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 an episode of Bluestone 42, Simon loses his gun's firing pin while cleaning it. Squad prankster/Simon's nemesis Mac finds it, but doesn't return it because Simon would assume he stole it. Therefore, through a series of wacky misadventures Mac tries to trick Simon into "finding" it, eventually just dumping the pin in his tea, and Simon swallows it. When Tower Block tells Simon this should teach him to trust his men next time, Simon responds that it hasn't because next time his pin goes missing Mac will have actually stolen it, to which Mac cheerfully replies "Aye, I will".
On two episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, when Carol was vacationing, Bob was saddled with an extremely incompetent elderly secretary who could neither answer the phone nor remember his name. At the end of her second appearance (which started with an exasperated Bob pleading to Jerry not to get this same woman again), it's revealed that once she was young and cute, and hired solely for this reason. Now that she was older, all of her presumed ditz qualities were magnified and she was not in a good place. Bob feels bad for this, and we are supposed to as well—-but consider. When she was younger, she got all kinds of employment opportunities women deemed less attractive but presumably more competent did not. In the present of that show, it can be inferred that these other women are the competent vets badly wanted for their skills. The villain is supposed to be sexism and tossing someone aside when their looks fade. But while this woman got used by the system, she also once made good use of the system. It's hard to sympathize with her entirely, since this sad turnaround is also a bit of karmic justice. Plus, she is blazingly incompetent. She is also very far on in years, so her looks have probably not been a factor for some time. One wonders how she's had any recent employment. It seems like she's now trading on people feeling sorry for her, again diluting potential sympathy.
In the Bones episode "The Goop on the Girl," a bank is hit by a suicide bomber who apparently triggered the bomb using the signal from an angry left-wing radio show. Booth accuses the show's host of spreading "poison" on the airwaves and claims that he is responsible for the attack, even if he isn't legally responsible. As it turns out, the suicide bomber was being manipulated by a pair of bank robbers who were not motivated by ideology. The only reason the radio show's signal seemed to set off the bomb was because it was very close to the signal used by the robbers' own detonator. The episode ends with the host lecturing to his audience on the dangers of media-stoked anger and signing off for the last time.
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.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Beer Bad is notorious for its Anviliciousness, but its message also just doesn't work. The plot would not change in any way if the beverage were soda. The moral, if there is one, is "Don't accept food or drink from people who hate you," or possibly "Be polite to waiters and bartenders, because if they snap they can totally mess you up." Which aren't actually bad lessons, albeit a little situational. But as for the beer, the intended moral target? Foamy.
In fact, the episode was made to procure funding from the anti-alcohol lobby, who then noticed the broken message and refused to pay up.
In the final episode of season 1, a nine-year old boy who's kind of a loner is told by Louisa that, if you allow people to make fun of you and don't react, then they'll accept you because "they'll see you're okay". Even worse, this Aesop is repeated by the boy to Martin... who in the same episode had been the victim of a practical joke that wasn't strictly a Deadly Prank, but was still pretty cruel and quickly made him a laughing stock by pretty much everybody in the village, to the point where he was being discussed on local radio.
Notably this was Lampshaded and Deconstructed in the same episode, as Louisa's advice ends up getting said boy a ruptured spleen for his trouble and rushed into emergency surgery. In the end, she amends her advice to "Some people won't ever fit in, but we should appreciate their uniqueness".
There's another one played for laughs in an episode where the school's caretaker is kicked out and is sleeping in the school shed. He's delirious from carbon monoxide from a gas heater in a closed area, and has been putting fertilizer on the floors and floor cleaner on the vegetables. One of the teachers is trying to teach the kids the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, when Martin bursts into the room and shouts "Don't eat those! Destroy them immediately!"
"The Daleks" was justified under the show's then Edutainment premise because it was conceived as anti-war and anti-racism, since the Thals made Skaro virtually uninhabitable through detonating a nuclear device to kill the Dal race, reducing their civilisation to sticks and stones and forcing the remaining Dals to adopt robotic shells to survive (making them paranoid and racist regarding outsiders). However, the solution turns out to be Ian making the pacifist Thal civilisation on Skaro go to war with the Daleks to commit genocide against the race so they can take all their resources. This is not treated as Dirty Business or Darker and Edgier or as anything other than a happy ending.
"The Ark" is about a slave race, the Monoids, who are mute and subservient to humans. After a plague occurs, the Monoids eventually rise up over the humans and enslave them instead. The (apparent) attempted moral is announced at the end of the episode when the Doctor tells the humans and Monoids that they need to live in equality to survive, but thanks to What Measure Is a Non-Human? writing (in which the Doctor doesn't care about the deaths of tens of Monoids but realises it's an emergency when a human dies) and the fact that the Monoids' defining character traits are being "savages" and making terrible tactical decisions for no reasons other than to allow the humans to win, how the Monoids are returned to an underclass at the end, and how the story was made in 1966, it comes across more like a racist allegory for how extending civil rights will cause the oppressor to become oppressed by a race that can only run civilisation with incompetent savagery unless they are returned to Happiness in Slavery. Philip Sandifer of the TARDIS Eruditorum subscribes to this interpretation and believes the stupidity of the Monoids was intentional, rather than the Special Effect Failure it is generally imagined as.
In The Wheel In Space, Zoe confidently asserts that the Silver Carrier must have been deliberately piloted to the space station. The Doctor dismisses her argument with "Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority." As it turns out, the ship was deliberately piloted, and her reasoning was absolutely correct.
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 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 themselvesbroken 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.
When a Jerkass date ridicules Steve, Laura defends him by ranting about how despite his many flaws, Steve always treated her with "respect". Except that when you sum up Steve's behavior towards Laura throughout the series, you realize that he hasn't been any better. Steve repeatedly refused to accept that Laura was not interested in him, took even the most minutely nice thing that she said or did as a sign that she did return his feelings, constantly ignored her requests that he leave her alone, and just as frequently interfered with her dates and relationships to the point where he was literally chasing guys off. That is not respect, that's the basis for an episode of the Investigation Discovery series "Stalked".
A glaring demonstration of this in the episode "Born To Be Mild". When a gang member makes advances to Laura, she snaps at him, "Don't touch me". When he continues, Steve slaps his hand away, saying, "The lady asked not to be touched." So apparently it's only wrong when others ill-treat or harass Laura. When Steve does it, it's proof of his love.
And like with Stefan, the show's writers tried to fix the issue with Steve's obsession with Laura, by introducing Mya, who was obsessed with Steve and accepted him for his original self. This was the show's attempt to give viewers the lesson of Laser-Guided Karma... which ultimately didn't work, because he eventually sits Myra down to set clear boundaries for their relationship: he has the right to refuse her advances, she needs to accept that he's only dating her until Laura comes around, at which point he'll drop her like a bad habit with no remorse.
Frasier: In "I Hate Frasier Crane," when Frasier decides to renege on fighting with a man who he had accepted an invitation to fight with, Martin is furious and brings up a past incident where Frasier decided not to fight a guy. An incident from Frasier's CHILDHOOD. His anger seems to stem from embarrassment at his son not being "man" enough to go through with such a fight. However, it's first lampshaded by Frasier how stupid it is that Martin won't be satisfied until he comes home with a black eye, and then Subverted when Martin says he only wants Frasier to carry out promises he makes; once it becomes clear that Frasier is actually going to fight, Martin calls in the cops to break it up before things really get physical.
Fresh Prince of Bel Air has an episode where the moral is supposed to be that slacker Will shouldn't be afraid to work hard in school. It's about how Will's aunt Viv teaches Black History at the private school, where Will and his cousin Carlton are the only two black students in their class. Will is reprimanded for thinking that he would just ease himself through a Black History class, but it turns out that Viv gave more work to him and Carlton than to the others, because they were black! That's totally not fair, but everybody seems cool with it...
And there's also an episode, where Aunt Viv does this to one of her students, Kayla, whose grades start slipping after she starts dating Will. But it was Kayla's own decision to focus less on her school work, and really, Aunt Viv had no right to butt into the life of another adult. And we also have the terrible line "That scholarship may be the difference between Dr Kayla Samuels, who runs a hospital, and the Kayla Samuels, who cleans it", which makes it sound like Aunt Viv thinks that unless you have a College degree, you're simply not worth anything!
A later episode of Full House had Jesse going back to school so he can get his GED. The Aesop of “stay in school, no matter what” ends up being undermined by the fact that he has to deal with the same rude teacher who was convinced that he would never amount to anything and who scared him away from his education in the first place. Oh, sure on one hand he should not have let him deter him from graduating, but on the other hand, what the hell is wrong with that board of education for allowing such an unprofessional and condescending Jerk Ass that has no problem humiliating others to continue teaching students? Even worse, at the end of the episode, it was Jessewho was completely in the wrong for not staying in the class. What's more, Jesse it's exactly a Straw Loser; some of the (very successful) jobs he's had over the years have included rock star, nightclub owner, and Radio DJ, plus he's got a hot wife and is clearly doing well for himself. Not graduating clearly hasn't hurt his life in the slightest.
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.
Towards 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.
It gets a bit compounded with the Disproportionate Retribution when Finn calls Kurt's decorating "faggy", and time itself practically gasps in offense at the excited utterance of hate speech. Thing is, Kurt's behavior is inappropriate, and his choice in decorating their room with a blending of feminine and masculine elements was presented as a sort of visual metaphor for the two of them joining together... which he openly wants to be a romantic relationship, despite the fact that they're about to effectively become stepbrothers. So, using profanity in a fit of anger to refer to inanimate objects is absolutely unforgivable and means you need to learn a lesson about respecting others, but sexually harassing your new stepbrother while dominating the space you share with him with romantically-suggestive imagery is totally okay.
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".
One episode had a visit by Blanche's fat daughter, as she wants to introduce her mother to her boyfriend, who has just proposed. Problem is, the boyfriend is an asshole who verbally abuses her and makes cruel, rude comments about her weight. This is treated as unacceptable, and she dumps him in the end. The moral of the story breaks, because the whole first half of the epsiode is nothing but the main four women making fat jokes made at her expense.
A Hannah Montana episode where Miley goes out with a rich boy and his parents make fun of her accent and stereotype her. They're portrayed as jerks for this and get comeuppance. Earlier in the same episode Miley said that they talked funny and the Zany Scheme of the episode involves everyone donning bad British accents.
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 Aesopduring 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."
This was somewhat lampshaded when Hiro was put on trial in his own mind for playing around with causality for his own benefit.
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.
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 may 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 the 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.
A student athletic star ends up getting his legs paralyzed in an accident, which makes him feel worthless until someone helps him learn that there are other sports that he can participate in without the use of his legs, such as the pommel horse, except that there's no way he'd be able to do the routine he did without the use of his legs.
iCarly: There are a few ways iGo Nuclear could be considered to have broken the supposed Green Aesop: The first telling Freddie he failed because he imported worms for Portugal, then telling Carly that taking the bus would've been better. When Sam passed for doing nothing, it made it seem like the moral was "Don't bother trying to help the planet, because you are unwittingly doing it wrong anyway." It's worth noting that Executive Meddling mandated a Green Aesop that the creators didn't want to write—this might be a purposefulSpoof Aesop that being forced into environmentalism just sucks.
A shocking truth in Real Life is presented in iBeat the Heat. Carly gives An Aesop speech based from her utopian city project contrasting the Old American "neighborhood" life to the hubbub of the people in her loft. The lesson seemed to have sunk in, until all power inside the building gets restored, prompting the residents to leave the loft immediately without giving any form of gratitude. The stunned expressions of the main characters are just priceless.
The aesop of iStart a Fanwar, where everyone should concentrate on the show itself because it's only about comedy and not shipping? The very next episode started a 5 part Shipping arc that Dan Schneider himself hyped to the point he was expecting it to break the 12 million viewer record of iSaved Your Life. It didn't.
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?
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'?
Mexican's "La Rosa de Guadalupe" it's supposed to give valors and ethics to the people, sometimes in an excessively catholic view but even when not it manages to screw things so bad more times than not, at times like in a Chick strip the bad guy will repent and get a happy ending with some innocent dying in the process, others with clear "Didn't do the research" scenarios, and one particular time with all of the people about to get killed saved by nothing but a miracle which in a country like Mexico sounds cruel and unnecessary.
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 L Word constantly defended itself from being just a cash cow pandering to the straight male demographic, while featuring extensive sex scenes between women and restricting gay guys to extras. Let's just say most of the so-called PSA's in the show never really got much impact.
Even better, the following line, spoken by Jenny after tazering a homophobic bully no less, is one of the most hypocritical things to say in a minority show :
Jenny: "We're dykes, not fags".
MacGyver says guns are bad and that you shouldn't use them. Then, there's an episode where a racist newspaper editor is confronted by MacGyver at gunpoint. Someone has to remind MacGyver that shooting this person would be bad.
M*A*S*H has an episode where Klinger wants a nose job, but the doctors convince him that he should be happy the way he is. Klinger goes for it and all is great for a while. Then comes the later episode where a guy named Baker, who has a smaller nose than Klinger, wants to get a nose job. He easily convinces the doctors that he should have a nose job because his life would be so much better if he didn't have such an unattractive nose. The doctors even risk court-martial to get a plastic surgeon to do the surgery.
It also has Hawkeye Pierce, who is anti-war and anti-violence. He drones on and on about alternatives to fighting, but then when someone irks him, he punches him or mutilates him in surgery. With Hawkeye, violence isn't the answer when it's someone else's problem, but when it's Hawkeye's problem, violence is okay.
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.
A second one is when Itassis asks why the Rangers continuously defeat the Terrors despite the latter's greater power. The answer she gets is "We're more courageous than you". This is despite the fact that Isassis personally bailed the Rangers out when four of them were down for the count and the other two couldn't morph and killed a Terror the Rangers couldn't scratch because of the 'Rules of Darkness'. Then there's the whole 'one Terror vs six Rangers' thing.
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.
Power Rangers Ninja Storm when Sensei told Dustin not to use his abilities for trivial matters. Said trivial matter involved protecting a business that was basically being vandalised. In other words, "Don't use your abilities to stop crime."
Power Rangers S.P.D. has the Robot Girl two-parter, where the team is supposedly suspecting the cadet who turns out to be a robot just because she's different, obviously a metaphor for racism. However, Sophie did a great deal of suspicious things, and not telling anyone that she was who the villain of the week was after put everyone in danger. They had many good reasons not to trust her before the Robotic Reveal that happens in the last five seconds or so of Part One. That doesn't stop Part Two from pretending Part One was all about racism instead of a someone who couldn't have done more to look suspicious if she were going out of her way to.
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.
My Name Is Earl: Does anyone else find it a little strange that Earl puts his list away for a day so people will stop calling him "Karma Guy" while saying an Aesop about not letting other people's labels define you? Since when does changing your actions because of people's labels fit into that Aesop?
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 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.
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...?
Also a straightforward example; In a season 1 episode, Lister's Confidence and Paranoia become personified. Lister completely ignores Paranoia and only listens to Confidence - which almost gets him killed. The lesson Lister takes from this? He should stop listening to his paranoia and be confident.
The Nickelodeon sitcom Romeo! had an episode in which Romeo's older sister got a boyfriend. She is lectured on how she is not mature enough for a relationship. Later, when the boyfriend comes over for dinner, he eats some Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce and reacts hilariously. The sister dumps him and it's presented as her being "mature." However, what would be truly mature is not breaking up with your boyfriend over something so minor.
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.
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 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!
One episode of Saved by the Bell: The College Years has Slater discovering his Hispanic heritage and that his father changed his name to get into the army. Zack is presented as being ignorant of this and the one who has to learn An Aesop. Except Slater out of nowhere calls Zack a racist because he tries to set Slater up with a blonde girl. The exact quote is "why do you only think girls with blonde hair and blue eyes are attractive? I've dated girls with dark hair and dark eyes before" - which is a massive Continuity Snarl given that many girls of different ethnicities have served as Zack's love interests and Slater's own major love interest was a Caucasian blonde. Zack apologises for his behaviour at the end of the episode but Slater never apologises for being overly sensitive. Oh and there's a scene where Zack uses a racist remark and Slater comes back with a racist response of his own. Zack apologises for his but Slater doesn't.
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.
At the end of Smallville episode "Unsafe," Martha Kent lectures Clark on using better judgment about something he did while he was on red Kryptonite, which impairs his judgment. Characters in the show are pretty consistently forgiven for things they did "while they weren't themselves," including at the beginning of season 3 when Clark comes home after a much longer bout with red Kryptonite in Metropolis during which he was committing serious crimes. And for all of that he was on red Kryptonite voluntarily, whereas in "Unsafe" Alicia gives it to him without his knowledge.
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."
The episode The Game attempted to make an aesop that video games are EVIL. However, the game in question (a weird "put disc into bad CGI tubes" game) was actively programmed to brainwash who ever plays it. Also, holodecks are the final form of video games (can simulate ANY scenario imaginable, and stimulate all the senses while doing it), and nobody had a problem with them (at least, the fact that certain personality types had a tendency to find them addictive didn't lead to demands that they be banned).
"The Outcast" as a metaphor for homosexuality... except all the androgynous aliens are portrayed by women, the titular character identifies as a woman, and falls in love with a man. So the story ends up looking more like a heroic straight woman rebelling against lesbian tyranny. This might have been the point (reverse the discrimination to show people what it's like), but it didn't come across quite right. Even Jonathan Frakes, who plays Riker, called out the producers for not having the balls to cast a man in the role of the alien who falls in love with him, which would've made the metaphor work seamlessly.
Also in "Up The Long Ladder," Riker expresses horror and disgust at the mere notion of cloning human beings, saying "It's not a question of harm. One William Riker is unique, perhaps even special. But a hundred of him, a thousand of him, diminishes me in ways I can't even imagine." Later, in "Second Chances," he learns that a transporter malfunction created an identical duplicate of him eight years ago . . . and it turns out to be no big deal. He just has a twin brother that he didn't know about before. The option of just drawing a phaser and killing the Other Will on the spot doesn't even occur to him, because Clones Are People Too.
Chuck: So here's Star Trek's message: "We have a great respect for the cultures of the Native Americans... and we convey that by showing that they were backwards, languageless cavemen until they were touched by mystical white people from outer space." You're welcome.
Deconstructed on Star Trek: Enterprise with T'Pol's P'nar syndrome. The Vulcan Mind-Meld subculture and related P'nar syndrome disease served as allegories for homosexuality and AIDS, including the scorn heaped upon the former and the stigma attached to contracting the latter. Archer and Phlox repeatedly expressed their distaste for the Vulcan bigotry related to this issue, but they themselves continually point out that T'Pol, who has P'nar Syndrome, is not a member of the Mind-Meld minority, and attracted the disease through a non-consensual attack. T'Pol eventually pointed out to them that, by attempting to "excuse" her having the disease, they are supporting and even justifying the Double Standard that the High Command has against the Mind-Meld minority.
The point behind Archer and Phlox defending T'Pol was actually a way of pointing out that rape victims are the victims, and shouldn't be treated with stigma because they were assaulted, which is an unbroken, if understated, aesop. At no point does anyone say that T'Pol is at fault for being attacked.
A straight broken aesop in "The Hatchery." A major theme of the Xindi arc is that humans and Xindi are Not So Different; Archer has met several who are decent people that are either horrified to learn that they're involved in the deaths of millions or hold serious reservations about destroying Earth. When the crew finds an Insectoid ship with a hatchery, they conclude that the crew pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to save the eggs. But Archer's comparison of insect eggs to humanoid babies and attempts to save the hatchery are portrayed as irrational, the crew has to mutiny, and the only reason he cared was because he got hit with egg gunk. So our enemies are people too... unless they're bugs, 'cause that's just weird. (It also nicely undercuts a general theme of Star Trek: even if life comes in an unfamiliar or creepy form, it deserves respect.)
It's not so straight, though. The crew was willing to show respect and compassion for the Insectoid eggs (both for ethical and pragmatic reasons, since they need to convince the Xindi that humanity's not out to annihilate them, as they've been led to believe). What had happened was that Archer was taking a lot of foolhardy risks to save them (he was under the influence of some compound sprayed on him by an egg sac that made him imprint on the eggs as a parent), including sacrificing a lot of important hardware, spending an inordinate amount time personally caring for the eggs whilst shirking his responsibilities as captain, and throwing his security officer in the brig for defending themselves against an Insectoid attack; saving the hatchery did not justify risking the Enterprise, its crew, and by extension, the fate of humanity. Granted, there's still a twinge of xenophobia (which gets brought out in season 4), but it's not a straightforward case of "bugs are gross."
Because of course the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Profit and Lace" didn't have enough problems, it had to undercut not just one, but two different morals! First was the lesson about female equality, carried out through a display by a sex-changed Quark that was agonisingly sexist even after Armin Shimerman insisted the script be toned down to be less misogynistic. Then came everything dealing with Quark's relationship with his mother, where the effects of their mutual loathing for each other is portrayed as entirely his fault; sadly for its attempt to portray Quark as in the wrong and badly in need of a lesson, Ishka consistently treats him like shit throughout the episode, either ignoring or forgetting the time Quark risked his own life to save her from the Dominion, even after he undergoes extensive surgery, flirts with another man, endures Zek hitting on him and pisses off the Acting Grand Nagus in order to bring about a social change he doesn't even want in order to help Ishka get the reform she was pushing for.
Prejudice against Cardassians seemed to be disturbingly well-accepted by the Star Trek franchise, considering how firm it normally was against any sort of bigotry. In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Nothing Human," B'Elanna displays racial prejudice against a holographic Cardassian physician. The Doctor objects to this racism, and the episode seems to be building toward an Aesop opposing bigotry ... until it is revealed that the Cardassian doctor, Crell Moset, is actually a war criminal. The episode then turns into a debate on medical ethics, and the racism issue is all but forgotten. In fact, the remainder of the episode seemed to take the view that the prejudiced characters had been right all along. B'Elanna acts like the discovery of Moset's war crimes vindicates her earlier hostility toward him. When she says that she had "a bad feeling" about the Cardassian as soon as she saw him, nobody calls her out on the fact that her "bad feeling" was the product of nothing more than her own racial prejudice.
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?
Also another fine example of Lu's dislike of wealthy people was in another episode where two couples (one being working class and the other one being, you guessed it, wealthy) are trying to adopt the same baby girl. Well, Lu wanted the working class couple to get the baby, so she told both couples that the girl had some incurable disease (which she didn't; Lu was just trying to trick the wealthy couple into forfeiting the process of adopting a "sick" baby.) After this revelation to both couples, the wealthy couple said to Lu that they would love the child no matter what (and ended up with the child) while the working class couple, upon learning the other couple were now the girl's parents, were relieved that they didn't get the baby, seeing how they felt that they couldn't handle a sick child.
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.
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?
Word of God even says that comparing the vampire rights movement to the LGBT movement is somewhat homophobic.
American Horror Story: Coven uses the same analogy, this time with witches and intended to be an analogy with gay people, in its finale. The result is an even more Broken Aesop, since all of the witches shown in the season bar the Supreme Cordelia have been murderous bitches.
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."
But that was because of a bet that Josh made with Toby that every time he said his name, he had to add "I work at the White House," so he was always the person who brought politics up first. It gets a Meaningful Echo at the end of the episode.
In Wizards of Waverly Place, Alex never learns to handle life without using magic to get her way. However - she is learning...
The episode "Moving On" is all about how Justin needs to move on and be open to new relationships after his girlfriend (a vampire) gets scratched by a werewolf (Alex's boyfriend) and Rapid Aging sets in, causing her to run into the woods to hide. Near the end of "Wizards Vs. Everything", guess who comes back, returned to her teenage form and ready to date Justin again?
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. It gets slightly more off-key, since most beauty pageants aren't held for charity, and when they are, the charitable donations don't go to the winner.
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.