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Broken Aesop: Live-Action Films

  • 2012: A particularly egregious example in — Dr. Adrian gives a rousing speech aboard one of the doomsday-evading-Arks on the importance of humanity looking out for one another and convinces the captain to open the gates, allowing more people in. While well-intentioned, this decision indirectly results in the Diabolus ex Machina offings of Gordon and Tamara via the ship flooding. Not to mention no one even mentioning all the Chinese workers they just sent off the boats to die...
  • The Adjustment Bureau: The main message seems to be Screw Destiny, as the main character fights to defy "The Plan" and be with the girl he loves. Yet, we find out that the only reason he's so obsessed with this girl is because they were originally meant to be together in the first place, before the plan changed. Also, David can only effectively fight the plan by receiving help from an Adjustment Bureau Agent on the inside. Also in the end even that isn't enough as they only succeed when the Chairman allows them to continue.
  • 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. So you don't need to be born into the elite class to be successful, but you do need to be in the elite class.
  • 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 apparently intended Aesop. Oz, on the other hand, seems to have grasped the aesop quite well, as instead of bragging about finally getting laid, he simply states he had an awesome night with his lady.
  • Banlieue 13: The ending of the sequel contains one of the most broken Aesops ever seen: After having foiled the villain's plan to blow up Banlieue 13 in order to have it replaced by a rich suburb, and exposed his orchestration of the civil violence leading to that decision, the leaders of all five stereotypical ethnic gangs (Black Rastafarians who look like rejects from the Lord's Resistance Army, robe-clad bearded Arabs, Trigger Happy Portuguese used-car salesmen, tattooed Asian martial artists and white Neo-Nazi skinheads) give the French President an "inspirational" speech on how they're like a family that protects, unites and brings people together ! Keeping in mind that they all voluntarily racially segregate themselves into different blocks and have only united to fight a common enemy, this reaches previously unexplored levels of Wallbanger territory
  • Beverly Hills Chihuahua had a message about adopting animals from shelters and the sequel even had a celebration promotion about National Spay/Neuter Month. This is despite at the end's with Babies Ever After and the sequels involve the puppies.
  • Brüno: Sacha Baron Cohen 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.
  • Buddy: It 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. Chimpanzees are far more destructive and violent than gorillas.
  • The Butterfly Effect: The ending. The lesson that you can't possibly undo all of your past mistakes and that you have to accept them for what they are is broken by both of the endings, as Evan does precisely that by removing himself from Kayleigh's life entirely. The real mistake he had to fix was meeting her in the first place (theatrical cut) or being born at all (director's cut).
  • 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."
  • The Condemned: The "Stone Cold" Steve Austin star vehicle revolves around a shady producer who arranges for 10 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 (and some rape for good measure). 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." It doesn't help matters that the intended aesop itself conflates fictional violence with real violence.
  • Contact: In the film adaptation, 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?
    Kitz: Continue.
    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 Count of Monte Cristo: The 2002 film 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.
  • Day Breakers: It's set in a world of vampires and a dwindling supply of blood is basically one long analogy for our dependance of oil. Which is fine right up until the end where they create a substitute for blood which gives us not, "don't blindly waste resources and deal with the problem before it becomes a problem" but "blindly waste resources and science will stop the collapse of civilization just in the nick of time." It gets further broken when you consider that alternatives to fossil-fuels already exist; they're just not yet economical.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days has An Aesop about owning up to mistakes when you make them. Greg's father Frank lectures him on this, and Greg's confession to him in the climax of the film is what finally fixes the trust issues the two have been dealing with for most of the movie. Problem is, Frank is a Bumbling Dad who doesn't follow his own advice — earlier in the film, he and Greg inadvertently ruin a pot roast his wife had been preparing for supper, and rather than telling her this, he allows her to serve it anyway while avoiding eating any of it himself.
  • Enchanted: It's up for debate, but the entire point of the movie is showcasing how love takes time to develop, as opposed to fairy tale notions of love-at-first-sight. This is a great message, but the main characters fall in love over the course of a few days, which, again debatably so, is almost as silly an idea as instantaneous love. Not to mention the obvious case of Pair the Spares Edward and Nancy, who get married as quickly as any Disney couple from the early years.
  • 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.
  • Fear Of A Black Hat: This comedy film parodies the broken aesop of gangster films like Scarface and New Jack City in a music video called "A Gangsta's Life is Not Fun". Meaning, the point of the films are to show how being a ruthless criminal and selling drugs is wrong, and yes the villains do pay the price for their actions in the end. However, ninety percent of the films shows them being Crazy Awesome before hand. Which results in them having a lot of fans and the message of the films being missed, entirely.
    Ice Cold: I'm the G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. like Scarface bitch I'm a superstar. Revered by all, though I am the villain, gain more juice by the others I'm killing. Profiling and styling, drive a fly ride and hoes just pile in. I make gangsta money, cause I'm gangsta bold. Fuck gangsta bitches, wearing gangsta clothes. And I kill with will of steel for thrills, another way to pay the bills. I'm the boy wonder, god of thunder, wrong move and I'll put you under. I'm notorious, I live glorious, I'm the fly gangsta the remains victorious. Stay in the top-self clothes, stay fucking the top-self hoes. Because I'm the gangsta they call number one... but don't try this at home kids, a Gangsta's life's not fun.
  • 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?
  • The Garbage Pail Kids Movie: The moral of of the film 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 for half the movie and, moreover, are Villain Protagonists.
  • The Gladiator (1986 TV-Movie): tells the story of a mechanic who, distraught after the death of his younger brother in a car crash, Mad Max-es his tow truck and starts dishing out vigilante justice by disabling the cars of drunk drivers before they can do any damage. Except... the man responsible for his brother's death wasn't a drunk driver. He's actually some kind of vehicular serial killer of whom the mechanic's brother was just one of many victims. The whole anti-drunk driving motivation just doesn't seem to work.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The backstory presented in of original story makes it clear that the Grinch's hatred of the Who's is perfectly justified, yet the end is still presented as him needing to learn the lesson.
  • I Am Cuba: A 1964 Soviet propaganda film intended to lionize the Cuban revolution against the capitalist-supported Batista regime. The problem was that by portraying the excesses of the Bourgeoisie in Cuba with such sumptuous and dizzying cinematography that the film makes capitalists look awesome. The film flopped with the Russians, but was dusted off decades later by Hollywood and heralded as a triumph of pure film making.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: It implies that looting is bad. The hero insists that he's an archaeologist who never loots.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: It's about how you shouldn't discriminate against gay people... but every gay character in the movie is a flaming stereotype and the main characters treat the very idea of pretending to be gay as hideously unclean and disgusting, and it never changes. Additionally, they try to support gay marriage by having the main characters exploit it.
  • Johnny Dangerously: Lampshaded and parodied beautifully. 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's wearing a white fox wrap), mugs to the camera and says, "Maybe it pays a little".
  • The Lifetime Movie of the Week genre is notorious for this. A particularly common form is the story allegedly about female empowerment where the problem is solved by a man coming to the heroine's rescue and any woman who's comfortable with her sexuality is demonized.
    • Cyber Seduced: His Secret Life attempts to preach An Aesop about how looking at Internet porn will ruin your life. The 14-year-old protagonist starts out as a champion swimmer and ends the film as a suicidal mess. Except because it's Lifetime TV, the most they can actually show is just Justin looking at women in skimpy costumes and the film's Aesop gets undermined when all the problems that happen for Justin don't actually come from looking at porn in general. He gets addicted to energy drinks simply because he drinks them when he looks at porn, he gets into trouble with people in town because the woman whose porn he was watching accuses him of raping her because he won't sleep with her. Half the kid's problems seem to stem from having a mother who feels such a habit warrants therapy and interventions. And yet the mother is meant to be the heroine of the story.
    • 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.
  • Limitless: There's 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 and becomes a U.S. Senator, who is clearly destined for the White House. Implying that drugs are in fact good as long as you use them wisely.
  • Mazes and Monsters: The anvilicious aesop of 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. The only who completely breaks and becomes detached from reality, Robbie, seems to have prior psychological problems unrelated to the game, as his friends are completely unaffected by it.
  • Mean Girls 2: The moral of the story seems to be "don't be a follower," but in the end, Abby decides to attend Carnegie Mellon instead of her original goal of NYU just to stick with Jo, who in turn based her college decision solely on it being the school her dead mother went to.
  • 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.
  • On Our Own: The film, 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.
  • Penelope has essentially the same problem as Beauty and the Beast, of which it is a gender inversion — once she learns to accept her own appearance as an ugly person with a pig nose, she transforms into an attractive Christina Ricci.
  • Revenge of the Sith:
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi's infamous "only a Sith deals in absolutes" line. Apparently, our beloved Obi-Wan is in fact a Sith lord. This sort of logic is in-character for the old Jedi Order, but that doesn't break the message any less.
    • Another Aesop that's broken: you're supposed to use the Force for knowledge and defense, never attack. And yet, Jedi repeatedly attack virtually everyone using the Force. Their most notable mistake was not moving against the Chancellor sooner. And when Anakin turns to the Dark Side, it's because he wants the Chancellor to be spared and Mace Windu demands that Anakin help kill him.
  • Rock Its Your Decision: This anti-rock propaganda movie 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.
  • Saturday Night Fever: The film means to decry the hedonistic life of disco culture. It portrays heavy drug and alcohol use, empty casual sex, Jerkass protagonists with a serious case of Moral Myopia, and date rape (which is implied to be Annette's fault for getting drunk and high, and wanting to make Tony jealous, instead of blaming Tony's friends for taking advantage of her.) And yet, disco is portrayed as glamorous: there's all the dancing, the obvious escape from reality, the cool outfits, and a great soundtrack featuring the Bee Gees. In fact, if it weren't for this film, disco wouldn't have been as popular as it was.
  • 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, but this loses some steam considering how many fat jokes it has at Rosemary's expense.
  • Shoot 'em Up: There's an anvilicious anti-gun message all while containing the most gun-centric and gun-glorifying scenes ever put to film, in which both the heroes and villains accomplish almost every task set before them by using guns, right down to delivery babies. The irony is so blatant that it's surely intentional, making this a Stealth Parody.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Spock's death forces Kirk to accept that there are things he can't do anything about...and then the entire next film is devoted to the crew bringing Spock back to life. Though in their defense, at the time Khan was made the plan was indeed to have him stay dead. And even though they did get Spock back Kirk still had to suffer for it he lost his son, David Marcus, who was killed trying to protect Saavik from the Klingons.
    • Star Trek: Insurrection: An idyllic society that is portrayed as perfect exists without technology, on a planet with magical radiation that makes the advanced medical technology of the Federation unnecessary, even though the chief engineer needs technology to see and the captain needs technology to keep his heart beating. Then, without technology ceasing to be bad, the heroes use phasers, transporters, starships and holodecks to save the planet to live their idyllic, technology-free existence as the easy victims of anyone who happens to stroll past.
  • 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.
  • The Swarm (1978): The Irwin Allen disaster movie preaches environmental responsibility: the military wants to use pesticides that would damage the environment, while the scientist played by 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?
  • Swimming with Sharks: Buddy Ackerman, who's being tortured by Guy whom he had mistreated, unleashes 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".
  • V for Vendetta: The film version of V for Vendetta goes for a pretty unambiguous Aesop about the importance of standing up for freedom and thinking for yourself, but the "freedom fighter" hero's crusade against England's fascist government still relies on kidnapping and torturing an innocent girl to make her more sympathetic to his cause, and it ends with him being hailed as a martyr by a mob of his devoted supporters, who proceed to show their devotion by donning identical black outfits and marching in lockstep towards the nation's capital. You know... for freedom. Alan Moore's original graphic novel was much more morally ambiguous.
  • Woman Obsessed: A woman's new husband is built up for the first ¾ 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 ¼ 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 ¾ of the movie was building how horrible and abusive he was and how much we should hate him, but the last ¼ 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."
  • X-Men:
    • One of the taglines for X-Men was "Trust some. Fear the rest." Imagine this being applied to any minority group.
    • X-Men: First Class is a movie, in part, about defying prejudice and embracing the differences between people, but in the end, all the non-white characters (those who aren't dead, anyway) and women still end up with the "bad guy", and the "good guys" are all white men. You can take it as a deliberate way of introducing moral ambiguity between the Brotherhood and the X-Men—prior movies, particularly X-Men 2, also showed the Brotherhood as encouraging mutants to embrace their abilities, while Xavier taught them to conceal their abilities to be accepted by the world.

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