At first, Gunslinger Girl's disturbing depiction of the horrors and abuses its innocent little girl protagonists faced and how their lives were completely destroyed was lauded by many fans as a Deconstruction of the lolicon genre and/or a commentary on the use of Child Soldiers. Nope. Turns out it's straight-up Author Appeal. Many of the more subversive elements and Fan Disservice of the early part of the series were apparently to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience and probably weren't even the creator's idea. As time went on and the series' popularity grew, the creator gained Protection From Editors, and it became decidedly more Fanservice-y and disturbing for totally different reasons.
And then there's the straight out porn, drawn by the creator, of the girls being intimate with their handlers, consensual or otherwise.
Incidentally, the fact that the first season of the Anime has this Aesop but the second doesn't is likely part of the reason why the latter season was critically panned by comparison.
This was also done when Papercutz translated the original comic book story to English.
Galactus from Marvel Comics is a godlike being who eats the life force of entire planets to survive. Obviously, every time he eats, potential billions if not more die. Galactus rationalizes that he's got to eat and the inhabitants of those planets are far below him on the universal pecking order. His entire character might be the greatest Accidental Aesop in favor of vegetarianism ever... or was, until it was revealed that Galactus is required for the universe to properly function.
A lot of comics written by Mark Millar seems to have pro-family messages. Several of his characters have issues that can be traced to their family lives. For example, Ultimate Red Skull and Spider-Girl in Old Man Logan are both despicable psychopaths because they had an absentee father, toward whom they hold a grudge. Hit-Girl is completly messed up because of her psychopath father. The Unfunnies' Troy Hick has a Freudian Excuse in the mental breakdown he suffered after his wife left him, and Millar's run on Fantastic Four portrays Reed and Sue Richards as perfect and extremely happy with their lives. However, Millar has said he never intentionally put any sort of message into his works, so all of this is either completely accidental or subconscious on his part.
George A. Romero has always maintained that he did not intend to make any comments about race in Night of the Living Dead. He hired Duane Jones, a black stage actor, to play the hero because "he gave the best audition." Much of the movie's dialogue was improvised by the actors during filming, with only a loose adherence to the script. It was only when the film was released that Romero says he became aware of the implications of Jones's character being black. However, some critics continue to insist that it's highly implausible for someone in the 1960s to cast a black actor as the lead without being aware of the significance.
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, made at the height of the Red Scare, was praised by people on both sides of the issue who assumed the villainous pod people were meant to be analogous to either Communists or people being swept up by Senator McCarthy's witch hunts. Director Don Siegel was quick to say that he did not intend to portray any kind of message and just thought he was making a simple alien invasion film. Seeing as the film ends with the hero shouting into the camera "They're here already! You're next!", opinions are still divided.
The McCarthy/HUAC furor had more or less died down by the time the movie was made, so the director was probably telling the truth.
The film adaptation of 300 is often interpreted to glorify secular, westernized countries standing against the religious extremism and intolerance of the Middle East. However, some critics pointed out that in the film, Persia is a massive, wealthy empire bent on expanding its influence throughout the world, while the Spartans are a small group of dedicated, zealous fighters who are willing to break the rules of war and martyr themselves to resist the invaders. Some viewers interpreted Persia as representing the United States and Spartans representing the terrorists.
This trope grew to absurd proportions between about 2004 and 2007, when the Iraq War became a major point of controversy worldwide. For a while, it seemed as if every work of fiction was interpreted as an argument either for or against the war. The final Star Wars film (Revenge of the Sith) was taken to be a veiled condemnation of the Bush Administration, with Darth Vader as George W. Bush and Emperor Palpatine as Dick Cheney. Seriously.
There have been conflicting or even parallel arguments for what, if anything, Revenge of the Sith was trying to be anvilicious about, ranging from the Bush and Nixon administrations to the rise of Nazism in Germany to oh, hey, look at those awesome digital effects!
WALL-E is often interpreted as having a rather Anviliciousenvironmentalist or anti-consumerism message, but the director stated that there was not supposed to be any political message, and the setting was created to justify the story. Fred Willard also ad-libbed the line, "Stay the course," causing some people to assume the film was commenting on the Bush administration.
An example so famous it's taught in US History classes is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Sinclair was trying to convert Americans to socialism with a story about the horrors of capitalism made manifest in meat processing plants. Unfortunately for his intended message, all anyone noticed was the description of how sickeningly unsanitary the meat processing plants were, leading less to, "Oh, the poor oppressed workers!" and more to, "Oh, the poor oppressed workersare in my food!" which led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Sinclair put it best when he said, "I aimed to hit the nation in the heart, but I hit the stomach instead."
Some people became vegans after reading The War of the Worlds, despite the story being about the morality of British imperialism.
The stated Aesop in Aristophanes' Lysistrata might be interpreted as stating that if Athens and Sparta teamed up instead of fighting each other, they would be unstoppable and have the rest of Greece at their mercy. In modern times, the play is generally considered to have a pacifist and/or feminist message. These are justified in so far as the play does portray the war as hurting both sides and acknowledges (albeit in a humorous way) that war has a toll on female civilians. However, given the Ancient Greek opinions of women, it seems that his message was more like "even women are smart enough to know this war is bad."
Fahrenheit 451 is almost universally interpreted to be about government censorship on literature being used to control the population. As late as the 1980s, Bradbury himself stated that the book is about censorship. In his old age, however, Bradbury has come out insisting that he'd always intended the book to be about how crappy television is. Critics have wisely chosen to ignore Bradbury's assertions, and a UCLA class drove him from the room by telling him to his face that he's simply wrong about his own book.
The eighteenth century critic Thomas Rhymer said that there seemed to be two possible Aesops in ''Othello': either "Don't elope with blackamoors" or else "Take better care of your laundry." (The latter being a reference to Desdemona's handkerchief, which convinces Othello that his wife is cheating on him.)
Anna's Story was a sympathetic account of Australian schoolgirl Anna Wood's death by water intoxication after taking ecstasy. Obviously, the intended aesop was Drugs Are Bad. However, since Anna's friends waffled for way too long about getting her medical attention after it became very obvious that she was deteriorating, the equally important lesson learned could be that if you're going to take drugs with friends, have decent friends.
Alternatively (and a bit more generously to Anna's friends, who were mostly guilty of little more than naivety and inexperience), if you're going to take drugs, make sure you and the people you're with know what the potential consequences are and what the best course of action to take in case of something going wrong is.
An in-universe example occurs in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five: the 'moral' that the Tralfamordians derive from The Bible is before you kill anyone, make absolutely sure that they're not well-connected.
George Orwell's intention behind Nineteen Eighty-Four was to denounce the government of the Soviet Union under Stalin, to express his dissapointment in the end results of the Socialist movement, and a general denouncement of totalitarianism (not to be confused with authoritarianism). Most of the people who read it, however, come out believing it's about the horrors of censorship, dictatorship, propoganda, and pretty much anything that isn't democracy and libertarianism. Bonus points for quoting "absolute power corrupts, absolutely" (Orwell despised it when people resorted to using other people's words to make a point, or using one word stock responses).
Casabianca, about a loyal cabin boy who stayed on a burning warship until it exploded because he waited for his father to relieve him of duty without knowing he had died, has many times been interpreted as a warning against blindly obeying your parents.
Live Action TV
The series finale of Battlestar Galactica seems to have an Anvilicious anti-technology Aesop that comes completely out of nowhere. Ron Moore admits in his podcast on the episode that this was simply a desperate last-minute attempt to explain why none of the fleet's technology was discovered after they arrived on prehistoric Earth, and he didn't put much thought into any message that could be read into it.
The Bones episode "The He in the She" featured a transgender woman killed while swimming by the jealous ex-wife of her lover, with a subplot about her life as a male preacher and her estranged son. Booth took away an Aesop about the transforming love of God and the way it can heal people's souls. Temperance concluded that the Aesop was "always swim with a buddy".
The Doctor Who episode "The Unquiet Dead" was perceived in some quarters as an attack on immigration (since the episode features aliens who come to Earth on the pretense of finding a new home after their planet was blown up, but are actually attempting to invade), even though the subtext was entirely unintentional.
"The Dominators" was intentionally written with an anti-pacifist message. However, it's also possible to read it as encouraging student activists to fight for justice, rejecting rote learning and irrational laws.
The iconic Baltans from the original Ultraman series have a similar story. This may have been intentional in their case, however, as nationalistic themes were fairly common in earlier toku productions.
The Torchwood episode "Meat" appears to have a pro-vegetarianism Aesop. But episode writer Cath Treganna "enjoys a good fillet steak as much as the next person".
The episode "Darkness Falls" of The X-Files, where a logging company accidentally releases a marabunta of man-eating bugs, was praised and even received an award for its never intended ecologist message against deforestation. This is even funnier if you consider that every death in the episode could be blamed on the actions of an Animal Wrongs Group in continuous possession of the Idiot Ball, and that the bugs' release was going to happen anyway since they were originally trapped in a very old tree that was going to fall more sooner than later.
The original Star Trek episode "This Side of Paradise" is explicitly stated to be a modern take on the Lotus Eaters and the arrested development drugs and complacency can have, but to a modern viewer the Aesop appears to be about date rape when Leila Kalomi knowingly drugs Spock so that he will fall in love with her.
Quite a few Visual Kei artists, have, through the loss of their own lives, shown the problems inherent in abusing methamphetamine. hide, Soichiro Umemura, Daisuke from The Studs and Kagerou, and Taiji Sawada have all, sadly, served as very good examples for "meth will fuck you up" as An Aesop... unfortunately, it's not like many other Visual Kei artists pay attention, meaning more will likely join that list soon enough.
The Christmas carol "I'll Be Home For Christmas" was originally written by 16-year-old Buck Ram and is about a homesick college student, but has more recently become associated with soldiers away at Christmastime. At least one version of the song even includes soldiers wishing their families a Merry Christmas during the bridge. Touching, yes, but not the original intended message.
Adding to the misconception is the fact that the song tends to be associated with the World War II era (as do so many popular Christmas songs), so many listeners assume that the narrator is an American soldier in Europe or the Pacific.
The Crash Test Dummies Song, "Mmm mmm mmm mmm," is VERY frequently interpreted as being about child abuse, with the eventual message that brainwashing your child and forcing your child to hold your own beliefs is worse than physical abuse. Word Of God says the message is that Kids Are Cruel, and the song is to be taken at face value.
Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, due to its popularity and long run, often ran into this trope:
Schulz said he only created the Great Pumpkin as a fun idea: "What if someone believed in a Hallowe'en Santa Claus?" Many saw Linus's efforts as a mockery of the foolishness of religious people, but Schulz himself was quite religious, at least in the early years. *
(Around the 1980's Schulz started describing himself as a "secular humanist" and admitted he didn't go to church anymore, but The Great Pumpkin was introduced in 1960.)
Linus's statement that you should never discuss "religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin" was intended to show that he doesn't view the Great Pumpkin as his religion per se.
There's a strip where Linus asks Lucy about what would happen if a baby was in heaven waiting to be born but its parents decided that they didn't want any more children. Lucy points out his theological and scientific ignorance. It was meant to be a parody of people who ask really weird hypothetical questions, but people on both sides of the abortion debate seized on it as proof that Schulz supported them and asked him if they could have permission to reprint it in their literature. He said no.
It may or may not be coincidence that Rerun, younger brother to Lucy & Linus, was born a few years later.
In an anthology, 1960s letters written to Schulz about his new African-American character Franklin are reprinted; because he was introduced during the Civil Rights Movement, people assumed Schulz was trying to make some sort of statement. No, he said. Franklin's just black by coincidence.
Word Of God is that the Aesop of BioShock is that humans cannot live up to their ideals and thus any attempt to realize Utopia will fail. However, the first game was seen as an attack on Ayn Rand and the philosophy of Objectivism. This was unintentional; Ken Levine is a libertarian who sympathizes with Objectivism even if he has his disagreements with it.
The sequel is supposed to depict the collapse of a collectivist Utopia, thus showing the Aesop more clearly, but in actuality it shows nothing of the sort; Ryan, at least, believed in his ideals, but the villain of the second game was not a collectivist but rather than insane cult leader. They use the word "collectivist" a few times but there are no signs of it in the game, and there never WAS a utopia - Ryan, at least, had a society which sort of worked before it failed, but the second game's society was dead before it started.
Thanks to Capcom's inability to make new main characters the Mega Man series argues in favor of capital punishment, and possibly the dangers of racism. Because Dr. Wily was not executed after he was captured by the Blue Bomber in 6 (the intended end point of the series), he built Zero, causing a chain of events that, as of the Mega Man Zero series, has killed more than half the population of earth, and has left the planet itself almost scorched beyond recovery, which oddly enough involved another human villain that also wasn't executed once captured by our robotic heroes, which only made things worse when said villain came back. Also, because Capcom hasn't continued the Mega Man ZX series, it's implied that in the Mega Man Legends series, humanity has ultimately gone extinct because the legal system in this world couldn't put down a Mad Scientist who had certainly caused enough chaos to warrant such a punishment.
Mega Man 7 also has an accidental aesop found only in the English version. In both versions, the blue bomber prepares to shoot Wily and Wily reminds him that robots can't hurt humans due to being Three Laws Compliant. In the japanese version, Mega Man puts his blaster down with no argument, while in the English version we get "I am more than a robot!! Die Wily!!" but still hesitates long enough for Wily to escape. This not only supports the above message about capital punishment but can also be seen as condemning pacifism or that there are exceptions to principles like do not kill.
What seems to be the be a running theme in the series is that all of the problems stem from people charged with protecting the innocent not doing their jobs properly. The government neither executed Dr. Wily when he was caught, nor stepped in and ordered Dr. Light to take lethal measures at an earlier time. Also, a cut-scene in the fourth Mega Man X game shows Sigma fought a Maverick Zero when he was still a Hunter. He lost because he didn't take Zero out immediately with his sword, even though his job was to kill Mavericks as quickly as possible, and decided to screw around. If he had done this, the events of the X and subsequent series wouldn't have happened.
Minecraft has a stunningly powerful Green Aesop as the player discovers grand sweeping vistas and slowly corrupts and ruins it, looking back only to find the landscape perverted by their own desires, a shell of its former self. Many players try and keep the landscape as pristine as possible just to avoid this. According to Notch, this was completely accidental and people probably shouldn't read so much into it.
YMMV, since the player's own architecture may well be just as grand. . .
Because the game is just THAT open ended, it's very possible that quite a few accidental Aesops my just pop up at any time. Another easy one could be that creepers are taken as a representation that all work is transitory, here one point and gone the next, or that some people just can't accept what you have built.
The original Japanese script of Sa Ga 2 involved a smuggling ring of illegal opium in Edo. The 1991 official English localization could not mention such drugs, so changed opium to "bananas". An NPC lampshades this by asking why bananas have to be illegal in the first place. It's obvious to most players that criminalizing bananas is silly, and the sheer organized crime involved might not exist without a legal ban on bananas. In the real world, this is an increasingly vocal argument against the War on Drugs, especially after a 2011 United Nations commission declared the international War on Drugs to be a costly, violent failure — drug crime and drug violence are usually caused by drug bans, not vice versa.
Taken into account the how illegal drugs are the biggest Berserk Button for almost all Asians culturesnote excluding Israel., and the only thing all Asian countries can agree at 100% (especially China and Japan, due of the Opium War), it's mostly justified.
From a Nezumimanreview "GAH! See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Smoke, and all your skin falls off".
If the way reincarnation works in the Reincarny webgame series is to be believed, the safest way to prevent criminals from committing crimes again for a long time is to give them life imprisonment without parole, since executing them will just allow them to escape from Hell and be reincarnated as adults who immediately start doing the same things they did before. (The game series is at least 90% of the way toward the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism)
The Simpsons episode "Saddlesore Galactica" had Lisa taking part in a competition wherein the other team cheated (by using glow sticks, expressly against the rules) and won. She spends the rest of the episode appealing to progressively higher authorities until finally then-President Clinton himself overturns the results. The Aesop in this case is pretty explicitly spelled out: if things don't go your way, you can always whine to someone until they do. Thing is, it was clearly meant to be a Spoof Aesop; Marge points out that it's not a good moral to take away from this, and Clinton simply replies that he's not a very good president. Be that as it may, "Calmly and logically appeal to authority figures when faced with an injustice" isn't really that bad a moral.
Word Of God says the Green Aesop of "Trash of the Titans", which arises after Homer, upon becoming Springfield's sanitation commissioner and messes up Springfield so badly that the town is moved 5 miles away was entirely unintentional.
Parodied in-story in South Park episode "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs," the kids decide to write the most offensive book ever written, which to their surprise becomes an instant bestseller, even though people can't stop throwing up when they read it. Almost immediately, people start reading numerous and drastically conflicting political messages in the story. The kids, who only wanted to be offensive, find this all very annoying.