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The Picture Came with the Frame

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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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell (1995), a 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 and given Fake Memories of a family he never had.

  • 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: "Only Jon would keep the picture of the girl that came with the wallet."

    Films — Animated 
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines: When Rick tries to deny Linda's accusation that he and Katie always ruin any chance at taking a family photo by pointing out that they got at least one good picture, Linda reminds him that this picture came with the frame and the family featured on it is not them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 (1997): 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 (2003), but the eponymous chamber is full of framed stock photos of spoons. Nobody takes notice in-universe. Special screenings, on the other hand...
  • Played without the reveal in The Switch. Seven-year-old Sebastian asks for picture frames as gifts, and then gets upset when Wally brings him one without a stock photo. Sebastian was conceived via sperm-donor and thus lacks a father. He uses the default pictures to create that branch of his family. Because he's both a child and not trying to trick anyone, it's not played as creepy or pathetic.
  • Ghost Stories Graveyard Thriller uses this trope in "The New Nanny" That sweet little boy with the blond hair and guileless grin? That's not Eric Keyes.

  • Hit Man by Lawrence Block. The Villain Protagonist was told that his father was a soldier killed in the war, and was surprised to find a pile of identical framed photographs of his 'father' in a store. He realises that his mother had a child from a one-night stand or from being raped, and used a stock photograph to hide the truth from her son.
  • In Derailed, Charles meets Lucinda, who tells her story of losing a daughter, complete with a photograph of her. They embark on an affair only for a man to beat them both and rape Lucinda. Afraid of telling the truth which will expose them, they are soon involved in a wild adventure that culminates in the man's death and then paying ex-con Winston $100,000 of embezzled money to cover it up. With Lucinda leaving to get her life together, Charles is getting back on track himself. He's at a store shopping for his daughter's birthday and then freezes in place when he sees the rows of picture frames...all of which show the same photo of Lucinda's "daughter." He instantly realizes the whole thing was a huge con and sets about tracking Lucinda, who's pulling the same scam on another man.
    • The movie version varies it as Charles goes to Lucinda's house, only to find it was rented. The relator gives him a brochure, which features Lucinda's "daughter" on it. Later, when Charles confronts Lucinda about to get with her newest mark, he convinces the man he's telling the truth by showing the brochure picture.
  • In Eva Luna, the title character has no photographs of her late mother to remember her with, so instead she finds a frame with a photo that resembles her enough to do the trick.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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". In the end, it's revealed to the audience that he's been telling the truth, but none of his co-workers believe him for various reasons.
  • The picture Susanne Modeski has of her "daughter" in the The X-Files episode "Unusual 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.
  • 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.
  • An episode of Touched by an Angel has a cold store clerk pushing aside anyone, defending herself on having lost a son, whose picture she keeps showing. She does get close to an orphan but still trying to hold her distance. Getting through to her, Monica pulls out a catalog, revealing the woman's "son" is just from an ad and she's been using this as a defense for her coldness.
  • 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, in episode "2 Good 2 Be 4 Real", 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!
  • A variation in Modern Family when Haley's boss, Nicole, wants to buy up Gloria's pepper recipe. Gloria talks to her about it, showing a big scrapbook of her family and how the recipe is a sign of their legacy. Jay then screws up the pitch to defend this legacy meaning so much to her family. Gloria tears into him outside on how she made the whole thing up to drive up the price.
    Gloria: I cut the pictures out of Manny's old National Geographic magazines! Look, there's even a picture of the Universal Studios tour! That's the Psycho house in the back!
  • Person of Interest: In the cliffhanger for the end of Season One, this is used for The Reveal that the supposed Number they're protecting is actually a trap meant to expose Team Machine when they move to protect her. Zoe is looking through the office used by the Number and finds the framed pictures there have been cut from magazines. Unfortunately, this discovery comes too late to warn Finch, who has already been kidnapped.
  • Played with in Supernatural. In "What Is And What Should Never Be", Dean is drugged by a dijinn and finds himself in an alternate reality where he is happily married. When he comes back to the real world, his wife turns out to be the model in a beer advertisement in a magazine Dean was reading.

  • Referenced in the John Michael Montgomery song "That's Not Her Picture" (" came with the wallet"). Also recorded by Jason Sellers.

    Visual Novels 


    Western Animation 
  • The Casagrandes: In "New Roomie", the Casagrande family finds a frame with photos of a woman at Vito's apartment, so they assume she must be his ex-girlfriend. However, it eventually turns out they were just some pictures that came with the frame.
  • 6teen does this on the Christmas special, to show how lonely Ron the mall cop is.
  • 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!"
  • The Critic episode "Every Doris Has Her Day" has Jay visit his makeup lady Doris's apartment, where he asks her about a stylish-looking man in a framed photo.
    Doris: That was my fiancee, he died in Korea. Every day I miss him... Wait, this isn't him, this is my brother Earl! It's been a long time— No wait, it's the photo that came with the frame.
  • Played for Drama in the Season 1 finale of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated when Fred discovers that the framed photo of his mother is actually just a magazine article. It's one of the first hints that Mayor Jones isn't Fred's real father, which is revealed at the end of the season finale.