American Horror Story: Coven uses the "supernatural monsters are people too" 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 than True Blood, since all of the witches shown in the season bar the Supreme Cordelia have been murderous bitches.
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 "Checkmate," Benson strikes a deal with the visiting Russian official, Petrov. Since there is no way to ensure that either man would keep his end of the bargain, Benson and Petrov agree that they will simply have to trust each other. The episode would make a solid point about the value of people trusting each other and working together ... if it wasn't for the fact that Benson was only able to make the deal after tricking Petrov into revealing a secret about the impending arrival of a high-ranking Russian official.
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".
The short-lived reality dating show Beauty and the Geek was basically a Broken Aesop incarnate. The premise was that a beautiful, though superficial model was brought into the show on false pretenses, and was forced to date a dozen dorky, unattractive nerds instead of the hunks she was promised. The implied understanding was that she would eventually come to realize that appearances are only skin deep etc etc. However, halfway through the season a team of actual hunks were abruptly thrown into the mix, competing against the nerds. After the crowd was whittled down to the two final men — one nerd, one hunk — the beauty always chose the hunk!
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.
"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.
"Gingerbread" is also bizarrely self-contradictory in its lessons. For most of the episode it appears to be a libertarian satire about knee-jerk attempts to aggressively suppress "darkness" in youth culture in response to isolated horrible events, but then in the end it takes the very paternalistic approach of "The Masquerade must be maintained because if humans in general learn about magic they'll start persecuting good or neutral magic-users along with the evil ones".
Invoked in Dad's Army. When a committee is planning for there to be a Squander Bug in the St George's Day celebrations, it is pointed out it would defeat the point if they had to spend a lot of money on a Squander bug costume. This is averted as Mrs Pike already has a Squander Bug costume.
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 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.
"The Dominators" has two. The Word of God aim was an allegory about how the hippie movement is bad because they would have got their arses kicked if they'd been in control when the Nazis had invaded. However, the oppressed, pacifistic Dulcians don't work as a hippie allegory, as they're characterised either as elderly politicians or as attractive young people who unthinkingly repeat the elders' lessons by rote until the Doctor and companions turn them against their racist, fascist oppressors, while the old Dulcians get slaughtered through trying to negotiate with Always Chaotic Evil aliens. The result is that it comes off as an allegory about how student activism is the future because the apathetic old politicians are only concerned with keeping superficial comfort and not with fixing big societal problems, and have engineered their own destruction. The second is in the B-plot: The villains have an internal conflict, between Rago, who favours caution and condemns meaningless destruction, and Toba, a Psycho for Hire who just loves destroying things. The problem is that everything Toba says is right - if he just had blown everyone up on sight (including the Doctor and Jamie) the Dominators would have succeeded in their plan. The result of this is that the story is simultaneously far more left-wing than intended and far more right-wing than intended.
Some people - including Tom Baker - have expressed discomfort that the moral of the show is about how violence is never as good as love and understanding, and yet most of the stories still end with the Doctor murdering the aliens. This was pointed out in New Who but led to more broken aesops (see below).
"The Face of Evil" is based on the premise that the Doctor's egotistical attempts to save a space mission AI (by simply imposing a print of his own brain over it instead of actually fixing the problem) led to the AI becoming an insane God who selectively breeds the settlers into opposing Cargo Cult factions that worship him, and creating a dystopic Egopolis based on the Doctor's image. It all seems like it's set up to criticise the Doctor's big ego and Chronic Hero Syndrome... but it ends with the AI, having realised who it is, asking the Doctor for an explanation as to where he went wrong, absolving the Doctor of all responsibility and even having 'God' ask him for tips on how to be better. Striking because the new series absolutely would never have missed the opportunity to criticise the Doctor's god complex.
"The Sunmakers" is supposed to be a right-wing allegory about how taxation is bad, written by an openly Conservative writer. However, ignoring a few throwaway flippant comments made by the Doctor, the story is really about the evil of taxation that targets the poorest in society, and societies that strip away social safety nets so the untaxed rich can rake in massive profits. The reason for this situation is privatisation, where every utility (including sunlight) is run by corporate interests and the government is viewed only as an extension of the Mega Corp.. At the very least, it comes across as left-wing in an Occupy kind of way. If you choose to read into the fact that the Doctor wins by inspiring a populist revolt to execute their leaders while quoting Karl Marx, it becomes actively Communist. Not what you'd expect from something written by a Margaret Thatcher supporter in 1977.
The character of Whizzkid in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was intended as a Take That to fans who criticised 80s Doctor Who by saying it wasn't as good as it used to be in a time they couldn't possibly remember. The problem here is that Whizzkid's similar opinions about the titular Psychic Circus are shown to be absolutely correct. Consequently, all Whizzkid does is vindicate the same fans the character was supposed to be chastising.
In the episode "Dalek", while the Doctor is certainly being unpleasant in torturing the Lone Dalek, he is treated as wrong for wanting to kill the Dalek and treating it as absolutely evil. However when the Dalek gets free it kills hundreds of people and it is clear it intends to wipe out all humanity. It does gain human feelings but is clearly an exception and Rose's sympathy towards it is largely born from ignorance, while the Doctor knows first-hand how dangerous the Daleks are and is proved right.
"The Parting of the Ways" has the Ninth Doctor decline from destroying Earth to destroy the Daleks, claiming that it's the morally better choice to not wipe out humanity with the Daleks. However the Daleks have just attacked Earth with such force they have distorted continents, meaning they have probably wiped out at least nearly all humanity and any survivors will soon be either killed, enslaved or turned into Daleks, which is clearly a Fate Worse Than Death, the Dalek Emperor even saying humanity will be harvested. The Doctor even points out that humanity won't be wiped out with Earth as they have spread to other worlds by now. But the Daleks surviving means they'll attack other worlds, giving humanity even less of a chance. It's only a literal Deus ex Machina that saves possibly the Universe from the Daleks. Overall the Doctor's decision, considering he may well be the only non-Dalek in range of the delta wave and the Daleks are about to exterminate him anyway, looks quite odd.
This seems to be a general problem with Dalek stories in New Who, as "Daleks In Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" tries to be a story entirely themed around the evils of racism, while still blatantly depicting humans and Time Lords being good and Daleks being evil as overwhelmingly determined by their genes.
"Journey's End" is yet another and even worse example of the series trying to suggest that the Doctor's attitude to the Daleks is Fantastic Racism while still depicting them as Always Chaotic Evil. The Doctor treats his clone as wrong for wiping out the Daleks (they're back next series), saying it shows how violent and brutal he is. Yet the Daleks had just come very close to wiping out entire Universes and are fictions poster creature for Scary Dogmatic Aliens. The Doctor had temporarily incapacitated them but considering how resourceful they are it was unlikely they would have remained like that for long. The moral makes even less sense considering that 10 in the same series had basically done the same thing to a race that wasn't as dangerous as the Daleks and in the process killed 20,000 innocent people, even if this was what history decreed. Meanwhile his clone was only wiping out the Daleks and (possibly) their Omnicidal Maniac Creator Davros, who refused a chance to be saved by the Doctor. Not only that but when the Doctor declined a chance to destroy the last Dalek in their previous appearance, claiming there has been too much death today, that Dalek had escaped and caused the problems of this episode. Not only that but that Dalek had been responsible for most of the deaths, killing the Dalek-Humans that numbered over a thousand because they were not Dalek enough.
The Doctor talking about how wonderful and resourceful humanity is can be slightly undermined by the fact a lot of their achievements and survival are due to him and many other aliens, the Daemons, the Osirians and the Silents to name a few. It makes you wonder what about other races that don't have the benefit of the Doctor helping them out.
The two-parters story "The Rebel Flesh/ The Almost People" is about a rebellion of clones who are sick of being treated as disposable vessels by miners to operate in dangerous circumstances. The Doctor even sides with them saying Clones Are People Too and try his best to save them. At the end of the day, the Doctor reveals to his companions the reason of their visit to the factory: Amy has been replaced with a clone all along. The Doctor immediatly kills Amy's clone with his sonic screwdriver as if nothing in the last few hours ever happened. The problem is lessened a bit in that Amy's clone appeared to just be remotely controlled by the real Amy, but it's still a matter of how sure was the Doctor that it hadn't been gaining sentience like the others.
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.)
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.
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".
In The Flash (2014) season two Super Serum Velocity 9 gives that temporary Super Speed or improves it if one already has it is used as stand-in for performance-enchancing drugs in sports. At one point Barry is tempted to use V9 to level the playing field against evil speedster but is discouraged from it by Dr Wells. Message is pretty clear, but earlier in the series Jay Garrick was encouraged to use Velocity and 3 out of 4 times he used it he ended up saving the day thanks to it. Bonus points for Wells saying "Be like Jay" when discouraging Barry from doing exacly what Jay did.
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.
There's 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...
Another example is an episode, where Will pretends to be his baby cousin Nicky's father to impress a girl. It all gets out of hand, until a TV show is going to award him several gifts (including a trip to Hawaii) for being such a devoted single father. Will feels guilty and reveals that he had been lying, so all those gifts go to a another man, who seems to be a real single father. Except for that this man suddenly tells Will that he had been faking it too! So the aesop seems to not be that lying is wrong, but that you should know when to keep your mouth shut...
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 isn't exactly a 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.
Although the intended Aesop may have been that you have to put up with Jerkasses throughout your life, including in school, and you can't let their jerkassery stop you from pursuing important life goals. As far as what was wrong with the board of education, Jerkass teachers can, unfortunately, be Truth in Television.
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.
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 back vocals 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".
Much of the criticism of Glee stems from a perception that, despite it's pro-tolerance and inclusive message, it frequently undercuts itself through the fact that many of its minority note Anyone who is not white, American and either hetero- or homosexual characters are heavily stereotyped and often reduced to background roles, e.g. an Asian character freaking out over an A-, calling it an "Asian F". It also doesn't help matters that, while the show routinely condemns homophobia; biphobic or transphobic statements made in-universe go by almost entirely unchallenged, for instance a lesbian dumps her bisexual girlfriend on the assumption that she would have eventually cheated with a man, and is never called out for it.
One episode had a visit by Blanche's estranged daughter Rebecca, who, during her time in Paris, has become very overweight. Rebecca wants to introduce her mother to her boyfriend, who's an asshole: he verbally abuses her and makes cruel, rude comments about her weight. This is treated as unacceptable, and she dumps him in the end. But the moral of the story breaks, because the whole first half of the episode involves some fat jokes being made at her expense (either by snarky Sophia or by dumb Rose ) and ends with Blanche suggesting they go outside rather than the previous intent to eat some cheesecake.
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.
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.
One episode shares with us in great detail the importance of not judging sex workers for their jobs and valuing them as people, because sex work is work, and being paid to perform in pornographic movies does not mean that a porn actress is degraded or less worthy. The ending spits on the whole thing when the actress in question decides to become a full-time porn star, starting with group sex with a whole crowd of men... because being in porn led to her being degraded and humiliated, so she might as well consent to being exploited for money.
The ending of "Guilt" would have you believe that Cabot's practically crossed the Moral Event Horizon by using a fake search warrant to stop the Big Bad once and for all. Despite the facts that all of her clean attempts to stop him have utterly failed, he's an unrepentant and unwilling-to-stop pedophile, she still goes out of her way to shift the blame for the fake warrant all toward herself and away from her colleagues, and she's definitely not the type to convict someone innocent just to wrap things up. While she definitely enters gray territory here, she comes across as much more of a Designated Villain and/or Pragmatic Hero than the Amoral Attorney and/or Knight Templar that her superiors won't seem to stop vilifying her as.
There are a few episodes centering on what becomes of child pornography victims when they grow up, and a few of those focus on the lives of those victims who are constantly re-victimized because of how permanent the materials are once they hit the internet. The message is very clear: it may be easier for consumers of kiddie porn to convince themselves that they're not hurting anyone because they personally do not harm children and the kids they watch are no longer children by now, but they're still the reason there's a demand for kiddie porn to begin with, and those kids do indeed grow up into deeply scarred adults. It's a very consistent message across several episodes... and then we get an episode where a city official is an avid consumer of huge amounts of kiddie porn, but the SVU team works to get him the lightest possible sentence and express sympathy for him because his porn consumption wasn't hurting anyone.
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 PS As in the show never really got much impact.
Even better, the following line, spoken by Jenny after tasering 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.
There's 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.
The episode "Rainbow Bridge" has one, when you think of the Fridge Logic involved. The plot is that the 4077th is treating a number of Chinese prisoners, and is somehow contacted by a Chinese field hospital who has in its care some UN troops. The Chinese, not capable of treating the UN troops up to their level of care, want to arrange a prisoner swap at the titular bridge, on the condition that Hawkeye, Trapper, Radar and Frank come unarmed to the swap. When they arrive, they are confronted by numerous Chinese guards carrying submachine guns. When it's revealed that Frank snuck a handgun (a tiny derringer that looks like it could have come out of a box of Cracker Jack, really) the commanding Chinese doctor launches into an anvilicious tirade about US actions ("Is it not enough that your planes harass us day and night? It makes it impossible for me to treat my own people. We make a civilized gesture, and you respond by coming here with a gun ready to shoot us down.") and is about ready to call off the exchange. At which point, Hawkeye browbeats Frank into surrendering the gun and makes an impassioned plea for the exchange to go on as planned. The intended Aesop seems to be "take any proffered olive branch during a war, especially if it saves lives", but it falls apart when you consider the Chinese were flagrantly violating the very conditions they demanded of Hawkeye et. al. by bringing armed men to the rendezvous point. Granted, there was no condition prohibiting this, but it's at least a Double Standard. Not to mention, the Chinese doctor complaining about trying to treat people while being bombed? If you watch the show, you'll see the 4077th in this exact situation frequently. As the Chinese could have been laying a trap and taken Hawkeye and the others prisoner or gunned them down with impunity, it seems more likely that the Accidental Aesop was "You know what? This once, in retrospect, Frank was probably right."
There's the episode "Souvenirs," in which Hawkeye and BJ force a chopper pilot to stop selling trinkets made out of junk found on battlefields. Granted that people, including little kids, are getting hurt and killed when they try to scavenge something that turns out to be booby-trapped, but this doesn't solve the problem. Fact #1: These people are dirt poor and desperate for every penny they can scrape up. Fact #2: Metal is valuable. Even if the souvenir industry dried up, the brass shells could be sold to someone who can use them, to melt down if nothing else. Fact #2 can't be changed. Fact #1 can, but Hawkeye and BJ don't do anything about it. In fact, they put a guy out of business who gives fifty bucks to the family of one of his suppliers who got hurt. Nice move. He even mentions that his predecessor used to just send flowers. Those families are certainly better off with him gone.
One episode features Margaret dealing with Nurse Cooper, who repeatedly emotionally breaks down, up to and including running out of OR in the middle of an operation because the wounded soldiers remind her of her kid brother. Margaret is viewed as an ogre for coming down on Cooper and eventually trying to get her transferred to an easier post, and she eventually learns to empathize with Cooper, letting up on her after crying over a dead dog (NOT while she was working). See the problems here?
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.
The Outer Limits (1995): The episode "Judgment Day" revolves around a murderer being hunted down on national television as part of an Immoral Reality Show. They make a point about condemning sensationalization of violence in the media and people who would watch it, before revealing that the target was actually framed by the show's producer. In the end the former target hunts down and murders the producer with just as much glee as he had previously been pursued, turning the intended message "killing people for public entertainment is wrong" into "killing people for public entertainment is wrong only if they didn't do it".
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." Or in other words, an invoked example of Reed Richards Is Useless.
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.
Power Rangers Jungle Fury has Jared being shown his past, when he was being bullied by older kids and the villain was mocking him for simply taking it, despite knowing martial arts at the time. Jared states that his code was to never use his arts against weaker opponents and that fighting the bullies with his martial arts was bad, anyway. To paraphrase Linkara, one can't have a Do Not Fight Bad Guys message in a Power Rangers show that is having martial arts as its main source of fighting the bad guys!
In the 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. Then again, perhaps the point was to highlight the fact that Lister learned the wrong lesson: the result of listening to his confidence was having to live with two Rimmers.
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 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 behavior 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.
Also, in the original show's Series Finale, "The Graduation", after Jessie bad mouths Screech for being a dorky guy, Lisa immediately scolds her, explaining that upon learning he was valedictorian instead of her, he gave it up as he knew how much it would mean to her, with her even guilt-tripping Jessie by saying that "the world would be much better place if we had more little dorky guys, don't you think?" However, as true as that comment in its respective context, it all becomes significantly weakened by the fact that it's Lisa trying to call someone else out on their treatment of Screech. In reality, she was the main one who consistently insulted him throughout the series, calling him a dork and a nerd while either mocking or downright dismissing him and his ideas (even the logical ones) and was really bitchy to him whenever she sought fit, even in those times that he wasn't flirting with her.
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.
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 whoever 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).
In "Ethics", Worf suffers an injury that leaves him quadriplegic, and, rather than take the standard treatment of implants which would restore most of his mobility, he opts for a risky, unproven spinal surgery performed by a visiting doctor who has a reputation for cutting corners in her research. The operation is a success, although Worf does end up clinically dead for a few minutes during the procedure. Crusher tears into the doctor for using Worf as a guinea pig to prove a pet theory, but this is undercut since: A. it worked perfectly and Worf makes a complete recovery, and B. performing risky procedures based on the scantest evidence is basically a Starfleet doctor's job description, and every CMO in Star Trek, including Crusher, has done much more serious operations on organisms they knew even less about.
"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. Jonathan Frakes, who played 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.
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.
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 "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.
Deconstructed 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.
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.)
Because of course the 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 agonizingly 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.
In SF Debris's review of DS9's "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang", Chuck notes how Sisko complains about the racism present during the time period of the holodeck program (the 1960s), but says nothing about the sexism also present in that time, made worse by how the team's Batman Gambit uses its three female members in mostly passive roles, rather than taking a fully active part in the casino heist like the men. As Chuck put it:
Chuck: In their attempt to address the elephant in the room, they've unwittingly called attention to the mammoth standing next to it.
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.
Or when she acts downright outraged when Dr. Dylan West joins the staff, saying that he knows nothing about women's health. This is someone who has likely dealt with considerable prejudice given her race and gender, yet is ready to dismiss West simply because he's a man.
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.
That '70s Show: The episode "Love, Wisconsin Style" focuses primarily on jerkass Casey Kelso breaking up with Donna. Donna then attempted to get back together with Eric, but Eric rejected her because he felt like her "backup". Red and Kitty then proceed to ridicule Eric for "being so stupid" for not taking her back. Where to begin? For one, the previous episode focused on the fact that Casey was a known jerkass (in which his younger brother even concurred), and Eric tried to warn Donna that she could be hurt. Donna, of course, shrugged it off. When the inevitable happened, Donna was broken down and crying from the heartbreak, and almost immediately asked Eric if they could get back together. So why should Red and Kitty ridicule Eric for rejecting her? She was clearly shaken, and not thinking straight. And she clearly came back to her "safe, good boy" Eric after her "cool bad boy" boyfriend Casey left her in the dust. Everything about how that situation played out screamed out that Eric was clearly a backup that Donna ran to when feeling loney and shaken. The Broken Aesop additionally plays out when you consider the series' history. It's almost as if Eric was right when he said that his parents (mostly Red) don't truly respect him. Especially if they think he should be somoene's backup. Perhaps they don't think he can do better?
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.
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.
Totally Minnie is a Disney special from the 80s about a guy that goes to a place run by Minnie Mouse that teaches people how to be "totally hip" to pick up girls. She and her human assistant teach him how to dress, converse, and other things related. What's the ending message? "Just be yourself." Huh?
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."
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 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.
The "Twilight of the Gods" story arc from the fifth season is one long broken Aesop. The gods of Olympus are said to be oppressive tyrants who torment humanity, persecute worshippers of other gods, want to kill Xena's child and viewers are told repeatedly all mankind needs is love. The Aesop is broken since the gods are not oppressive tyrants. They generally leave humanity alone with most human problems being each other and only a few gods being jerks. Until this arc, they did not persecute the followers of other gods. They only wanted to kill Xena's child because it was prophesied to be their doom and from their perspective the child would go to Elysium. Xena is willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to save her child. And worst of all, the Olympian gods are being replaced by the One God who preaches love and nonviolence, but in the series itself has Xena violently wipe away all of the Olympians because it cannot stand other gods, and its dictates in many ways come off as more oppressive than the Olympians with everything being Black and White Morality and being thrown into Hell which is stated to be worse than Tartarus if you do not measure up.
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.
The Vampire Diaries seems to be making a powerful statement about how unhealthy Stefan and Damon's relationship is, and how bad codependent relationships are in general this season. Everyone keeps telling Damon that Stefan is always suffering due to his selfish behaviour. While that is true, the problem is that Stefan seems to be the one causing his own problems. First off, his blood feud with Julian, which he kept on pushing with Valerie's help, resulted in his mother's death and Damon being trapped in the phoenix stone. Then, when Damon had a nervous breakdown, he was willing to help, to stop when Damon revealed that he thought he had killed Elena (Enzo led him to believe that). Most recently, Stefan willingly went to Damon for help with Rayna, the vampire hunter, only to complain and fear that Damon would let him down. But, the reason he went to Damon in the first place was because Rayna was released by MATT, who is very angry with Stefan for something that happened during the three years that Damon was asleep that resulted in Matt's girlfriend's death. Maybe the moral is intended to be that "there are just some people you need to let go of", but it's coming off more like "if you have a problem, find an emotional punching bag and blame all of your troubles on that person instead."