Created By: MrInitialMan on February 26, 2013 Last Edited By: MrInitialMan on March 23, 2013
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A Lesson Learned Too Well

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"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again - and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore."

A person is taught a lesson and takes it to heart very well. There are two variants:

  1. - The person takes it to heart so well that the lesson is applied even to his or her own detriment (even the teacher may notice).
  2. - The person applies the lesson to the teachers detriment.

It can also be both. This trope can even go into Gone Horribly Right territory.

This can result from a few things:
  1. - Accidental Aesop--there was An Aesop being taught, but the recipient learned the wrong one.
  2. - The recipient learned the intended message, but it was the teachers who didn't think about the Aesop enough.
  3. - The recipient disagrees with the Aesop and through its application, Shoots The Message.

Examples

Comic Books

  • In Irredeemable, one of the Plutonian's many foster parents teaches him not to use his powers for personal gain. As such, he never tells his foster father that his foster mother had cancer until it was far too late because it would have been a personal gain.

  • Spider-Man gets told as Peter Parker that "with great power comes great responsibility." Cue years later, where his family and friends never get any personal time, because he can't let go of his mission to protect the general public by stopping super-villains.

Film
  • The Green Hornet movie starts with young Britt Reid getting in a fight at school trying to defend a kid from bullies. His father angrily tells him that if he couldn't do it right he might as well not bother. A few years later, Britt is now a womanizing, aimless, parasitic party animal with no moral sense whatsoever. Way to go, Mr. Reid.

Literature

  • Monstrous Regiment: Jackrum thinks he's convinced Blouse that a heroic frontal assault on the enemy fortress is not only suicide, but useless suicide (their squad is literally all that's left of their country's army). So Blouse goes to make a speech on how they will not be attacking the fortress (with Jackrum grinning all the while), but infiltrating it disguised as washerwomen (the grin disappears).

  • More nuanced Stranger Danger Aesops tend to be aware of this as a danger. The Berenstain Bears book about Stranger Danger had the entire later part of the plot being about Sister having learned the lesson too well.

  • One of the criticisms levelled at the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was that churches that greatly vetted the book ended up with a lot of 30-something singles and a dearth of young couples.

  • A Clockwork Orange has a program that makes violent offenders sick at the thought of committing violence, leaving them helpless against their attackers.

  • "Clever Hans"/"Prudent Hans" by the Brothers Grimm Every time Hans gets something, he carries it home wrong, and his mother tells him how he should have done it. He then applies the lesson to the next thing he brings home. (For instance, he brings home a knife in his sleeve; his mother tells him he should have put it in his pocket; he brings home a goat in his pocket; his mother tells him he should have led it home by a string; he drags home a piece of bacon by a string; and so forth.)

Live Action TV

  • In an episode of American Dad! Francine tries to get Stan to stand up to his boss and say "no," but the message doesn't click in until the end...when his boss has been critically wounded and he tells Stan to get him some help. Then Stan says "no" and refuses to get help, no matter how much Francine tells him that this time it's OK to do what he says.

  • In the "Hold Back the Wind" sketch on The Benny Hill Show loosely spoofing Tennessee Williams, Benny is an older southern man whose catch phrase is "cut out the middle man! That's how I made my money, by cutting out the middle man!" Towards the end of the sketch he has a heart attack and tells his idiot son to call the doctor. The son comes in and says he called.
    Father: Did you call the doctor?
    Son: No, I called the undertaker.
    Father: The undertaker? What did you do that for?
    Son: I finally did like you said. I cut out the middle man!
    Father: That's my boy! dies

  • Once Upon a Time has Regina, who learns the hard way from her mother, Cora, (who expects her to marry up) that love makes her vulnerable, when Cora rips her boyfriend's heart in front of her and orders her to marry the king. She thinks that she made her daughter the perfect future queen, and afterwards, Regina tries not to be vulnerable because of her feelings. So she ends up trying to kill her mother because she doesn't want to have a weak spot when her Revenge starts.

Western Animation

  • During the long voyage of the RLS Legacy in Disney's Treasure Planet, John Silver teaches young Jim Hawkins how to tie secure knots. After the film's climax, John Silver, intending to escape, ties a longboat in place with a slipknot. Jim Hawkins redoes the knot with a proper hitch, which would thwart Silver's escape. "I taught ye too well," Silver muses.

  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Fluttershy takes an assertiveness seminar and ends up crossing the line to outright aggressive and ends up having a My God, What Have I Done? moment after she viciously insults Rarity and Pinkie and they run off crying. Luckily, by the end of the story, she shows that she has learned that one can learn to stop being a pushover without pushing others over.

  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Walking Small", Plankton teaches SpongeBob to be more assertive. SpongeBob takes the assertiveness lessons too far and becomes such a Jerkass that he drives everyone away - which was Plankton's plan all along, so that he could bulldoze everything and build a larger Chum Bucket. SpongeBob then counters by being "aggressively nice" and bringing everyone back, foiling Plankton's plan.

  • Several episodes of Moral Orel have Orel taking what an authority figure says to its "logical conclusion" and doing something bizarre.

  • The South Park episode Chickenpox has Kyle stay over at Kenny's house and later ask his father why some people are so poor. Gerald (who just got in a fight with Kenny's father) explains that the world runs on a hierarchy of "gods and clods". Kyle later comes up with a plan to improve society by eliminating all the "clods" (Kyle's family is Jewish). This does cause Gerald to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment, however.

  • There's a Grossology episode where Abby and Ty help Lab Rat get over his germophobia, only for him to turn into The Pigpen at the end.

  • In "The Old Man and the Lisa" from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns goes bankrupt and winds up in the retirement home. He turns to Lisa for help in rebuilding his empire, and she teaches him about recycling on the condition that he'd only do good, socially responsible things. Mr. Burns eventually manages to make a new business out of recycling, to the point where he makes a recycling plant where one of the main features is the Burns Omni-net, an animal catching device inspired by how fish could get caught in six-pack rings. He slaughters the captured animals into slurry, claiming, "It's made from 100% recycled animals!"

  • A Scrooge Mcduck story has him impress on his three grandnephews the importance of making real money (he saw them running a lemonade stand and was dismayed at the feeble revenue it created). He is transported into the future, where he sees the three have taken his lesson to heart, making piles of money in every cheating, crooked way possible. When he returns, he encourages the boys to make real money honestly.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • February 27, 2013
    grenekni3t
    Is this anything like the Brothers Grimm story of "Clever Hans"/"Prudent Hans"? Every time Hans gets something, he carries it home wrong, and his mother tells him how he should have done it. He then applies the lesson to the next thing he brings home. (For instance, he brings home a knife in his sleeve; his mother tells him he should have put it in his pocket; he brings home a goat in his pocket; his mother tells him he should have led it home by a string; he drags home a piece of bacon by a string; and so forth.)
  • February 27, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    I think it's more akin to "Bob is reckless. One day, his recklessness got him into an accident and he almost died. He now never leaves the house and is overprotective of everyone's safety". As one example.

    There was an episode of Kim Possible with the above plot involving Ron.
  • February 27, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • During the long voyage of the RLS Legacy in Disney's Treasure Planet, John Silver teaches young Jim Hawkins how to tie secure knots. After the film's climax, John Silver, intending to escape, ties a longboat in place with a slipknot. Jim Hawkins redoes the knot with a proper hitch, which would thwart Silver's escape. "I taught ye too well," Silver muses.
  • February 28, 2013
    Chabal2
    Monstrous Regiment: Jackrum thinks he's convinced Blouse that a heroic frontal assault on the enemy fortress is not only suicide, but useless suicide (their squad is literally all that's left of their country's army). So Blouse goes to make a speech on how they will not be attacking the fortress (with Jackrum grinning all the while), but infiltrating it disguised as washerwomen (the grin disappears).
  • February 28, 2013
    TheHandle
    Both these examples seem more along the lines of "I taught them a lesson as an act of dominance, but this has empowered them to defy my will!" kind of irony. In which case I would like to mention Merlin's famous demise.
  • February 28, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Compare Gone Horribly Right.

    • In Irredeemable, one of the Plutonian's many foster parents teaches him not to use his powers for personal gain. As such, he never tells his foster father that his foster mother had cancer until it was far too late because it would have been a personal gain.
  • February 28, 2013
    Rainbow
    In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Fluttershy takes an assertiveness seminar and ends up crossing the line to outright aggressive and ends up having a My God What Have I Done moment after she viciously insults Rarity and Pinkie and they run off crying. Luckily, by the end of the story, she shows that she has learned that one can learn to stop being a pushover without pushing others over.
  • February 28, 2013
    TonyG
    In the Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Walking Small", Plankton teaches SpongeBob to be more assertive. SpongeBob takes the assertiveness lessons too far and becomes such a Jerkass that he drives everyone away - which was Plankton's plan all along, so that he could bulldoze everything and build a larger Chum Bucket. SpongeBob then counters by being "aggressively nice" and bringing everyone back, foiling Plankton's plan.
  • February 28, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • In an episode of American Dad Francine tries to get Stan to stand up to his boss and say "no," but the message doesn't click in until the end...when his boss has been critically wounded and he tells Stan to get him some help. Then Stan says "no" and refuses to get help, no matter how much Francine tells him that this time it's OK to do what he says.
    • In the "Hold Back the Wind" sketch on The Benny Hill Show loosely spoofing Tennessee Williams, Benny is an older southern man whose catch phrase is "cut out the middle man! That's how I made my money, by cutting out the middle man!" Towards the end of the sketch he has a heart attack and tells his idiot son to call the doctor. The son comes in and says he called.
      Father: Did you call the doctor?
      Son: No, I called the undertaker.
      Father: The undertaker? What did you do that for?
      Son: I finally did like you said. I cut out the middle man!
      Father: That's my boy! dies
  • February 28, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    Several episodes of Moral Orel have Orel taking what an authority figure says to its "logical conclusion" and doing something bizarre.
  • February 28, 2013
    Chabal2
    The South Park episode Chickenpox has Kyle stay over at Kenny's house and later ask his father why some people are so poor. Gerald (who just got in a fight with Kenny's father) explains that the world runs on a hierarchy of "gods and clods". Kyle later comes up with a plan to improve society by eliminating all the "clods" (Kyle's family is Jewish). This does cause Gerald to have a My God What Have I Done moment, however.
  • February 28, 2013
    JoeG
    A possible page quote, from Mark Twain:

    "We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again - and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore."

  • March 1, 2013
    Lorialet
    • Once Upon A Time has Regina, who learns the hard way from her mother, Cora, (who expects her to marry up) that love makes her vulnerable, when Cora rips her boyfriend's heart in front of her and orders her to marry the king. She thinks that she made her daughter the perfect future queen, and afterwards, Regina tries not to be vulnerable because of her feelings. So she ends up trying to kill her mother because she doesn't want to have a weak spot when her Revenge starts.
  • March 1, 2013
    StevenT
    • There's a Grossology episode where Abby and Ty help Lab Rat get over his germophobia, only for him to turn into The Pigpen at the end.
  • March 1, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    • Spider Man gets told as Peter Parker that "with great power comes great responsibility." Cue years later, where his family and friends never get any personal time, because he can't let go of his mission to protect the general public by stopping super-villains.
  • March 1, 2013
    NESBoy
    In "The Old Man and the Lisa" from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns goes bankrupt and winds up in the retirement home. He turns to Lisa for help in rebuilding his empire, and she teaches him about recycling on the condition that he'd only do good, socially responsible things. Mr. Burns eventually manages to make a new business out of recycling, to the point where he makes a recycling plant where one of the main features is the Burns Omni-net, an animal catching device inspired by how fish could get caught in six-pack rings. He slaughters the captured animals into slurry, claiming, "It's made from 100% recycled animals!"
  • March 1, 2013
    MrInitialMan
    More nuanced Stranger Danger Asops tend to be aware of this as a danger, The Berenstain Bears book about Stranger Danger had the entire later part of the plot being about Sister having learned the lesson too well.
  • March 7, 2013
    ThinkSharp
    It may be important to point out that while the character "takes it to heart very well," s/he often misses the actual point of the lesson--which begs the question as to whether they actually learned it at all.

    In the example about the teenager discouraged from dating, who 20 years later avoids the opposite sex, the teenager learned the lesson that "dating is bad/wrong/etc" but failed to learn what the parents probably actually intended, "You're too young to date right now."

    Compare Dramatically Missing The Point
  • March 16, 2013
    MrInitialMan
    Think Sharp: First, I will say you have a good point, and I shall edit the description to incorporate that.

    The example with the teenager was based on a church I knew which did indeed discourage dating in all its forms--and some years later had a problem with a large number of singles in their 20s and 30s that had no idea how to approach or relate to the opposite gender, which brings into question whether or not the teachers really thought through the lesson they were teaching.
  • March 19, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of South Park Mrs. Chokesondick teaches Sex Ed to the girls, saying that unless the boy wears a condom he'll make the girl pregnant and/or give her a disease. What she fails to explain, and the girls don't understand, is that for either of the above to happen the boy and the girl also have to have sex.
  • March 19, 2013
    LordGro
    The description should not contain examples if they're not really necessary. So the last paragraph should go.

    I also don't see how "Clever Hans" of the Grimm Fairy Tales (the example was brought up right in the first reply) doesn't count. It seems like a perfectly legit example.
  • March 19, 2013
    Chabal2
    • A Scrooge Mcduck story has him impress on his three grandnephews the importance of making real money (he saw them running a lemonade stand and was dismayed at the feeble revenue it created). He is transported into the future, where he sees the three have taken his lesson to heart, making piles of money in every cheating, crooked way possible. When he returns, he encourages the boys to make real money honestly.
    • The Green Hornet movie starts with young Britt Reid getting in a fight at school trying to defend a kid from bullies. His father angrily tells him that if he couldn't do it right he might as well not bother. A few years later, Britt is now a womanizing, aimless, parasitic party animal with no moral sense whatsoever. Way to go, Mr. Reid.
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