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The desire to end a story on An Aesop is natural and strong: it's often the only thing that elevates the story above a piece of insubstantial fluff. The trouble, however, is that it doesn't always work. It might be Executive Meddling, a Writer on Board, the writers being high, the writers thinking the audience won't notice, or just plain bad writing, but the moral of the story feels awkwardly tacked-on; as though somebody else wrote it and added it at the end after the writers were already done.
Basically, a Broken Aesop is a story where the moral presented just doesn't match the moral that the story actually contained (and unlike the Spoof Aesop, they don't do it on purpose). It's an Anvilicious Ex Machina. Or just plain hypocrisy.
Common methods of breaking An Aesop include:
- A Compressed Vice, a Reset Button, or a Snap Back: There's a lesson, but because the sequel/next episode/next installment forgets it happened or pretends it didn't happen, there are no consequences.
- Have the resolution rely on a Deus Ex Machina, Fantastic Aesop, or Karmic Twist Ending.
- Distorting the moral into "It's only wrong if someone else does it" or "only if the bad guys do it."
- Trying to present a moral ambiguity and failing badly.
- Trying to present a moral absolute between two choices when there were other options the work failed to consider.
- Trying to teach Be Careful What You Wish For by using a Literal Genie or Jackass Genie who doesn't actually give you what you wished for.
- Saying anyone can do anything they set their mind to by their own resolve, when the character was born into royalty or privilege, born with some sort of superior genetic power, or otherwise revealed to be from a powerful, significant bloodline explaining their greatness.
- Trying to prove that everybody is important but only once they achieve something. So still only skilled or famous people are important, they just act in an alternative way. Especially common when facing a "Well Done, Son" Guy.
- Commonly in Rpgs, Thou Shalt Not Kill Aesop followed by the next major battle having the characters kill something (with the exception of games with Never Say "Die" in play, such as Earthbound ).
Not to be confused with a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, where the lesson is followed, but the Aesop itself is strange and/or non-standard, though the two can overlap. Compare Analogy Backfire, which is when an analogy (which may or may not contain an Aesop) makes a point that is the opposite of what it was supposed to. See also Values Dissonance.
Important Note: As tempting it may be, please do not add meta-fictional examples (which are more along the lines of a Clueless Aesop). Only add examples where the aesop is broken within the narrative itself. This means do not add examples such as;
- "How many trees got cut down to produce that Anvilicious book warning us about deforestation?"
- "How much money did that film with the message against being greedy or about money not being everything or the Anvilicious anti-capitalist message gross at the box office?"
- "How great looking were the actors in that work telling us that looks aren't everything or that it's what's on the inside that counts?"
- "Why is a television show/video game giving an aesop about how people need to watch less TV/spend less time playing video games?"
- "Why is this movie/TV show/song telling us about how the entertainment industry is evil?"
Specific Examples / Sub Tropes Edit
- Aesop Amnesia
- Ambition Is Evil
- Designated Hero
- Designated Villain
- Disobey This Message
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing
- Double Standard
- Fantastic Aesop
- The Grovel
- Hard Work Hardly Works
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act
- If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
- A Million Is a Statistic
- Never Be a Hero
- Overshadowed by Awesome
- Protagonist-Centered Morality
- Redemption Equals Death
- Space Whale Aesop
- Stealth Cigarette Commercial
- Straw Man Has a Point
- Sweet and Sour Grapes
- We Want Our Jerk Back
- What Measure Is a Mook?
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
- You Bastard
- There's a lovely phone commercial that starts with a young lady going outside. A side-by-side is given: the right panel (Lady-1) finishes downloading off her phone a second before the left panel (Lady+1) does. In this single second, Lady-1 drops something, and is helped by two people who presumably launch her career as a dancer. Lady+1 misses the opportunity (apparently the other two lack peripheral vision). What follows is a depressing montage of Visual Puns such as Lady-1 having an expensive dinner, while Lady+1 is the waiter at the restaurant. It ends with Lady-1 on stage as Lady+1 watches in whimsy. The supposed Aesop is that every moment counts. Yet the more apparent message is Hard Work Hardly Works: evidently no amount of hard work could attain her dreams, only connections with two people out of the entire world can. Yeah. By the end, it becomes so Merchandise-Driven that the end Aesop is "all your hopes and dreams will fail, regardless of effort, unless you have a 4G phone". Or maybe that's just reading too far into it.
- Also strange considering that such a meeting could of could of just as easily been missed if she was a second too early.
- A PlayStation 3 commercial for the Move tries to say that motion control gaming is not just for children. It then shows a montage of about 6-9 games set to what may or may not be Chariots of Fire, about two of which most parents wouldn't let their child play. Even worse is the fact that a 12-year-old girl is seen playing one of the less child-friendly games. There's also the fact that the Wii made most of its money because motion control was successful for family gaming, which one who is a little more cynical could say is the entire reason Sony made the Move.
- "Who says motion control is for kids?" YOU DID!
- Nintendo isn't immune from this either - in 1995 and early 1996, during the early years of the Play Station, Nintendo put out commercials about their "arcade-perfect" Killer Instinct ports and closed each commercial with "So who needs a new system?" Later in 1996, when the Nintendo 64 was released, it aired commercials asking consumers to "Change the System."
- This ad either says domestic violence is okay as long as the girl fights back, or that domestic violence is like a boxing match, where both parties have consented to it.
- In the 1970s there was a well-meaning anti-smoking PSA starring Yogi Bear and friends, while they had been seen smoking in their cartoons, and sold merchandise featuring smoking.
- The Dove soap ads "Campaign for Real Beauty". They got a lot of praise for using models bigger than a size 2 and saying that all women are beautiful... But on closer inspection, it was found that in the casting calls, they were only looking for women with "flawless hair and skin". So all women are beautiful... if they have smooth, clear skin and shiny, bouncy hair.
- The campaign suffered from massive Fridge Logic almost from the beginning. If Dove successfully convinces young women and girls that they're pretty just the way God/nature built them, they would have less of a reason to buy their beauty products. From an ethical standpoint, that's laudable. From a business standpoint, that's career suicide. For the having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too results Dove hoped for, the result would inevitably make them look hypocritical.
Anime and Manga Edit
- The lead character of Bleach, Ichigo, pulls through his fights because of his determination--to keep pressing forward, no matter how long the odds, to protect those he cares for. Which is nice, until you remember that he has a crapton of reiatsu and natural talent, most likely because of his badass father, as well as several powerful allies to back him up when he fails--assuming his latest Deus Ex Machina power up or convenient training sequence hasn't done the trick. All of this serves to make his (admittedly admirable) reasons for fighting, one of the central themes of the manga, ring hollow (no pun intended).
- As much as Naruto stresses the importance of hard work, Hard Work Hardly Works. All the powerful characters have some form of The Gift -- an innate talent, bloodline limit, sealed demon, or cursed seal (sometimes several at once) that make them more powerful than the talentless hard workers, with the possible exception of Might Guy. And as much as it may stress teamwork, after the Zabuza arc, all the important battles are one-on-one. As much as it is said that Sasuke cannot get true strength by using the cursed seal and focusing on revenge, he has turned into a walking Deus Ex Machina who is well on his way to getting revenge thanks to the power of his cursed seal.
- The outcome of the Chuunin Exam's Naruto vs Neji fight was ironic. The lesson Naruto had learned before the fight was that hard work would trump natural talent. However, his own skill utterly failed him in the fight. What brought him victory? If you guessed Deus Ex Machina, you're right! His own natural gift/curse was simply stronger than his opponent's. Seeing how his opponent's belief was that, regardless of your efforts, you'd never beat someone who was simply more talented (and displayed even the slightest interest in training, of course), Naruto inadvertently proved Neji right.
- Naruto's victory for the whole "hard work trumps destiny" thing is utterly negated with the triple-whammy revelation that his father was the 4th Hokage, his mother was the former nine tails Jinchuuriki, and that both the latter and Naruto share the family name Uzumaki with Nagato/Pain, implies that Naruto is the descendant of the Sage of the Six Paths, the very founder of Ninjutsu and the man who created all of the tailed beasts by defeating an even more powerful monster. In other words, Naruto has one of the most distinguished pedigrees in the entire series, and his and Neji's actual perspectives were inverted when compared to what they'd perceived them to be at the time of their battle. Naruto only sucked as a kid because he was an orphan and had had no instruction or support until he joined the academy. So much for hard work.
- There is also the theme of Revenge, that it's bad and will lead to more revenge. However, the Brilliant but Lazy Shikamaru breaks that by killing Hidan in revenge for his master. One arc later and Naruto finds himself in the same spot (Pain killed his master, along with nearly killing the woman who just confessed her love to him, and pretty much anyone that ever cared for him) of taking revenge. He does not go with the revenge, much to the dismay of the audience.
- Code Geass. Remember the show-capping aesop about how those that would kill should be prepared to be killed, using the main character as an example? Tell that to the likes of Villetta, Cornelia, and Ohgi, characters who accomplished much less for peace and somehow get to reap the benefits instead. Or how about the people who don't hurt a fly like Princess Euphemia and Shirley and still get killed.
- Pokémon the First Movie, dub version. The moral, apparently, is that fighting is bad. In a series which has Pokémon competition-fighting every episode, the idea that fighting-fighting is bad was apparently lost on many viewers. The original Japanese version averted this, as the Aesop was apparently "it doesn't matter how you were born, everyone is equal."
- In a very early episode of the anime, an Aesop about finishing what you started and not making up excuses for stuff and whatnot is broken. The first thing that happens is that this episode's character-of-the-day pulls a sword on Ash just when he's about to catch a Weedle. Because Ash "didn't" finish what he started, the Weedle gets away and warns a swarm of Beedrill, which come out and attack everyone, and seize Ash's Metapod. Now Ash goes out to fetch Metapod, making his best effort, when Team Rocket shows up to harass him. In the end, his last "excuse" is that he got sidetracked, and then he admits that everything was his fault, when in fact, NOTHING was. So, what we're really given is a case of Never My Fault by nearly everyone except Ash.
- The Trubbish episode had a teacher trying to get rid of a Trubbish, which is a living garbage bag. The kids in her class scream and disobey their teacher because they want to keep it. We're supposed to see Daniella as a mean, stubborn teacher who wasn't listening to their concerns. But the kids just demanded they get their way, and Daniella was concerned about the kids playing with living garbage that spat out toxic fumes.
- It has been stated that trained Pokémon are stronger than wild ones, so Pokémon Trainers must train them and can't expect to lazily win battles using untrained ones. This sends the message that one must work hard in order to achieve his goals. Yet whenever Ash used Pokémon that he had never trained (such as Tauros or Krabby) in Pokémon League matches during the original series, they kicked far more ass than most of those he had used through most of his journey (ie: the Kanto starters). Heck, his Krabby evolved into Kingler in the very first Pokémon battle it participated in when most of the Pokémon Ash had used in dozen of battles were still unevolved.
- Ojamajo Doremi: An episode of the Naisho OVA ends with Seki-sensei chewing out the anchor leg of her room's opponents in a swimming relay for not trying as hard as Aiko. One, the opponents won that race, and two, after all her hard practicing, Aiko didn't even compete.
- Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro ep. 14 ends with a message about how people shouldn't be so intolerant of other people's cultures. The hypocrisy is that this is delivered in reaction to the antics of possibly the most xenophobic and offensive depiction of an American in anime since 1945. However, a later chapter reveals that the American had been the first test subject of the electronic drug, which exaggerates something a person likes in order to warp them into psychotic killers, making the Eagleland stereotype something of an Exploited Trope. If Yako and the others (possibly even the readers) hadn't been blinded by the stereotype of Americans, they likely would have realized that something was wrong much sooner. So, don't let yourself be blinded by negative stereotypes, kids. If you do, an evil computer will take over the world.
- Mai-Otome: Arika succeeds in her quest to become an Otome not because of the purity of her dream, but because she's the daughter of Lena Sayers and so the authorities (first and foremost, Natsuki) are willing to bend the rules for her. And she's a powerful Otome for the same reason: she has inherited the genes and the gems from Lena.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX states repeatedly that having fun at a game is more important than who wins and who loses. Judai, the main character, very nearly wins every time, and many of his duels have nothing at stake, so it's not as though he couldn't afford a few black marks on his record. It's even worse when you take into account how much importance the card game is given in-universe; the same level as friggin politics and economics. This is eventually deconstructed and becomes the driving point of the plot, with Judai realizing how broken his Aesop is after the duels stop being fun, the stakes are increased, and that he wins all the time regardless.
- Amu Hinamori, lead Magical Girl in Shugo Chara, spends most of her filler episodes telling other children a number of different aesops, usually variations on "you're great just the way you are", but Amu herself can't grasp these lessons when they apply to herself. Particularly in the latter half of the season when Amu's fourth egg, Dia, turns into an X-egg, resulting in several episodes worth of Heroic BSOD.
- In an episode of Wedding Peach, the message is that no matter if you are fat or thin, true beauty comes from within. Only, there is a student, Yukiko, whose boyfriend dumps her when she has been turned fat by the Villain of the Week, but takes her back when she is restored to her former, slim self.
- In Sailor Moon, the "Sailor Moon Says" segments forced Aesops into the dub were never intended. It's notorious for ridiculous morals that have nothing to do with the episode. In one particular episode, Serena is distraught over Molly's infatuation with Nephlyte, the villain of the current arc. Serena attempts to convey this by blurting out a bunch of nonsense at her, and then running away to avoid talking about her personal life. Molly then goes on to steal a priceless gem from her mother's jewelry store at Nephlyte's request and is creepily seduced away from her normal behavior as Nephlyte, being around twice her age, easily manipulates her. When the Sailor Scouts confront them both in a park and attack Nephlyte, Molly attempts to protect him by throwing herself in front of Sailor Moon's tiara. When another monster appears, Nephlyte protects Molly from it, and she passes out. Nephlyte teleports away, gloating about how he's one step away from basically destroying humanity. Sailor Moon's response? To wish upon a star that Nephlyte will conquer the bitterness in his heart. She watches her friend get coerced into sneaking out at night, lying, and stealing from her mother by an abusive older boyfriend, and her solution to seeing how much her friend cares for said abusive boyfriend is to pray that he gets better. That on its own would not be so awful, if difficult to deal with, except that the Aesop we're handed at the end of the episode is that it's important to talk to your friends if they're doing something dangerous-- just like it was important to tell Molly the truth about Nephlyte.
- In one episode of Ai to Yuuki no Pig Girl Tonde Buurin Karin once got a demo of the Magical Girl form she wished for to try for one day, however she failed solving a dangerous situation making her deliberately become Buurin again to do that. While this was probably meant as a "maybe what you already have is better than you think" but is broken since her demo did not possess any super powers aside flight making it pretty much useless as a super form.
- Gundam suffers from this a bit:
- The running theme of the entire franchise is "War Is Hell", but it demonstrates this by having giant, awesome battles between slick, badass Humongous Mecha, and often the "Hell" aspect only comes from people dying, sometimes in ludicrously tragic ways (see: Victory Gundam), making the lesson look like "War is awesome, it's dying that sucks."
- Lampshaded by Lacus Clyne in the original Gundam Seed, when she points out the apparent hypocrisy of their actions: "...calling out for peace with guns in our hands."
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has this happen In-Universe; the protagonists' plan to end war involves attacking anybody who participates in war, regardless of any other factor. Several characters comment on the blatant hypocrisy, and the heroes themselves wonder what the hell they're doing. Turns out it's part of a larger plan, to unite humanity against a common enemy.
- One episode of Keroro Gunsou has the moral of "Treating building Gunpla models (Or anything else) as Serious Business is bad", which is fine in theory, but it ends coming as "Not putting any effort whatsoever at all on doing things is perfectly acceptable if you're having fun", which is... not as fine. For once, the Golden Mean Fallacy is right: Put some effort on doing things, but don't yell at others for making a simple mistake. Thankfully, Aesop Amnesia saves the day.
- One episode of the Blue Dragon anime had the main characters meet a brother/sister pair. The brother wanted to be a Shadow Wielder like the main characters, while the sister hated them. They're then attacked by bandits, and Shu decides not to fight in order to teach the kid that fighting isn't always the answer. This is broken because not only does Shu get the crap beaten out of him, but also because in the end of the episode he goes back and beats up the bandits after the sister tells him that she doesn't hate all Shadow Wielders anymore.
- In Bakuman｡, the message of the arc in which Mashiro and Takagi get in trouble with their girlfriends is that people in relationships shouldn't keep secrets from one another. Later, when PCP doesn't get an anime, Takagi considers illustrating Shiratori's manga while Mashiro, despite being uncomfortable with the idea, doesn't mention it to Takagi. At the same time, Miyoshi and Azuki never hear that there won't be an anime until Takagi inadvertently mentions it in Miyoshi's presence, and the conflict is mainly between Takagi and Mashiro (mainly because of their conflicting goals; as Mashiro realizes, PCP would help Takagi earn a living as a mangaka, while it does not put Mashiro any closer to fulfilling his promise), not between them and their girlfriends.
- The Prince of Tennis: The theme of on-court violence. Tezuka loses his cool a few times in order to deliver this very aesop, yet some of the strongest players such as Kirihara employ this very strategy with few repercussions.
- Fairy Tail is big on the Power of Friendship. So much so that many a third of the battle can't be won without it. Lucy gets half her powerups because spirits like how friendly she is with them. Sticking it out for your friends is always the right thing to do... unless you're Jellal, in which case doing so gets you tortured and brainwashed, hated by everyone, and robbed on any semblance of life or freedom.
- In Love Hina, the idea is that everything is possible if you try your hardest, even getting into Japan's top university and charming a really hot girl, even though you're a total loser. However, while Keitaro does start off as a really pathetic individual, it does not take long before he turns out to not only be Bishonen All Along but also a gifted archeologist and martial artist. You'd expect someone who is not really cool or talented to captivate through determination and charm, and while Keitaro is very determined, his defeatist, whiny and relatively immature personality, as well as his tremendous clumsiness, deeply annoy the girls, and it's only when he drops his usual act that the females show any attraction for him, often pointing out that he is very handsome when he is not being annoying. Ultimately, instead of Love Hina being about an underdog that accomplishes goals far beyond his reach through determination and The Power of Love, it's actually about someone who was awesome from the start but never had the proper motivation to unlock his true potential until he met the girl.
- Being that it is essentially an In Space retelling of Seven Samurai, Samurai 7 naturally lifts a lot of its material from the original film. This, unfortunately, includes Kanbei using his movie counterpart's line about how, with the bandits and the samurai having slaughtered each other, the peasants are the only ones who have truly won, at the series end. In contrast to the movie, though, not only are the samurai portrayed here as genuinely heroic, sympathetic characters, but the peasants themselves genuinely care about and trust the samurai.
Comic Books Edit
- Superman At Earths End has one of these. Superman loses (most of) his powers and has to rely on a gigantic machine gun to solve his problems. After using his gun to kill two Hitlers and a Batman zombie (don't ask) he tells his allies (some little kids with guns) that he's dying. The little kids then bawl and say that guns killed Superman before throwing all of their guns into a bonfire. Of course, no one bothers to point out that guns also saved the kids from two Hitlers and a Batman zombie!
- Worse is the fact that Superman himself admitted that the only thing keeping all these kids alive in this After the End GOTHAM was those guns. So how where they going to fend off those giant bat creatures now?
- X-Men: despite trying to lecture the world about how great mutants were and how they should be allowed to embrace their identities, Xavier spent most of his life masquerading as a normal human who just happened to be a mutant expert. Xavier only involuntarily 'outed' himself during Grant Morrison's New X-Men run when he was possessed by his evil twin.
- Marvel Adventures Spider-Man # 39 has a foreign exchange student named Kristoff show up at Peter's school, and make a speech about how, unlike many of his countrymen, he doesn't hate America. Peter shows him around, and they talk until it's revealed that Kristoff is from Latveria, home of Doctor Doom. Peter freaks out a bit but accepts him for it. Then the Fantastic Four show up, attacking Kristoff seemingly just because of his Latverian origin, calling him a "potential threat to national security", and taking him away. So, it turns out that he's just a normal, nice kid and the Aesop is that ethnic prejudice is wrong, right? ...well, no, because it turns out that he was Actually a Doombot, and Spidey and the FF have to beat him up. So, the Aesop is that you should never trust people from enemy countries, even when they seem to be perfectly nice, and that it's totally logical to seize and search people who might be a problem.
- Marvel's Civil War storyline featured the superheroes favoring registration fighting the superheroes opposing it. Apparently, the two sides were supposed to be presented evenly but due to the clear Aesops of the last century saying that secret identities are good and government oversight of superheroes is evil, it was hard to sympathize with the Pro-Regs. Especially since Iron Man, the Pro-Reg leader, became a borderline Fascist Nazibot for most of the storyline. The whole thing was basically a titanic Idiot Plot where everyone held the Conflict Ball.
- The X-Men in particular stayed out of the entire debate surrounding the Super Human Registration Act since in their own comics, government registration of mutants was always portrayed as the first step towards state-sponsored internment/genocide of anyone with an X-gene.
- In continuities as old as Marvel and DC's, the inevitable retcons often break initially intact aesops. For example, many of the older X-Men storylines involving Nightcrawler made it anviliciously clear that Fantastic Racism is bad, that we shouldn't judge people by their external appearance, and that having horns and a tail doesn't necessarily make you the Antichrist. Enter Chuck Austen, and it turns out Nightcrawler really was half-demon all along.
- One More Day breaks the aesop that Spider-Man is supposed to embody, as instead of taking responsibility for his actions, he dodges it by making a Deal with the Devil against the wishes of its main beneficiary and guilt-tripping his own wife into going along with it. However, in One Moment in Time (popularly known as OMIT), this is retconned so that Mary Jane is the one to have made the deal. Word of God is that the aesop is meant to be "It's heroic to do whatever you can to save a life" but to readers, rewriting history just to save the life of a single person who, in addition to wanting to die anyways and was telling you to let go, let's face it, is likely to die of old age in a few years is simply asinine. The message then becomes "the ends justify the means", and that instead of learning how to cope with loss and move on with your life, you should hold on to what you have and never let go, even if the cost of doing so might be too high; for you and for others.
- What makes this even worse is that the "whatever you can to save a life" wasn't selling their souls, give any kind of favor to the demon, or even their love, but he wanted them to give up their marriage. So Peter Parker had to face the consequences of... a chance to get back with Black Cat.
- In JLA: Act of God there is an underlying implication that the superheroes were being punished for their arrogance. Even though people like Superman and Wonder Woman are fairly humble in normal continuity, while Batman in this story is ego tripping and denigrating the contributions of his formerly powered friends as they kiss his ass. Apparently the writer thought the superheroes WERE being arrogant because they weren't bowing at Batman's feet and worshiping him as the greatest superhero of them all. Of course, this requires the aesop not to apply to Batman, because he's the single most arrogant person in the entire story.
- This is a bit of a mix of Broken Aesop and Family-Unfriendly Aesop, but the moral of Birds of Prey: The Battle Within, the arc from issues 76 to 85, appears to be the fairly stock aesop of "You should accept your friends for who they are and not try to change them," except that what Oracle was trying to change about Huntress is her tendency to kill people. In the end, Oracle apologizes to Huntress, and, in the Dead of Winter story arc (issues 104-108), actually tells Huntress to use deadly force against the Secret Six if she thinks it appropriate, possibly making this the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that sometimes killing people is a good idea.
- Discussed in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Fanfic Twilight Switch. After witnessing Applejack losing a large harvest of apples, Twilight feels guilty about not being able to help and tries to figure out a spell to fix it. Applejack eventually explains that she'd lost the apples due to her own hard-headedness; if Twilight just magicked up a solution, it'd be like a 'get out of stubbornness free' card and she wouldn't have to deal with the consequences of her actions, effectively ruining a hard-learned lesson.
- Thus making it's OWN Broken Aesop --- "don't fix your mistakes."
Films -- Animated Edit
- Spoofed in The Incredibles bonus features on the DVD. One feature had one of the superheroes who was a Friend to All Children and worked regularly to keep them safe and educated give a speech about how important it is to stay in school, since the superhero in question dropped out. However, he quickly realizes he is mangling the aesop with him saying things like "stay in school, or you'll end up like me," since he is famous and well-beloved and has superpowers. He does not quite know how to proceed once he figures out that this is not sending the correct message.
- The Ralph Bakshi animated film Wizards takes place in a post-technology future, and spends the entire film building up the conflict between a good, druidic wizard who lives in harmony with nature and who draws his power from all living things, and an evil wizard who's reinventing mass production, firearms and munitions, and whose conquering armies are threatening to plunge the world back into the chaos of technological warfare. The contrast between their philosophies keeps building until, at the end, they're finally facing down one another. And then the good wizard... shoots and kills the evil wizard with a gun.
- At the end of Barbie as the Island Princess, the queen has just given permission to Ro to marry the prince, despite her not being royal. Immediately after she declares this Ro(sella) reveals her full name and her mother finds her (and they sing their little song) thus revealing that she is royalty after all which completely cancels out the "you don't have to be royal" moral they brought up two minutes prior.
- The movie Fern Gully has an incredibly anvilicious environmental aesop. Too bad, then, that the bad guys polluting and destroying the rainforest are stopped by the fairies living in it. So the aesop becomes less "help the rainforest, it can't help itself" and more "don't worry about it, the fairies can take care of themselves". Another issue with the fairies is that they're in the movie just to add an element of human interest to the story. The first problem with this is that it's implying that actual rainforests, where such creatures do not exist, aren't worth the attention of conservation. What's worse, though, is that the fairies live in a society based upon human ideals, which doesn't gel with the film's intended aesop that Humans Are Cthulhu--though arguably that aesop deserved to be broken.
- A contributor to the That Guy With The Glasses forums elaborated on the above point: In a nutshell, it's trying to be an anti-human, pro-nature film, but the only way it does so is by arbitrarily humanizing nature and demonizing humans.
- Care Bears: Share Bear Shines opens with Oopsy needing to be rescued because he went to a dangerous place all alone. The other bears, including Share, admonish him for this, but not to long after that, Share goes off on her own, without telling anyone, to help a baby star get to Glitter City, where she's never been before and only has a vague idea of how to get there. The fact that she did exactly what she told Oopsy not to do is never brought up, not even when the others find her.
- We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story:
- The movie is framed as a morality tale about the importance of family, but the actual movie doesn't support this at all. The two kids never reconcile with their parents, nor do they have to learn that family is more important than they thought; they save the dinosaurs from Screweye, and... their parents come back. It's worth mentioning that the Professor, one of the Aesop's main proponents, leaves his brother Screweyes to die at the end of the movie.
- The guy who brings them back from the past has a time machine. And food that can increase the eater's intelligence vastly (though it may only work on animals with sub-human intellect). He uses this so that kids can meet dinosaurs. This might not be so bad, but he then leaves the dinosaurs to just wander free in the city, potentially causing panic and devastation.
- The Lion King: The moral feels less like "respect all living things" (which is what the writers intended) and more like "respect all living things, except for hyenas, which are evil and deserve to starve to death".
- I always thought it was because they didn't respect the Circle of Life and over-hunted, maybe even turning the Elephant Graveyard into a wasteland. Maybe not. Nevertheless, it didn't make itself look good by having an entire species be bad guys. It doesn't help that the movie doesn't go into detail about why hyenas are bad and why they don't live in the Pride Lands. Hopefully the 2019 live action remake can take the opportunity to explain, like how the Beauty and the Beast 2017 live action remake explained things that weren't told to us in the original.
Films -- Live-Action Edit
- The 2002 film of The Count of Monte Cristo combines this with Do Not Do This Cool Thing in the final scene where Edmund professes that his revenge was not worth the steep moral and physical price he paid to achieve it. On the other hand, we just spent two hours watching him enjoy every minute of his bloody revenge and it was awesome. Of course, this problem is present in the original novel.
- The moral of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie has the aesop that being ugly doesn't make you inferior or bad in any way. This is broken by the fact that said Garbage Pail Kids act like complete assholes throughout half the movie and that the entire point of The Garbage Pail Kids cards is to blatantly MAKE FUN OF UGLY PEOPLE!
- As The Spoony One pointed out, the anvilicious aesop of Mazes and Monsters that role playing makes you insane is broken by the fact the protagonists have their own family problems and the role playing actually brings them together and occupies them.
- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is about how you shouldn't discriminate against gay people... but every gay character in the movie is a flaming stereotype, and Adam Sandler seems to be terrified of typecasting himself. He plays the character as being such a Casanova that he can't even walk around without tripping and landing in someone's vagina. It's like he's yelling at the audience, at the top of his lungs, through a megaphone, on national TV, "NOT GAY! Being gay is okay, but I'M TOTALLY, TOTALLY NOT GAY! DON'T F***ING CALL ME GAY!"
- Not to mention their stubborn refusal to just kiss each other in the climax scene. (Sure, this wasn't actually the writers' fault - the MPAA threatened to bump the rating up to an R if the couple kissed - but still.) Seriously, kids and livelihood and such on the line, and a simple kiss is out of the question? Yes, it's a bit ridiculous for any legal type of proceeding to ask for it, but that's not the point. The whole resolution came off as such a cop-out that the filmmakers and actors looked too wimpy to take a stand for their own convictions.
- The Stone Cold Steve Austin star vehicle The Condemned, revolves around a shady producer who arranges for death row inmates from around the world to be dropped in an island and forced to fight to the death while the "show" is broadcast onto the Net under the name "The Condemned", hence the movie's title. However, WWE Films made the bizarre decision to turn this into a moralist tale by having several characters berate the brutality and senseless violence of the show... all the while showering the audience with scene after scene of brutality and senseless violence. To top it all off, it culminates with this quote: "All of us who watch... are we The Condemned?" (to which several critics replied "Yes. Yes we are.")
- Encino Man, an entire movie about how even the Simple, Noble Savage Caveman knows Violence is not the answer, capped by the eponymous caveman using his awesome caveman strength to beat the crap out of the school bully.
- The Irwin Allen disaster movie The Swarm (1978) preaches environmental responsibility: the military wants to use pesticides that would damage the environment, while Michael Caine keeps suggesting other methods. Unfortunately, the threat of the killer bees is so overdone (at one stage, they cause the explosion of a nuclear power plant) that this continuing refusal is hard to justify. Especially when his final successful method consists of pouring oil on the ocean and setting it on fire. Since when are burning oil slicks environmentally friendly?
- The Hannah Montana movie spends the entire movie preaching the aesop of being yourself, even if it means giving up on the glittery lifestyle.... And then it completely breaks it with a Reset Button ending.
- Lampshaded and parodied beautifully in Johnny Dangerously. After spending the entire movie presenting a spoof on gangster films to support the moral "Crime doesn't pay", the eponymous character walks out of his pet shop wearing a fashionable men's suit, hops onto the running board of a period luxury car driven by a chauffeur with the character's gorgeous wife in the front seat (she wearing a white fox wrap), mugs to the camera and says, "Maybe it pays a little.".
- The Movie version of Steel has an anti-gun message, even though Steel uses a weapon that is, by definition, a gun. Moreover, he wants to create more weapons to stop the bad guys.
- Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno has taken a lot of flak for arguably breaking its own Aesop about how Americans have a lot of homophobia to conquer. The declared purpose of the movie is for Cohen to act like a homosexual to get an idea of how people react to homosexuals, but the problem with that is that he really isn't acting like a homosexual. He's acting like a blatant and rude stereotype of homosexuals.
- The film Christmas with the Kranks, based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas, is about a couple whose adult daughter is going to be away for Christmas, so they decide to eschew their typical lavish, expensive and stressful celebration in lieu of a vacation cruise, to the protests of their overbearing neighbors. Predictably, their daughter announces, two days before Christmas, that she'll be back, and bringing along a new foreign boyfriend to whom she's been hyping the annual Christmas party for weeks, forcing the parents to abandon their plans and throw a party together at the last second, with the help of said neighbors. Intended moral: "Don't let the stress of preparations distract you from why you celebrate." However, since the couple's idea seems so reasonable to normal people, and the neighbors' reaction comes off as completely overblown, the real moral of the story is "You can't escape Christmas, even if you try."
- Shoot 'Em Up a 2007 action film, could be easily be the Trope Codifier, since it is possibly the most Egregious example of this. The film is both a Parody of the genre it takes its name from, and by Word of God, an anti-gun movie; an extremely Anvilicious one, that stops just short of pulling a Family Guy and saying that everyone with a gun has a tiny, tiny penis. Except, like the page quote, the hero, Smith, solves literally every single problem he's faced with using guns; saving the baby? Guns. Beating the bad guys? Guns. Defending his new family? Guns. By itself this wouldn't be too bad. After all, someone can be extremely anti-gun but still believe a gun can be used for good if in the right hands or that using one in self defense is still justified. However, the movie takes it to Up to Eleven. For an anti-gun movie, Smith and everyone he cares about sure would be dead a lot of times over if he weren't better-armed than the Russian military. Then there are the villains, who are hired muscle (led by a wonderfully hammy Paul Giamatti) for a gun manufacturing corporation that wants to stop gun control laws from getting passed. Again, not too bad by itself. After all, that's what corporations do; use politics to protect their interests. Except they resort to Complete Monster lengths and cross the Moral Event Horizon including killing pregnant women and babies and making statements that are anything but subtle in regards to guns such "Guns don't kill people, but they sure help".
- In He's Just Not That Into You, Beth wants Neil to marry her, but he doesn't believe in marriage. Then she dumps him despite 7 happy years and living together. The movie reveals Neil to be more devoted and dependable than most husbands who are shown as either lazy or unfaithful. Beth soon realizes this and asks Neil to take her back. Refreshingly, in a Chick Flick, no less, we have An Aesop that marriage doesn't automatically make a couple happier or more committed, and a woman can still find happiness without it. BUT then Neil breaks it by asking her to marry him anyways. Meaning that no, a woman truly can't be complete without marriage after all and that a man will always marry a woman if he loves her. This is a particularly ridiculous case, as the whole point of the source material is to disavow these tropes.
- This is also an issue with Gigi and Justin Long's character. Basically, the entire movie lays out the premise that women need to accept men as straightforward - if they say they're not interested, women need to accept this. But every single man who says this then changes his mind, proving that the women who were supposedly deluding themselves were in actually fact accurate - Gigi was the exception to Alex's rule, Beth was correct in thinking a man will marry you if he loves you, etc.
- The Mighty Ducks has two. The first Aesop, "don't take youth sports too seriously," is broken in the first film when the team's coach poaches the best player on the opposing team through a blatant application of rules lawyering, forcing an eleven-year-old to choose between his friends and his father and his "team spirit." The second Aesop, "it's not important whether you win or lose, it's only important if you tried hard and had fun," is broken on a regular basis all throughout the series by the Ducks' habit of winning every important game they play in, usually with heavy applications of Down to the Last Play.
- Well, of course. If you're not obsessed with winning every game, you'll be under a lot less stress and won't make as many mistakes - and, if you're just that good at the sport, more often than not you will win.
- The problem with “don’t take sports too seriously” is that the heroes rarely have as much in stake as the antagonists. They can often afford to lose simply because they won’t sink lower than they already are and, even then, they’ll get points just for getting so far. The antagonists, on the other hand, will be lectured for getting too worked up; never mind things like reputation, sponsors and contracting opportunities. Things that, in the real world, put some serious pressure on sportsmen. As for the “have fun” message…how many times have we seen the protagonists getting utterly trashed in a “big game”? How did they deal with the aftermath of such event? Were there lots of “the important thing is you did your best” speeches?
- Well, of course. If you're not obsessed with winning every game, you'll be under a lot less stress and won't make as many mistakes - and, if you're just that good at the sport, more often than not you will win.
- Woman Obsessed A woman's new husband is built up for the first 3/4 of the movie to be abusive towards her and her son. At one point, while what happens next is open for interpretation, he appears to rape her after closing the door (she even mentions that her child with him was conceived out of "fear and hatred," so make of that what you will). She then loses the baby and the husband takes her to the doctor, which is very far away and carried her the last six miles. The last 1/4 of the movie contains the doctor chastising her for wanting to leave her, you know, abusive husband and everybody forgiving him. While the problem isn't that he was redeemed, it was that the first 3/4 of the movie was building how horrible and abusive he was and how much we should hate him, but the last 1/4 quickly snapped into expecting everybody to forgive him for doing something good. The worst part is that not only does everybody forgive him and he ends up being the hero, it actually ends with her begging his forgiveness for wanting to leave him. The aesop turns out to be "If your husband beats you, stick around if he helps you anyway because his Freudian Excuse makes it OK."
- American Pie: Near the beginning of the movie a bunch of friends make a pact to get laid before the school year is over. Then near the end of the movie, they decide that was a dumb thing to do, since sex shouldn't be a goal in itself, but something you do with a person who's important to you and when you both want it. That's a nice moral. But then, they all get laid the same night anyway! Alternately, you could read the aesop as "good things will happen if you stop obsessing over them."
- To make matters worse, when Jim wakes up and finds Michelle (whom he does not particularly care about at this point in his multi-movie arc) has already gone, his response is "I got used. Cool!" and completely ruins the aparently intended Aesop.
- In A Knight's Tale the main moral of the film is that a noble spirit and strength of will can turn anyone into a hero, regardless of birth. This is broken in two ways, first the hero pretends to be noble to attempt to change his life and, at the end of the film, the Black Prince falsely claims that the hero is of noble blood and uses his position to make sure no one can challenge that statement. Turns out you do need to be rich and royal in the first place, eh?
- The First Wives Club First wife Brenda is obsessed with her weight and taunted about her supposed fatness by her ex's new girlfriend. This treatment is rightfully seen as incredibly cruel. However, only minutes earlier, Brenda was snarking that "the bulimia has certainly paid off" in reference to the girlfriend's slimness. Plus, she makes nasty comments about slim women throughout the film, "anorexic fetus", etc. All of which are presented as amusing. So, it's horrible to taunt fat people about their weight, but perfectly acceptable to joke about slender people having a potentially deadly eating disorder?
- James Cameron's Avatar has several:
- The Na'vi are shown as living harmoniously with nature, with the not so subtle implication that mankind should learn from their example. The problem is that humans were not blessed with a biological USB cable that allows you to jack in to a bunch of other lifeforms as well as the hive mind that controls the entire planet. Technology came about due to man's need to defend itself from nature and now we are coming to the conclusion that we have gone too far. When you can make nature work with you from the get go, what do you even need technology for? It gets even worse when you read the tie-in book. In there you learn that the Na'vi are super durable, are resistant to disease, maintain a sustainable population through birth control, easily domesticated/tamed animals, perfect tree shelters, and more, all of which is naturally provided. Humanity had to use technology to gain every single one of these things.
- Also contradicting the aesop is the fact that the Na'vi are a warrior culture. The whole reason they take to Jake is that he, unlike the scientists, is a soldier and they respect that. Despite their status as Space Elves, the Na'vi are shown to be a very xenophobic, very warlike culture where clan wars probably happen a bit more often than the film lets on. The Na'vi are probably more like the film's humans than Cameron intended. Hell, if you were to lock Col. Quaritch and Eytukan together in a room for a few hours, there's a probably even chance they'd either kill each other or become the best of friends.
- While the movie is meant to be a negative portrayal of Colonialism and a Fantasy Counterpart Culture warning against the historical mistreatment of natives...but then the movie ends up showing the most straight example of Mighty Whitey since The Last Samurai, with an "enlightened" ex-colonial soldier taking over an entire tribe, exploiting their folk law and getting with the chief's daughter. And then there's the scene in the Special Edition where a dying Eytukan explicitly tells Jake that "You must lead us, now."
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull implies that looting is bad. The hero insists that he's an archaeologist who never loots.
- Penelope has essentially the same problem as Beauty and the Beast - once she learns to accept her own appearance as an ugly person with a pig nose, she transforms into an attractive Christina Ricci.
- Shallow Hal, a film with an intended Aesop about how people should not be so shallow and judge people on the kind of person they are, not by how they look on the outside, has so many holes in this Aesop that it's something of a textbook case for reviewers.
- The first problem is that Rosemary, the main love interest and the intended study in how it's what's inside that counts, isn't born deformed; she isn't even Hollywood Pudgy, Hollywood Homely or even a Big Beautiful Woman; she's morbidly obese. We're talking on the verge of a heart attack any second. Such an example backfires in an Aesop about inner beauty, because this sort of obesity is in need of medical help.
- The second problem is that the movie misses its mark in arguing that Hal has been "de-hypnotized so that he only sees the inner beauty of people, because the spell shows people to be physically attractive to Hal when they're supposed to be demonstrating that a person has a good personality--something that is difficult to tell by looking at the person. Hal doesn't realize that Rosemary isn't actually a petite blone; hence he's not really less shallow at all.
- The third, and possibly worst problem with the movie, is that nearly all of its humor consists of jokes making fun of fat people. Hypocrisy; thy name is Farrelly.
- Then, there are bits of the film's warped world view that just make no sense. For example, a beautiful woman who smokes appears to Hal as an ugly woman--never mind that many decent people smoke, and picked up the habit from peer pressure that wasn't really their fault; never mind that she might be very sweet, she's judged entirely by the fact that she smokes. There's also a male cross-dresser that appears to Hal as a beautiful woman, which has no correlation between what the plot said happened to Hal--inner beauty and gender are two entirely different things.
- The aesop of Spider Man 3 has been summed up by some detractors as "Two wrongs don't make a right, because one wrong does." The film argues that getting revenge is wrong, and should never be confused with justice--by showing that the man who causes the death of Uncle Ben actually is a nice guy and had a somewhat sympathetic backstory. How often is that going to be the case with people who killed your loved ones in real life? Because if that sort of rare circumstance is all they use to prove that revenge is wrong, then We Havent Learned Anything Yet. By that logic, either termination with extreme prejudice is still justified every time a villain doesn't meet those criteria, or else every villain is implied to be that way, and in turn, implied to deserve more tolerance. Neither conclusion is very appealing.
- Technically, the film did show other examples, unrelated to Sandman, of why Peter's angry behavior was a problem. UNFORTUNATELY it backfired, since they mostly involved him out of costume, doing all sorts of embarassing things that seem completely alien to Spider-Man films; the result being that the audience hated it just as much as the characters!
- Furthermore, the film gets so down on Peter that it makes everyone else into a Karma Houdini. As rash and, at times, infamously-obnoxious as Peter's behavior was, at least he had a plot-centric explanation for it. Sandman, despite not intending to kill Uncle Ben, has no qualms whatsoever about killing guards who stand in his way, even after it's obvious they can't do anything to hurt him. Meanwhile, Mary Jane inexplicably gets her Character Development from the second movie retconned, turning back into Jerkass; yet the film only blames Peter for returning the slights. It's one thing to vilify vengeful actions when they involve killing people, but quite another when somebody is just embarrassing a partner who started souring the relationship, and again; Peter is getting revenge on her because he's infected by Venom and she was a jerk to him first; Mary Jane was a jerk for no perceivable reason to the guy who saved her life on multiple occasions!
- Technically, the film did show other examples, unrelated to Sandman, of why Peter's angry behavior was a problem. UNFORTUNATELY it backfired, since they mostly involved him out of costume, doing all sorts of embarassing things that seem completely alien to Spider-Man films; the result being that the audience hated it just as much as the characters!
- The Lifetime Movie of the Week Stranger In My Bed tries to empower women to leave their abusive husbands. The main protagonist, Sarah, leaves her husband by faking her death in a cave accident and flees across the country from Washington to West Virginia to get away. Aside from the apparent aim of stuffing as many Domestic Abuse cliches as they possibly can in one scene, it sort of accomplishes this goal...had the movie ended with her leaving. Her escape is only the beginning, as her husband tracks her down and inexplicably becomes a serial killer, killing her friend for no reason, her new boyfriend's father for even less reason in what is basically a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, and then trying to kill Sarah herself and said new boyfriend, which isn't better but more logical. This is absolutely mangled, as the first half tells abused women to leave, but the second half says that if you do leave, your husband will kill everybody you've ever cared about.
- Apparently Smurfette's independence as a person in The Smurfs means no longer settling for a single outfit and wholeheartedly embracing consumerism when she finds herself smitten by the amount of doll-sized dresses that she could wear during her visit in a toy store to find a "star gazer".
- The film On Our Own, after being purchased by Feature Films for Families, had added on the scenes with Peggy's mother baking a cake while reacting to Peggy relating the story about the Robbins children to her. If the Robbins children never ran away, they never would have met Peggy -- and Peggy never would have met Jack (who she planned to marry)! However, Peggy's mother maintains that Mitch's necessary acts of theft (in order to keep the family together) were morally wrong -- and she planned to give Mitch an earful, as well as a hug.
- Swimming with Sharks has a Buddy Ackerman, being tortured by Guy whom he had mistreated, unleash a speech about how one has to suffer to earn good things and be willing to work for Them and how he endured it too. It would be nice except that Buddy was not simply a demanding or strict boss but a complete and utter sadist who took extreme pleasure in mistreating everyone he could and even blatantly stole a brilliant idea Guy had. The film spends so long showing Buddy as a monster and Guy as a dogged employee that the sudden shift to make Guy the bad one for committing these acts just feels like a last minute apology. If Buddy's speech is the intended aesop, the moral of the story is "If you endure suffering, you have every right in the world to make others go through the same and anyone who says otherwise is a naive spoiled brat".
- In the film What's Your Number, a woman reads a magazine which claims that any woman who sleeps with more than 20 men will not be able to marry. Being on her 20th, she panics and decides to go back to all her exes and see if any of them are marriagable. Naturally, hi-jinks ensue, she learns to respect herself and that the number of people she's slept with doesn't matter, falling in love with her playboy neighbour (her 21st). Then, in the very last scene, she gets a phone call from one of her exes... she'd passed out drunk during foreplay and never actually had sex with him. Realising that this means her neighbour is now her 20th, she celebrates the fact that she can now marry him! The message is therefore less "It doesn't matter how many people you've slept with as long you respect yourself" as "It doesn't matter how many people you've slept with, as long as it's less than this arbitrary number!"
- Tucker and Dale vs. Evil starts out as a deconstruction of the Hillbilly Horrors genre. The only truly evil character is a college kid, meaning college kids are no better or worse than hillbillies. Unfortunately, the revelation that the evil kid is in fact the half-hillbilly son of another evil hillbilly undermines this. Instead, you get the message that hillbillies are potentially insane murders with a genetic predisposition for evil that can manifest the moment they leave civilization, and only *real* college kids are safe.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera spends a lot of time decrying and mocking cosmetic surgery, blaming it for the dystopian state of society, in which the sinister Mega Corp Geneco controls the world and kills anyone who can't keep up on their organ transplant payments. Problem: Geneco's rise to power came about because of a catastrophic wave of organ failures, which would likely have brought about The End of the World as We Know It if Geneco's founder hadn't discovered a cure. When Graverobber sings "New body parts were needed to perfect our image," this troper can only assume he means the image of humans as things that live, breathe, and don't regularly bleed out onto the carpet.
- The people mocked for cosmetic surgery were people like Amber Sweet, who were so addicted to plastic surgery and the painkillers used after that they were constantly changing body parts that were perfectly healthy. Geneco was portrayed as the villain for either forcing people into lifetime servitudes or ridiculous contracts (like with Blind Mag) or having said organs ripped back out if they couldn't pay. The moral of the movie is more to be wary about getting involved in Faust-like contracts, really.
- Accepted is an example of this. The moral of the movie is clearly intended to be that everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, even if they don't meet the expectations set forth by society. However, at the end, Bartleby, who was able to open his own college, get his dream girl Monica, the attractive girl who was accepted to the prestigious college that Bartleby was rejected from. So it seems that the actual moral of the movie is that if you are able to elevate yourself from loser to the successful hero of the story, you too can win the girl.
- In the film adaptation of Contact, the rather Anvilicious Aesop seems to be something along the lines of: "We all have faith in what we believe, and just because your beliefs are in science (rather than religion) that doesn't give them more credibility." Except, of course, that the very last exchange between Kitz and Constantine completely blows that premise out of the water in Ellie Arroway's specific case:
Constantine: I assume you read the confidential findings report from the investigating committee.
Kitz: I flipped through it.
Constantine: I was especially interested in the section on Arroway's video unit. The one that recorded the static?
Constantine: The fact that it recorded static isn't what interests me.
Kitz: [pauses] Continue.
Constantine: What interests me is that it recorded approximately eighteen hours of it.
Kitz: [leans forward so he is looking directly in the camera] That is interesting, isn't it?
- Frustratingly for science- or justice-minded viewers, Constantine and Kitz apparently never even let Arroway know that she's got evidence of her experience (as opposed to just faith). They just quietly give her a dream job to make it up to her.
- The anti-rock propaganda movie Rock: It's Your Decision comes off less like a young man finding his moral path and more like he's been brainwashed by his parents and pastor into abandoning his friends and personality.
- Limitless has a drug which whilst you are on it makes you superhumanly intelligent. The protagonist discovers to his horror that other people who have taken it have had fatal experiences with withdrawal (the only survivor of withdrawal he finds is a complete burn-out). His girlfriend points out that whilst he's on the drug he's a different person. Plus when he is off the drug he finds himself completely unable to cope and so desperately seeks to continue his supply, there are even escalating side-effects of headaches and missing time when he's on the drug. Seems like a fairly clear Aesop about not relying on artificial crutches to succeed and a metaphor for steroid hormones. However in the end He uses the drug to solve all of his problems (although it's ambiguous if he's actually off the drug at the end or just used the drug to concoct a beautiful lie) and becomes a US Senator, who is clearly destined for the Whitehouse. Implying that drugs are infact good as long as you use them wisely.
- Buddy features a woman who takes a baby gorilla home and raises it among her multiple pets. As the gorilla ages, it becomes more destructive and inconvenient to keep and she sends it off to an ape sanctuary. The moral, involving the problems of keeping exotic pets, is ruined because she already has two pet chimpanzees, who are portrayed as lovable little pets with no problems. It's not as if chimpanzees have been known to maul their owners and be destructive pets, right?
- If the message of the Literature:The Hunger Games, particularly the first, is that we shouldn't glorify violence, then why are the career tributes presented as Complete Monsters with no humanity or justification for their actions (like being raised in an environment where violence is glorified) and as an audience we are meant to cheer for their deaths? The film actually did this better...
- The aesop of "The Tortoise and The Hare", is "Slow And Steady Wins The Race". While "slow and steady" is certainly a good approach for a number of things, racing is not one of them even in the story. The tortoise did not win because he was going slow and steady. He clearly won because of the hare stopping to rest. The aesop can more accurately be described as "Don't Be Cocky". Or even moreso "Whatever you do, do with all your might". As Lore Sjöberg put it, "Slow and steady wins the race if your opponent is narcoleptic".
- Older Than Print: Chaucer parodies this trope in The Canterbury Tales, by having the despicable, avaricious pardoner's tale turn out to be a Broken Aesop about how terrible greed is.
- Race Against Time by Piers Anthony attempts An Aesop on how having a lot of different cultures is a good thing, but it gets broken by a moral on how you shouldn't mix romantically with other races.
- I Was a Teenage Fairy, by Francesca Lia Block: tattooing your lover's name on your chest is stupid, especially if you fail to learn from it and do it twice more - but the fourth time is okay, because now it's really true love.
- Orson Scott Card's Empire is about the dangers of divisiveness in American political discourse and the evils of extremism at both ends of the political spectrum. Fair enough. Unfortunately, it's fatally undermined by the fact that the heroes all unambiguously share "Red State values" whereas the villains are a bunch of craven liberals. Er, if the message is that people of both political opinions should work together, you probably shouldn't have all the protagonists be on one side of the aisle, and all the villains on the other like that...
- Racial prejudice is a recurring theme in The Icewind Dale Trilogy, The Dark Elf Trilogy, and the Legacy of the Drow Series by R.A. Salvatore. Drizzt Do'Urden is a Chaotic Good dark elf who rejects the ways of his otherwise Always Chaotic Evil people and goes to live among the "good" races. He is subjected to Fantastic Racism, which would work better as an analogue to Real Life racism if every other dark elf in the series weren't evil and if drow society as a whole were portrayed as misunderstood by the "good" races. However, the racists are still right 99% of the time. If you replace dark elf with "Jew" or any other real-world minority in the second sentence of this example, you'll basically see why there might be Unfortunate Implications.
- Tom Godwin's short story The Cold Equations attempts to tell an Aesop about the uncaring nature of the universe, and how even an innocent mistake can cost a life, with no fault but that of universal law. Unfortunately, the basic thrust is undercut because of the setup of the situation. The only protection to keep someone from walking onto a spaceship where stowaways meet certain death is a sign saying "UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL. KEEP OUT!" This is especially bad, because it's flat-out stated that stowaways have happened before -- indeed, the pilot of the ship has a gun and explicit orders to shoot them -- yet the entire situation is treated as the fault of nothing but the physical laws of the universe. The proper Aesop seems to have more to do with having and implementing proper safety procedures to prevent needless waste of life.
- In The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, we learn that if you are both disobedient and slow, two thirds of the time you can not only escape any punishment whatsoever but also eat all the food that your siblings have been punished from.
- The four book series The Dreamers has a powerful one at the end. The series appears to build on the Aesop that the gods are supposed to barely affect people and use their powers sparingly and let things go naturally; so, after the gods are given children, who are their replacements, who are said to be able to save the world, they collect people from around the planet to help them fight off a Hive Mind force of super insects. How is the Aesop broken? During the last two chapters of the last book, the new gods in turn go back in time, render the original Hive Mother infertile, and give the man who almost single-handedly won the war because the loss of his wife caused him not to care about dying and made him want unending revenge his wife back. All this actively Unmakes all four books, and the main character's life is removed from existence. Now, that is first-class meddling!
- Warrior Cats: When Firestar has to choose between reinstating his old deputy, Graystripe, or keeping Brambleclaw, StarClan tells Leafpool that Firestar should make his decision with his head, not his heart (oh so subtly hinting at Brambleclaw), completely ignoring all the times in the series characters have been told to listen to their heart or do what they feel is right. In fact, the whole reason Firestar chose Graystripe in the first place was because he was told to follow his heart.
- One of the lessons in Dr. Seuss' Daisy-Head Mayzie is "What good is money without all your friends?". Wait, friends? You mean those bratty children who taunted her in school about her daisy (which was every single one of them, by the way. No one defended her!). All the adults in town singled her out too. Oh, but suddenly they all love her again once she's back to normal, so... yay for conformity? I think there's a reason Dr. Seuss didn't get this published initially.
- While on the subject of Dr. Seuss, some people feel that that the Aesop of How the Grinch Stole Christmas would be stronger if it were actually a true story. The intended point is to show that people should value getting together with family and friends over getting the latest hot item, but that Aesop is delivered by suggesting that thay already do. Based upon the Serious Business Christmas materialism has been made into, it's very doubtful that they'd actually react the same way they did in Seuss's story--and furthermore, if they already placed a much higher priority upon family and friends than material commodities, then why was the Grinch so convinced otherwise?
- The live-action film adaptation attempts to strengthen the Aesop by making the Grinch the victim of prejudice, and making the Whos a society who mostly value materialism, other than the one person who actually has sympathy for the Grinch. The nonchallant reaction to being robbed only comes once she reminds them about the true meaning of Christmas. This would be all well and good--except a huge merchandising blitz surrounded the movie.
- Another big problem (in either version) with delivering an Aesop about valuing family and friends over material commodities, is that the Grinch didn't just steal the overpriced, over-hyped luxuries; he stole all their food. If you truly value your friends and families, you will object to someone threatening to starve them to death, and in this case, arguably the appropriate solution is not to go on celebrating despite it; it's to apprehend the thief and recover your belongings, for the sake of everyone you care about.
- Bowman, Kestrel, and Mumpo spend the first Wind on Fire book learning that if they work together, they can make things happen and nothing can hurt them. In the book's two parallel plots, their father convinces downtrodden people that they need to stand up and peacefully insist on being given their rights, and their mother makes her views heard and gets the town to listen to her and consider her ideas. Then... the MacGuffin shows up and makes it all better. Or at least makes them happy for the remainder of the book.
- In the Disney Fairies book, "Beck Beyond the Sea," Beck shirks her duties to follow the Explorer Birds, using special dust from Vidia in order to fly fast enough. Turns out that Vidia tricked Beck twice over, first by not giving her as much dust as promised, and second by using Beck's absence to pluck feathers from Mother Dove. At the end of the book, Vidia is punished for this, but Beck is not even reprimanded for leaving her post.
- Kevin J. Anderson arguably did this well in Hopscotch. One of the parallel story threads follows a girl who joins an increasingly abusive cult whose founder is obsessed with the idea of sharing everything--this being a soft sci-fi story, this includes sharing bodies. The group is quickly set up to be "bad," and the girl is forced out of it and forced to leave her original body behind. She finds another leader-type to follow, a fellow who claims that body-swapping is bad and should never be practiced, and he gets a lengthy Character Filibuster on the subject. The astute reader might notice that this moral is actively contradicted in the other story threads, so it seems like a broken aesop. Later on, however, she discovers that her original body is dead, and gets to decide whether or not to trade for a body similar, but not identical, to the one she had. For a few seconds, she considers which choice would be more in line with the precepts she's adopted--then she realizes that she's still blindly doing whatever she's told, and for the first time in the book, she makes her decision based on her own instincts rather than someone else's advice.
- Two Aesops in The Twilight Saga are broken:
- According to Word of God, the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle was intended to show Bella's choice in the matter of love, namely that she had the option of Jacob but chose Edward. The "love through choice" moral is shot to hell through most of the other couples though, particularly in the case of imprinted couples (the guy can't help but feel attracted to the girl and while the girl technically is able to refuse him, there is a ton of pressure not to). Especially egregious is the case of Jacob, who made a number of speeches about how imprinting is essentially the loss of free will and he hopes to never have it and then finds himself happily imprinted on Renesmee, even though he absolutely hated her not five minutes prior.
- One aesop seems to be that a girl as plain and unassuming as Bella can find true love, but Bella's flaws fall mostly into the category of Informed Flaw, and are almost entirely removed at the end of the series. Not to mention, though Bella is intended to be plain and unassuming, nearly every man she runs into falls for her and Edward himself states that most of the boys in the school find her attractive. Clearly, not so plain. Bella's depiction on the film does not help, either... However, maybe the intended Aesop here was that if you hold off on sex until you get married and then die in childbirth, you will become a saint and absolutely perfect in every way.
- There's also the issue that the Cullens value morality and human life and preach the aesop that it's wrong to kill humans...but every one of them except for Carlisle has killed humans at least once in their pasts. That's not to mention the fact that they let vampires that do eat humans visit their house, and even loan out cars so that they can get humans to eat more easily.
- Naked Empire, eighth book of the Sword of Truth series spends a good chunk of time preaching that you have to work for things, and that knowledge doesn't just come to you when you need it. In the last pages of the book, Richard's dying of poison and the knowledge of how to make the antidote basically just shows up in his head. Another particularly obvious one is the repeated exhortation to live your own life and think for yourself - but if you don't think Richard is right you're wrong, probably evil, and are going to die.
- "Sometimes the greatest harm can come from the best intentions. Unless it's Richard."
- In Little Men, Nat is caught telling a lie, and this is treated as a very serious issue and resolved with a cruel and unusual punishment. The problem is, a much older boy was threatening to beat the crap out of him if he'd ran through the boy's veggie patch - which he'd done because he was being chased by another older boy - so Nat got scared and denied it. And neither of the other boys were punished or even given a talking-to, leaving us with the message that lying to get out of a dangerous situation is not only wrong, but so much worse than threatening and bullying little kids who aren't able to defend themselves. Whoo, moralizing.
- Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy is most infamous for its Deus ex Machina ending, but the story (particularly the third book) also attempts to promote an anti-racism message, with the Possessed as a metaphor for victims of bigotry. Unfortunately, this message is sort of lost when the victims of oppression are body-snatching ghosts who use rape and torture to increase their numbers.
- Star Wars Young Jedi Knights: Tenal Ka makes it a habit of relying as much as possible on her own physical abilities, relying on weapons or The Force only as a last resort (which kind of makes one wonder why the hell she wants to be a Jedi to begin with.) In the series' 4th book, "Lightsabers" emphasis is placed on her reminding herself of this while constructing her lightsaber, so she doesn't put enough care into constructing it. resulting in her losing her arm in a lightsaber training accident Afterwards, she feels ashamed that she let her pride cloud her judgment. Good lesson. Except her actions afterward don't show any regret. If she regretted it, it'd make sense for her to make at least a few minor exceptions to her code of honor and realize that sometimes you have to be realistic when it comes battle and use those so called "not as honorable tactics". Instead, what does she do afterwards? Not only in the same book but just several hours later? Refuses to wear a synthetic arm replacement. Why? Because she think it's dishonorable. And the story clearly treats this as the right decision. Face? Meet palm.
- The Candy Shop War has a pretty loud aesop, to the extent that John even states it, after having written it out for everyone in chalk. DON'T TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS! Great, but the kids don't take candy from random creeps on the side of the road. They get candy from a woman who owns a candy shop and a man who runs an icecream truck, having either paid for them or worked to earn them.
- The Sweet Valley High series (and its numerous spinoffs) basically ran on the power of Hypocrisy. If "bad" twin Jessica dated a different boy every night, she was blasted for being promiscuous, but if "good" twin Elizabeth cheated on her boyfriend, it was glossed over to the point where HE was apologizing to HER. If Jessica acted stuck-up, she was a heartless bitch, but if Elizabeth did the same thing, she must have a good reason for it. Additionally, Elizabeth would practically demand that HER friends be forgiven for their misdeeds and given a chance to redeem themselves. Needless to say, she had no such compassion for any of Jessica's friends--not until big brother Steve blasts her for this does she even realize how insensitive and hypocritical she's being. An even better, if not outright literal, example of this trope is the fact that Jessica never once learned her lesson. She'd try to pull a zany scheme which would fall apart and leave her with egg on her face, but by the next book, would be doing it all over again, despite everyone under the sun warning her about what happened the last time.
- With Jessica, the writers often seemed to confuse being mischievous with being a sociopath.
- The book Lady in Waiting states first that a single woman was encouraged to pursue a doctorate, and that the spirit-filled woman is interesting and has goals for herself. But later it says that seeking fulfillment through a career is wrong and that a single woman should only seek fulfillment in serving God in whatever way, method, location, and time God wants.
- In the Riftwar saga we get hammered about how the end doesnt justify the means, and that evil actions are irrational, by the heroes. Then they start torturing enemies, in full knowledge of this being evil, in the name of the greater good.
- There's a children's poem about a little girl whose father brags that men are better drivers and are "built with speed and strength". He ends up driving his car straight into a truck and the poem starts to make a gender equality Aesop...which then gets completely broken by having the little girl remark "men are built with speed and strength but hardly any brains" showing she's just as sexist as her father.
- John Wyndham nove The Chrysalids initially has quite a powerful message against racism an Xenophobia, being set in a backwards, post-apocalyptic theocracy in which mutants are brutally murdered for blaspheming against the likeness of God. Too bad the apparent message is fatally undermined in the last ten pages or so by having an airship full of technologically advanced mutants to rescue the heroes by cheerfully massacring all of the primitive people surrounding them while talking about how it is moral and good for inferior races to be killed by their superiors.
- In-universe example: In The Barsoom Project, sequel to Dream Park, a live-action adventure about Inuit mythology is re-staged as a "Fat Ripper", in which players are psychologically conditioned to overcome their eating disorders and other dependencies while completing their mission. This could've been a real coup for the Park's operators, if one of the game's challenges hadn't required them to smoke cigarettes as part of a magical ritual. So we're training Gamers to trade one unhealthy habit for another, are we?
Live Action TV Edit
- In Lincoln Heights the whole point of the series seems to be to show how dangerous it is to raise a family there. So then why do the Suttons insist on raising their family there? Because they love the neighborhood so much despite the fact that their kids have been shot, kidnapped and held hostage every other episode. So it's fine to raise your family in a dangerous neighborhood as long as they're comfortable there.
- The final episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch badly mangled its moral. On the eve of her wedding, Sabrina gets cold feet because the magical stone representing her soul doesn't quite interlock with the magical stone representing the groom's. The entire rest of the episode builds to a clear moral: there are no sure things, don't rely on magic, just do your best and have faith. Then she leaves him at the altar to run off with Harvey -- and their magic stones interlock perfectly. Hm. Guess the moral was that magic is right after all. Also, First Guy Wins, so the whole 'no sure things' lesson is out as well.
- In Family Matters, one of Extraverted Nerd Steve Urkel's redeeming traits was originally that he was a personification of the aesop "just Be Yourself." The original appearance of his alter-ego Stefan Urquelle was merely a vehicle for Anvilicious preaching of this aesop. Unfortunately, then someone on the creative team decided that Stefan should become a regular part of Urkel's bag of Mad Scientist tricks, and the aesop was broken. Attempts to mend it -- for instance, the fact that Steve and Stefan could not exist at the same time, forcing Laura to give up her romance with Stefan because Steve had the right to exist as himself -- were themselves broken by later, new wrinkles (Steve accidentally clones himself and the clone decides to be permanently Stefan). The Aesop was finally mended in the final season when Laura accepted Steve's proposal over Stefan's but by then, the series had moved to CBS and not enough viewers were watching to keep the show on the air.
- Urkel's almost always been a broken aesop. By 'being himself', he caused the majority of the problems the Winslows faced over the years.
- In response to a date's Jerkass behavior, Laura ranted about how Steve always treated her with "respect". Refusing to accept that a girl is not interested in you, ignoring her requests that you leave her alone, and interfering with her dates and relationships is not respect. Frankly, in Real Life, Steve's behavior would be tantamount to stalking.
- Star Trek:
- More than a few Star Trek the Next Generation episodes had members of the Enterprise's crew caught up in planetary rebellions. In at least two of them, crew members were specifically targeted for abduction because they were Federation citizens, and the Federation had access to plentiful weapons and supplies that they hoped would be traded for the hostages. In all cases, Picard refused to provide any significant aid to the party opposing the ones that took his personnel, citing the Prime Directive as his reason. The problem with that is that the abductors had committed an act of war against the Federation. One group came very close to stealing or destroying the Enterprise, the flagship of the fleet. So the moral of "You have to solve your own problems, rather than finding someone else to solve them for you", became "The strong and principled are good targets, because they won't fight someone so much weaker than them."
- Or ""good countries should do nothing when their citizens get abducted by terrorists."
- Out of This World:
- In one episode Evie uses her powers to pass her driving test, with the result that she gets a license despite not being able to parallel park. This is, obviously, a reprehensible thing, and consequentially, she gets in a car accident the very first time she takes the car out. Everything's reasonable so far, except for the fact that the tester was being a jerk and demanded she park in a space visibly smaller than the car. So the moral is "It's not fair to use your superpowers to succeed at something that would be physically impossible to do without them."
- "I Want My Evie TV": Evie's recently-arrived Uncle Mick tries to persuade her to use her powers for personal gain. After being repeatedly cautioned about using her powers for personal gain, she uses her powers to make a music video for a school project. She is punished by her mom, for using her powers for personal gain. So far so good, right? In the end, her video gets entered in a contest and she wins $500. And that's the end of the episode. That's it. No confession, no moment of revelation. No moral epiphany. Turns out that using her powers for personal gain just works with no negative consequences.
- When Hiro from Heroes discovers that his father had died, he traveled back into the past to save his father, but his father declined the offer by saying that he should not play God with his powers; then the entire episode is about Hiro learning that his father is absolutely correct and he presents this as An Aesop during his father's funeral. The problem is that Hiro's Time Travel abilities are about changing the past and he had done it before without complaining once. Worse, Present!Dad wouldn't have died if Future!Hiro hadn't traveled through time to save Past!Dad from dying in the first place! It could be that the very Stargate-Aesop is, "Time Travel gives everyone a headache, even when it's their main ability."
- Kids Incorporated frequently had to shave off some load-bearing plot elements to fit in their morals -- each episode only had about 7 minutes of actual show between the musical numbers. The two most common:
- Anything based around the Aesop of "Be Yourself". Time after time, one of the Kids would try something new or to hang out with someone who was different from their usual peer group. Unless this newcomer was Inspirationally Disadvantaged, the end result was always that hanging out with the new person made them change, act like a punk, act too sophisticated, act arrogant, etc. The writers wanted to show that it was bad to change yourself to make new "cooler" friends, but the story was used with such frequency that it seemed as if trying in any way to broaden your horizons or make friends outside the regular cast was a bad thing.
- Ambition Is Evil: About once a season, something would give one or all of the kids a taste of stardom, and they would promptly forget about The Power of Friendship and start acting like jackasses and rivals. In the end, they would have to turn down any chance at becoming rich and famous in order to keep to what's "really important". Aside from the usual "Success is evil" vibe, we're repeatedly told in the early seasons that Kids Incorporated are already the most famous juvenile band on the planet, and are world famous. Heck, the theme song includes the phrase "Looks like we made it!" So, um, exactly how successful are you allowed to be before it becomes immoral?
- Gilligan's Island: According to series creator Sherwood Schwartz, the show was supposed to be about the need for us all to work together. So who ends up getting off the island? The guest stars, by betraying the regular cast.
- ICarly: In the episode iGo Nuclear, the intended Green Aesop is destroyed with a message that eventually boils down to "don't bother trying, you'll just do it wrong anyway," as well as failing one character for not doing something, and then failing a second character because he did what the first character didn't do. It's worth noting that Executive Meddling mandated a Green Aesop that the creators didn't want to write--this might be a purposeful Spoof Aesop that being forced into environmentalism just sucks.
- A Saturday Night Live sketch parodying The Twilight Zone episode "The Eye of the Beholder" intentionally does this by having the male characters look at the "ugly" patient (played by Pamela Anderson) and proclaim, "She's hot!" Not only did they Lampshade Hanging this trope, they slightly-more-subtly sent a message of modern media eschewing thought-provoking entertainment in favor of gratuitous T&A that ensures ratings. They took this even further by having all the characters except the patient literally have pig noses, and the male pig-people complain that after having seen the patient, they would no longer be able to stand looking at their pig-faced wives. This drives a pig-nurse to angrily point out (to no avail) that the men had pig faces themselves!
- True Blood. The vampire rights movement seems to parallel every oppressed minority ever, but the Vampires Are People Too message just doesn't ring when you examine how the vampires actually behave. Examples:
- Most of them are cold-blooded killers. Bill isn't an exception.
- Despite claiming that they want to integrate with human society, they still maintain their own parallel system of government, with Queens and Sheriffs empowered to deal out punishment.
- They view and keep humans as property. Sookie is kept relatively "safe" because Bill says that she belongs to him, and Sookie agrees to go along with it.
- Vampires can use mind control and convert others, either voluntarily or against their will. Obviously, minorities in real life can't, not to mention that it plays into fear-mongering Unfortunate Implications about how LGBT people "recruit" others.
- In short, the fears that many people have against vampires are legitimate, not just the result of ignorant prejudice. This is entirely deliberate on the part of both the show and the novels it's based on. Which makes the resulting Aesop... maybe the bigots were right all along?
- An episode of Sex and the City had an Aesop about how you can't change a man. However, in this same episode, every male character who appears changes in some way.
- In episode 17 of Mirai Sentai Timeranger, an Aesop is taught that fighting is wrong, even in self-defense - in a Super Sentai series where fights are the preferred method of problem solving.
- An episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has the Yellow Ranger (Who is Asian of course) being talked to about honor. Most notably, how she should fight monsters all on her own because it's honorable. Besides of all the other things wrong with this aesop, this episode was very closely placed to an episode about teamwork, which had literally the exact opposite aesop. And between the two, on a show where 5 super heroes usually beat up on one monster, the whole honor thing just doesn't make as much sense.
- The lesson in the Power Rangers Mystic Force three-parter "Dark Wish" is supposed to be "don't take shortcuts, do the work you're supposed to", demonstrated by having the Rangers try to wish away the bad guys through the resident genie and having it backfire horribly. This is undermined by A) the Rangers have been encouraged all season to embrace their magical gifts, so "don't cheat with magic" rings hollow, B) the bad guys get the chance to use the genie themselves, and their wish to depower the Rangers is completely successful, and C) the Rangers' reward for learning not to use magic is even stronger magic that fuels their Super Mode.
- In Power Rangers Samurai, the Red Ranger stays behind to train on his day off while all the other Rangers go to an amusement park. His master says that in order to master his weapon, he needs balance in his life and should have more fun. The Ranger shrugs him off and eventually masters the weapon with more training, even after all these hints that in order to master his weapon, he needed to have more fun.
- In one "Message from the Power Rangers", a kid encounters Paul Schrier (the actor who plays Bulk) in a park, and is shocked to learn that even though he plays an arrogant, dimwitted bully on TV, in real life he's an intelligent, good-hearted guy with a niece who adores him, and that Jason Narvy (who plays Skull) is actually his best friend. The message about the difference between reality and fantasy is perfectly valid...but the portrayal of the "real" Paul Schrier is fictionalized as well. While he is a very nice guy, he doesn't have any siblings in Real Life. The bit about him having a niece is completely made up.
- The Noah's Arc movie gets in several aesops, but one is particularly broken. When Noah finds out Alex is addicted to caffeine pills he takes it very seriously, and thats where the Drugs Are Bad aesop is played out. But throughout the movie we've seen Brandy enjoy a variety of drugs quite a bit harsher than caffeine, and its all Played for Laughs with no real consequences.
- In an episode of The Equalizer, eponymous character Robert McCall, whose client has been shot, delivers a blistering screed against private ownership of firearms. He's standing in his private arsenal at the time. (Satisfyingly, sidekick Mickey Kostmayer points this out.)
- In Glee, near the end of Season 1, the show tried to promote a Gay Aesop. Finn learns to his shock from his mother that they're moving in with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend happens to be the father of Kurt, who has a crush on Finn. The two have to room together, and Finn's homophobia causes tension between the two. Eventually at the end, Finn has to learn to respect others despite their differences. Sounds simple enough, but the way they go about achieving this aesop made it broken. Kurt, both in this episode and over the course of the season, had a blatant crush on Finn and the rooming situation was part of his plan to seduce Finn in hopes of him becoming his boyfriend. In other words, despite the aesop, Kurt never did respect Finn's boundaries.
- In season 2 Kurt calls Blaine out on the fact that Blaine is the only one to even have solos with The Warblers and everybody else just sways in the background and provide backvocals for him. Blaine takes this seriously and when the Warbler council argue which song would be the best for Blaine to sing at Regionals, Blaine stands up and tells them he wants their voices to be heard too and that they should have solos as well. When the council wants to vote who should have the solos instead, Blaine tells them he already decided he wants one of his songs to be a duet with Kurt, then he tells Kurt he picked him to spend more time with him, because he wants them to be boyfriends. Then at Regionals they sing one duet together and the second song is a Blaine solo with the rest of the Warblers swaying in the background and providing back vocals.
- In the Christmas episode in season 3, the club is given the choice between volunteering at a homeless shelter for the holidays and filming a christmas special. They arrive near the end and We are clearly supposed to see it as a noble heartwarming moment which ignores the fact that They filmed the special anyway and arrived later. It wouldn't be as troubling but for the way the writers obviously want this to be seen as a selfless moment on Their part. The message comes across "Do the right thing but only if it doesn't cost You anything".
- A Mexican telenovela called "La Catrina" revolves around the story of a rich woman just before the Mexican Revolution who went around in disguise, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. It's meant to be heroic, but the question is: since she was so rich, why didn't she just give to the poor from her own fortune, instead of stealing others'?
- One episode of Zoey 101 involved Zoey and Logan starting a web segment that quickly became popular in school. However, the dean bans them from doing it, so they fight back and win, the moral being "censorship is bad". Which would be fine, except for the fact that the show was causing full-scale riots in the halls during school hours. That kind of response is a valid reason to ban something.
- Boston Public had an incident from a previous episode's Aesop altered to fit the Aesop of the current ep. An academically-overachieving girl suffers a stress-related panic attack meant to open Lauren Davis' eyes to the intense pressure she puts on her students with her Death Glare, high standards and stern attitude. In the next episode, which is about students using performance-enhancing drugs, the hospitalized student is revealed to have been on a Ritalin-esque drug that caused her attack. Lauren still struggled with it in later storylines but the girl's speech to Lauren about how her students really see her falls flat. Furthermore, it's implied that the teacher's techniques work.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Timeslides" Rimmer attempts to convince an alternate Lister (created by Lister's fiddling with the past) to come back to the ship.
You call this happiness? Surrounded by toadying lackeys and paid sycophants? Living with a love-goddess sex-bomb model megastar? You call this contentment? You know, I stand here now and I look at the two of us, and I ask one simple question: Who is the rich man? You, with your fifty-eight houses, your private island in the Bahamas, your multi-billion pound business empire; or me, with... with... with what I've got. (Pause) It's you, isn't it? Yes, it's all very clear to me now. You -- richer and happier. I should have thought a bit harder about that speech, really. I cocked it up a bit, didn't I...?
- In Highway to Heaven, Johnathan, the angel, is often reminding his mortal friend, Mark, that violence is not the answer, often in cases where violence could reasonably be used. However, there are times when Johnathan uses violence himself, such as a time when he beats up three guys for stealing another guy's lunch. So, violence is not the answer, except when it is, but only if it's for something trivial.
- In another Highway to Heaven example, the episode Friends has a fat girl who doesn't have any friends. Why? Apparently, it's because she's fat. The just be yourself Aesop is broken in this episode. The life lesson this fat girl learns at the end of the episode is that it's okay to be yourself - unless you're fat! Then, it's okay to lose weight, but not because it's healthy or because doughnuts were costing her $3.10 a day, but because people will like you if you're thin. The intention my have been "Obesity is bad. Diet and exercise can make you thin" which isn't so bad, but pretty much the opposite of "Be Yourself".
- In another Highway to Heaven episode, Man to Man, a 19-year-old is good at just about everything he does. Johnathan and Mark discuss how winning isn't everything, despite the fact that the guy is just good at the things he does and applies himself. Mark and Johnathan come up with a few ways to show him how it's okay to lose sometimes, then use God's power to make him lose.
- In My Name Is Earl, Earl explains how you shouldn't let people's labels define who you are. What's he doing while saying this? He's putting away his Karma list because people have taken to calling him "Karma guy."
- On Strong Medicine, perennial Jerk Sue Lu Delgado is constantly ranting and raving about the evils of rich people and acting holier-than-thou because she isn't. However, she's horrified when her son's girlfriend (whom she's been incredibly nasty too, despite the girl being nice and polite) insinuates that Lu dislikes her for being white (Lu is Hispanic), and distressed that her son thinks she's racist. So, automatically disliking and judging people because of their race is wrong (which it is, of course), but automatically disliking and judging people because they have money is perfectly fine?
- On The West Wing, the two-parter "24 Hours in America" ends with Donna eloquently scolding Toby and Josh for politicizing everything, telling them that, in all the time they were traveling from Indiana to D.C., no one brought up the Bartlet vs. Ritchie election except them. It's a nice speech, but it's not true: at several points along the way, when Toby or Josh merely mentions working for Bartlet, whoever they were talking to would immediately shoot back a surly, "Didn't vote for him the first time, don't plan to the second time."
- On the Nevada Day episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset strip, The writers clearly tried to get across a message about how not everyone in small towns is an unreasonable,stuck in the dark ages bible bashing gun-nut (To the point where John Goodman's character actually says something to that effect). Its a nice if glaringly obvious aesop that gets broken because the Judge was giving them every reason to believe that he really was as bad as They thought He was. When He comes into the sheriff's office, He puts a holstered gun on the table,refers to nearby chinese people as "Japs",refuses to listen to any legal arguments from the attorney and threatens to have him shot if He keeps talking (I.e,actually trying to defend his client) and claims to have never heard of the station They work for. He then has a good laugh at Their expense and chastises Them in a manner clearly directed at audience members who had made Their mind up. Its like calling someone a racist name and chastising them for assuming You're racist. The judge even tells Tom that He doesn't like his show in a manner that basically says "I don't like what You do for a living so I'm not going to be fair or do My job right". The only thing that saves Tom is having a brother in the army and We never get a sense that the judge would have been fair or lenient otherwise. It also doesn't help that the show has previously shown Tom's parents from the midwest as so hopelessly out of touch with pop culture that They've never heard of Abbot & Costello despite presumable growing up in the 1950's.
- Benson : In the episode "Don't Quote Me," it is discovered that somebody in the governor's mansion leaked damaging information to a reporter. Paranoia quickly infects the staff as, one after another, Benson, Marcy, Kraus, and Taylor are all suspected of being the leak. The entire episode seems to be warning against the paranoia that can develop in these situations, and depicts the characters as being wrong for turning the matter into a witch hunt, and for accusing people they should have known were trustworthy and loyal to the governor. This aesop about trust would work, if it wasn't for the fact that the leak turned out to be, of all people, Katie. When the governor's 8-year-old daughter proves to be the guilty party ... Well, it appears that nobody was above suspicion, after all.
- In the Xena: Warrior Princess episode Here She Comes, Miss Amphipolis Xena has to go undercover in a beauty pageant, and finds that one of the other contestants has only entered because she wants to get a winter's supply of food for her village. At the end of the episode, (along with the other girls) she quits, stating that winning the competition isn't worth losing her pride and dignity. First of all, (according to her) she's already lost it, so she may as well have hung in there and gotten a winter's supply of food to go with it. Secondly, endangering the lives of hungry children over the winter isn't a particularly good reason to quit a competition for the sake of one's dignity. Thirdly, it doesn't seem to occur to her that she had her pride and dignity all along considering she only entered the pageant in the first place for the sake of others. For an episode that was meant to demonstrate that beauty pageant contestants aren't just pretty faces, they really missed the boat with this one.
- Notorious B.I.G and Puff Daddy's video for Mo' Money, Mo' Problems stars Puff as a golf champion who laments over his recent acquisition of wealth in lieu with the song's title. For some reason, that doesn't seem to stop him from rapping for about three minutes about how awesome it is to be rich.
- The Lemon Demon song "Geeks in Love" has a fairly good (if tired-out) message by itself, that it is better to be unique and spend time with the rare person who shares your own interests than to be hip and hang with the crowd. However, its music video by Albino Black Sheep functions largely as a tribute to every other annoying Internet fad in the world, and aligning them with the interests of the eponymous couple. It's not really individualism when you swap one dull set of pop-culture icons out for another just like it.
- Parodied by the Flight of the Conchords song "Think About It", which takes a swipe at well-meaning but ultimately fatuous protest songs. The song raises moral issues but completely misses the point of them:
They're turning kids into slaves
Just to make cheaper sneakers
But what's the real cost?
'Cause the sneakers don't seem that much cheaper...
Why're we still paying so much for sneakers when you've got them made by little slave kids?
What is your overhead?
- Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" teaches us that we're all children of God, all good, and have a right to live. It also says we should be comfortable with who we are. Which is nice, but then you remember that Lady Gaga uses a stage name and hides behind glitter and strange clothing, plus usually covers her face. You could argue that THIS is her true self she's expressing, due to Alternative Character Interpretation. Or that you have a right to be comfortable with who you are and a right to do it without the paparazzi invading your privacy when you're not "on".
- More to the point, "Born This Way" is a song about against bigotry... that uses racial slurs. "Orient" is for rugs, not people, and unless you are Hispanic, you shouldn't use the word "chola".
- In the music video for "Macho Man", it depicts the macho singers working out on some weight machines--set to the lowest settings. "Macho, macho man" indeed.
- The Dandy Warhol's "Not if you Were the Last Junky on Earth"; Moral: Don't do Heroin, Reasoning: It's so passé.
- Jennifer Lopez: Jenny from the Block. She wanted to convey humility and staying true to her roots; the music video clip did the exact opposite.
- The music video for Pink's "Stupid Girls" contradicts the song's message by associating stupidity with make-up, fashion and anything pink, and implying that playing football makes you smarter and a better person while playing with dolls makes you stupid. The song teaches girls that they should be smart, not physically strong and unfeminine.
- BarlowGirl's She Walked Away begins with a girl leaving her home and makes it sound like she was being abused and finally had the courage to leave after a Break the Cutie moment (If there were tears she laughed, it's time to kiss the past goodbye) but then suddenly has her family singing about how God should tell her to please come home, making the song's apparent aesop "Home is where the heart is, even if you're being abused." Alternately, she was just a plain ol' runaway. The lyrics are ambiguous.
- The infamous Double Take song "Hot Problems" is about two girls "singing" that even though they're hot, they're still imperfect and have their fair share of struggles. At the very end, they laugh and say, "Just kidding; we're perfect!"
- "Escape" (The Pina Colada Song) ends with the guy rekindling his romance with his wife...by answering a personals ad, thinking he'd end up with a new girlfriend. So, it's OK to take out ads in the personals because your marriage is boring, because it just might show you what you had in front of you: a great spouse who was perfectly willing to cheat on you.
Myth And Legends / Folklore Edit
- Beauty and The Beast in its various tellings usually ends up having a Broken Aesop (especially in modern versions) that is naturally an inversion of the complaint about Shrek. It's believed that the story was originally told to girls who were in arranged marriages to men they didn't care for, so Values Dissonance may be involved.
- The story is supposedly saying that Beauty comes to see beyond the Beast's appearance and accept him for who he is... except that they're only able to live Happily Ever After when the curse is broken and he reverts to a perfect Handsome Prince (and thus comes off as "only beautiful people can love each other" instead... though this sort of neglects the fact that the transformation is the Beast's reward, not Belle's). Depending on how violent the Beast's personality is portrayed as being in the particular adaptation, it can also contain the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that it's okay to endure an abusive relationship, he'll change. The story in itself is hard to tell well, and thus often Subverted Trope. Some versions of the tale avert this problem by having him remain in beast form at the end, but finding true happiness anyway. Kinda like Shrek, except the prince usually doesn't actually choose to remain in beast form, he and Belle simply learn to accept it, or it's shown that Belle still loves him and thinks he's beautiful even though the spell failed to be broken. So, the Beauty and the Beast myth is applicable to the contemporary refinement of the modern counter-traditional you can't change the bastard message, to Your love cannot change him, it can only be supportive of him while he creates his own change, assuming he desires and is willing to work for it.
- Needless to say, the Broken Aesop-ness and possible Unfortunate Implications of this tale in all versions have been heavily debated and still continues to be. At least one source argues that the original fairy tale is actually the one with greater Unfortunate Implications because it implies that the true monster is not the Beast himself but the Beauty who, despite her goodness, cannot see him for the kind man he is and does seem to imply that the Beast turning into a handsome prince as soon as she agrees to marry him is more her reward than his as the Beast was kind to her from the beginning and it was she who needed to change - and that the Disney film inverts this, perhaps a little too much, by making the Beauty closer to Earth and the Beast the one who needs to change to be worthy of her.
- There's also the broken aesop that comes from the fact that in a story that is supposed to be about not judging people by their appearances, the most notable aspect of the heroine is her beauty. It can make the story seem a bit less about looking beyond appearances and more beautiful women should be willing to settle for ugly men. Some variants avoid this by making Beauty's name at least partially ironic, but usually she is presented as the epitome of both physical and inner beauty, while her less attractive sisters are just as ugly on the inside. Not to mention how many variants explicitly state that the Prince is not just handsome but the handsomest man Beauty has ever seen or even the handsomest one in the world, which can lead to Unfortunate Implications about how it's apparently not enough for the Beast to become human again because he has to be gorgeous beyond belief to be a proper husband/reward for Beauty.
- There are countless legends (as well as other types of works) that feature the story of a young princess who is in love with a commoner but cannot marry him because he is not of noble blood. Different stories end differently, but in the majority of cases, this "commoner" will be revealed to have noble blood by the end of the story. The often spontaneous discovery that the commoner is a prince will suddenly lift all boundaries, put a satisfied smile on the king's previously-angry face, and be followed by the sound of wedding bells. In other words, while the intended Aesop is usually that "true love conquers all", it is in fact social status that conquers all, and must be properly matched before true love can do its magic. Now, this may have been fine in the days when most societies on Earth had a strict class structure - even commoners held the misconception that the nobles were somehow innately more elevated than they were, and thus should look after their bloodlines. In today's world however, these stories continue to be told just the same, despite Unfortunate Implications that true love only works when social stature is compatible. In fact, it's not uncommon for new works to be written based on the old ones without the writer even realizing how misguided this is.
- The boy who cried wolf. Amazingly parodied here.
Newspaper Comics Edit
- The Dick Tracy "Crimestopper's Guide" feature that runs with the Sunday strip provides a number of generally helpful crime prevention tips. However, they often are, if not broken, then at least hypocritical in the face of the main action: It reminds that "you cannot spot a criminal by their facial features", while the strip is best known for its grotesquely ugly villains. It also has exhortations for people to "get involved" when they see a crime committed, while in the strip helpful bystanders tend to quickly end up dead. And so on.
- E.C. Segar's Thimble Theater, where Popeye first appeared, sometimes had an And Knowing Is Half the Battle segment in which Popeye would teach morals. In one of them Popeye seriously teaches kids not to be lazy with their language and mispronounce words ("sumpin' for "something", for instance). I would desperately like to believe that to be tongue-in-cheek, but if memory serves then none of the others were...
- Calvin and Hobbes points out a common use of this in Christmas Specials:
Dad: Watching a Christmas special?
Dad: Another show extolling love and peace interrupted every seven minutes by commercials extolling greed and waste. I hate to think what you're learning from this.
Calvin: I'm learning I need my own TV so I can watch someplace else.
Professional Wresting Edit
- While WWE's heart is in the right place, their anti-bullying campaign, "Be A Star," just doesn't really have any legs to stand on. Pro wrestling glamorizes being as overbearing, cutthroat, and even downright sadistic as possible as being a surefire way to get to the top quickly and effectively. So these same people doing whatever is in their power to make sure everyone else stays underfoot to them are also telling the audience that it's wrong to do this to the people you know...well, there's some dissonance to be found.
- There's also the fact that the commercial featured the Bella Twins, who were heels when the commercial they were in was being broadcast.
- A little more understandable but still troublesome is John Cena's current "Rise Above Hate" slogan. Of course, Kane is deliberately trying to get Cena to break this Aesop and "Embrace the Hate"...but if you examine the two characters of John Cena and Kane carefully, you'll see that a problem has existed there from the very beginning. After all, Cena is hardly brave for refusing to surrender to feelings of hate when he is world-famous, absurdly successful, fabulously wealthy, and is loved by at least a bare majority of the WWE Universe - and thus, has no reason in the world to experience hate. Conversely, is Kane really such a monster for being so full of hate when he was nearly burned to death as a child, suffered years of psychological trauma that left him unable to speak for a long time, accidentally killed his high school sweetheart in a car crash, lost the unborn child he fathered and was betrayed by his wife, was tricked into causing the death of his father, and in general is loathed and ignored by the better part of the human race?
Stand-Up Comedy Edit
- In his stand-up, Ricky Gervais identifies the Broken Aesop inherent in a version of the children's folk tale 'The Lazy Mouse and the Industrious Mouse' that he was told by his headmaster, at a school assembly. In the story, the Industrious Mouse labours long and hard to prepare himself for winter, whilst the Lazy Mouse bunks off and has fun. When winter comes, the Lazy Mouse has nothing, so goes to avail himself of the charity of the Industrious Mouse -- who, after beginning a lecture about how the Lazy Mouse should have done his own preparing, suddenly turns around and invites him in to share. Gervais notes with exasperation that the moral is mangled from being "work hard and be prepared for the future" into becoming, in his words, "fuck around, do whatever you want and then scrounge off a do-gooder". He also notes that most of the pupils at that assembly took the latter aesop and "kept it up" for the entirety of their academic careers. He also points out that, thanks to the Rule of Three, the moral of the tale of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is not "never tell a lie", but rather "never tell the same lie twice." And rounds it off by inferring that the moral of "Humpty Dumpty" must be "don't climb walls if you're an egg."
- We are told we should all live our lives to the full because we could die tomorrow, and there is no day like today. But if you do happen to die, you can come back to life through The Power of Rock.
- The concept of there being "no day but today," which is sung about a lot, is subverted in the second act through the use of passage of time: the first act, in which the mantra occurs extremely frequently, takes place in one day while the second takes place over the course of a year (in which the mantra is shown to be faulty at best).
- Rent also likes to complain about how hard it is to be an artist, but any kind of artistic job working for someone else would be selling out. One wonders what would happen if Roger actually starts selling CDs. Or, indeed, if Rent itself becoming so extremely lucrative means we shouldn't listen to it as it sells itself out....
- For people who spend the whole time talking about love and loving life, the circle of friends seems to have a lot of cheating, poor communication, and emotional sniping at each other - no one is enjoying themselves very much, or following Angel's lauded example. And, for that matter, Collins, who spends his time loving Angel and loving life with Angel ends up pretty much broken because of Angel's death.
- And then there's Angel: percussion genius, representation of unconditional love... and canine-killer-for-hire.
- Wicked's primary aesop 'what makes one wicked' ends up mildly broken due to the Lighter and Softer adaptation. For all of Elphaba's problems, in the musical, she is never truly wicked, so the musings seem kind of pointless. Also, the (admittedly depressing) aesop of 'No good deed going unpunished' is broken by Elphaba getting a happy ending in contrast to the extreme Downer Ending of the book.
- Starlight Express:
- According to the finale, electricity and diesel fuel will eventually run out, but somehow steam power is sustainable. What exactly are we burning to get this magical steam? Also (presumably) coal burning steam engines are better than environmentally friendly options like solar and nuclear power. This last one may be because it was written in the 1980s.
- In the closing number "Light At The End Of The Tunnel," the characters do briefly consider solar and nuclear energy, but then dismiss them because 1) How is one supposed to make use of solar power at night? and 2) People would get poisoned by nuclear fallout. Oversimplifications, to be sure - but, then, this is a children's story.
- Richard Stilgoe, the show's lyricist, knew full well that steam engines polluted the environment; he claimed that it was far easier for audiences to sympathize with a steam locomotive than a diesel or electric one, since steamers had more of a historical precedent. But the finale, according to him, is meant to symbolize the triumph of "old-fashioned craftsmanship" over new technology. Take a moment to consider why a steam locomotive is not a suitable representative of "old-fashioned craftsmanship."
- Molière often has stories involving young people in love, wanting to marry despite being rich/poor, or noble/commoner, and most time at least one has his parents planning an Arranged Marriage for him. Stories always end with the poor revealed to be actually rich, the commoner a noble. In Les Fourberies de Scapin, he also makes 2 pairs of people revealed to be actually brother and sister. Remember Molière was playing for the king, so the twist endings can be interpreted of means to Get Crap Past the Radar: the whole story is about refusing the parental Arranged Marriage, last five minutes have the parents agree with the true love marriage.
- Bionicle's Vakama was ridiculed by his fellow heroes-in-the-making for his weird dreams and visions. He always misinterpreted them, seemingly leading his friends into danger, which lead to him going emo over his situation, calling himself a "cross-wired freak". Yet in a Tear Jerker scene, his former hero, the wise Turaga Lhikan persuaded him to have more confidence, both in himself and his visions, and after he followed his feelings, he ended up saving his people. The aesop was somewhat broken when he became so reckless that he almost undid all the good his team had done so far, and then some. However, when the story began following a Doing in the Wizard-path, trying to squeeze in as many "all your beliefs will be turned upside-down" plot-twists as possible, it became permanently broken, since we learned that these visions were nothing more than glitches in his artificial intelligence, and he really was a cross-wired freak, who "lucked out".
- Toy Biz (Parent company of Marvel Comics) has argued to the US Government that "X-Men are not human" for the purpose of escaping stupid tariff laws that make humanoid toys taxed more than non-human ones. For people living under a rock, the point of X-Men is to prove they are human.
Video Games Edit
- Crusader of Centy has one of the most broken, spindled and mutilated Aesops in gaming history. It's mainly broken by the Gameplay and Story Segregation. In expressing a message of tolerance and understanding, it attempts to convince the player that humans and monsters are Not So Different, could easily get along if they tried, and that the only reason humans fight them is because Humans Are Bastards. And because most monsters attack humans on sight. But the constant preaching of tolerance is always directed solely toward and against the humans, as if they were the only ones who did anything wrong. The hypocrisy arguably reaches its peak in the Heaven section, when God himself chastises you for "bringing bloodshed to this peaceful place" by defending yourself against a flying lizardman who came out of nowhere and attacked you for no reason. Even the Aesop it attempted is broken in the ending; rather than peace being established between humans and monsters, it is revealed that monsters were all trapped on Earth from another world. After going back in time and killing the creature trapping them there, all the monsters leave before humanity is born and history is changed to make human society a peaceful near-Utopia. The real moral of this story seems to be "Segregation is the way to go, because minorities are the root of all evil, even though it's not technically their fault".
- In Chrono Cross, the overarching moral of the story: that humanity should be able to create its own future, rather than be coddled and manipulated by higher forces. FATE's only goal, in summation, was to protect humankind, although it believed Utopia Justifies the Means. This is painted as wrong, but come the end of the game, we learn that all of FATE's actions (and the actions of many millennia's worth of events during and preceding the game) were all orchestrated by ONE MAN in order to save the universe. Sure, it all worked out in the end, but so much for manipulating destiny being a "bad" thing. The game is, however, ambiguous enough that whether or not said Chessmaster is meant to be sympathetic is open to interpretation.
- So in The World Ends With You, we have a misanthropic loner emo kid who, over the course of 3 weeks of various trials and tribulations, learns to open up and trust people. Sounds good right? Well the whole "trust" thing is undermined in the battle system. Sure you can let your partner go on Auto-Pilot, but they're not any good at fighting on their own; you won't be able to get any of the fancy partner moves unless you input commands to your partner, and don't forget - you share a mutual HP bar. It's not so much "trust", as it is "you do as I tell you to, because you know I'm very trustworthy and if you don't we'll both die an agonizing death (or at least erasure) at the hands of technicolour zoo animals."
- In Sudeki working together seems to be the moral of the story: the Big Bad exists purely because the resident God split himself in half. Therefore, it's odd that you get to use your full party for four notable story sessions and in only one boss fight, about a third of the way through the game. Generally your party is split in half, and oddly enough (and unfortunately enough. Tal and Elco don't have healing skills) it's men in one group, women in the other.
- In Star Ocean the Last Hope, the Aesop is apparently that you shouldn't help anyone or let anyone help you or you'll be helping the Always Chaotic Evil Grigori. Somehow. Of course, this is contradicted not only by the fact that you previously saved the universe by meddling in one planet's affairs, but also by the plot of every other game in the series.
- Broken by economic concerns: The message of the Oddworld series is that corporations are evil, world-destroying entities... except for delicious, life-restoring Sobe!
- Legend of Mana breaks its Family-Unfriendly Aesop of "freedom is the highest ideal, therefore be true to yourself even at the cost of everything else" by calling on the player character to deal with the aftermath every time. (A case, perhaps, of the Accidental Aesop of: "It's okay if you screw up, because the Chosen One will fix everything!")
- Eikichi in Persona 2 is one huge Broken Aesop. Abridging a lot, Eikichi got separated from his first love, Hanakouji, when he was a kid; since then he kept focusing on "becoming a true man" to be worthy of her. Problem is, Eikichi remembers Hanakouji to be a beautiful, slim girl, while she actually became overweight (though still pretty easy on the eyes) over the years. When he finds out, his reaction is pretty much that he doesn't care, since she is still herself, making the perfect Aesop of not judging people for their appearances. But then that goes to Hell when Hanakouji goes unmentioned for the next 3/4 of the game, only to reappear and become slim through magical powers, and only after that is their relationship resolved. So, true beauty is on the inside, but being slim is still important.
- The moral of the original NES A Boy and His Blob is, basically, an anti-junk food one: "Don't eat lots of candy, and healthy foods are better for you. The bad guy is even a blob of what you could call sapient fat. The problem is that your main weapons to stop him? Are jelly beans. Which give your blob friend magical powers. And extra lives are peppermints. Whose side is that game on, anyway?
- Valkyria Chronicles finds a way to break most of its own Aesops because it's trying to cram too many into one game:
- Squad 7 is full of personality and color in an effort to create Video Game Caring Potential and a scene is devoted to the main characters learning that the enemy is human too, but the entire Gallian main army is blown up at Ghirlandaio and no one cares. The game does make a brief attempt to make the Imperial soldiers sympathetic, but quite a few scenes featuring them both before and after Chapter 8 paint them as unsympathetic assholes who participate in such wholesome activities as running forced labor camps and shooting at civilians, and they don't receive any humanizing moments ever again.
- Everyone learns a lesson about how racism is bad and judging people for their ethnicity is wrong, but because Valkyria powers are a metaphor for nuclear weapons and the game is strongly anti-WMD's, the end result paints the Valkyrur as manipulative, bloodthirsty, all-female monsters in retrospect. As an added bonus, the two living Valkyria are genuinely good people who are in full control of their powers, which breaks both Aesops.
- Selvaria is a Broken Aesop in and of herself; the player is meant to sympathize with her because of her tragic plight, despite the fact that she's an unapologetic mass murderer. It's okay, though! Because she only kills faceless Mooks that no one cares about.
- Welkin makes a dramatic speech about how Squad 7 doesn't need to rely on Alicia's Valkyria powers to win the day and beat the Marmotah, continuing the game's thematic Aesop of "teamwork always beats individual excellence", but the only way Squad 7 is able to even get onto the thing is after those exact powers have been used to blow a hole in its armor plating; before that happens, it's completely hopeless. We're also shown that the villains are strongly individualized and none of the generals work together or have any mutual bonds to each other, and that's why they can be beaten one at a time by a unified Ragtag Bunch of Misfits like Squad 7. But Squad 7 has Alicia, who is Mary-Sue levels of powerful even before she gets her Valkyria powers and can complete several missions alone.
- Faldio is imprisoned for committing treason by awakening Alicia's Valkyria powers because doing so required her to have a near-death experience, so he shot her. Later, he apologizes for believing that power is the key to victory and dies in order to to prove his sincerity, driving home any of the game's anti-war aesops. But if he hadn't done it, Selvaria would have completely obliterated the army and the militia, and conquered Gallia in time for tea and thusly achieved victory for her side-- he openly lampshades this at one point.
- While it is pay for DLC, they actually portray one of the Gallian commanders as a heartless bastard. Having him use a poison forbidden by their "Geneva convention" against his enemies, and after he loses the commander tells his higher ups that his squad had the poison used against them.
- According to the developers of Fallout, the risk of a Broken Aesop was why one of the Multiple Endings for the town of Junktown was changed. The player has to decide between aiding a sherrif or a sleazy casino owner. Originally, the ending for assisting the Sheriff reveals that he becomes a low-grade Knight Templar, and Junktown stays small because people avoid the hassle. Assist the sleazy casino owner, though, and Junktown thrives, because the sleazy casino owner understands that slavers, drug users, and actively immoral people are bad for his business, and wipes them out . In the game proper, though, the Sheriff is the 'good' choice.
- Final Fantasy XIII catches considerable flak for its message of independence being constantly subverted, as your characters repeatedly do exactly what the bad guys tell them to do over and over again right up until the ending (at which point the predictably apocalyptic scenario that comes from the villains winning is stopped by what might be a literal Deus Ex Machina).
- One of the recurring themes in the Street Fighter series is that fighting for its own sake or for others makes you stronger than if you were just fighting for revenge or hatred. The poster child for this is Sagat, who originally hated Ryu for scarring him, but eventually realized that his hatred was weakening him, moved on, and became a stronger fighter for it. The problem and the Broken Aesop comes in the way this is related to Dan, especially in SFA3: many people, Sagat included, comment on how Dan's hatred has made him weak and silly. Sagat even comments that he used to be just like Dan. To be fair, Dan has a little more to be pissed about than Sagat: Sagat just had his chest scarred in a fight that he voluntarily participated in. Dan had his father KILLED by Sagat. That's not something that you can put a shirt over or get plastic surgery for. The messed up thing is that Chun Li is basically fighting for the same reason, and her motivation makes her arguably the strongest woman in the series. So as I understand it, fighting because someone scarred you in a fight is OK, fighting because you just like beating people up is OK, but fighting to stop someone who has killed before and may kill again is wrong if you aren't one of the main protagonists? The lesson becomes that hatred and a desire for revenge will make you strong like Chun Li or Cammy, but only if you are a woman.
- Alternatively, it can easily be interpreted as hatred can be a powerful motivator and an excellent source of strength, if and only if you can control its energy effectively and use it in a positive manner.
- Ratchet and Clank Future A Crack In Time gives the aesop that the past can't be changed, and you should take responsibility for your actions and move on instead. However, at several points in the game, you have to go back in time to try and fix things to progress, resulting in none of the end of the space-time continuum as we know it problems you're warned would happen if you try it, making it a case of "You can't change the past, but only when Gameplay and Story Segregation disallows it."
- In Kingdom Hearts, after winning the Hercules Cup, the player is treated to a heartwarming scene in which the hero realizes that anything is possible with the help of his friends. This scene is immediately preceded by said hero demanding that he face the final boss of the tournament by himself.
- The Dreamcast game Death Crimson OX puts a lengthy one in at the ending. After defeating the final boss, it's spirit goes on a long rant about the evils of the gun and how we would all do better if we just got rid of the darned things. Did I forget to mention that this is a light-gun game?
- Ultima Underworld has the Taper of Sacrifice, a candle and part of a set of virtue-themed artifacts. It teaches self-sacrifice, because a candle only brings light through its own destruction. And since the artifacts are necessary for the plot, it never burns down. In fact the player can leave it alight and never worry about light sources again.
- After the battle for Area Zero in Mega Man Zero 4, Neige shoots a What the Hell, Hero? speech at Zero, blaming him for all the damage caused in the fight. She forgot that if it wasn't for him, she and the other refugeis would have been killed. Nice job, sister.
- Mario Tennis: Power Tour talks a lot about how doubles are about team work (thus using each members strengths) and strategy and how it differs from singles and only at low levels can one player win a game, except you have no way to control the AI on your partner and he plays almost entirely as though you didn't exist, ruining game winning shots by running in front in front of you (one of the opponents appologizes to their doubles partner for doing exactly that and commends you on your team work despite the opposite being true in-match) and being ignorant of even basic play tactics, forcing you to, you guessed it, win each match mostly by yourself. Additionally, almost all the the singles players have their doubles teams rated EXACTLY THE SAME, so much for the two being different games then.
- Misha's route in Ar tonelico has an event where Aurica's best friend, Claire, is being harassed by a couple of bigoted thugs. Things are escalating, and it looks like its about to turn physically violent in a few seconds. The protagonist, Lyner, steps in tells them to knock it off. This angers the thugs, who attack him. Lyner, a highly trained and gifted member of an elite knighthood, kicks the crap out of them with ease, and they scuttle off, terrified. His thanks? Getting scolded by everyone in his party, because "violence is never the answer". Never mind that his intervention probably saved both Claire and her bar from a beating, and the thugs attacked him. I guess that the solution is to just stand there and let them send you to the hospital and possibly kill you? Apparently so, because that's exactly what Lyner does later in response to this valuable lesson.
- Mass Effect 3: The options that the Crucible presents.
- Controlling the Reapers is presented as an option, despite it being made abundantly clear throughout the entire game that controlling the Reapers is impossible, and will always, without exception, end in indoctrination.
- Synthesis is presented as the “final evolution of life”. It involves rewriting everyone’s DNA into a homogenized, organic/mechanical hybrid DNA. This is done without the galaxy’s consent, and completely disregards the omnipresent themes of Free Will, Diversity and the balance of Culture and Technology.
Web Comic Edit
- The Wotch: Cheer. The main character does not want to undo his/her and his/her friends' Gender Bender because he/she feels they now have no reason for being dicks. Apart from the fact that they had none before either, her speaking about how they became good people after that is disturbing because a) it has a Ginormous Unfortunate Implication (Man= Jerk, Woman = Good) b) he/she is making his/her decision for his/her friends too, who don't remember who they were before and thus can't properly decide. In The Wotch, it was suggested that the other friends had some recollection of their actions as boys and were very ashamed of it, to the point at which they described the "bullies" (their former selves) as "jerks of the lowest caliber". That was probably an Author's Saving Throw though, and still has the initial Unfortunate Implications.
- This is actually remarkably common in Gender Bender fiction; guy is a dick to a woman, and is turned into a woman as "punishment" or to "learn how women feel". For some reason, they tend to end up staying as a woman forever. It's rarely explained how the new woman is supposed to survive with no prior records, no money, and thus no legal existence, nor are the psychological issues examined, though this story takes a run at it.
- The spinoff comic Cheer does show some negative consequences of the choice, when the same girl breaks down crying because no one will remember any of the good things she and her friends accomplished as boys.
- The Achewood story arc where Philippe finally gets to live with his mom again ends with the moral that nothing lasts forever and everyone has to grow up sometime. But as readers have emphatically stated, Philippe will always be five!
- Sabrina Online had a series of strips in December 2010 which were a reference to the sequence in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where the two heroes go on the road and beat up everyone who ever criticized them on the Internet. It works in the film because it's entirely in-character. In the comic, however, it's a series of Take Thats against the strip's critics. One notable strip involves Zig Zag, the viewpoint character for this sequence, beating up a guy who said mean things about her because he thinks he can say anything on the Internet without consequences. This isn't exactly true, but that's not the Broken Aesop. What's broken is the fact that Zig is the owner and star of her own porno company. You know, the industry that has historically relied on First Amendment rights to stay in business? And the "consequences" bit doesn't work either, because legally, Zig Zag committed real-world, premeditated, first-degree assault against a guy who knows her name, her face, and could easily press charges. The implication in the comic is that she'll suffer no repercussions at all.
- A Princess Pi comic had Princess Pi learn to believe in herself and not let bullies' insults bring her down. The Aesop breaks when she starts believing her most mediocre attempts at fulfillng her royal duties suffice, and doesn't let her subjects' complaints bring her down until they tar and feather her.
- The intent of this comic seems to be to portray stereotypical Gamer Chicks as obnoxious and desperate for attention. However, the behavior of the character with whom we're ostensibly meant to sympathize is even more reprehensible than the Gamer Chick's.
- In Ctrl+Alt+Del, the comic makes it clear it's wrong to be a "console fanboy," in one strip even having God personally squash one. Fine. We'll buy that; a bit Anvilicious, but an adequate Aesop of its own. However, there are issues with this, since the the fanboys are always gamecube fans, the evil Gamer King in an early strip used a staff with a golden Gamecube controller on top (versus Ethan's Xbox one), Ethan playing a Gamecube is referred to as a "sin against the gaming gods," he mentions that turning the Gamecube into a robot would result into a girl robot, and doing the same to a Playstation would produce a gay one while the Xbox appears to be perfect and sinless.
- This is a common problem whenever a webcomic author tries to deconstruct or take to task any concept that he considers erotic--without an editor keeping him in check, there's a very good chance he'll slip into Author Appeal and undermine himself. See Misfile's treatment of the Gender Bender trope, and how Two Kinds approaches sexual slavery.
- Inverloch speaks out against the Fantastic Racism being perpetuated against the Dakor using the example of the kindly Acheron, who goes against the Dakor reputation for violence and agression. At least until The Reveal when we find out he's only nice because he switched bodies with an elf kid.
- Jade from Homestuck is introduced as being a furry, but she is explicitly Doing It for the Art and her interest is never portrayed as a perverted fetish. The author stated that he did this to represent furries as being people, which sounds like a great idea...but Jade's interest in anthropomorphic animals is quickly dropped after her introduction and never brought up again (immediately after a panel where she explains why she would never give up on it), and if you took out all the references to Jade being a furry, the story would be exactly the same, other than the slight Continuity Nod when she creates a dog-girl version of herself, and later herself becomes a dog-girl. While Andrew was able to portray nonsexualised furries later with Nepeta, his first attempt comes across as little more than lip service to the concept.
- Additionally, the comic arguably portrays an unintentionally justified example of Fantastic Racism. The trolls have different-coloured blood ranked on a spectrum; the closer your blood is to purple, the more power you have in society, while the closer it is to red, the less authority you hold, the rationale being that highbloods are superior due to the fact they're viewed as stronger. If memory serves, the author stated that he made the opposite ends of the spectrum so close to show how meaningless the whole thing was, and true to form, the audience is clearly intended to view the practice as wrong and side with the trolls opposed to it...except trolls do not differ only in blood colour, it is shown that highbloods are actually stronger, more psychically resilent, and longer-lived, albeit more violent (which the trolls would probably consider a good thing anyway) and having less powerful psychic abilities, than lowbloods. The highbloods are treated as being superior beings...because they are superior beings in several ways. If the Aesop was "it's wrong to treat people superior for being stronger alone", this might have worked, but the intended message seems to be "it's wrong to treat people as superior by the colour of their skin - er, blood", which backfires if having the right colour of blood gives you superhuman attributes. It's like saying it's racist to believe that Superman is stronger than an ordinary human.
Web Original Edit
- Parodied in Act III of Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog. While Designated Hero Captain Hammer is notionally singing a rousing, inspirational anthem to the homeless in "Everyone's A Hero", every verse manages, through either Metaphorgotten or just plain dickishness, to insult its audience and demonstrate how Hammer thinks of himself as superior.
"It may not feel too classy / Begging just to eat / But you know who does that? Lassie / And she always gets a treat"
"Everyone's a hero in their own way / You and you and mostly me and you"
- As seen on Superdickery.com, in this PSA "The Kool-Aid man tells kids to buckle up, and then proceeds to walk right into the path of a moving car." And here's another one, about the War On Drugs:
- Whateley Academy stories regularly break their aesops. Characters that were created to explore gender issues in a superhero setting end up enforcing gender stereotypes on other characters. Gunny Sergeant Bardue, a strict gun safety nut, decides that the best way to ensure the safety of one of his students, "Loophole", is to fling a car at her head and then just hope that he manifests a mutation that can save her life.
Western Animation Edit
- The Wild Thornberries has quite a few episodes where the aesop is "Don't help wild animals or you'll screw up the ecosystem/hurt other wild animals/get eaten". However, in a world where animals have human minds (and can therefore be held responsible for their own actions) helping them should be no different from helping people. Furthermore, the entire series revolves around interfering with wildlife. One of the main characters is a pet chimpanzee for crying out loud!
- The Rocket Power episode "Power Girl Surfers" had Reggie starting a group of female surfers to prove that girls can be just as extreme as boys. She does this after Otto gets a big cover story in his favorite surfing magazine, which Reggie believes she deserves more than he does. The intended "girl power" message is admirable, but it's ruined by Reggie spending the entire episode acting like a blatant Jerkass, and essentially trying to sabotage Otto's shot at fame out of resentment. She claims that she was passed over for a cover story because she's a girl, even though there's no justification for this. Otto only got the story because there happened to be a writer for the magazine conveniently standing nearby to see him surf.
- Technically, the writer is shown not to believe that Reggie could surf just because she was a girl. He even ignored her as she was showing her skills on the waves. So while Reggie was being resentful at the moment, she was also right.
- In the Lilo and Stitch: The Series episode "Checkers", Lilo is sick of her older sister/guardian Nani's constant bitching over her strange, mundane hobbies, and being belittled by Mertle and her Girl Posse. The experiment of the week is #029 (dubbed Checkers), who can be used as a crown that grants its wearer, essentially, a form of mind control over everyone who sees them. Lilo uses this to make everybody treat her with respect. It ends up horribly for everyone involved, concluding with the message that power corrupts. However, the main instances of corruption are performed by Mertle without any instruction from Lilo (or even informing Lilo until it's too late), making the message instead "don't give your subordinates any autonomy or they'll ruin things", the exact opposite of the intended message.
- However, things didn't go really wrong until Gantu, who is tired of being harassed by his boss Hamsterviel, comes to take Checkers from Lilo and uses it for his own selfish purposes, leading to Stitch and the other experiments to go and stop him in an homage to the Revolutionary War.
- Family Guy:
- One commonly-found Broken Aesop is parodied-- that of the strong, empowered woman with an important job who's unfulfilled without a man. It features one such character meeting a man who says "In the next ninety minutes I'll show you that all your problems can be solved by my penis."
- In one episode Peter gets experimented on with multiple drugs. One of the drugs makes him homosexual, apparently to convey the pro-gay-rights message that homosexuality is not a choice. Which would work fine, except for the fact that Peter chose to get injected with the drugs that turned him homosexual. Breaking it further, Peter almost instantly divorces Lois -- because, you know, leaving your jobless housewife and three kids is TOTALLY okay as long as you're gay. And being gay also makes you want to bang ten people at once. It's compounded during one scene where Brian sends Peter off to "Gay Camp" in order to straighten him up for Lois' sake. She goes down there and delivers a heavy-handed writer tract about how she can't just make Peter stop being gay. Which is great, except THEY USED DRUGS TO MAKE HIM GAY IN THE FIRST PLACE.
- Generally, whenever Family Guy tries to say something about homosexuality, it comes off as Not That There's Anything Wrong with That. The writers insist to be pro gay rights, but every gay character is ridiculously stereotypical. Brian's cousin Jasper, a flaming, Camp Gay talking dog that wants to screw a guy who doesn't speak English and doesn't know what's going on, is not only the worst example, but comes from one of the worst episodes showing this. You see, Mayor West makes gay marriage illegal in Quahog, just about the time that Jasper wants to marry his boyfriend. So in the end, Brian takes the mayor hostage at gunpoint and forces him to overturn the law. Surprising nobody, Brian faces no consequences for doing this, coming off as "It's perfectly OK for you to commit acts of terrorism, as long as it's to fix a law you think is wrong."
- The thing there is, though, Mayor West put the ban into effect only to distract the town from a personal scandal, and would have gotten away with it if not for Brian. Not to say that two wrongs make a right, but West was more at fault here.
- There's also the "Legalize Weed" episode, in which they unsuccessfully tried to juggle the "legalizing weed will have no negative consequences on society" aesop with "stoners are morons" jokes. For example, the scene where Brian states that ever since legalizing weed worker productivity is up over 100% doesn't really fare so well since only a scene away we get Peter being so stoned all the time that he can't even set up a flashback gag and instead shows a Long List of all the celebrities he hates.
- There's also the infamous "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" episode, which tells us that we shouldn't discriminate against atheists, and that being an atheist does not automatically make you a bad person. Accepting others' beliefs is a fair Aesop, although this is severely undermined by the parts of the SAME episode that take brutal shots at Christians, in addition to Brian's several chiding remarks about religion across other episodes.
- Perhaps the worst example, once you think about it, would be "New Kidney in Town". In this episode Peter kidney fails and Brian offers to donate a kidney to Peter, except because Brian is a dog it would kill him. This is supppose to show the bond between Peter and Brian when Brian offers to give his life for Peter. However, a missing kidney is not fatal, Peter would need to be on dialysis (not pleasant, but plenty do it IRL) but would otherwise live a normal enough life. It was implied Peter couldn't rely on dialysis because he kept do stupid things that would kill him without a kidney. So Peter would rather choose to allow his best friend to die for him then to stop doing recklessly stupid things for fun. So the Aesop goes from "sometimes you have to do make major sacrifices for someone you love" to "sometimes you need to make a Stupid Sacrifice for someone who has clearly proven he is too much of a selfish Jerkass to deserve it". If this wasn't bad enough, it's far worse if you know anything about kidney donations. Any of Peter's family, despite not being compatible, could have signed up to be part of a daisy chain where they agree to donate a kidney to someone else if Peter gets a kidney. This would have effectively gotten Peter a kidney almost as fast as Brian's own surgery could be arranged. Which means every single member of the main cast would rather let Brian die then donate their own kidney, which for them would be a safe procedure with essentially no long term side effects.
- Ben 10:
- In the Ghostfreak two-parter, tries to do an Aesop about teamwork. Unfortunately, this fails when The Hero is armed with one of the most powerful artifacts in the universe; try as they might, Gwen and Max really don't compare. It's like Tien and Yamcha trying to teach teamwork to Super Sayian Goku. Also, at the beginning of Part 2 ("Be Afraid of The Dark"), Gwen tells Ben "We don't need your help". Frankly, the story makes it seem like she's jealous of the Omnitrix, and having Sidekick issues. Max has a lesser case, but, not being ten, he knows when to shut up and get on with things. At the end of the second episode, Ben ends up learning his aesop about teamwork after...he uses his Omnitrix to save Gwen and Max's asses as they plummet from space to Earth.
- She is also guilty of a Broken Aesop in the opposite direction. The first season episode "Lucky Girl" revolves around her becoming a superhero based on a magical charm she finds. After losing it and finding out that the Big Bad of the episode possesses many similar charms to augment his magical power, she opts to destroy them rather than use them herself, justifying it as a decision to "just be me". Unfortunately, this Aesop is broken for two reasons. First, her stance on not relying on such power tends to be overshadowed when her cousin keeps using that Omnitrix thingy, especially since she benefits from it as much as everyone else. Second, what does she do in later episodes? She readopts the persona briefly after finding an even better charm. Then she learns that she is capable of using magic, and (with a few tools stolen from one villain) starts regularly using it herself. In fact, in the future-based episodes, she carries and uses the exact same charms that she destroyed in that first episode! It seems those powers are just too cool to pass up after all.
- A couple of episodes of WITCH ended with one of the girls' parents learning an aesop about how they should trust their children, right after the girls pull off a Zany Scheme to keep anyone from finding out the truth.
- In the Bratz cartoons, the main characters constantly tell the one-shot characters that they should follow their own unique sense of style... right after they give them a makeover or get done gawking at the villains' untrendy Limited Wardrobe.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe:
- One episode of the remake of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe involves Orko being assigned to make the palace garden bloom again. After several catastrophic failures, he heads out to find help, and in doing so unwittingly unleashes the Sealed Evil in a Can Monster of the Week. Once the crisis is averted (with help from a newly arriving hero), Orko admits in the final scene that tending a garden is too much for him, and Man-At-Arms turns this into An Aesop: knowing what you can and can't do is a sign of maturity. One line of dialogue later, He-Man adds that if you try your hardest, you can accomplish anything. A Stock Aesop that effortlessly contradicts the entirety of the episode's plot up to that point, including the already-delivered moral? Bad form.
- The original He-Man had another Broken Aesop, in an episode where a tribe of primitive beings manages to steal He-Man's sword and Man-At-Arms's laser blaster. After the tribe nearly kill themselves by misusing the weapons, the heroes deliver a canned speech on the dangers of weapons. The beings respond by throwing the sword and laser into a lava pit! Of course, our heroes have them back by the start of the next episode... The Aesop apparently being "weapons are bad things, unless the right people have them".
- And another one for He-Man. The moral at the end of the episode was that violence solved nothing--this from a guy who wields a great big sword. In that very episode, He-Man dukes it out with a wizard and a demon, and two dragons have at it. The good guys win, of course.
- In "The Defection", there the whole thing about people not changing their ways and someone defecting from evil and people don't trust her but she actually does want to change and etcetera and so forth. Except at the beginning of the episode she says that she was once good and was just lured over to the side of evil. So, no, people can't change.
- In "Eye of the Beholder", He-Man joins forces with giant insect people and there's the aesop about not judging people by their appearance. Then after a Disney Death, his insect ally returns, having "evolved" into a more human form. So don't judge people by their appearance, because they may actually just be normal looking people who are primitive.
- Early in "Disappearing Dragons", Orko's curiosity gets the better of him when he sees the treasure cache of the great dragon Granamyr. He opens a magic bottle and a hand pops out, pulls him in, and beats him up. The episode plot involves dragons being kidnapped to fight against each other for the entertainment of a powerful group of humanoids. At the end of the episode, Orko asks for a reward (or at least some recognition) for his part in saving the dragons. Granamyr's response is to uncap the bottle again, leaving Orko to get pulled in and smacked around again. As Orko gets beat up offscreen (and you hear him saying "OW! Stop! Let me out you big bully!"), He-Man jokes with Granamyr about how handy it would be if he had that bottle, not only condoning the act but basically stating he'd like to open a (literal) can of whoop-ass on Orko. And then the moral He-Man tells us in the very next scene? "There are no dragons in your world, but there are animals, and hurting or teasing an animal is no way to have fun." But apparently the nonhuman comic relief is fair game! Thus handily combining Broken Aesop with Take That Scrappy, depending on your feelings towards Orko.
- The Simpsons:
- The end of the episode "Make Room For Lisa" has Lisa learning the lesson that she needs to go easier on Homer and not be such a nag, because he puts himself out to make her happy by doing things with her that he doesn't enjoy but she does. Fair enough by itself -- except that this moral comes at the end of an episode where Homer has been behaving in a genuinely thoughtless, inconsiderate and -- even by Homer's recent standards -- incredibly Jerkass fashion towards Lisa throughout the entire episode, all of which has caused her so much stress over the episode that she has developed stomach ulcers. This includes giving away her room to a cell phone company to be used as the control room of a cell phone tower installed in the house to compensate for his destruction of the Bill of Rights. As a result, "go easy on your loved ones, because they really do love you" thus seems to become "put up with any amount of unreasonable crap from your loved ones, because they sometimes do things you like to do but they don't".
- Kirk and Luane Van Houten's divorce in "A Milhouse Divided" was all just one big aesop about Homer needing to respect his wife, which is what Kirk tells Homer after losing his home, his job, and his car. But the way losing Luane caused those was utterly contrived: he lost his home because he apparently got absolutely nothing in the divorce settlement, he was fired for being single, and his car was stolen by a woman he met on the rebound (which was his fault, but was more general incompetence as he was dumb enough to hand over his keys to someone he just met while waiting in a bar).
- Played for Laughs in the episode "Blood Feud":
Marge: The moral of this story is a good deed is its own reward.
Bart: Hey, we got a reward. The head is cool. (referring to a large stone head they were given as a gift)
Marge: Well then... I guess the moral is no good deed goes unrewarded.
Homer: Wait a minute. If I hadn't written that nasty letter, we wouldn't have gotten anything.
Marge: Well... then I guess the moral is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
Homer: Exactly! It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.
Marge: But it certainly was a memorable few days.
Homer: Amen to that!
- In Galactik Football's second season, Rocket is banned from playing and leaves the team to play in a one-on-one game called Netherball, becoming a much more aggressive player the longer he plays. The Aesop is rammed down our throats by every "good" character -- playing as a team is good, playing for yourself is selfish. Rocket eventually returns to the team, and in his first match back the opposing captain (Lurr, who was one of the main proponents of the whole "teamwork is good" mantra) plays a game that's like that old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs is playing all the positions in baseball. Then in their next match, their opponents all leave the field save for their ace player, who proceeds to run rings around the protagonist team and score three goals in a row. It's only when Rocket draws upon his experiences playing Netherball and decides to do it all himself that the heroes score a goal.
- In an episode of Galaxy Trio, a subterranean race is wreaking havoc on the surface world. After the Trio beat them, it turns out that they are actually the original natives of the planet, forced underground by the colonists from space. The solution? Send them to live on the sun instead with no mention of reparations, which their physiology conveniently favors!
- Teen Titans:
- The episode "Troq", is an Anvilicious message about racism. Sadly, it's somewhat undermined because the episode involves them committing genocide against a robotic race, on the word of a known racist. Sure they almost caused some severe Collateral Damage, but you could make an argument that they're trying to protect their species at all costs.
- An episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog about the importance of reserving 911 for emergencies is broken by Sonic using two robots attempting to kill him as an example of what NOT to waste 911's time with. Sonic can defeat them fairly easily, but "don't call 911 if you think you can probably handle the life threatening situation" isn't nearly so great a message for helpless kids.
- The US Acres cartoon "Gort Goes Good" has a "people can change" moral, completely subverted in that Gort's Heel Face Turn was just a ruse. Despite this, Orson still proclaims that it's possible for people to change for the better, but his case isn't looking too strong. It's worth noting that Orson was the only character that honestly believed that Gort had gone good in the first place, and Orson's Aesop was just an example of his rampant optimism.
- The Regular Show episode "Think Positive": if you don't yell at people, than you'll destroy everything around you. This is especially damning since Benson, the character the episode focused on, refuses to get anger management, and after this episode, continues to act like a prick towards Mordecai and Rigby.
- In South Park:
- "The F-Word" is about the attempts of the kids to get the word "fag" to be allowed if it's not used as a hateful slur against gay people. This is heavily undermined by the fact that a few seasons previous, "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" ended with the Aesop that white people can't know what it's like to hear racial slurs even when they aren't used in a deliberately hateful context and should respect that.
- And "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" itself seems to contradict the Aesops of The Movie (people overreact over offensive language) and "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000" (offenses to racial minorities shouldn't be considered any worse than those done to white people). Its Aesop is also broken over the fact that Randy actually was not being racist; even the black cameraman thought the word on Wheel of Fortune was the N-word.
- South Park seems to have a problem with creating "unfinished aesops", if you will. The Goobacks episode was suppose to be about illegal immigration, then it turned into an episode about environmentalism. What was this episode even about?
- You may want to watch that episode one more time.. Them trying to make the environment a better place was akin to the idea of improving Mexico. The idea being that its not a realistic idea to just let all the time (Mexican) Immigrants come here but we could improve the future (Mexico) so that their time (place) would not suck so much. In the context of the show this was by improving the world around them, but it was not an environmentalist message, just that if you wanted to improve the world in the future it would include cleaning up the environment.
- Frequently, American Dad will deliberately break its own Aesops for the sake of humor. An example is in the episode "Threat Levels". Francine begins a career in real estate, and Stan becomes jealous when she starts earning more income than he does. Stan tries to sabotage her career, but by the end of the episode, he comes to understand that you shouldn't be jealous of your partner's success and that you should take pride in their triumphs. However, even after learning this, he still sabotages her career anyway.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers
- The moral of the entire series is "if we work together, we can save the planet", but in every episode, working together fails and the Planeteers always end up calling Captain Planet to deal with the problem for them. Mitigated somewhat by the ending tag of each episode, telling the viewers how they can personally help save the planet (without the Captain's help).
- Captain Planet himself is given too much credit here. True, he likely technically breaks the Aesop, but not enough to destroy it and prevent people from understanding the message. For one, the Planeteers have the vast majority of screen time in each episode, working with most of the problems presented to them while Captain Planet is pretty much around for only two minutes, and for the sole purpose of dealing the final blow. Captain Planet can't even be summoned without all five Planeteers in place as well, and as the show tended to show, conflict within the members has caused separation of members to be a problem for this reason.
- Captain Planet also has a problem with a broken Aesop regarding green technology. We're told that relying on fossil fuels and nuclear power is badwrong and instead should be using such things as solar power. But the only ones who have solar power in the energy densities required are the Planeteers (their craft actually flies on the power generated by solar panels). So... why aren't they giving this technology away, if it will help? So the Aesop is: "Use green technology, but never actually give it to anyone who would benefit."
- A lot of these involve Wheeler. For instance, the one episode Wheeler was outright correct (since it's usually him that disagrees with everybody else), he was right not because guilt by association is wrong, but because the person he trusted was hot, making his correctness completely by accident. There's also the time where he said that people shouldn't have too many children to be able to support. He was portrayed as evil for this, then he had a dream that supported his opinion and it came off as if he had learned a lesson. He also didn't want to take injured tropical/exotic animals out of their natural environments and was portrayed as wrong and unsympathetic for this, despite the fact that not taking animals from their natural environments is a very viable Green Aesop.
- In the Thunderbirds episode "Atlantic Inferno", Jeff leaves confident son Scott in charge of International Rescue - cue 'bad decisions', Jeff's ire, and an apparent Aesop of "being in charge is more difficult than it looks". However, Scott makes sensible decisions based on expert advice. Jeff unreasonably censures Scott without listening to the evidence, leaving Scott unable to function. The Aesop sadly becomes "adults are always right, even when they are wrong".
- Lampshaded in an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures:
Jackie: You see Jade? Slow and steady wins the race.
Jade: But you're using the rabbit talisman to get super-speed? I'm getting mixed messages here!
- In the Trollz story arc where the girls turn evil, Ruby worries that her meanness has influenced them into becoming mean. Obsidian tells her that if she sets a bad example, she can change it by setting a good one. It seems okay...until Ruby cleans up her act and it fails because Simon's magic was too strong. A Space Whale Aesop Broken Aesop, if you will.
- The movie Delgo is an anti-war story. Two civilizations learn that they shouldn't fight each other...and then they team up to fight the armies of trolls, goblins and other monsters. Moreover, the fact that the monsters are Always Chaotic Evil severely undermines the anti-bigotry message.
- Sonic the Hedgehog, despite being known for its refreshing lack of preachiness, has a broken Family-Unfriendly Aesop in the episode "Game Guy." In this episode, the heroes meet a strange freedom fighter called Ari. Although Sonic wants to trust him, Sally wants to err on the side of caution. Eventually Ari leads Sonic into one of Robotnik's traps in exchange for the freedom of his own teammates. When it becomes apparent to Ari that Robotnik has no intention of honoring his end of the deal, he "proves" himself trustworthy by freeing Sonic from the trap, sacrificing himself in the process. At the end of the episode Sonic gently chides Sally for not being trusting enough, and Sally admits she was wrong despite the fact that everything that happened in the episode proved that she was right.
- Adventure Time is basically a whole series of broken and spoofed aesops.
- All Grown Up tries to teach its viewers about karma. To quote Dil: "Karma is this cool eastern philosophy that says if you do good things, good things happen to you. And if you do bad things, bad things happen. And I for one believe in it." They proceed to focus mostly on the bad side of the equation, by having Angelica take advantage of Susie's broken answering machine to win a singing audition... and find a zit on her face the day after the auditions. You're probably thinking "That's a bit too much." Well, that's not all. After all is said and done, she decides to let Susie perform in her place, even though she had never auditioned at all. This forum post goes into detail about this. At the end of the episode we get this exchange between Angelica and Charlotte.
Charlotte: Okay there was no making that thing look good. Don't worry, I'll make an appointment with my dermatologist.
Angelica: Wait, you can go to a doctor for this? Karma has nothing to do with it? You can't get this from being a bad person?
Charlotte: Of course not. Where did you get an idea like that?
Angelica: Dil, you're a dead man.
- In the Maryoku Yummy episode "Flip, Flop, and Float," Maryoku gets sick and is ordered to rest, but continually gets out of bed to help her friends, despite the fact that they keep telling her they'll be fine. Each time, she causes them trouble and just gets more and more sick. It looks like the moral of the story will be "when you're sick, stay in bed," (this is a show for preschoolers, after all) but at the end, Maryoku admonishes her friends for not telling her how much trouble she was causing for them, and the moral becomes "don't be afraid to hurt people's feelings when there's something important to tell them." Because heaven forbid Maryoku should actually be the one to learn a lesson.
- In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Fievel learns that he can be a hero by being just who he is. Tanya learns that she doesn't need make-up or fancy dresses because she's beautiful just the way she is. Tiger, meanwhile, learns that in order to get his girlfriend to love him he has to act like a brave dog, something he absolutely isn't.
- Uh, no. The reason why Tiger was trained to "act like a dog" wasn't because that was the only way to get his girlfriend to love him again (though, it did help. She just said she wanted someone brave like a dog), but rather because Wile E. Burp was getting old and he needed someone to train to be his Deputy Sheriff in case he was unable to participate in the fight. The Aesop for Tiger wasn't broken, because his Aesop was a completely different one from the others. IE: "One should learn to be brave and stand up for what is right."
- Futurama's Into The Wild Green Yonder uses this trope as well as a Green Aesop. The feministas, who are "right," are over-the-top Straw Feminists who fit every "girly" stereotype in the book, right down to their pink camos. Of course, they're against manly men doing manly stuff and discriminating against women. Futurama uses satire and parody so often, this is quite intentional.
- The movie The Adventures of the American Rabbit suffers from this big time. The Big Bad's henchmen are a biker gang called The Jackals, who are..jackals. Several times during the movie, characters mention that no one should assume all jackals are evil just because of the actions of a few bad apples. All well and good, except that there are no good jackals in the movie-everyone is a member of the biker gang and is working for the main villain.
- Redakai has several clumsy morals in it, one of which is their mishandled Green Aesop. In one episode, the heroes Team Stax are trying to protect a large tree in the middle of a forest in a slightly arid land. One of them, Maya, does this by hurling a huge fire tornado at the bad guys who are standing right next to the tree. She is then congratulated for taking the initiative in saving "nature". "Save the forest, throw fire everywhere?"
- Another one seems to be "Attacking civilians and cheating are okay when you're the "Good Guys" and nobody is looking".
- Done intentionally with Kid Hero Lion-O in the Thundercats 2011 episode "Song of the Petalars" where he ignores his own lecturing of young friend Emrick (for impulsively attacking a large enemy that outmatched him) in favor of pulling a Leeroy Jenkins and leading his Thundercats to a confrontation with an entire army that degenerates into a Last Stand until a Deus Ex Machina saves them. Lion-O justifies this course of action in a Rousing Speech by culturally misinterpreting and breaking yet another Aesop: his friend Emrick's assertion that It's the Journey That Counts, and the good we do is what matters most. However, Lion-O's mangling of the Aesop is presented in a convincingly heroic fashion. He isn't called on his behavior until the next episode, and even then only obliquely, which leaves "Petalars" itself prone to the Alternate Aesop Interpretation: "Retreat is cowardice."
- It's even worse because at the start of the episode Lion-O has the right idea of fleeing and living to fight another day rather than facing immediate defeat and certain death, while Tygra gives him endless grief about this. Later when Lion-O changes his mind they are (sure enough) almost wiped out. The lesson seems to be "Lion-O is always wrong. It doesn't matter why." This is by no means the only episode to do this.
- In Danny Phantom, Vlad is treated as in the wrong for thinking of his imperfect clones of Danny as cannon fodder. However, Vlad is the only one to feel sad when the unfinished perfect clone is killed
- One episode in Allen Gregory has Allen hold a play in school that is extremely racist to Hispanics, which naturally gets Allen booed off the stage until a Hispanic student gets on stage and explains why racist views presented are wrong, which gets the kid cheered. Allen is forced by his teacher, Gina, to go to the people and apologize for the racist remarks, but he is met with cheers and applause instead because they thought the Hispanic student's speech was a part of the act. Allen rolls with it and learns nothing from his actions, frustrating Gina.
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "The Last Roundup", four members of the Mane Cast leave two of their friends stranded behind in an unknown place. Which totally goes against the morals of friendship (such as loyalty and kindness) that the show seems to promote in every episode.
- In The Secret Of My Excess, Spike ends up growing larger and more powerful due to being greedy from getting so many gifts on his birthday. He returns to normal after remembering how he generously gave Rarity a rare gem that he found and decides giving is better than receiving. That's fine, until you remember that Zecora explained that hoarding things is normal for a dragon's growth. So...being greedy is bad, but not if you're a dragon, except if you happen to be Spike? Wait, what?
- Likewise, Spike's greedy behavior stemmed from other ponies handing him a bunch of gifts at once. Something he wasn't used to and it overwhelmed him into thinking he should get anything he wanted right away. Wouldn't a better moral have been "It's ok to want something, but you should be patient instead of expecting to get something right away"?
- Dragon Quest. Ok, the aesop of "What you are doesn't determine who you are" could've worked, if Spike had actually learned anything about his dragon heritage. Instead, we have Spike doing a bunch of dares a bunch of Teenage Bully Dragons had him do to prove he was a "real dragon". A better Aesop would've been "You don't have to let people push you around to prove your worth to others". It also doesn't help that Spike decided to go talk to a bunch of teenagers, who are more likely to just mess around with him for fun of it rather than to a fully mature dragon (The episode Dragonshy did show that adult dragons can be reasoned with).
- On "Hearts and Hooves Day", the Cutie Mark Cruisaders are show to be in the wrong when they use a love potion to ship Big Macintosh and Cherilee. In "A Canterlot Wedding - Part 1", Princess Cadence was shown making two ponies that were breaking up love each other again in a flashback, with no implication about there being anything wrong with this.
- In The Secret Of My Excess, Spike ends up growing larger and more powerful due to being greedy from getting so many gifts on his birthday. He returns to normal after remembering how he generously gave Rarity a rare gem that he found and decides giving is better than receiving. That's fine, until you remember that Zecora explained that hoarding things is normal for a dragon's growth. So...being greedy is bad, but not if you're a dragon, except if you happen to be Spike? Wait, what?
- Dragon Booster tried this with the episode The Mouth that Roared, a blatant The Boy Who Cried Wolf story. Except the boy in question is Lance Penn, who aside from occasionally being immature, is probably one of the most moral characters in the whole series and has never shown a habit of lying. And he never lies in the episode either, he's telling people about a black-market gear dealer who in fact does exist--it's just that the guy is good at hiding and never shows up when Lance brings people to see (he's even smart enough to call the police the second he finds out!). So, in one episode we get Police Are Useless and People Over Ten Are Useless.
- How useless are they? Instead of scoping the area thoroughly for evidence, they just hunker down wherever Lance was hanging out and wait a few minutes. If the guy doesn't show up, the kid must have been lying! despite the fact that one of the racers is using gear that must have come off the black market and this kid says he saw a black market guy, he must be lying!
- Though the first big one of the series was in Pride of the Hero. It starts with Artha's ego yet again getting over-inflated. Then we see Fan-Favorite Anti-Villain Moordryd suddenly stopping Wraith Dragons after what looked like a fight with his Big Bad father. While we admit it seems a bit abrupt for a Heel Face Turn, at least Artha's getting called out for the fact that the main reason he doesn't trust Moordryd is because he's jealous. In order to make a point, and possibly because he sense the good in him, Beau then lets Moordryd get on his back, shocking Artha into admitting that maybe there is good in Moordryd...only for Moordryd to whip out an Artifact of Doom and spill his whole evil plan.
- The Aesop gets slightly repaired when Artha gets through to Moordryd, with Artha admitting he was wrong and there is a hero inside Moordryd. The episode ends with Artha telling Moordryd "the dragon chose you too", hinting Moordryd may have a good side... that we don't see much of for another 8 episodes. What.
- Dinosaur Train continually enforces the Aesop that birds are dinosaurs. In the episode "Dinosaur Camouflage", Buddy explicitly states that a bird is not a dinosaur.
- The TV special Totally Minnie has Minnie Mouse giving a nerdy guy dating advice and an excessive makeover, but ends with a Be Yourself aesop.
- An episode of Martha Speaks introduces the character of Bob (an Angry Guard Dog with the habit of chasing after and/or barking at everything in sight). Bob attacks Martha and Helen throughout the episode while Bob's owner calls him a "bad dog". Then, at the end of the episode, Bob's owner starts calling him a "good dog" and Bob suddenly starts acting nice. Now, this could've been a good lesson about how calling someone names can make them angry and take out their anger on others. Just one tiny little problem. Bob was never shown being nice throughout the entire episode. Not once.
- Glass Beach in California. For decade, people dumped garbage into the water until it was unusable, and the city closed off the area. After decades of pounding waves, all that's left of the garbage is small bits of multicolored glass worn into smooth shapes. The area is open again, but tourists are forbidden from taking glass from the beach. In other words, don't mess with our natural habitat, or you could damage this unique environment... which was created by humans messing with the natural habitat.
- Every parent tells their kids to not swear. When kids catch them swearing, all these terrible, terrible parents say "Do as I say, not as I do", to which all thinking children reply with a roll of the eyes and a sardonic, "Hey, why don't you practice what ya preach sometimes with an under-their-breath "you cunt".
- Similarly, parents who tell their children not to drink/do drugs, whilst taking a swig from the sweet brown medicine/ taking a long drag off their cigarette.
- Subverted when they use the argument "You're not old enough." Of course kids don't listen to that.
- Similarly, parents who tell their children not to drink/do drugs, whilst taking a swig from the sweet brown medicine/ taking a long drag off their cigarette.
- Scroll down a little on this page to find an infamous newspaper clipping featuring a heavily pregnant smoker worried about the effect that loud noises will have on her fetus..
- ↑ Literally right up until this option is presented, even.