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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 use the sympathy vote to win (in fact, he'd snapped the cat's neck hiself). He uses this tactic every time, be it with pets or his charismatic and actually good campaign advisor.
- In The Typical Gundam SEED Destiny, Durandal literally pets a dog, before revealing his plan... kill all Naturals...
- A brief portion of the Villain Song in The Lorax 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.
- An environmental ad Michael Caine did in On Deadly Ground.
- In The Kids in the Hall Brain Candy, the corporation paid off the families of the coma victims.
- 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 Okja the failing zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox does this with the titular Okja to boost his image.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Parodied in Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, where two opposing candidates use the same dog in their campaign ads.
- 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 Golden Retriever.
- 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.
- 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 any one from harming them. However, he has no qualms about ordering Off with His Head! to any person who even slightly opposes him, he deems dangerous, or that his manipulative council convinces him into executing. His Real Life counterpart acted in a similar fashion.
- Archvillain: Mighty Mike makes a big show of saving people and preforming 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wolfram & Hart (a parody of monolithic law firm Jacoby & Meyers) throws a fund-raider 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.
- Kitaoka Shuuichi (Kamen Rider Zolda) from Kamen Rider Ryuki often does this.
- 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!
- 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 to the the high sparrow on that occasion)
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- More than one episode of Superman: The Animated Series that starts out with Lex Luthor publicly donating to charity or opening a museum or a park.
- Forms part of a story arc in Justice League Unlimited: Lex makes multiple shows of putting supervillainy behind him to focus on bettering mankind, none of which Superman buys for a second, culminating in the building of a state-of-the-art housing project for the underprivileged. When Supes overhears Lex whispering to an assistant about "activating the device", his x-ray vision finds an unknown machine buried under the apartment buildings, which he promptly tears down in his attempt to get at it before it can be turned on. Turns out it was just a new kind of generator, which would have provided clean energy to the whole project. Superman is publicly shamed and his confidence shaken... which was Cadmus' aim all along.
- 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.
- 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 Rockefellars 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.
- The page quote comes from Richard Nixon's famous "Checkers speech". In 1952, Nixon was the Junior Senator from California, and was being accused of impropriety regarding funding and political gifts. In the nationally-televised speech, Nixon denied having accepted anything (except of course the dog Checkers) and laid out the details of his family's finances. 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.
- 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 2016 US Presidential campaign, Donald Trump posed for a photoshoot with a Bald Eagle, resulting in an unfortunate video clip of the eagle irritably snapping at him and the candidate recoiling.
- 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.