The Picture Came with the Frame

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A subtrope of The Reveal so Spoiler Warning.

A person's family photos are revealed to be those that came with the frame. 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.

Can be part of a Personal Effects Reveal.

Examples of The Picture Came with the Frame include:

Anime and Manga

  • Azumanga Daioh - variant - When a teacher sends out a postcard with the picture of a newborn baby on it, the mind boggles, but when her students ask, she says the baby is her cousin's she's using the picture for some crazy reason.


  • 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, is definately nuts but apparently the proper reveal was changed at the behest of Executive Meddling (or rather Faye Dunaway Meddling).
  • 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 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.

Live Action Television

  • 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 X-Files episode "The Usual Suspects"
  • C.C. said it to Fran on the show The Nanny.
  • On Friends Phoebe's grandmother does this to give her the illusion of a family.

Nana: This is the one of your father in a meadow, and, uh, helping a little boy fly a kite, and here he is at a graduation...another graduation...another graduation.

  • 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.


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

Newspaper Comics

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

Western Animation

  • 6teen does this on the Christmas special, to show how lonely Ron the mall cop is.
  • In Scooby Doo Mystery Inc, 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!"

Real Life

  • Increasingly unlikely in real life, as the pictures included with frames these days often act as the product label, having "Picture Frame" and UPC codes on them.
  • Not a picture, but a sample Social Security Card that came with wallets made by the E.H. Ferree company starting in 1938. A company officer thought it would be clever to use his secretary's real Social Security number -- 078-05-1120 -- on it. Unbelievably, thousands of people who bought those wallets thought they'd automatically been issued a SS card with their purchase and used that number as their own. The Social Security Administration caught on a few years later and voided the number, but as late as 1977 there were still people using it. You can read about it at the SSA's website or at