring Spider-Man in the present day universe, old Spidey uses this trope as part of a Batman Gambit to get J.J.J. to use a picture that he took instead of a rival's.
  • Transmetropolitan: To demonstrate how unhinged the Smiler is, Fred Christ recalls an occasion where he tearfully told reporters his daughter's cat had been run over that morning and used the sympathy vote to win (in fact, he'd snapped the cat's neck himself). He uses this tactic every time, be it with pets or his charismatic and actually good campaign advisor.
  • In Watchmen, Adrian describes how important it is to him to always show how much he cares about people, asking them about their family and health. About half a page later, it's subtly revealed that it's one of his main manipulative tactics, designed to make him look good.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Coco: If Ernesto de la Cruz rescuing Miguel from the pool in his mansion's crowded foyer doesn't qualify as such a moment, him parading the boy around the mansion as his great-great-grandson definitely does.
  • A brief portion of the Villain Song "How Bad Can I Be?" in The Lorax (2012) shows the Once-ler in a photo op with an adorable bear cub.
    Once-ler: Just look at me petting this puppy.
  • Osmosis Jones shows the mayor in a literal photo op with an impoverished youth (or the equivalent thereof). As soon as the camera's off, he kicks the boy offscreen.
  • A literal example in Tom and Jerry: The Movie. Dr. Applecheek has multiple framed photos of himself smiling with dogs and other pets around him. These help him maintain his image as a benevolent pet sanctuary owner, when in reality he kidnaps and ransoms pets.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Annie (2014), Stacks is running for mayor, and his campaign manager sets one of these up for him early in the movie: feeding the homeless and reminding everyone that he's local. It backfires when he takes a bite of mashed potatoes that disgust him so much, he spits onto the homeless man. When he wanders away from that event in shame, he manages to pull Annie out of the street before she's hit by a car, which happens to get caught on camera and saves his reputation. Which gets the manager thinking, what's better than a photo shoot? Adopting the dog!
  • The last scene of A Clockwork Orange has a minister trying to further his election by arranging a press photo shoot at the hospital with the injured protagonist in his hospital bed.
  • In the movie Dave, the actual President only "walks" his dogs until out of camera-range. The impostor-President, by contrast, rolls around on the White House lawn with them while playing with them.
  • In Karate a Muerte en Torremolinos, the mayor appears on TV with the distressed mother of a victim.
  • In The Kids in the Hall Brain Candy, the corporation paid off the families of the coma victims.
  • In Okja the failing zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox does this with the titular Okja to boost his image.
  • An environmental ad the Corrupt Corporate Executive played by Michael Caine did in On Deadly Ground. He poses with a caribou, then angrily rejects the smelly animal the moment the camera is off.
  • In Precious, Precious's mother Mary pretends like they live with Precious's mentally retarded child in order to get welfare. In reality, Mary hates the child and calls her an animal.
  • In the 1958 The Last Hurrah the mayor's opponent is doing an expensive live TV ad, featuring his wife and family. At the last minute someone, apparently from the TV crew, suggests they pose a large Irish setter in the shot as their pet, because everybody loves dogs. The dog turns out to be a plant from the opposition; as soon as the cameras start, the dog starts frantically barking, drowning out the politician.

  • Adrian Mole wants to do this in Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a dog. When he has attracted bad publicity by disturbing a shrine to the dead, he asks his blind friend Nigel if he can be photographed with Nigel's "blind dog" Graham. Nigel replies bad-temperedly:
    Nigel: Graham is not a blind dog. A blind dog would be no use to me, would it? Graham is a guide dog, and no, you're not using him to improve your poxy self-image.
  • Willie Stark has an actual Photo Op with the Dog in All the King's Men — apparently it doesn't matter that the dog is dead.
  • Archvillain: Mighty Mike makes a big show of saving people and performing heroic deeds on live T.V. Slightly played with in that Mike really is a good guy, he just wants to be sure people know he is.
  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: As Thunder Dick and Alistair Cumulus III campaign to be elected head of the Weather Wizards Fraternal Order, each tries to impress reporters and the public by doing things like saving a museum from flooding and making it snow a little to ease the summer heat.
  • Parodied in Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, where two opposing candidates use the same dog in their campaign ads.
  • Discworld:
    • Wyrd Sisters sees the pretender king of Lancre, Duke Felmet, shoring up an unsteady Kingship by parading the three most prominent Witches in the Kingdom and declaring to the assembled populace that he must be the rightful King if the Witches are here, at his side, self-evidently supporting him as King. He then goes on to praise their sterling personal qualities. To which Granny Weatherwax hisses "You've gone too far this time!"
    • Going Postal: Moist von Lipwig enters a burning building to find a cat, because that's the sort of thing the sort of person people think he is would do. He then realises he has to find the cat, because coming out and saying "Sorry, no sign of him" would just make him look a twerp. An iconograph of Moist and Tiddles ends up on the front page of the Ankh-Morpork Times.
  • Holmes on the Range: A plot point in the short story "My Christmas Story" is two railroad executives and an employee dressed as Santa Claus planning to have themselves photographed donating a bunch of Christmas trees to a Company Town without many trees.
  • The official Mystery Science Theater 3000 book has individual photos of all the principal personnel at the end, all wearing the same tweed jacket, and all posing with the same Cocker Spaniel note .
  • In one Phule's Company book, General Blitzkrieg tries to unleash some Obstructive Bureaucrat environmental agents on Phule, which includes media darling Barky, the Environmental Dog. As usual, Phule prevails, and to make up for the trouble, Barky comes in to personally lick Phule's face as a cameraman takes the shot.
  • Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi of the Sano Ichiro series was born in the Year of the Dog, which he takes as a sign he should protect all dogs by passing laws preventing anyone from harming them. However, he has no qualms about ordering Off with His Head! to any person who even slightly opposes him, who he deems dangerous, or that his manipulative council convinces him to execute. His Real Life counterpart acted in a similar fashion.
  • Thursday Next: Extreme right politician Yorick Caine from Lost in a Good Book "rediscovers" the lost Shakespeare play Cardenio and offers it to the nation to disguise his extremist views. Hand Waved to some extent with the claim that the Shakespeare lobby is the most powerful voting block out there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffyverse:
    • Mayor Wilkins on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is obsessed with appearing at every single picnic, Girl Scout meeting, and watermelon-eating contest that crosses his desk. He is skewered beautifully by none other than Buffy's mother, Joyce, at a rally to prevent further black masses and sacrifices in the town. When the spitfire mom denounces him to the crowd, the normally-jocular Mayor's face turns dark.
    • Angel:
      • Wolfram & Hart (a parody of monolithic law firm Jacoby & Meyers) throws a fundraiser gala to raise money for a youth shelter. Naturally, it is a scam, but Angel and his cowboy friend manage to swindle all of the cash out from under them just like the Maverick Bros. ("Blood Money")
      • In "Untouched", it is revealed the firm uses "youth outreach" programs to recruit new assassins, particularly those with powers.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In one episode, a politician just implicated in an unsolved sexual assault case immediately turns from the accusing officers and heads for a woman with a baby. While photographers snap photos, he kisses the child's rattle, which Det. Flack talks the mother into giving him so the team can obtain the man's DNA.
    • Mentioned in another where Flack has just learned why Mac is working a specific case.
    Flack: The mayor asked for you personally?
    Mac: Uh huh.
    Flack: Ya know, I've never even had a little old lady ask me to help her across the street.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "A Day in the Life of Alan Brady", Alan wants to come over to the Petrie's house to show that he's on good terms with "the little people." When he invites himself to the Helpers' party, he makes it all about how he likes being with his "friends" and they all adore matter how many reshoots they have to do.
  • Margaery Tyrell of Game of Thrones frequently helps the poor, looks after orphans, and generally plays the Princess Classic so as to encourage the public's affections. In season 6, she admits that she did this purely to be seen doing it (although she was probably lying and telling the high sparrow what he wanted to hear on that occasion).
  • In the Getting Together episode "Memories Are Made of This," Rudy invites Bobby and Lionel to a policeman's ball because he's being awarded for youth relations, so he needs to bring some youths.
  • Lex Luthor presents Superman with the key to the city (which previously belonged to him) on Lois & Clark. Luthor is so irritated, he immediately flies to the Everglades to hunt alligators.
  • Averted in Murder One. It's suggested that Neil Avedon call in a Third World street kid whom he helped to testify on his behalf. Avedon's lawyer shoots down the suggestion, pointing out that the prosecutor would make short work of the kid who knows nothing about Avedon other than he fed him turkey dinner in a media stunt.
  • This was parodied in the short-lived soap Sunset Beach during one of their clip shows. Using Jerry Springer as a framing device, Annie has a nightmare of being interviewed with her rival, who is ranting like some Doctor Who villain and holding a Jack Russel Terrier. Annie rolls a few clips of Olivia's misdeeds, but nobody notices because of the dog (and indeed some audience members punch the air and chant her name like Arsenio).
  • Lampshaded on Yes, Minister after the protagonist learns that one of his administrative orders terminated the lease of the city farm where he himself had a Photo Op with the Dog earlier.
    Hacker: Ms Philips is the last person I want to see! This is the greatest disaster in this century, Bernard.
    Bernard: There were two world wars, minister...
    Hacker: Oh, Bernard, come on! Fighting on the beaches is one thing, evicting cuddly animals and children to make room for tax inspectors' cars is quite another league!
  • An episode of Stargate SG-1 saw Jack getting framed for shooting reoccuring antagonist Senator Kinsey. At the end, after he's been cleared, he's more or less forced to do a photo op of him and Kinsey shaking hands to finalize his public vindication, but at the possible cost of securing his presidency.
  • Ugly Betty: Wilhelmina in "Bananas for Betty". She gives expensive designer clothes to homeless people, sings to sick children, and makes sure TV cameras happen to be there to let everyone know what a good person she is. It turns out to be All for Nothing when later that night, she slams Betty White's finger in a car door and callously states "I'm Wilhelmina Slater and I don't get wet."

  • In Tom Lehrer's song "Be Prepared":
    Be prepared! And be careful not to do
    Your good deeds when there's no one watching you

    Video Games 
  • In the Ratchet & Clank games, this is how Captain Qwark operates most of the time, especially after he realized it was a much less dangerous way of getting popular than actually being heroic. In the comic, he started out supporting Artemis Zogg's presidential candidacy this way, until he was convinced that he'd be even more popular if he nominated himself for the position instead.

    Visual Novels 
  • Dennis from Double Homework always makes a huge show of calling the protagonist his “buddy ol’ pal.”

    Web Animation 
  • In Volume 4 of RWBY, political tensions are high as a result of the fall of Beacon Academy. With his profits on the line due to the Dust export embargo, Schnee Dust Company head Jaques Schnee organizes a charity gala to remind the people of Atlas — and the world — that the SDC is on their side. He volunteers his daughter Weiss to perform in order to draw attention to her contribution — and therefore, that of the Schnee family — on the front lines.

    Western Animation 
  • DC Animated Universe:
  • In Gargoyles, after Xanatos was released from prison, he donated one of his ancient relics to a museum as a gesture of making up for prior misdeeds (then stole it back when disguised in his gargoyle-shaped Powered Armour).
  • In Rick and Morty, Vance Maximus of the Vindicators tells Morty that their making him an honorary Vindicator was this, specifically calling him "the learning-disabled kid we do photo-ops with!" To be fair to him, he was in the midst of a panic attack and probably not thinking rationally, but even Rick gives him a dirty look when Vince says this.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish", Mr. Burns' campaign for governor has him trying to spin the side effects of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant's pollution by suggesting that "Blinky", the mutated fish that started the controversy, could be a "superfish" that would be hardier and tastier than ordinary fish. Later, he and his campaign staff arrange for him to have dinner with a typical nuclear family — namely, that of one of his employees, Homer — and have it broadcast live on TV. Marge is supporting Burns' opponent and decides to undercut Burns' ploy by cooking and serving Blinky as the main course. Unable to refuse this without losing face, Burns winds up spitting out the single bite he tastes. This completely ruins his campaign.

    Real Life 
  • The Ludlow Massacre. Miners working for the Rockefellers went on strike in Colorado. The answer? To call in the National Guard to gun down roughly two dozen people, whether they were miners or family members of them. And so the modern PR Machine was born. The Rockefellers founded the first "Public Relations" department to handle the backlash of the massacre, they also created the Rockefeller Foundation to show the world what swell folks they are.
  • In 1952, Richard Nixon was the Junior Senator from California, and was being accused of impropriety regarding funding and political gifts. Nixon responded with the so-called "Checkers speech", a nationally-televised speech in which Nixon laid out the details of his family's finances and denied having accepted any gifts from his supporters for his or his family's private use—except of course the family dog Checkers. The speech led to an outpouring of public sympathy and support, and spared Nixon from being dropped as Dwight D. Eisenhower's running mate in that year's Presidential election.
  • Back in December 2011 during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Republican candidate Mitt Romney decided to drop by Vietnam War veteran Bob Garon's breakfast table for a quick photo-op. What Romney didn't realize is that Garon was sitting with his husband, whom he had married just a few months earlier.
  • Romney's running mate Paul Ryan was photographed washing dishes at a soup kitchen during the 2012 campaign; the regular workers there said he'd come in after they'd closed, picked up an already cleaned dish long enough to take the picture, and left.
  • Michael Jackson did a lot of photo ops and press conferences over the years hyping his charitable work in an effort to counteract how strange his public persona and behavior became. Music critic David Browne's review of the album HIStory for Entertainment Weekly in 1995, which arrived after Jackson was first accused of child molestation, includes an analysis of its lengthy booklet:
    Liz Taylor and Steven Spielberg offer testimonials that read like character witnesses at a trial; pages and pages are devoted to listing Jackson's sales figures and awards. The intent is obvious: to equate financial success with quality, celebrity friends with goodness. What kind of earthly demons would actually believe those child-abuse allegations, given that Jackson is so beloved and even visits preteen burn victims? (Yes, the booklet features a shot of such a scene, along with many photos of Jackson cavorting with kids.)
  • Politicians love to have their pictures taken with members of the military, since the military members are more respected and trusted than any politician could hope to be, and the politician hopes this will give them a boost. By and large, members of the military do not like being used as props in this way, and only do it because they've been ordered to.
  • Similarly, governments holding military prisoners might try to tout how well said prisoners are being treated, leading to the infamous Hawaiian "Good Luck" sign during the "Pueblo crisis" in 1968.
  • During the 2003 Ontario provincial election, Dalton McGuinty was subjected to a over-the-top press release by an opposing party that ended with him being called an "Kitten eating alien from another world." Not only did the ridiculously petty statement make the party look bad, but it allowed McGuinty to laugh it off and look gracious. As pure luck would have it later, a real cat came up to him and he leapt at the chance to hold and pet it for the cameras.
  • During the lead-up to the 1992 New Hampshire primary, President George H. W. Bush (facing a primary challenge to his right in conservative commentator Pat Buchanan) posed with a cow after a series of speeches as a botched visual aid to address agricultural concerns.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited fire ravaged and threatened areas during the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis and tried shaking hands with locals. It didn't work out.
  • In the wake of a 2019 scandal involving social services abusing their power and supposedly taking away children from perfectly normal families in a small Italian town (later revealed to have been overblown and wrongly pinned down on a rival party), Italian far-right politician and then-Minister for Domestic Affairs Matteo Salvini concluded a rally by parading on stage a child whom he stated had been rescued from the system and given back to her legitimate family. It quickly turned out the photo-op was entirely manufactured to begin with, as said child was the daughter of a local supporter and had never even set foot in the vicinity of the town where the scandal had taken place.