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"Facing death every day is a tough job for any man. But his hours are flexible, and he's got a great dental plan."
Spy Hard theme song, "Weird Al" Yankovic

Characters in fiction sometimes have a specific job not because they like the job or something, but the job just has some very specific benefit that they want. Health plans, especially dental, are popular.

For our non-US readers: the United States does not have a government-sponsored health insurance system except for veterans, elderly (Medicare), and extremely poor (Medicaid)note  - for most Americans, most or all of their coverage is from private companies or organizations. For healthy working-age adults, health insurance is a common benefit at a workplace (due to wage restrictions during World War II encouraging benefits in place of offering higher wages) and can vary greatly in quality between jobs. Dental insurance plans are usually separate items from regular health insurance, which is why "dental" is commonly said instead of "health".

This trope can also encompass other things too, but normally, it's just small things that they want.

Makes it even more hilarious if the character who wants that specific benefit has no way to use it. (Such as a life insurance plan for an immortal being.) See also Healthcare Motivation, Working for a Body Upgrade and I Control My Minions Through.... May be also a perk of a Weird Trade Union. Compare Only in It for the Money for cases where a fictional character took a job because it pays well, as well as Money, Dear Boy where a real-world actor or work creator took a role primarily for the payday.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Happy Kanako’s Killer Life: Kanako agrees to perform her first hit after learning that the assassination agency offers considerably better pay, hours and benefits than her previous job. It's only later that she realizes that she's good at and enjoys her work.

    Comic Books 
  • All-New Ultimates: When the Ultimates were discussing about things to request from Jameson, Dagger proposed dental care.
  • Mentioned in Birds of Prey, when a group of Mooks attempt to unionise the henchmen of Gotham City.
  • Cable & Deadpool has Bob AGENT OF HYDRA, who says that he joined HYDRA because of the dental. It ends up sucking for him, because everyone knows that only AIM has Dental. This is apparently a fairly common occurrence in the various Marvel Universe criminal organizations that employ the anonymous, masked minions. Few of the rank and file genuinely believe in HYDRA or AIM's end goals.
  • In Team America, Elsie Carson joined HYDRA as an errand-girl because she needed the medical benefits after her husband was injured at work. Hilariously, by the time of her first appearance she has managed to become the leader of HYDRA's Midwestern chapter through sheer administration skills, while still being a Minion with an F in Evil. Actually having to fight superheroes (which rarely happens in the Midwest) put her off the organisation, and she disappeared to create a new life with her husband and kids.
  • In Empowered, this is why people become Evil Minions.
  • Scooby Apocalypse: Shaggy brings up the laboratory's dental plan as one of the reasons he agreed to work there.

    Fan Works 
  • Guys Being Dudes: Along with Revenge against Candela, Arlo joined Team Rocket because their healthcare plan covered his transition, they provided room and board, and they had mechanisms for name changes.
  • This Gonna Be Good:
    Tonks: Then why did you come?
    Harri: To annoy me.
    Deadpool: To fill the sidekick position! If it has good dental at least, cause I gotta keep these pearly whites nice and shiny to draw attention away from the mess that is my face.

    Film — Animated 
  • Averted here in Shrek 2, where Shrek gets into the Fairy Godmother's factory by claiming to be from the Union of Magical Workers both Evil and Benign and asks the receptionist if he feels degraded or oppressed (when we just heard the Fairy Godmother yell at him to get coffee and pastries). The receptionist turns the speaker tube the other way before admitting they don't even get dental.
  • Spoofed near the end of Titan A.E. Preed throws in his lot with the Drej and betrays Korso because of the "health plan" the Drej offered: they let him live if he kills Korso, Cale, and Akima before they arrive at the Titan.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Variation in Garden State. Sam says that she stays at her job despite the humiliation of having to wear a helmet all the time (she has epilepsy) because they have amazing health insurance (again, it helps with her epilepsy).
  • Referenced in Grosse Pointe Blank: Martin tells Debbie that he's a professional killer, and she asks if he gets dental with that, but he tells her no.
  • The original version of The In-Laws has this scene:
    Cab Driver: I can't believe you work for the CIA.
    Vince Ricardo: Why not?
    Cab Driver: I don't know. I mean, you know, I thought, like, James Bond.
    Vince: No, no. They all look like me. I'm the classic agency type; muscular, low to the ground, compact. Are you interested in joining? I'll tell you, the benefits are fantastic. The trick is not to get killed, that's really the key to the benefit program.
  • Men in Black II: Zed explains to Frank that he'll get better dental as Zed's assistant than as a field agent. Since Frank is canid (at least in appearance while on Earth), this works for him.
  • Near the end of Payback, low end criminal and Dirty Coward Arthur Stegman dreams of how he'll be set after he sells Villain Protagonist Porter to The Syndicate that Porter has been causing trouble for. Among the things Stegman dreams of getting are medical and dental benefits. Unfortunately for Stegman, fantasizing about this distracts him, and Porter effortlessly takes his gun away and then repeatedly smashes Stegamn's head against the nearest surface.
  • According to the theme from Spy Hard, a great dental plan is one of the benefits of being a secret agent.
  • In the shower scene of Starship Troopers various characters explain why they joined the space marines; including one woman who joined up to be able to get a license to have a child. At least one of the characters joins for the more mundane reason of the government paying for him to go to Harvard afterwards. All this of course in addition to the core benefit of joining: Service Guarantees Citizenship! In the book the slogan is explained more thoroughly; military service isn't the only path to full citizenship, just the easiest and most certain.

  • 'Gadgets' Schwartz of Able Team says that he joined the army during The Vietnam War to learn electronics. "Sure, and kill communists too—they're bad for radio reception."
  • Artemis Fowl: In The Eternity Code, Artemis lets off a sonic grenade, which in addition to temporarily deafening everyone nearby, shatters the teeth of all the Mooks who didn't know to relax their jaws. Their boss later realizes that he really shouldn't have given them all such a good dental plan.
  • In High School D×D, the Valkyrie Rossweisse becomes a Devil because the Underworld has much a better health insurance program and pension plan compared to Valhalla.
  • In The Hollows series, insurance investigator David Hue attempts to recruit Rachel as his 'on paper only' partner by explaining the swell deal she can get on insurance through his union. Rachel turns him down, but was tempted.
  • How to Be a Superhero, in its parody of Crimefighting with Cash, has a superhero successfully Heel–Face Turn an entire gang of Mooks by offering them a better benefit package than the villain.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Yang Wenli wanted to study history, but because he was penniless he couldn't afford the fees of university education, thus he instead enrolled in a free military academy which offered war history research education, however it compelled all the graduates to serve a certain number of years in the military.

  • In the novel Starship Troopers, the only way to become a citizen is through Federal Service.
  • In the short story ''A Woman's Work" by Tanya Huff, the evil Queen Arrabel is genre-savvy and provides numerous health benefits for her obedient subjects to invoke this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in the season one finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where most of the HYDRA support staff joined because of the "incentive plan" - the incentive being, HYDRA kidnaps a loved one in order to force someone to work for them.
  • Angel.
  • During an early episode of Battlestar Galactica, Cally mentions that the reason she joined the Colonial Fleet was to pay for dental school. And then winds up having to safeguard the the entire human race after a genocidal war.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has the "married for benefits" version. When Hector gets an infected toe, Heather casually suggests that they should get married so he can get it treated on her health insurance. She doesn't have any plans for her lunch hour anyway. Played with in that they both wanted to get married anyway, and spontaneously decided it was the right time.
  • Doctor Who: In "A Good Man Goes to War", Lorna Bucket reveals she only joined the Clerics, who want to kill the Doctor, so she could meet him again after being drawn into an adventure with him as a child.
  • In Firefly, a flashback scene shows Jayne deciding to switch sides and join Mal's crew after being offered his own (i.e. not time-shared) bunk.
  • This conversation in Fringe:
    Peter: Ever considered a life of crime?
    Olivia: No dental.
  • In Get Smart Agents from CONTROL and KAOS would occasionally put their gunfights on hold in order to compare benefits packages. Sadly, the KAOS agents often seemed to have the better deal.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack", Mac and Charlie seek employment at a corporate office. They're content to share a single paycheck (minimum wage) because they're only there for health insurance.
  • Joked about in the first episode of M*A*S*H:
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation of Time Chasers, Crow attempts to improve Mike's life by going back in time and preventing him from taking the temp job that eventually lands him on the Satellite. As he tries to persuade the younger Mike, Crow is briefly tempted to try temping himself when Mike explains the benefits of temping, including Blue Cross.
  • Monk: Sort of a plot point in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist," where Dr. Oliver Bloom is on most SFPD cops' dental plans, which is the whole reason why an ex-cop who broke a tooth during a deadly armored car robbery came to him to get it fixed.
  • In The New Adventures of Beans Baxter one of the henchmen says he joined the evil organization for their dental plan.
  • Power Rangers Dino Fury: One monster only signs up with Lord Zedd because of the offer of dental. Despite not even having teeth to begin with.
  • In one episode of Scrubs, the Janitor and his minions quit working at Sacred Heart and get a job at 'Coffee Bucks' nearby because it has a dental plan. They return to the hospital after Dr. Kelso agrees to give them a dental plan there.

  • In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Party in the CIA" parody, he mentions that the CIA has a better dental plan than the FBI. You know, besides the whole dressing up like MIBs, interrogating terrorists, and executing heads of state part.


  • Destroy the Godmodder: One of the benefits for the pro-godmodder side. It has influenced several entities, including the Grim Reaper.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Shadowrun, joining the military is one of the few legal ways to get a valid (national) SIN. As the SINless are usually treated as "probationary citizens" without any actual rights or legal protections, this possibility can be very tempting, although having a valid SIN also means the government that issued it knows intimate facts about the holder.

    Video Games 
  • Arknights: A lot of playable characters are people signed up for operator duty to fund their Oripathy treatment at Rhodes Island. Reasons include losing their job due to the rampant discrimination of Infected, poverty or otherwise inability to pay for their health care the normal way.
  • Exaggerated in Control:
    • After Jesse defeats FORMER, the Board explains that it’s trying to set itself up as a competitor to them but advises her not to sign up with it, as the Board offers a better bonus package and health plan. Both the Board and FORMER are Eldritch Abominations from beyond the plane of reality; health plans aren't what you should be concerned with when dealing with them. But given what it says after, this is more of a Deadly Euphemism, where Health Plan is "Living":
    < We provide/offer better Bonus Package/Health Plan >
    < If you leave, you will be sorry/dead and you will never work/exist in this Torn/Cosmic Reality again>
    • A much more mundane instance of this trope is mentioned with Frederick Langston, the supervisor/warden of the Federal Bureau of Control's containment sector for supernatural artifacts. He's qualified enough for his job and admits he's fond of the crazy artifacts he has to overlook, but he also admits that were it not for the Bureau's health benefits, he'd probably be working at the postal service.
  • In The Darkside Detective, McQueen asks a monster what brings him to Twin Lakes, and he claims it's because the city has great dental — even though, as McQueen immediately points out, he doesn't have any teeth.
  • In the second Descent gamenote , the Material Defender is bound and determined to complete the mission(s) and not die because not only does he want his money - he will get that dental plan...
  • In one of the Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories bonus missions, Prism Indigo mentions that he's part of the Prism Rangers only because of the salary and insurance benefits.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Ser Jory sought to join The Order of the Grey Wardens to seek personal glory, although he did agree with their goals as well. This went poorly for him when he learned about the group’s dangerous Initiation Ceremony and tried to back out in a panic, only to be killed to keep the secrets.
  • Dragon Ball Fighterz: Captain Ginyu reveals the various benefits Freeza offers them in return for their Undying Loyalty. They include some of the best healthcare the whole galaxy has to offer and entire planets to rule as a bonus for good performance.
  • Thanatos, god of Death from Kid Icarus: Uprising, mentions the unbeatable health insurance that comes with working in Underworld's forces.
  • In Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Constrictor switches to the heroes' side after he won a lawsuit against Hercules. When he teams up with you in Spec Ops 10, though, we have this:
    Constrictor: Sorry, sweetheart, I got out of the mercenary biz. I'm full-time now.
    Madame Masque: With S.H.I.E.L.D.? How disappointing. What did they offer you?
    Constrictor: Decent vacation time. Good dental plan. Redemption. Couldn't say no.
  • The fourth Metal Slug game introduced a new character, Nadia Cassel, a budding model-turned-soldier who joined the army in order to lose weight.
  • Parodied in Rage 2, where a data log mentions that the Goons, a bandit gang of Ax-Crazy Boisterous Bruisers, have free dental. Meaning they'll knock your teeth out and let you replace them with whatever you want for free.
  • In the opening scene for a Templar character in The Secret World, the woman sent to recruit you mentions an excellent health plan among the many benefits of joining the Ancient Conspiracy.
  • In the Star Wars: The Old Republic Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, a bonus chapter has you infiltrate the Shroud's base, and meet a blind janitor (using an MSE droid as a service animal). The blindness was a necessity for employment, which he knew, but he nevertheless went through the agonizing 20-interview process to get hired because the benefits package is amazing.
  • Alluded to in a waiting-for-the-elevator-to-arrive moment in TimeSplitters Future Perfect, as Sergeant Cortez tries to make small talk with Agent Chen, his current ally.
    Cortez: So… Been in the agency long?
    Chen: Uh… Yeah… Three years in May.
    Cortez: You get dental?
    Chen: Yeah… Yeah…
    Cortez: That's good…
  • WarCraft III:
  • Early in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a trio of soldiers from the Empire of Mor Ardain are attempting to recruit Drivers at a recruiting stand in Torigoth's town square. In addition to the usual talk you'd expect to hear from a military recruiter, the lead soldier makes a point to emphasize that the position also comes with a pension and benefits, and unlike most other examples, this isn't Played for Laughs. Jac, the Gormotti man who successfully bonds with a Blade, can be encountered by the party later in Mor Ardain where they learn that he has completed his training and is now on active duty with the army, and he is sending the extra bonus pay he gets for being a Driver back home to Gormott to provide for his younger siblings.

  • Achilles Shieldmaidens: Invoked by the Shieldmaidens' recruiter, Colonel Max Nichols, who specifically wanted pilot candidates who needed the job and therefore "wouldn't blow their chance by talking about the program." Rosa Ibanez and Jane Willis both cite the "Rank 4 medical coverage": Rosa because she needs genetic surgery before she starts a family due to a gene mutation, and Jane to cover her gender reassignment surgery.
  • In The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred the last push Gawain needs to join up with Arthur Garrott is the dental plan. (Despite the fact he's a regenerating Zombie.)
  • Non-comedic example from Blade of Toshubi. One character joins the army because the "benefits" get his daughter medicine.
  • In Blue Milk Special General Nadine joins the Rebellion in part due to their better dental plan here.
  • The comic creating the page picture is the now defunct Warhammer Fantasy / 40k webcomic Lost In Space. The strip in question can be seen here.
  • In The Mansion of E, The Operator claims this is the case in regards to his elevator job, but he's almost certainly lying.
  • A Modest Destiny has Hechter, who is proud of Team Evil's dental plan, but since he's a suit of armor without teeth, other people wonder why.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Belkar asks the Barbarian Guild about the dental. It's not that good (mostly involves chewing on granite and/or filing your teeth to a point), but he joins anyway.
  • Super Stupor provides a good example here.

    Web Original 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: In Linkara's review of The Culling, he wonders why anyone would want to work for the Big Bad Harvest and what the villain could offer. A benefits package? Flex time? Paid vacations? A starting salary in the six digit range? When Harvest says the team should embrace his offer, Linkara notes there are free donuts in the employee lounge every Monday.
  • To Boldly Flee:
    Darth Snob: Well, he did try to kill me. But then again, he does have a damn good dental.
  • A Crap Guide to D&D's video on the Warlock class:
    "All I need you to do is sign here and give us (Demonic voice) Eternal servitude of your mortal soul! But on the bright side, we have dental."
  • Solid jj: In "The Avengers Interview Hulk", when Iron Man wonders why would Hulk join the Avengers when Hulk is already better than the whole team combined, Thor speculates that Hulk just wants Avenger's dental insurance.

    Western Animation 
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "Store Wars", Coco keeps getting jobs at the local mall, and Frankie seems rather tempted when she finds out that the jobs come with dental and chiropractic insurance.
  • Futurama: Fry and Bender join Earth Army to get a five percent military discount to buy gum (which cost 40 cents), intending to quit after they have used the discount. Then war were declared.
  • In Gargoyles, Matt Bluestone finally tracks down one of The Illuminati and upon confronting him, notes that he looks unusually young for a man in his 90s, and comments on the generosity of the Illuminati to provide special life extending drugs for their senior members. For his part, the Illuminati member wryly notes "You should see the dental plan…" Which must be pretty darn great, as he has perfectly even, white teeth that we are supposed to assume are not dentures.
  • In a variant, Shipwreck on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero once exclaimed in surprise that Cobra mooks have a dental plan, when he and some other Joes were ransacking some files in a Cobra facility.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Tohru's reason for his Heel–Face Turn: "Tuesday is donut day at Section 13." (That, and the whole You Have Outlived Your Usefulness thing from Shendue, but this way is funnier.) It's also a Call-Back, as, a couple episodes prior, Jackie offered this as a reason to defect while fighting him.
  • Kim Possible: According to the producers this was the reason Shego kept coming back to be Drakken's sidekick. Fans who suspected other reasons were eventually proven right.
  • In the Bakshi Mighty Mouse episode "Heroes and Zeroes," the Mighty Heroes—now chartered accountants—are persuaded to help corral runaway numbers. They enthusiastically agree when Mighty Mouse tells them superheroes get free donuts.
  • Mission Hill- This becomes the kick in the ass Andy needs to seek gainful employment, when he has to use his friend Jim's dental plan after a tooth falls out. He ends up getting work at the art department of Jim's advertising agency. This trope gets a callback in the unproduced episode Supertool when Andy complains over his menial duties, and says he hoped to be able to stretch his creative wings when he took the job. Jim reminds him he only signed up for the dental.
  • Phineas and Ferb: When Heinz Doofenshmirtz was declared a minor threat in relation to The Regurgitator, he decided to meet the new villain, who assumed Doof was applying to work for him and showed him application forms. Doof decided to work for him when he learned The Regurgitator offered maternity leave.
  • SheZow: In "S.I.C.K. Day", Señor Yo-Yo explains to SheZow that S.I.C.K. is a trade union for supervillains and he really needs to join to get access to health insurance.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Last Exit to Springfield", Homer Simpson is elected Union leader and calls a strike when Burns tries to cut the Dental Plan. Homer disagrees with the cut because Lisa needs braces. ("-dental plan!" "... Lisa needs braces...") He becomes so distracted by this moral/economic quandary that he doesn't snap out of it until someone drops a pencil into his exposed buttcrack.
    • The James Bond-style song about Benevolent Boss and supervillain Mr. Scorpio describes how he will lure you into his power with "free dental care, a stock plan that helps you invest, a generous pension plus three weeks paid vacation each year. And on Fridays the Lunchroom serves Hot-Dogs and Burgers and Beer".
    • In "Homer's Triple Bypass", Homer couldn't use the company's health insurance because the employees traded it for a pinball machine.
    • When the Capitol City Nuclear Power Plant tried to persuade Homer, Lenny and Carl into working with them, Burns lured them back with special donuts. When they seemed to be worried about how harmful those donuts would be for their health, Burns offered them a choice: health insurance or more donuts. It's suggested they took the second option.
  • The Monarch, nemesis of Dr. Venture in The Venture Bros., joined The Guild of Calamitous Intent for the health benefits.

    Real Life 
  • All too Truth in Television in nations like the USA that don't provide government health insurance.
    • A TV report once mentioned that only three major industrialized countries do not have some form of public health insurance: The US, Mexico and Turkey.
    • In the USA, in addition to taking a job for the health insurance, people have gotten married for it. Joining the military to get health care for yourself and/or your family is also done.
      • In the American military, junior enlisted members who are single live in the barracks, and are expected to eat most of their meals in the chow halls. Married junior enlisted members are given additional pay allowances to get an apartment and buy food to put on the tablenote  Inversely, a civilian might marry a military member for benefits to include a steady source of income, medical coverage, additional money for college, and of course, getting the heck out of their dump of a home town.
      • Additional benefits include a college education. Aside from money provided specifically to pay for college classes, military members can get college credit for their job training as well. In addition, most military officers in the US enter via various programs that pay for their college costs in return for a service commitment (typically either one of the Military Academies or a regular college while enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps).
      • Other perks for active service members and retirees include being able to purchase household items and groceries at a discount and tax-free in base exchanges and commissaries, usage of on base entertainment facilities, and offer discounted leisure opportunities for them and their families. Members also receive unofficial perks from businesses off base offering military discounts.
    • It isn't just limited to the US or the Third World either. While the other major industrialized countries usually DO have government health care, little things like scarcity and system blockages tend to mean that many get jobs that can at least more readily access said government health care.
  • Strangely, this is the case with the Surete (civil police) and Gendarmerie (military police) in France. Both are actually standard law enforcement organisations that handle just about everything police-related from traffic tickets to Homicide (though the Surete tends to have a heavier presence in cities and Gendarmerie in the country)... not just on military bases. It's just that if you sign up with the gendarmes, you'll get the same pay as Surete cops, but they'll throw in three squares a day, uniform allowance, and free accommodation at the barracks. Not so for the Surete (but then, you'll stay under civilian discipline).
  • The Canadian military also has a good benefits package for things not covered under public health care, such as a complete set of replacement teeth, and on one occasion, a sex reassignment surgery.
    • Hilariously, it can be a fight to get out of some health benefits packages for Canadian military members. Paying for provincial health care is mandatory in some provinces, and convincing them you no longer need it because you're on the military's health plan can be difficult.
    • British service personnel stationed in higher-cost countries like Germany were given an extra pay allowance to compensate for the higher cost of living in the host nation.
    • Provincial health insurance generally only covers expenses related to visiting a hospital or family doctor. Other medical expenses like dental, prescription drugs note , and glasses aren't covered, so many employers offer supplemental insurance coverage for these things as part of their benefits.
  • Many people joining foreign armed forces do this in order to get their host countries' citizenship.
  • This is part of the deal the Gurkhas of Nepal have with the Brits. Being a British soldier pays very well by Nepalese standards, but the medical services are a major incentive, primarily the dental care and the vaccinations we in the western world take for granted.
    • Many marry someone from another country in order to get citizenship and be able to live there. This is very common in the US. Whilst technically illegal, it is usually unpunished provided the couple live together throughout the time required for citizenship.
  • In many totalitarian countries (Nazi Germany and Saddam's Iraq spring to mind) a lot of the people joined the ruling party less out of ideological fervor and more out of the fringe benefits they provided - the Wall Street Journal once interviewed a policeman who joined the Ba'ath Party to get its relatively decent health-care program.
    • In the Soviet Union, entering a university without joining the Komsomol was next to impossible. High-ranking jobs (and their benefits) also required party membership.
    • This has been taken to absurd levels in some cases. E.g. in modern day China the party decides whether you can join them as a lot of Chinese just join in order to get ahead economically.


Video Example(s):


Frederick Langston

Frederick Langston agreed to work for the Bureau not because of any fulfilling reason other than it having better benefits than the post office.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / SignedUpForTheDental

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