Some characters have a particular trait or mannerism that's come to be viewed as an overall part of them. Maybe they're stingy, or abrasive, or just like using a lot of profanity. Along comes an episode with An Aesop, and a character learns how good it is to be generous, or friendly, or that they don't need curse words to make themselves known.
Then, two episodes later at the most, they're back to hoarding their money, snapping at people, or cursing like a sailor. They've just run into Aesop Amnesia.
Aesop Amnesia is a sort of Snap Back that assures that Status Quo Is God from a character development point of view. After all, if you change something about the character that fans find enjoyable or defining about them, they're not going to be happy; and if that character trait provided a valuable foil for other characters, neither will the writers that come after. (Thus, you're much more likely to run into it on a series where writing duties are handled by a rotating set of writers and guest writers.)
And, of course, it allows the character to learn the same lessonall over again later!
In more recent series, this may eventually be lampshaded, especially if the show has a strong comedy element. In dramatic series, not so much.
A secondary sort is where the same series keeps trying to teach the same moral over and over again. This is slightly different than when the show has a certain theme or Aesop as their underlying premise, but rather where a show with a broad premise just keeps hammering home that one particular one until the viewer wants to shout "I get it already!"
A standard of cartoons, especially those aimed at fairly young children (or where the writers think anyone under thirty is a dope). In comic books, this frequently occurs thanks to the Fleeting Demographic Rule.
This is Truth in Television to some extent. People do not always overcome their flaws as quickly as fiction sometimes would like them to. Contrast Epiphany Therapy, where characters resolve long-standing issues and flaws too quickly. Compare Ignored Epiphany, Remember That You Trust Me and Lost Aesop. A Sub-Trope of Yo Yo Plot Point.
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Anime and Manga
In what's probably a record for "fastest personality reset", after seeing a job well done, the members of the Student Council in Seitokai no Ichizon promise to stop being lazy and actually do the jobs they were elected for. One scene later, everything is back to the status quo.
In Slayers Revolution, Rezo the Red Priest is resurrected and basically the same crap with the Dark Lord Shabranigdo unfolds due to his obsession with gaining sight, which he was supposed to have gotten over in his Death Equals Redemption of the first series.
During the episodes in which Ran suspects Conan is secretly Shinichi, she treats him with more respect, runs interference for him to investigate, and just generally pays more attention to what he has to say. But let him convince her the resemblance was all in her imagination, and she is back to scolding him for "interfering" in Kogoro's investigations again.
At one point Kogoro is told by the doctor to stop drinking so much—and for a few episodes he actually does. But not long afterward, he is back to boozing as heavily as usual.
Happens in the third arc of Bakemonogatari. An Aesop of the second arc was that Senjogouhara needs to be honest with Araragi about what's actually going on, or they're unlikely to make any significant progress in their relationship. But then in the third arc, Araragi lies to Senjogouhara about how he was beaten and mangled by Kanbaru. He then proceeds to keep her uninformed as he takes Kanbaru to Oshino to cure her affliction, even though Senjougahara is the whole reason why Kanbaru attacked him in the first place. Senjougahara calls him out on this in the climax after Oshino explains to her what's going on.
Kujo of the Gosick anime seems to experience this regularly. He regularly questions whether Victorique really cares for him, agonizes over it, and then comes to the conclusion she does care... only to forget the next mini-arc.
Inverted with Naruto. A key lesson he learned from Haku was that it was fighting for somebody you care about that makes you truly strong. This belief, and his decision to follow his own path, defined his character. He promptly forgot the very things that defined him when confronted with Gaara, whom he thought was strong because he had to endure his loneliness; it was only after remembering the forgotten aesop that he regained his will to fight.
A particularly blatant example is in play in one of the anime's filler arcs. Naruto spent most of the previous arc realizing that revenge is bad and destroys people, thereby solidifying his determination to rescue Sasuke from himself. However, at least half of the filler episodes have Naruto happily forgetting that revenge turned his best friend into an Omnicidal Maniac and actually helping other people get revenge. At one point, he even takes the initiative to avenge an island, despite the fact that there was no one left to benefit from destroying the oppressors. Somehow, it seems that the entire anime staff has missed the numerous falling anvils.
In the fillers, for the sake of humor, Sakura would often forget that she promised to start treating Naruto better.
Happens more then once in Digimon Xros Wars. Especially to Kiriha who will be a changed man actually more then once in the series. Most obvious when Deckerdramon dies and everyone is talking some sense into him. Two episodes later he is acting the same as before. But even to the main character Taiki who has to accept the fact later on that he might not be able to save everyone and he might has to kill some friends, who are revived after all. But he gets back into the old patterns very soon.
In Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, EVERY member of the team has gotten in trouble at some point by running off alone to investigate something or someone suspicious, usually compounded by not even trying to tell anyone what's up. No matter what happens -and it's usually bad- they never learn. This leads to major tragedy on at least two occasions, The Secret Red Impulse and the last five episodes of the original series.
Just as fast as the Seitokai no Ichizon example, there's one from the Tenchi Muyo! manga. One story has Tsunami, disguised as an old man in a dream, take away Ryoko's tolerance for alcohol as punishment for her glutenous ways breaking the Masaki home bank. And she does this the day before a special drinking-style event. Despite the now incredibly-low tolerance for the drink, Ryoko pushes through and wins the day. Tsunami restores Ryoko's tolerance and gifts her with a lot more sake to drink and Ryoko promises to go easy. The last panel reveals that Ryoko blazed through all of those drinks in a month.
Pokémon has Ash, who almost always forgets to not blindly rush into things and to think his battles through. He also constantly forgets his mistakes, like trying to use Normal or Fighting moves on Ghost Pokémon.
Ash also has two regular Aesops he alternates between. One is that he needs to have confidence in himself and his Pokémon (this always seems to come as a revelation). The other - over-confidence!
The second half of the Magic Knight Rayearth anime has this, in part because of some Schrödinger's Cast issues. Guru Clef is sincerely remorseful over his part of the girls' trauma thanks to his Metaphorical Truth at the beginning and says he should have told them the whole story. But at the same time, he asks Sierra to pose as her deceased twin, Presea, to save the girls from further heartbreak—even though they didn't have any expectation that Presea would be alive, her having died early in the first season, and he could have just told them before they met who Sierra really was. This causes no small amount of angst for Sierra throughout the season.
Batman has learned to be more open and caring to his children (especially Nightwing) so often that this might as well be called A Batman Family Aesop. Of course, that will happen with seventy-odd years of having been published. One of the things that really pisses off Batman fans (who have dubbed the phenomenon "Batdickery"), is that since the mid-'90s, Batman's character has been stuck in a cycle that goes 1) Batman acts like a paranoid asshole. 2) Horrible things happen. 3) Batman realizes he shouldn't act like such a paranoid asshole. 4) Batman acts like a paranoid asshole.
Likewise, Nightwing and Robin take turns learning not to be Batman when it comes to their friends and teammates, although Nightwing tends to be better at it: at least he has a few people he can respect. This became Hilarious in Hindsight in Batman Reborn, when Nightwing did become Batman.
It seems every new author wants to write the story where Iceman finally stops being immature. The Human Torch also gets similar treatment. Also from the Fantastic Four, the Thing learns several times over that looking like a monster isn't so bad when your friends still love you. However, this is played more realistically than most other instances of this trope, as the universe keeps trying to prove, in a variety of different ways, that actually, no, having friends who love you even though you're a monster doesn't help all that much, because humans in the Marvel universe are colossal dicks. (Plus, the FF were meant from the start to be a bunch of dysfunctional fuck-ups, so this quality of his was supposed to be a flaw.)
Spider-Man repeatedly wants to ditch super heroics to be a normal guy with a normal family, only to have it drilled into him again that "Great power equals great responsibility". (Of course, a fair portion of his family's now been retconned out of existence and it's illegal for him to have his power, so it's unclear what the point of his existing is.)
In Green Lantern the Guardians of the Universe once created the Manhunters, a robotic army built to maintain order in the universe. These then went crazy and started slaughtering people, necessitating the creation of the Green Lanterns to replace them. Then, they created the Alpha Lanterns, implanting Green Lanterns with Manhunter programming, and gave them infallible authority over the other Lanterns. Thus far they're shown major Knight Templar tendencies and one of them was possessed by an evil New God, demonstrating they were totally wrong about the whole "incorruptible police force" idea. Turns out they're being controlled by HankHenshaw. Good job Guardians.
Pretty much the entire Civil War was this for the Pro-Reg side. The Super Registration Actmight have provoked a nuanced, thoughtful, balanced debate....if the entire flipping Marvel Universe hadn't been telling civilians for the past several decades that treating supers/mutants and normals differently was morally wrong, dangerous, pointless, and comparable to segregation and Nazism. Now, suddenly, everybody thinks it's some sort of valid option, just so a fat juicy Conflict Ball could be thrown into the ring. The biggest Face Palm, however, has got to go to Reed Richards, who once spent an entire issue delivering an Aesop to Congress on why a SHRA was a racist, unenforceable, and moronic idea. (And no, he didn't have any character development that showed him changing his mind.) Arguably the biggest irony is that Mark Millar thought he was delivering a balanced view.
The civilians of the Marvel Universe are infamous for their gullibility every time some villain tries to frame a hero for some crime or another. You'd think after the tenth time the guy robbing a bank in a Spider-Man outfit turned out to be Mysterio or the Chameleon, they'd catch on. You'd be wrong.
Brilliantly avoided by Woody in Toy Story 2. John Lasseter even states that Pixar specifically did not want to just give them amnesia and relearn the same lesson twice, but needed them to grow in a different way. Also, the idea of a Buzz Lightyear who thinks he's real is used in the same movie, but instead of the first Buzz forgetting everything he learned in the first one, it's used with a different Buzz toy who is found in a toy store.
Buzz Lightyear: "Oh, tell me I wasn't this delusional..."
At the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo ends up losing Esmeralda to Phoebus, and accepting not just the fact that the two are both in love with each other, but also the fact that it's not his appearance that matters but rather how he is treated in public. In the sequel Quasi is now lamenting about why he has no love interest, and ends up falling in love with a beautiful circus performer.
This is one of the biggest criticisms for Disney's Beauty and the Beast sequels. In the original film the Beast mainly is a Jerkass but thanks to Belle he is eventually able to take a level in kindness. Both sequels, which roughly take place roughly in the middle of the film, should be after he underwent through said kindness intake, but they're completely ignored to have him be a dick again so he can once again learn his lesson. The second sequel, made up of three unaired episodes for a failed TV spinoff, has him go through this twice.
Films — Live-Action
High School Musical is a repeat offender. After every film, all the lessons learned, all of the character growth is completely forgotten and the characters go on to make similar, if not the same, mistakes.
Disney is often an offender in their Made-for-TV Movie department when said movies have sequels.
It is particularly exhausting that Sharpay becomes nice by the end of every movie, then becomes mean again in the sequel.
At the end of RoboCop (1987), Alex Murphy's persona reasserts itself and he talks and acts more like a human than a robot. In RoboCop 2, however, he's back to a more stilted robot-like personality for no real reason. Moreover in RoboCop 2 the prime directives that guide his behavior are completely erased from his system. This piece of development is again entirely erased in the third movie with the 3 directives back in place. This one makes sense, however, as after the first and second movies, Robocop/Murphy would have returned to being serviced and maintained by OCP technicians, who would have reinstated his original programming. In 2 and even at the beginning of 3 he's obviously already come some ways from the first movie, being capable of ignoring orders to save his friends, and in the second he seems to be accessing his old memories much easier than in the first.
In Spider-Man 2, this happens to J. Jonah Jameson in the course of a single sentence.
Jameson: Spider-Man... was a hero. I just couldn't see it. He was a-
*Realises Spider-Man has stolen back the suit*
Jameson: -a thief! A criminal! He stole my suit! He's a menace to the entire city! I want the wall-crawling arachnid prosecuted! I want him strung up by his web! I want Spider-Man!
Tear Jerker example in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. McMurphy challenges Nurse Ratched's authority and unfair rules at every turn, becoming something of a hero to the sheepish patients and leading them to explore and regain their own lost individuality...at least until McMurphy attacks Ratched in order to avenge her driving Billy to suicide and is moved to another part of the hospital and lobotomized. The Chief clearly doesn't forget what McMurphy taught him, but all the other patients seem to, and when the film ends, they're all back to behaving as they did before McMurphy arrived.
A number of examples, but one that stands out in particular is the relationship between Claudia and her genius sister Janine. There were many books where the two of them bonded over junk food, had a heart-to-heart talk, and realized that the two of them were Not So Different. By the next book, their relationship was back to where it was.
Also a feature in many Little Sister books, where Karen learns not to be a brat only to promptly forget it by the time the next book comes around.
The Wheel of Time features this repeatedly. The characters spent hundreds of pages not talking or working together towards a common goal. Two (or rarely more) finally pound out a plan utilizing both of their strengths, score a resounding blow against the Enemy of the Moment, then, a few chapters later, go back to their usual Poor Communication Kills standpoint.
We could have cut out a half-dozen books if someone had just gathered up all the main characters in one place, smack 'em with a bit of Compulsion to force them to be honest (none of this pansy Oath Rod double-talk), and had them talk for a few days.
Really though that'd go against the characterization of most of the actual characters doing this. You've got to remember Rand was a Shepard spending most of his time alone with family or people he's known since he could walk, and didn't have much time to practice his people skills out with the sheep. The Aes Sedai do the double talk because it's the only way they've been able to get anything done and it worked for centuries until very recently (to a degree), and most other characters are pseudo European nobles playing political games that mean if they don't use double talk every other sentence until it becomes habit assassination is assured. Mat's really only better because he was raised by a horse trader, the kind of profession that relies heavily on charisma and people skills.
Even Mat is not immune, given that historically (and lampshaded) horse traders were the used car salesmen of the world. Perrin is generally direct and open, and works well with others; his honesty might come from the fact that he's Thor, though...
Albeit, this just reinforces the theme, since Perrin is by far the most brutally, instantly effective of the three even in the first half of the series where Rand is a physical god and Matt had been duct-taped to the entire Wheel's greatest military minds, and all Perrin had was the furry fandom and a good night's sleep.
Bailey School Kids: The characters take turns between believing a character is supernatural, considering it unlikely, and teasing their friends for considering it, depending on the book.
Done intentionally in The Last Continent: Ponder, having spent the book, as always, being totally impatient with the older wizards (not without reason), is suddenly aged about fifty years, and learns what it's actually like to be a senior wizard. Upon his return to normal, a footnote tells us:
"It would be nice to say that this experience taught Ponder a valuable lesson and that he was a lot more considerate towards old people afterwards, and this was true for about five minutes."
The Star Wars Expanded Universe series, Young Jedi Knights The 4th book, "Lightsabers" contains an example of this. In the story, Tenal Ka loses her arm in a lightsaber training accident as a result of being too proud of her own abilities and not putting enough care into constructing her lightsaber. Afterwards, she feels ashamed that she let her pride cloud her judgment. Good lesson. However, what does she do afterwards, not only in the same book but only several hours later? Refuses to wear a synthetic arm replacement. Why? Because she's too proud and has confidence in her abilities.
...wrong. It was so she would never make the same mistake again.
In Warrior Cats, no matter how many times the cats learn the importance of working together, by the next book, they'll usually be at each other's throats again.
Ron has learned a number of times not to be jealous of Harry being The Hero. Ron also learned that he's not worthless at Quidditch in two separate, sequential books.
Another plot device that J.K. Rowling seemed to really like was having the Hogwarts community, as a whole, turn against Harry (with only a handful of people standing by him). Over the course of the series, the Hogwarts students had to learn at least three or four times that refusing to trust Harry was a bad idea.
It's Sirius himself who tells Harry, Ron and Hermione in Goblet of Fire that a good way to get the measure of a person is to see how they treat their inferiors. In that specific case, it was referring to Crouch and his house-elf. Sirius appears to have forgotten this when dealing with his own house-elf in Order of the Phoenix.
In the Hush, Hush series, Nora never seems to catch on wandering alone, in dark, dangerous parts of town is just begging for trouble.
Played with in Prince Caspian. When the Pevensies go back to Narnia, Susan and Peter believe that Lucy is either mistaken or lying when she claims to see Aslan, and they don't. Edmund, on the other hand, remembers that it was just in the last book that Lucy's claims of "There's a magical land in the wardrobe" were right, so chances are they should listen to her this time.
Sweet Valley High: Jessica would try to pull off some crazy stunt, only to have it blow up in her face and make her out to look like a fool. Inevitably, by the next book or two, she would be trying something new, despite the fact that she was often warned about it by being reminded by others about how badly things had gone the last time. The sad thing is, a handful of these tricks were genuine attempts at improving herself or trying something new—cooking class, music lessons—so it seems a little unfair that those should go as badly as her usual schemes. Additionally, "good" twin Elizabeth would have a moment where she'd realize that she was being very judgmental and self-righteous about someone who would turn out to be a relatively nice person, only to be doing the same ting in a later book. This is outright pointed out by Jessica in one book when Elizabeth has taken an instant dislike to a guy, only for Jessica to blast her for automatically assuming that the guy must be a bad person just because he's rich.
In most of the Encyclopedia Brown books, a con artist named Wilford Wiggins tries to bilk the town kids out of their savings in some elaborate scheme or other. Not only do people not stop listening to him no matter how many times Encyclopedia explained Wilford's promises were hot air, Encyclopedia actually comes up with a special policy that he takes cases involving Wilford for free.
The Bible: In the Old Testament, Israel gets into a cycle of rejecting God's commands, turning to false gods, getting attacked by enemies, turning back to God, being saved by a judge, prophet or king God raised up to defeat their enemies, following God's commands again, then rinsing, washing and repeating. It gets so bad that God finally just lets the Assyrians and Babylonians carry them off into exile.
Les Malheurs de Sophie runs with this trope. Every chapters has Sophie commiting something forbidden by her mother then getting in problem, her mother punishing her then swearing she'll listen to her next time ...only to do it again in the next chapter. However this is justified by the protagonist being a 8 years old girl and the author treats disobedience as a characteristic of childhood.
Each of the Animorphs seem to have to learn the exact same lesson in each one of the books they star in, only to have the exact same flaw confronted and conquered again their next book. Jake learns not to be so uptight/be a better leader, Rachel learns not to take so much joy in the action/be a little less psychotic, Marco learns to take things more seriously/not be so pessimistic, Ax learns not to treat his human friends as inferior... Tobias is easily the worst, in EVERY book he narrates he laments being stuck, willingly or not, in his hawk form and has to learn to accept his situation for the sake of his friends and the war and move on. The only exception seems to be Cassie, the token pacifist of the group, who seems to always be right from the beginning for some reason.
In Arrested Development, Michael has the habit of using his son George-Michael as an excuse for why he shouldn't move on from his dead wife and start dating again. Someone then tells him to stop hiding behind his son. Michael agrees and decides to move on only to forget the lessons he learned a few episodes later and have to learn it again and again...
In Roseanne, Jackie and her mother Bev have a strained, broken relationship throughout most of the show, Bev having driven Jackie into therapy with her constant criticisms and insults. But in an episode in one of the later seasons, the two share a teary heart-to-heart and seem to finally resolve their differences and repair their relationship as a mother and daughter. But of course, by their next appearance together, they go back to butting heads.
Tim Taylor learns that constantly being a male chauvinist is going to cost him. Of course he doesn't learn, that's the premise of the show. Honestly, why does Wilson even bother?
On the opposite end, Jill also learned several times that Tim's feelings weren't meaningless or baseless just because they were based in masculine behavior, and that she should try to be more understanding. Semi-separate of Tim, she also learned (repeatedly) not to try and psychoanalyze people with her still-amateur psychiatric abilities because she didn't have the experience and complete knowledge necessary to do so (and that she probably shouldn't analyze people she hadn't met yet). Or that she shouldn't meddle in peoples' relationships because she was as likely to cause a breakup as heal any difficulties. None of these stuck.
After a spine-tingling moral epiphany at the end of the The West Wing episode "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet", neither the President not anyone else keeps the staff revved up with the their collective pledges after the end of the season. They're great human beings already, so this doesn't actually ruin anything — it's just a really huge missed opportunity.
Seeing how Supernatural is the king of going from bad to worse, this tends to happen a lot. Dean's unwillingness to talk about his problems is a good example. Despite all the emotional trauma Dean has experienced and all the "Chick Flick Moments" he's instigated, by the season 3 finale he still brushes off Sam's attempt at a heartfelt goodbye. Pretty much Truth in Television, and also somewhat justified in that one of the running themes of the show is that brotherhood is more important than anything the world can throw at it. The nature of the relationship never changes because they (Dean especially) actively do not want it to change. The few times it does become more open and adult, it's a sign that something is slightly off.
Dexter had this problem majorly in Season 6. Supposedly, Dexter learns from Trinity murdering Rita two seasons earlier that becoming too involved with other serial killers can be dangerous for his family. Yet within the space of what is supposed to be about a year, he has all but forgotten this lesson. This leads to his son Harrison getting kidnapped and held at knife point. Other lessons he's forgotten include:
Be more careful about leaving a trail (Seasons 2, 5, and 6); do not mercifully free your victims (Seasons 1 and 6); Harry was fallible and he should be his own person (every single season).
A shorter version would be "Listen to Harry and follow the Code." So far every single time Dexter objected to Harry resulted in major trouble, whether immediately or over the course of several seasons.
M*A*S*H was king of this trope. Margaret learned at least three times to be kinder and more respectful to her nurses. Charles learned the value of the common man several times. Same for Hawkeye and his womanizing, his drinking, and his disrespect for authority. Though perhaps the crowning moment was when BJ went on a long rant about how it was so easy for him and Hawkeye to sit around, relatively far from the real fighting, considering themselves so high and mighty as they snarked and sneered at the war and complained about how bad they had it, while soldiers were actually fighting and dying on the front lines. By the next episode, they were back to snarking and sneering as usual. The rant in question is one of the only times anyone questions Hawkeye's position that he is morally superior to the Army, which was vital to the status quo. Hawkeye doesn't even get the Aesop in the first place, and seems to chalk the rant up to BJ being hysterical with guilt. Apparently the writers did too.
And then there's Frank Burns. Every time he's left in command, instead of maintaining the status quo as any temporary military leader should, he tries to institute his own hypocritical rules, which always back-fire on him and end up getting him in hot water when the CO returns. This happens every single time Frank is put in charge.
Will and Grace used this a lot with all the characters, but mostly Karen and Jack. Karen would often learn that being shallow and nasty to everyone wasn't quite as fun as she usually thought it was, or Jack would learn something similar. The show would occasionally actually have an episode of the characters still having learned their lesson as a We Want Our Jerk Back episode.
The title character of House seems to inflict Aesop Amnesia on himself. Not only does he avoid learning a lesson, even if he does he announces he doesn't give a crap and continues to be the same Jerk Ass as ever. Though some of his supporting cast seem to have difficulty learning from experience, let alone keeping hold of the episode's message.
There's an episode in which Wilson says something like "Or you could just let it go," to which House response "What person who is nothing like me are you talking to?"
A consistent trope on the earlier seasons of Nip/Tuck, where the character of Dr. Christian Troy would learn how much harm his selfish, reckless lifestyle causes and makes amends by the end of the episode, only to consistently go back to being an ever worse asshole by next week.
At Black Hole High, the science club seems incapable of remembering that it's a good idea to talk about your issues with each other instead of just assuming the worst and keeping it bottled up, even after talking out your problems turns out to be the cure for: molecular friction; taking on the characteristics of various elements in periodic-table order; attack by anthropomorphic Venus flytrap; and abnormal sponge growth. Also, they seem unable to learn the Aesop "Don't use the bits of weird Pearadyne phlebotinum stored in the school basement in your various get-rich-quick schemes" even after sticking their chips into various things caused: Instant A.I., Just Add Water; a cellphone to gain the power to enforce emoticons on its owner; a radio to receive messages from the future; the common cold to jump species from human to computer to building.
Entourage spent the first two seasons using Johnny 'Drama' Chase (presented as a Hollywood has-been) as a running gag machine on this trope. Drama would haughtily 'advise' Vince on Hollywood lifestyle, only to have E or Turtle point out how short-lived, illusionary, feeble or otherwise pathetic his acting career was in the 90's. It happened about once an episode. You'd think Drama would learn to keep his trap shut. Similarly, the course of the show has shown that anytime it's Eric vs. Vince in a difference of professional opinion E's almost always proven right. Vince makes few-to-no good decisions on his own. He could make a wrong turn in a cul-de-sac. You'd think that if Vince hadn't learned this by now, at least Drama, Turtle and Ari would remind him that E was right about Matterhorn, QB, Aquaman, Mandy More, Dom, Amanda, and Medellian, where Vince's instincts were way off (except for QB). Let E do your thinking for you Vince, it's his skill, not yours.
They used the "The group doesn't work without Pierce" plot in Art of Discourse but still tried to kick him out in Fistfull of Paintballs
Leave It to Beaver is one of the archetypal examples here. Of particular note is the last episode, which has themes of how fast the children are growing up, counterpointed by hints that they're still as childish as ever, with what may be a clever subversion of the whole deal: It's a Clip Show, allowing them to run through the events of about half a dozen episodes in a row, touching on several morals at once and then ending the series before anybody can forget them again. It was even lampshaded in a TV Land commercial for the show. It explained that the moral of the episode would enter one ear, float around his skull without making contact his brain, and then exit through the other ear.
Scrubs. It's safe to say that thanks to a combination of this and Flanderization, not one character in Scrubs has any significant or meaningful character development. The most blatant examples:
Turk learns to see his patients as people instead of emotionally detaching himself. He learns the same lesson twice in two different, unconnected episodes. And still says that, "I work best when I'm emotionally detached".
Carla's "best moment in medicine" is when the doctors actually listen to her. She spends every other episode pushing her advice on everyone and everything. In one episode, it leads to disaster and she "learns" that in the hospital, the doctors are in charge because they are ultimately responsible for the lives of their patients.
JD learns that he needs to "grow up", despite the fact that his frustration is caused by stress over how utterly crappy his life has become due to a combination of bad circumstances and no-one giving a damn about him, in one episode. This is the guy who acts like a joking, immature fool in every single episode. In another episode, Turk "teaches" him that trying to become more serious and mature is bad; you should instead never forget your "inner child" and continue to goof off.
Dr. Cox learns to be gracious and accept help from other people in order to advance professionally. He learns this three times, in three unconnected episodes. And still continues to act like an ass to his boss and make all the wrong moves.
Got lampshaded with The Todd, who was taught how to behave toward women by a shrink. The Shrink then explains to Carla that without long-term professional help, The Todd will change back to his old self within a week or so.
Also lampshaded with Carla having to teach Elliot the same lesson twice within a few episodes, and the latter episode actually flashing back to the former.
An episode involved Dick grappling with his overblown ego. Of course, that's one of his primary character traits. At the end of the episode, he stated what he'd learned thus: "There are times for a little humility. Fortunately, that time is now over."
Played with in the episode where Dick dealt with his insensitivity. He went to Sensitivity Training and it successfully changed him into an ultra-sensitive guy. Only it turned out he was even worse that way and it all backfired, causing him to revert to his old ways before the end of the episode.
Most episodes would have at least one character (usually either Carl or Laura) learning to be nicer to Steve Urkel, then promptly forget it the very next episode.
In later seasons, Steve Urkel changed from embodying Be Yourself to learning that lesson once per season.
Eddie tired of living by Carl's rules in Carl's house, so he moved out. Twice. And he got in trouble gambling. Thrice. And almost Once per Episode, Eddie got grounded at the drop of a hat for his latest Aesop violation.
Throughout the series, Laura would constantly date these no good jerkasses who were clearly taking advantage of her. The corresponding episodes would always end with her learning a lesson about being more discerning of men, only for her to promptly forget it soon after.
The best example of this was the relationship between Jonathan Kent and Lex Luthor. Despite all of Lex's attempts to show that he wasn't his father, and despite the fact that Jonathan acknowledged this almost every time that he was proven wrong, he was back to blaming Lex for everything that went wrong automatically by the next episode.
To a lesser extent (and only lesser because he was on the show for less time) this happened with Pete Ross as well, although he was sometimes justified. But then again, Lex never saved Jonathan's life only to have Bo Kent come back and accuse him of random crap.
David on Six Feet Under seems to spend an awful lot of episodes learning that it's okay to be gay. This may be justified somewhat by the realism of the show; you can know something intellectually but it takes some repetition to learn it on an emotional level.
Everybody Loves Raymond was infested with this. Debra would confront Marie about her hostile behavior, Robert would confront Frank and Marie about their preferential treatment of Ray, Ray and/or Debra would confront Robert about his victim complex, Deborah would confront Ray about his selfish behavior, and other variations. Each time, it was treated as though these issues were finally being brought into the open after decades of repression, and now people were learning their lessons and would finally treat each other right. And each time the characters reverted to their same old neurotic selves straight away, and the audience groaned at the thought that the same issues would be "resolved" next year, and the year after that...
Of course, nobody seems to listen or care about Robert, so it's somewhat understandable for him to keep griping.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was built on this trope. Nearly every episode ended with Sabrina learning not to use her magic carelessly, or selfishly, or to do morally questionable things. Which never stopped her from immediately resorting to elaborate and usually disastrous magical solutions to every tiny problem she encountered in her life. For seven seasons. It even gets lampshaded a few times. At one point, Sabrina really was blameless for the week's magical mayhem, since no one had told her the magical item she was using was magical. Zelda still starts lecturing her about using magic responsibly, then immediately apologizes when she realizes that lesson doesn't really apply here.
Frasier and his brother Niles would constantly forget not to be so competitive, to stay out of other people's business, not to be so snooty etc etc etc. Occasionally the two would come to an epiphany about their behavior, only to change their minds about it in the same conversation. One episode notably lampshades this, in which it's pointed out that Frasier and Niles's issues are so deeply ingrained that they will never overcome them completely.
Boy Meets Worldlampshades this in an episode when Eric lands a role on the very similar "Kid Gets Acquainted with Universe," and during rehearsal the Cory/Ben Savage analogue stops when he realizes it's another Rory-learns-a-lesson episode, and starts shouting, "How can I learn so much and still be so stupid?!"
Seems like Jenny on Gossip Girl has learned the "don't let the queen and her posse change who you are" lesson about five times by now, but it never sticks for more than a few episodes at a time.
Played with in Seinfeld, as none of the characters ever learned anything in the first place, despite the fact that the plots often gave the viewers implied Aesops based on logic (e.g., don't let the security guard do his job sitting down). In fact, the Finale implies that all four of them have remained exactly the same since the Pilot, nine years earlier. No hugging, no learning.
Friends: Now Chandler, say it with me: Monica does not love anyone else more than you! Over the series, he thinks she's in love with her 'soulmate' Don, then his best friend, then the 'funniest guy she's ever met' and on three separate occasions, her ex-boyfriend Richard. Every episode ends with Monica promising she's never wanted anyone but him. The most ironic example is the season 5 finale when she tells him 'I've never loved anyone as much as I love you' in reference to Richard. Season 6 finale? Chandler's panicking because he think she's going to leave him and marry Richard. And he still worries when they're Happily Married. Somewhat justified as Chandler's very insecure and Monica building his confidence is key Character Development.
It's not the only lesson Chandler forgets over and over: The one thing that upsets Joey more than anything is when his best friend lies to him about something important, yet you can count on Chandler lying to Joey about something important once or twice a season.
Malcolm in the Middle has this sometimes, usually having the kids and Lois work things out and prefer getting along with each other before screwing it up on-screen in favor of Status Quo Is God by the end of the episode. There is at least one circumstance where Malcolm's amnesia takes longer to set in, though: he learns in season six that no, he doesn't get music like Dewey does but that's okay because he's good at other things. Several episodes later, he is upset that he doesn't understand music like Dewey does. Interestingly subverted in that in the latter example he doesn't actually seem to learn a lesson by the end of the episode. Francis also seemed to become a bit more responsible when working at a Dude ranch in New Mexico. However, post Season Six, when he was fired from what was implied to be feeding the funds of the ranch to a food trough rather than an ATM, he seems to have gone back to the delinquent, psychotically irresponsible self, and it is hinted that the only real reason why he got a stable job in the series finale was so he could take entertainment in taunting his mother by lying about remaining unemployed.
Although the characters go through impressive development, some characters often miss one important point of their hardships: popularity does not equal happiness. And Puck, despite his growing likability, is still Puck.
How many times has Will learned to give solos out equally? He never seems to learn that part of Rachel is such a drama queen is because he keeps giving her solos!
Quinn. During season one, she became pregnant, which caused her to fall from the top of the social hierarchy to the bottom. She gradually became more mature and began to reach out and form genuine friendships with people, namely Mercedes. Cue season two... and she's suddenly reverted back to being the shallow social climber she was in the very first episode.
A particularly disappointing one in Robin Hood. Episode six of series three marks the first time since the season premiere that Robin displays pangs of grief over the death of Marian. This leads to Robin breaking up with Isabella, basing it on a) his duty to the King and England, b) his acknowledgment that he's never going to get the chance to have a normal life, c) the danger that Isabella is in if she's known to be in league with Robin, and d) the fact that he still misses Marian too much. The episode ends with him looking wistfully at a happy family, knowing that it's a future he can never have...only for him to turn around and stare at teammate Kate with a "oh yeah, she's got a crush on me too!" expression on his face, assisted by an uplifting musical cue as Kate smiles at him. It's direct foreshadowing for their hook-up two episodes later, a development that completely undermines all the poignancy of Robin's earlier epiphany. So Robin's Aesop doesn't even last to the end of the episode in which he learns it.
C.C., Maxwell's business partner on The Nanny suffered this towards the end. Throughout the show's run, she was insanely envious of Maxwell's attraction towards Fran, and in "The Wedding", when Fran and Maxwell finally got hitched, she made one last attempt at cutting between them in the aisle, until Maxwell took her aside and assured her that even though he loves Fran, he'll always appreciate C.C.'s friendship. C.C. finally relented, but in the next episode, "Honeymoon's Overboard", when Fran and Maxwell get lost on their honeymoon, she was utterly indifferent to the fact that Fran had disappeared too:
C.C.: I have stuck by Maxwell through sixteen girlfriends and two dead wives. (Everyone looks at her)One dead wife. I will find Maxwell Sheffield!
Buffy herself seems to learn that she doesn't have to fight alone in quite a few episodes - that in fact, she needs her friends and should let them help her. Not that this stops her from under-appreciating/ignoring them all the way up to the end of Season 7.
It's no wonder LazyTown needs a superhero; No matter how many times Sportacus teaches the kids the importance of eating healthy, exercising often and being kind to each other, they always revert back to their unhealthy, lazy, greedy and generally unpleasant ways.
Nevel in "iPity Nevel". He spends an entire episode learning to be a better person after ending up on the Internet insulting a little girl. At the end of the episode he does the exact same thing.
"iDate Sam & Freddie" ends with Carly delivering the Aesop to Sam and Freddie that they need to sort out their own problems or they shouldn't date. The very next episode "iCan't Take It" ends with Carly sorting out another Sam and Freddie problem so they can keep dating.
On Amen, every time Thelma realized that she didn't need the Reverend to make her life complete, or that she could make her own way in the world without depending on him or her father, she went right back to chasing Reverend Gregory and/or being a whiny Daddy's Girl by the next episode. Even worse was her father, Ernie. He would learn to be honest, kind, and to share with others. Then he would go right back to being his old lying, cheating, greedy self. Sometimes this happened in the same episode!
Star Trek: Enterprise: "Prime Directive" ends with the captain and Phlox deciding not to give a cure to a dying people they meet because of, well, all the usual justifications given for the prime directive. Later on, in "Observer Effect," an alien race refuses to give *them* the cure that would save their lives. They both cluelessly try to teach the aliens that the Aesop they had supposedly learned is all wrong.
Over the course of Season 12 of The Amazing Race, Ron learned to control his temper, and not to be so abusive towards his daughter. When they came back for Season 18, Ron seemed to forget all those lessons, and reverted to his old self.
Played with on Merlin. Nearly every single episode Arthur is presented with the aesop "Listen to Merlin, he's usually right", yet the show never fails to have him say something along the lines of "I know you're right, but I'm ignoring it". As of Series 4, this has been upgraded to "You were right, but just this once."
Lampshaded in the commentary of one episode by the actor playing Arthur.
Bradley James as Arthur: Thank you, Merlin. I won't forget this until I'm out the door.
Played straight in the Series 4 finale when Arthur finally, unambiguously, realizes that Merlin was right and has been right all along about Agravaine. The very next morning, Merlin has to practically lure him into the clearing with the sword in the stone because, according to Arthur, Merlin's a complete idiot.
And then again when Merlin finally tells him the truth about being destined to unite the land of Albion. He says "You're making this up." He is making up the part about Bruta foretelling it, but nothing else. When Merlin finally points out that he has no reason to inflate Arthur's ego, Arthur walks off. So we've progressed to. "I can't argue with Merlin."
Merlin nicely averts the trope. In Series 1 and 2, Merlin clearly believed that the Dragon was right that You Can't Fight Fate, and as a result instigated a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy a few times. In "The Crystal Cave" he has visions of the future and works to stop them, causing every one to come true. In the episode after this, he states his new policy to Arthur, who needs some advice on his own destiny to rule Camelot.
Merlin: You may be destined to rule Camelot, but you have a choice as to how you do it.
The Suite Life does this many times when London learns to be nicer and more generous, only to forget it by the next episode.
Haven: Nathan Wuornos constantly forgets that Duke Crocker is not a bad guy anymore and keeps blaming Duke for everything that goes wrong. In season 3, he keeps assuming Duke is going to be a killer. This goes away in season 4.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Major (later Colonel) Kira Nerys never really got the grasp of the idea that no single nation, particularly the Cardassians, is completely evil (or good).
Later on in the series, she actually starts to take this lesson to heart and even uses her skills from the Bajoran Resistance to help Cardassia resist the Dominion.
Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie keeps doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results each time. In "The Voice of Tinker Jones," she insists that a plaque with her name on it be displayed when she wants to donate a bell to the school. She does the same exact thing "Blind Journey," when she offers to donate money to the blind school. She seems to have forgotten how poorly her selfishness was received.
Often, Harriet will learn a lesson from the selfish ways she treats the other townspeople, and the episode will finish with her as humbled and apologetic toward another person, or the town as a whole. It's played as sincere, showing the power of community and redemption for Harriet. A few episodes later, she is back to her old ways, mistreating everyone around her.
The Utopia arc in Charmed Series 7 has the sisters go along with the Avatar's plans to change the grand design, despite the numerous times beforehand they've seen how badly this tends to go.
When Kermit lets Statler and Waldorf host an episode of The Muppet Show, they end up having so much trouble running the show that they promise to never say anything bad about the show again. After the credits, Waldorf mentions he never liked the theme song.
Jackie from That '70s Show seems to learn to be less shallow and materialistic, not to mention more mature when she starts dating Hyde, but at the same time throughout the entirety of the show she remains having Rich Bitch tendencies, but mainly one-liners Played for Laughs.
The Doctor WhoExpanded Universe often runs into this problem with the First Doctor - as, between the fact that he can't control his TARDIS is a significant plot point, meaning he can't just dash off from a location and reappear, and the fact that all his adventures are written as a clear run-on sequence with a Cliffhanger leading straight into the next adventure and no gaps, the only real Time Skip for him to have adventures in is before "An Unearthly Child". The result of this is that many pre-series First Doctor expanded universe stories lead to him, in order to justify a departure from total neutrality getting into a confrontation with the Monster of the Week at all, learning the lesson that meddling is sometimes the right thing to do, and/or that Humans Are Special - lessons he then later learns slowly in the TV series itself with the influence of Ian and Barbara and his accidental alteration of history in "The Romans". The only way of avoiding this problem is to treat the series with Broad Strokes and just pretend that there were in-between adventures.
The first three years of BIONICLE gave us several character arcs of the Toa learning that only together can they hope to defeat evil. At first they simply didn't like each other, then they got reckless with their power-ups, then they just bickered for the hell of it, before finally realizing that they had already learned this lesson.
This happens so often in Calvin and Hobbes, it's almost a defining character trait for Calvin. He almost never learns anything from his mistakes, or if he does, he learns the wrong thing, and on a few occasions, will try to ignore what he's learned.
Amy Rose seems finally ready to give up her Sonic-chasing days and become her own person at the end of Sonic Adventure. By Sonic Adventure 2, not only was she back in full Sonic-chasing mode, she had in fact gotten worse about it.
And let's not even go into the whiplash-inducing Snap Back Tails went through between Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes.
Doctor Eggman is more or less completely incapable of retaining knowledge of the fact that Evil Is Not a Toy, despite having unleashed Sealed Evil in a Can only for it to turn on him and require his turning to Sonic for help about a half dozen times by now.
Laharl's subsequent appearances in Disgaea put him back to his TsundereNoble Demon phase of character development, despite the good ending of the first game implying that he's matured past that into a straight, yet stubborn, hero. In Disgaea Infinite, it's incredibly difficult for him to admit that he really cares about his subordinates, despite it being quite clear that he does.
Namine in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories spent a lot of time as a Shrinking Violet due to the abuse given to her by her legal guardians, Marluxia and Larxene. However, after meeting Sora, she learns to stand up for herself, and this confidence is reflected in Kingdom Hearts II. But then comes the mid-quel... Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, in which, now working for DiZ, Namine is just as soft-spoken and submissive as ever when it comes to dealing with a less-than-kind guardian, and it takes a meeting with Retcon character Xion to influence her to change once more. Namine does have power of memories...maybe she accidentally inflicted Aesop Amnesia on herself?
A very minor example from 358/2 Days, but Roxas just can't seem to catch on that Paul Reubens shouting "Trick or treat!" is a signal from the universe that it is time to duck. Eventually he tires of it and kicks Lock, Shock, and Barrel's butts...only to fall for the same trick again sometime afterward.
Ditto for Ariel. She learned absolutely anything from the first game and deals with Ursula again in Kingdom Hearts II.
Otacon from Metal Gear Solid. Every game he's in ends with him saying "I'm done with crying" yet the next game...HE CRIES. "Oh I'm done crying about Wolf. No, I'm good now" next game: "OMG WAHHHHH! But it's okay, I won't cry anymore". 4th game: "WE NEVER STOOD A CHANCE! WAHHHH. NAOMI WAAAAAH. No, I've got no more tears to cry. NO WAIT I'VE GOT MORE NVM". Mind you most of the stuff he cries about really suck but Christ Otacon, don't lie to yourself!
Punch-Out!! has Super Macho Man, an egocentric Eaglelander who is blatantly based on Hollywood celebrities. He gets his fame and fortune stolen after his initial defeat by Little Mac, and in Title Defense, he gets greeted to jeers and boos from the fickle audience, with even the spotlight wanting to get away from him. If he wins, he comes to the realization that Celebrity Is Overrated as the crowd suddenly "loves" him again, only to promptly ignore that and go back to posing.
"Oh now you love me. Now you love Macho Man. Well, it's too late... MAYBE NOT! GRAAAAGH!! (flexes his muscles under the spotlight)
In Pajama Sam's Lost & Found, Sam's room is very messy, and the game ends with him realizing that he should keep his room clean. Since Atari forgot this after their buy-out from Humongous, their attempt at recreating the franchise ended with him learning the exact same lesson.
Minecraft. Admit it. How many times did you flood your cave/underground base before you learned to just leave that wall alone? Alternately, how many times did you nuke your own establishment for the same reason (replace 'water' with 'creepers')?
Bowser in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Since his attempt to rule the universe in the first Super Mario Galaxy game resulted in the entire universe being destroyed and recreated, this actually also caused Bowser to attempt to rule the universe again, but this time as a giant.
Lara Croft in Tomb Raider Anniversary lets her obsession with the Scion get her into lots of dangerous situations where her life is at stake several times by people trying to stop her and letting the Scion fall into the hands of the Big Bad puts the world in danger until Lara realizes her actions led to this and she puts a stop to it all. Fast forward to Tomb Raider Underworld, Lara is back to searching endlessly for another artifact and winds up releasing the Big Bad from Anniversary from her prison just so Lara can gain access to another world where her mother disappeared to. Predictably, the world is in danger yet again from Lara's actions.
Puyo Puyo Fever: in the first game, we're introduced to Klug, who carries a book that has a suspicious red ghost-thing that often comes out.◊ Apparently he can't see this, so this would be fine. In Fever 2, he's possessed by the demon in the book, who plans on using this freedom to regain his lost body. The heroesnote Sig, Raffine, and Amitie save the day. Klug apparently learns his lesson that his demon is ridiculouslypureevil and will return the book to the person who gave it to him. Cut to the next game, 15th where he... still has the demon infested book. And in 7, he has the book still and his DekaTransformation is his demon-possessed side. So, by now he should've gotten rid of the demon or book, right? 20th Anniversary; still has the book, it still has the demon sealed in it. ...There has to be a word for this kind of stupid.
Played for drama by Dragon Age II with two major characters, Sebastian and Isabela. If Hawke has high enough Friendship or Rivalry, Isabela will realize that running off with the Tome of Koslun to save her own skin while the Qunari destroy Kirkwall is wrong; she returns with the sacred book, saves the day, and by Act III seems to have grown a conscience and responsibility...until it becomes clear that she's willing to deal with a slaver and let him go free to enslave more people so that she can have a ship. Sebastian seems to have overcome his lust for vengeance in Acts II and III...but when Anders blows up the Chantry at the end of Act III, killing his beloved mentor Grand Cleric Elthina, he will vow to raise an army and burn all of Kirkwall to the ground if Hawke doesn't kill Anders (never mind that it's Hawke and Anders he actually has a problem with). Rather than simply showing that Status Quo Is God, however, these failures to change are part of the game's overall plot as a tragedy (and certainly highlight its place on the cynical end of the scale).
Tales of the Abyss has an important plot point early in the game about how killing humans means denying them of their future and is not to be taken lightly. Later in the game, you're slaughtering human Mooks by the dozens with the only reaction being Luke occasionally saying "I'll do whatever it takes" on the victory screen.
Aesop lost by the character, but not by the game. The deterioration of a high-minded war based on principles into a desperate animalistic struggle for bare survival is pretty much what the game is all about. The party progresses from angsting endlessly over the death of one bandit to killing most of the world's population for an engineering convenience is too monotonic and orderly to be anything but intentional.
Misfile: Ash needing to learn that as a female, males now view him differently, has been a plot point more than half a dozen times.
In Tales of MU, Steff is particularly prone to this. After stabbing herself with a knife she knew nothing about until it tore out half her soul, she spent several days resting and scared everyone close to her and almost died. Immediately after she was handed another magic item by Dee, a character who herself needs to learn to stop handing out magic no one but her is familiar with. She was told not to use it without lots of physical and mental preparation, and only then carefully. Her decision? Chug the whole thing the moment she's alone.
Same for Solange of the Whateley Universe, who still thinks her money can buy her out of anything.
Probably because she's not been a focus character since Jade beat her, badly. She DID learn not to screw with Team Kimba directly, however. She was given an option on learning that she wasn't a good Queen, but thanks to incidents with Ayla, Murphy, and Loophole, she's now out of the Alphas. Her current Aesop is probably closer to 'how to be sneaky and cruel'. Averted with the Don, who HAS learned said lesson, as well as Hekate. Whateley villains in general get most dangerous the more they get beaten.
Chou, however, definitely qualifies. How many times has she learned to accept being a girl, accept that the Tao is always right, accept that she has to kill sometimes, accept...She HAS learned how to handle romance, though. Except Molly has some summons that might not be nice...
From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the heroic Robotman learned that he can still be human even if he's a Brain in a Jar. Then his original player left, the character was taken over by another player, and the "my God, what have I become" back all over again.
Even though his behavior led him directly to prison time, Corrupt Corporate Executive Lexington Cargill never seemed to learn that being a billionaire wasn't an automatic Get Out of Jail Free card.
The Angry Video Game Nerd frequently learns to appreciate his video games rather than complain about them all the time, only to forget about that next episode or sooner. Of course, since the entire premise hinges on him complaining about video games, Status Quo Is God is pretty much mandatory in this case.
In Agents OfCracked Dan constantly forgets that Swaim is dangerously insane and going along with any plan he comes up with will end badly. Despite this he does remember the previous episodes well enough that he objects to the plans at the start.
The main reason why the work usually referred to just as Update seems to keep going and going is because the protagonist is incapable of learning anything from previous ordeals or mistakes and does the exact same things again and again.
As with all Negative Continuity tropes, The Simpsons uses this one a lot. Often they'll just go ahead and lampshade, and at least one episode ends with Lisa concluding there was no moral to learn "Just some things that happened". With the supporting characters, it's even more pronounced; Barney goes from "clean and sober" to "hopeless alcoholic" depending on the mood of the writer, Mr. Burns has learned to love his fellow man dozens of times, and even though he's learned to stand up for himself in every episode he's a featured player in, Principal Skinner never manages to move out of his mother's house.
Burns: For me? Bobo? Smithers, I'm so happy. Something amazing has happened, I'm actually happy. Take a note! From now on, I'm only going to be good and kind to everyone.
Smithers: I'm sorry sir, I don't have a pencil.
Burns: Ehh, don't worry, I'm sure I'll remember it.
In one episode Mr. Burns describes himself as having "characteristic changes of heart". This leads to him befriending Homer and being a good person for much of the episode, then going right back to being evil at the end. As Homer notes, "I guess some people never change. Or, they quickly change and then quickly change back."
Also lampshaded in "Homer Loves Flanders" where Homer came to genuinely like Ned Flanders. At the end of the episode Bart asks Lisa where the expected last-minute Face-Heel Turn event is that would reset the situation back to status quo. Lisa is stumped. Then comes one last scene with "one week later" caption where Homer suddenly loathes Flanders again, and Bart and Lisa give a content "things are back the way they should be" smile.
The episode "Bart's Girlfriend" ends with a scene in which Bart falls back into the exact same behavior he just learned to avoid, seconds after making a speech about how much he's learned. Word of God says the writers wanted to do an episode specifically about Bart having an experience which he utterly fails to learn anything from.
In "Duffless", he also repeatedly failed to learn the lesson "the cupcake is wired up to electricity, and if you touch it you will get a shock". Thereby proving that yes, he was dumber than a hamster.
Similarly, Family Guy once lampshaded its own tendency to end with Peter describing whatever lesson he had learned by ending an episode with this exchange:
Lois: Well, Peter, I guess you learned a pretty valuable lesson. Peter: Nope!
There are at least THREE times that Peter Griffin has learned to love and appreciate his daughter and promptly forgotten it by next episode. Twice it happened before the episode was even over.
Contrary to what he says in the page quote, in many areas Stan of American Dad! doesn't forget certain Aesops (accepting his gay neighbors, or his ethnic Iranian ones), but like the Peter Griffin example above they have lampshaded his inability to do so in other areas.
Stan: There's something you should know about me by now, Roger. I don't learn lessons.
It took him 2 episodes to really accept his gay neighbors considering he tried to kidnap their baby from them.
Another interesting example and partial Lampshade Hanging comes with Roger. One episode ended with him revealing that he didn't really feel like a part of the Smith family, which is why he got insulted when they threw a comedy roast for his birthday (at his request). The others actually get indignant because not only has this issue been dealt with before, but in that episode and others they had repeatedly gone out of their way to please his ever-insane needs and desires. As Hayley pointed out, if he didn't think they cared about him by that point, it was his problem, not theirs. Roger seems to get it then, though who knows if it will stick this time.
A disproportionate number of episodes in Transformers Animated feature the plot device of Bumblebee being a cocky showoff, going off on his own, and messing the whole thing up in order to learn the value of teamwork and actually telling your leader what's going on. At least once, this has happened two episodes in a row.
There were also alot of episodes in the first season that revolved around Sari recklessly using her Allspark key and having to learn that Allspark energy is not a toy. Thankfully, she did get much better about this by the time season 2 rolled around.
This is a fine tradition in Transformers, dating back to the original show where Optimus Prime would actually sum up the Aesop of the story to all the Autobots at the end of the story, just in case it wasn't blatantly clear enough. Amusingly, this probably technically makes the Autobots' Aesop Amnesia disobeying orders.
Just like Animated Bumblebee, Miko from Transformers Prime also has to learn (and forget) a lesson every other episode. Which is: rushing headfirst into trouble can, well, lead to trouble. In fact this has been the basis of so many episodes in the first season, some fans tend to chant "Oh, it's one of those episodes again..." when they see her doing something reckless.
Ben 10: The sheer number of times Ben has learned lessons about being nicer to Gwen, using the Omnitrix smarter not harder, and respecting other people and promptly discarded them by the next episode is truly staggering.
The 2nd Lucky Girl episode has Gwen also guilty of this, as the episode opens with her telling Ben, "You should be grateful for what you've got; I only got to be Lucky Girl for a few hours." And later, while they're talking about a new charm she found, we get a flashback to Gwen destroying the other charms of her own volition, while ignoring why she did this: to Be Herself. Granted, the Aesop gets broken to hell and back with future plot developments, but yeah.
This one's an interesting case of having amnesia over a Broken Aesop. She originally broke the charms to Be Herself... but the ENTIRE premise of the series is based on people using the omnitrix to augment their abilities without ever thinking the same way. So rather than forgetting that she should be herself, she forgot the broken aesop of "being yourself means never using tools, equipment, or super powers".
Ben 10: Alien Force has Kevin Levin. He's constantly looking for a deal, and it's constantly biting him in the rear, usually because he trusts his old partner Argit despite the many times the latter has screwed him over.
Ben 10: Omniverse has Ben forgetting that he needs the help of his friends and family to be the hero he is, not to mention avoiding letting his fame go to his head. His new partner Rook calls him out on this, though.
Beast Boy learned several times not to be such a goof-off. It never quite took, at least completely. Same for Cyborg learning to accept not being human anymore.
Oddly enough, the rest of the team seemed pretty good about avoiding Aesop Amnesia. When Raven and Starfire learned to respect one another's differences, it stuck with them through the rest of the series.
Even more oddly, the last time the series dealt with Cyborg's humanity this trope was actually inverted. Cyborg goes Machine Worship too hard and has a Superpower Meltdown, requiring him to learn the opposite lesson. Poor guy just can't win.
Robin still struggled with not being a Jerkass throughout the series. He was trained by Batman so it isn't surprising he would default to Jerkass. Robin finally ended up throwing away the Jerkass Ball (mostly) for good after the episode "Haunted".
The Powerpuff Girls have it pretty bad, but then, they are portrayed as being in kindergarten, so it might be understandable that they don't always remember the lessons they've learned very well.
How many times did Darkwing Duck learn to put aside his pride and get serious/ask for help/play well with others/etc.? Probably about once an episode.
Similarly, in DuckTales, Fenton Crackshell kept learning that it wasn't his mechanized battle suit that truly made him a hero, but his determination, brains, and spirit. He still put that sucker on at the earliest opportunity every episode, though. (Well, wouldn't you if you had one?)
And Huey, Dewey, and Louie never quite got the message "playing pranks on your [parent equivalent] to get something out of them will only backfire in the worst way, and isn't very nice besides".
It was done a bit better with Uncle Scrooge, however. While he remained very cheap throughout the series, he was willing to at least put the safety of his family ahead of money (although not always their comfort). (He did still have a number of episodes in each of which he learned anew not to be so stingy, however.) Partially justified in that Scrooge's primary focus has been making money, finding treasures, and pinching pennies since at least his late teens; it's probably hardwired by now.
The members of the Sushi Pack frequently have to relearn Aesops about being a team. Like every other episode frequently.
This show is a particularly absurd example. It's a series based off of the movie, where Kuzco spends the entire time learning that he isn't the center of the universe, and by the end, has become a genuinely nice person who treats other people as equals. Cue the series, where he has apparently forgotten all of the events of the movie and once again has to "learn" that the world doesn't revolve around him. Multiple times.
He seems to have gotten better by the sequel movie, Kronk's new Groove where he mentions he loves being the spotlight in the beginning, but it's time for him to step aside. And then he makes another appearance by the end, where he's actually trying to help Kronk, who was an antagonist for most of the first movie and the series.
Slightly justified in that the opening scenes of Emperor's New Groove show Kuzco having been spoiled since he was in diapers. He's literally having to rewrite the habits of years. note Yzma 'practically raised him', by her own statement. Kuzco's lucky he didn't turn out worse.
In Thomas and Friends, after the 5th season, Thomas and Duncan become especially prone to this. In fact, Thomas's character up to the 5th season was built on Aesops from past experiences in the earlier seasons. Suddenly, when season 6 debuted, he was a perfect schoolboy type. With the debut of season 8, he seemingly forgot every lesson he ever learned.note However, this is likely because this was the point where the show had been sold to a new company. It's even worse when he forgets the Aesop of patience by the very episode after he learned it. James is quite bad for this too, but it may be justified considering his personality.
Any episode of SpongeBob SquarePants that focuses on Mr. Krabs' incredible greed. I guess that love (of money in this case) conquers all.
On The Magic School Bus, Janet seems to have relearned to not be such a snotty brat in just about every episode she appeared in.
The Chained Heat episode "Bonding" showed Kim and Bonnie getting handcuffed together and learning more about one another in the process. Kim learns about Bonnie's family life, specifically her two sisters who belittle her at every opportunity. By the end of the episode, the two are getting along somewhat better, though by Bonnie's next appearance, she's just as shallow and mean as ever.
Many, many times Ron learned the lesson about being yourself, and then promptly forgot about it. Actually lampshaded one time by Kim in "Ron Millionaire" where she mentions that he has a tendency towards this. It doesn't help.
One of the movies lampshades this even further, where Ron attempts to caution his younger self not to learn his lesson from one of these events in particular.
"OK, look, listen to me. In the future you will change your hair and become a babe magnet. Keep that look!!"
Well, the problem is at the end of the episode once he learned the lesson about his behavior he didn't need to alter his appearance back to the old style just because the new one had bad associations.
Kim learns that her brothers can be helpful and not just nuisances at least twice, and to disregard peer pressure from Bonnie a good few times.
Unless you're an actual calculator, you've probably lost count of the number of times Hank has learned to accept Bobby's athletic limitations and appreciate his other skills. Maybe it's genetic, as Hank has earned the grudging respect of his father, Cotton, on several occasions, and that never sticks, either.
Not to mention that no matter how many times Hank learns to loosen up, this still happens a lot:
Bobby: Hey Dad, guess what! I joined the (insert incredibly effeminate and/or gay and/or non-traditional activity here)!
Hank also constantly forgets that Bobby is good at some sports, like shooting, football, and wrestling.
Can we get a count of how many times Bill's gotten over his depression and found something meaningful in his life, including another woman, only to have it completely forgotten by the next episode?
Kahn and Minh quite frequently learn to respect their redneck neighbors and then forget.
More quintessential to the trope is perhaps Buck Strickland, who consistently fails to learn that his illegal schemes will always put his business at risk. Strangely, however, Hank for some reason doesn't even get an Aesop that his boss is an amoral bastard and that he'll always get in trouble for trying to clean up after Buck's mess.
In Hank's case, a number of episodes imply that Hank is fully aware of how bad Buck is, but sticks around out of a misplaced sense of gratitude and loyalty and/or an equally misplaced hope that Buck might at some point revert back to the hard-working man he was when Hank first met him (which he nearly did in one episode); both are played as Hank's having found a better father in Buck than he had in Cotton.
The numerous examples where Peggy should have learned that her perceived abilities and appearance don't match up to reality. At times, she learns to accept her limitations, but goes right back to her old self in the next episode.
In Season 4, the Running Gag of Nancy and John Redcorn's affair ends when they finally begin feeling bad about betraying Dale's trust (which is an incredibly rare commodity) and part ways amicably. Then in Season 11, Redcorn attempts to restart the affair, and though Nancy is temptednote Especially since she starts losing her hair due to stress and believes that getting back together with Redcorn will make things better, she ultimately stands by her man.
Xiaolin Showdown had a couple of Stock Aesops, all of which were repeatedly learned and forgotten. A sampling includes "Don't futz around with the Shen Gong Wu for frivolous reasons", "Don't screw over your teammates", "Stop being jerks to each other". And while not really an Aesop, it was still rather glaring how they never learned that yes, even Jack Spicer can come up with a winning plan every so often, so don't just automatically shrug off what he's doing because he's a loser.
In a first-season episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Chameleon begins a crime spree dressed as the eponymous hero. J. Jonah Jameson, being who he is, immediately prints a story in the Bugle declaring him a criminal; of course, by the end of the episode, the Chameleon is revealed to be the criminal and Jameson is forced to print a retraction, something he had apparently never had to do before. In the second season, Venom also begins committing crimes and general violence while impersonating Spidey. Jameson soon ends up at the police station, demanding to know why Captain Stacy hasn't begun efforts to arrest Spider-Man yet. While calmly explaining his evidence saying that Spidey was not responsible doesn't work, Stacy simply calls him out on this:
Captain Stacy: This isn't the first time the Bugle got it wrong when a copycat dressed up as the webslinger. Now do you really want to embarrass yourself and your paper... again?
The above version of Jameson nails the comics Jameson perfectly in that regard. In the comics he'll accuse Spider-Man of either being in cahoots with the current villain or BEING the current villain, as well as fall for the copycat Spidey routine time and time again, and he never learns and keeps doing it, even brushing off those who try to remind him what happened last time he did that.
The Fairly OddParents: Timmy's had to learn not to act like a Jerk Ass ("A Wish Too Far!", "Power Pals", "Fairy Idol", "The Jerkinators"), his parents' rules are for the best ("Ruled Out", "Channel Chasers") and there are worse alternatives to Vicky ("Totally Spaced Out", "Vicky Gets Fired") several times. If you count episodes with a Fantastic Aesop, add "time travel is bad" ("Father Time", "Twistory") and "make sure magic gadgets only work for you" ("Deja Vu", "Presto Change-O").
In one movie, Timmy states that he secretly wished for the entire earth to not age. It took 50 years for them to find out what had happened. Apparently after those 50 years he had gained absolutely nothing of value; no knowledge, no experience. All that time he didn't even bother to wish to find out if and how he would be caught so as to avoid it. He still doesn't bother to add two bits of sense into any wish.
No matter how many times Harold from Total Drama Island manages to save the day at the last minute with some special skill that only he has, future episodes will always have the other characters, especially Duncan, proclaiming that he's useless and should not be listened to/trusted to do any sort of task.
Astonishingly, the episode where Harold is treated the worst in this regard comes immediately after the one where he single-handedly saves everyone from drowning!
Brandy from Brandy & Mr. Whiskers was probably the epitome of this trope. If I recall correctly, almost all of the episodes were about her either learning to care about others for a change or just care about Mr. Whiskers.
While lessons the boys learn tend to stick ("Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride," for example), the same does not apply to the adults. No matter how many times Randy or Sheila learn lessons about actually listening to their children and respecting their wishes ("Bloody Mary" and The Movie, for example), they're back to publicly humiliating Stan and Kyle by the next episode.
This would also apply to Cartman, except he is a sociopath and one of the symptoms of a sociopath is a general inability to learn lessons at all.
The boys also frequently "learn lessons" about blaming their behavior on external influences, such as in The Movie. The trope is lampshaded to Hell and back in "Butt Out" (where they blame the tobacco company for making them smoke) by Kyle, who suggests that they come clean instead of letting things spiral out of control. Stan makes two such "I learned something today" speeches in a single episode. In "Chimpokomon", the kids are brainwashed by the Japanese into attacking the US. When the parents figure out how to snap the kids out of it, Kyle decides to go through with the attack. So Stan gives a "learned something" speech about the evils of blindly following the crowd. Kyle agrees and claims that, since all the kids refuse to attack, he still has to do it in order to prove his independence. Stan immediately does a speech saying the exact opposite of the first speech, completely confusing Kyle.
Maryoku Yummy, being a series for preschoolers, tends to fall into this a lot. Every other episode, Hadagi has to learn not be a big jerk, Ooka has to learn to be more responsible, and Shika has to learn that Maryoku is just right and stop fighting it already.
In the episode "Song of the Petalars," young Lilliputian Emrick (questing to restore his people to their homeland) impulsively confronts a bird so large he's outmatched and protagonist Lion-O must save him. Lion-O complains of his teenaged stupidity. Later, Lion-O (questing to save his people and their homeland), in his teenaged stupidity, impulsively leads his ThunderCats to confront enemy forces so large he's outmatched and a Deus ex Machina must save them. When Lion-O attempts yet another Leeroy Jenkins in "Old Friends," his new mentor Panthro quickly loses his patience.
In "The Pit", Pumyra is distrustful of Lion-O until he nearly gives his life to save her. In "The Curse of Ratilla", Pumyra is distrustful of Lion-O until he nearly gives his life to save her. In "Birth of the Blades", Pumyra is — get this — distrustful of Lion-O until — get this — he nearly gives his life to save her. Of course, knowing what we know now, this may well be justified.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders have a pretty bad case of this. The lesson "You can't make your cutie mark appear; you just have to wait for it" gets pounded into them pretty much every time they get their own episode, but they never seem to remember it. Done most egregiously in "The Cutie Pox", where Apple Bloom states the aesop herself, only to declare that she's waited long enough roughly ten seconds later.
By season 3 this has mostly stopped, as they learn to enjoy their friendship just on its own merits, and it becomes clear that their attempts to earn cutie marks are just so they can hang out together.
The Mane Six are also quick to forget their weekly lessons. Fluttershy has learned and forgotten how to be confident at least once, Rarity has learned and forgotten how to be down-to-earth at least twice, Rainbow Dash has learned and forgotten how not to be inconsiderate a few times, Applejack has forgotten not to let pride get the best of her, and Twilight Sparkle has learned several times not to be an obsessive Control Freak. Between the first and second seasons, the entire Mane Six and Princess Celestia forgot that the Elements of Harmony are powered by getting along, and aren't just a point-and-shoot Fantastic Nuke. The only lessons that stay learned are by the citizens of Ponyville at large, as they have learned to accept Zecora and Princess Luna.
Applejack did, in fact, dial back on the pride permanently. In The Super-Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, she has no problem accepting her friends' help. At the end of the episode, she even explicitly points out that she knew that already. In Apple Family Reunion, she actually plans for and goes to them for help.
They do also play around with Fluttershy's usual lesson to be braver and stand up for herself at least. One episode had her become too assertive until she was a pushy, forceful bully, needing her to learn there's a middle ground between doormat and asshole. When the group was later charged with reforming Discord, she figured out very early on that attempting to be assertive and forceful with Discord to make him behave would never take, and in fact the real solution was to be gentle, friendly and patient; basically inverting her usual lesson.
In the third episode, "Axed By Addition", Pete realizes that he has been a terrible father to his son, PJ, while he thinks PJ is sick and dying and spends the majority of the episode trying to apologize and ask for forgiveness for his mistreatment... then the doctors call him back, tell him PJ wasn't really sick, and he's right back to his abusive self for the rest of the series.
Every single episode focusing on Zipper has the team dismiss him due to his small size/strength, which makes him leave, only for everyone else to realize what an asset he actually was and fully accept him at the end.
The "team ostracizes a character, so they leave, only for everyone else to miss them and want them back" plot point actually happens multiple times to every member of the Rangers except for Chip. In fact it's often Chip who's complaining that Dale's too stupid/Monterey Jack's too hot-headed/Gadget's too scatter-brained/etc. that makes whoever it is leave.
Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness has a particular issue with Po never learning humility, passiveness, forethought, basically any aesop that could lead to things being better for him.
Candace of Phineas and Ferb has learned to have fun with life in every episode that's ever focused on her.
Early on in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) the turtles learn the dangers of becoming overconfident. From then on, they end up becoming cocky again multiple times. However, when this happens Splinter is usually quick to humble them again, or they suffer the consequences of it in battle. This helps to make it feel like a realistic character flaw instead of shoddy writing.
Several episodes have repeatedly focused on Raphael attempting to control his anger issues. Something goes wrong because he generally can't control his temper, he realizes how much of a problem it can be, and then another episode puts him back at square one.
The babies of Rugrats get tricked by Angelina pretty much every episode and yet keep believing almost everything she says.
Well, sure. They're babies.
It's not uncommon in bad debates to encounter people who repeat the same arguments after they've already been soundly disproven. This can lead to hilarity on online forums. An argument will be made and refuted soundly on one page, only for it to be made again, often by the same person, a page or two later. Particularly egregious trolls will do this openly, going so far as to quote the debunking of their nonsense and respond with the exact same nonsense, often word for word.
Anyone who attends any twelve-step recovery program for any significant length of time (six months or more) will hear dozens of life stories about people falling for the same addictions and abusive relationships over and over again, and will hear about people falling off the wagon repeatedly. Addiction is like that.