"I can't tell you just now what the moral of that is, but I shall remember it in a bit." "Perhaps it hasn't one," Alice ventured to remark. "Tut, tut, child!" said the Duchess. "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."
The episode ends with a moral à laAesop's Fables. Either the last line of the episode summarizes the whole point of the episode, or it leaves the viewer with the issue that the writers want them to ponder. 1950ssitcoms often end on the "Gee, I learned my lesson," type of moral, while Law & Order leaves you pondering.
Since some shows seem to contractually require one moral per episode, you often end up with a Broken Aesop.
A lot of kids' shows go out of their way for this, especially Disney-animated shows. Writers often call it the "Object Lesson", and write the episode around it. This is particularly noticeable in programs made in the United States during the late 1970s through the early 1990s, as the FCC at the time required that all children's television shows have "educational" content, and this was the simplest way to meet its requirements.
In an American Dom Com, the point where the Aesop is delivered is often referred to by writers as the Golden Moment.
For the lesson told or repeated in a separate segment during The Tag, see And Knowing Is Half the Battle.
For times when the story's lesson is delivered via Phlebotinum, see Aesoptinum.
For times when the show hits you over the head with the lesson, see Anvilicious or Script Wank.
For times when a lesson is learned through a moral conflict, see Moral Dilemma.
In some quarters An Aesop delivered to another character, often a child, directly is referred to as a "You See, Timmy" from the frequent use of that line to deliver the Aesop in the television show Lassie. This definition was put forth originally in the movie Speechless.
Accidental Aesop - when people read an Aesop which wasn't intended (or is different from the one intended)
Aesop Amnesia - when characters have chronic trouble sticking with the Aesops.
By the way, in literary circleseverywhere outside of this wiki, An Aesop is properly known as a moral. The original Aesop was a Greek slave of the 6th century BC. A collection of allegorical tales (including "The Tortoise and the Hare", "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", and others) attributed to him have survived to the present day and are known as Aesop's Fables.
Ironically, Aesop probably doesn't deserve the dubious honor of having this trope named after him. In their original forms these stories likely did not end with heavy-hitting moral anvils. The listeners (for Aesop would have been an oral storyteller) were probably left to sort out the meaning for themselves; the one-liner morals (such as "slow and steady wins the race") were likely tacked on by modern compilers.
Also see: Central Theme, And Knowing Is Half the Battle.
An Aesop is among the Tropes of Legend.
Franken Fran: Though there are exceptions, the dominant Aesop to be learned is that death is not something to come back from, especially via science.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Compromise your dreams with what is best for everyone. Roy compromised his dream for power by vowing to use it for others, and being patient about it. May gave up her quest to restore her clan to help save another country. She got both though. Scar compromised his quest for vengeance by just preventing it from happening again in the future. Ed gave up his alchemy, and didn't get his leg back. Al rejected his body because he couldn't fight with it, and when he got it back it was incredibly weak. The only person who didn't compromise was Father. He wanted out of his flask, and didn't balance it with morality, empathy, or just settling for anything less. And he got screwed.
Great Teacher Onizuka shows us that teachers are human beings too. They have feelings and they deserve your respect. They do care about you and are willing to help you if you let them. There are bad teachers but they are the exception and not the rule.
Gunnm delivers an especially hard-hitting Aesop in volume five: Be a little considerate of people's feelings. Allways treat others with respect, even if you think they are cowardly, selfish jerks. You may not like the result if you don't.
Despite being mostly comprised of Aespoic-moments, the 32nd episode of the original 1969 series of Himitsu no Akko-chan plays that straight towards the heroine. When the kind-hearted Akko-chan meets a new deaf kid at school, she hurriedly wishes her magic mirror to turn her into a deaf-mute version of herself, enabling her to empathize better with her plea. Her magic mirror takes her literally, taking her speaking voice again too, and refusing to change her back on the premises that, needing a clearly worded wish to act, it can't understand or obey a deaf-mute mistress. Only when Akko-chan, distraught and terminally scared, is starting to resign to her fate, the mirror changes her back on its own accord, moved by her tears and pointing out how her owner has now learned that a disability is nothing to be wished for, and how her new friend was more brave and resourceful than she could think.
THE iDOLM@STER: Almost every episode gives a lesson to at least one character.
A recurring Aesop in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is that regardless of how one was born/created one has the ability to choose whether to do good or evil.
Aside from the recurring Power Of Friendship theme, the CP9 saga and Robin's backstory has "It doesn't matter how you live your life, you are not evil just for existing" which gets indirectly revisited when it comes time to dive into Ace's backstory as well.
There are also some surprisingly complicated lessons about racism for a shonen series, especially when Hody Jones is involved, being one of the biggest monsters in the series who has a fierce anti-human sentiment despite humans having never done anything to him. He turned into an extremist and fishman supremacist just by growing up in a racially-charged environment.
At the end of each volume of Oishinbo there are cautionary tales that teach a lesson. At the end of "Japanese Cuisine" there is an Aesop about simple values, at the end of the volume "Sake" there is one about sobriety and at the end of "Ramen and Gyoza" there is one about racism.
Popotan: Moving away from others is not as hard as it appears because one can still have pleasant memories of old friends, and one should learn to let go of said friends in order to move on in life. It's an overarching theme of the entire series, and Konami (the best friend of Mai, one of the protagonists) puts it into words in both the second and the final episodes.
Princess Tutu: Don't be afraid of being yourself. Even if you are "only a duck", you don't need to become a "beautiful swan" to be loved.
The English dub of Sailor Moon often ended with a "Sailor Says" segment.
Super Gals has the ironclad rules for girls which are general Aesop, mainly circling around: Be Yourself.
Always face forwad, never give up, and know that you're awesome.
In one Strontium Dog story, Johnny and Wulf search for a target on a planet where the natives, among other things, eat humans. The conditions in which the farmed humans were kept served to illustrate the point that battery farming is bad.
Many times in the stories of Wilhelm Busch, often against alcohol and mischief. Several stories end with "Und die Moral von der Geschicht..." (and the moral of the story is: ...) There's a reason the German version of this page was named "Die Moral".
Most chapters of My Little Unicorn: Magic Is Believing end with the Grand Ruler giving an Aesop that is tangentially related to the events of the chapter. Unfortunately the supposed morals are pretty weak and their connection to the main Aesop of "believing" is not very clear. However, these were removed from the retooling.
SpongeBob: I guess you're right, Plankton. I am just a kid. And you know, I've been through a lot in the last six days, five minutes, twenty-seven-and-a-half seconds, and if I've learned anything during that time, it's that you are who you are. And no amount of mermaid magic, or managerial promotion, or some other third thing can make me any more than what I really am inside: a kid. Plankton: Very impressive. Now, back against the wall... SpongeBob: [on microphone] But that's okay! Because I did all the things they said a kid couldn't do! I made it to Shell City, and I beat the cyclops, and I rode the Hasselhoff, and I brought the crown BACK! So, yeah, I'm a kid! And I'm also a goofball, and a wingnut, and a Knucklehead McSpazatron! But most of all, I'm... I'm... I'm... I'm a Goofy Goober! [rock music starts]
And later subverted in the end of the movie:
Mr. Krabs: Mr. Squidward, front and center! I think we both know who rightfully deserves to wear that manager pin. Squidward: I couldn't agree more, sir. [Crowd cheers] SpongeBob: Wait a second, everybody. There's something I need to say first. I just don't know how to put it. Squidward: I think I know what you're going to say. After your life-changing journey, you found that you don't want what you thought you wanted. What you really wanted was inside you all along. SpongeBob: Are you crazy?! I was just going to say that your fly is down. Manager! This is the greatest day of my liiiiiiife!
Richard M. Nixon:Always remember: others may hate you. But those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.
This trope is used and then averted in The Onion Movie. Immediately after a pro-West, "violence is not the answer" speech by a former terrorist, the main character goes on to say:
"I think we've all learned a few things in the past 90 minutes. We've learned that Irishmen have huge nipples. We've learned that film-critic intellectuals are a bunch of gaywads. And most of all, we've learned that creeping corporate influence over the news protects us from terrorism."
Played in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Just because a man is an outlaw doesn't mean he isn't a good person in his own ways.
The Aesop in Reefer Madness is this: if you smoke marijuana... sorry, "marihuana"... even once, you'll instantly become addicted and as a result you'll go crazy, become a sex-crazed lunatic, and murder your girlfriend in cold blood.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This movie (and by extension the next one) can be seen as being about consequences. Most of the events in this film occur because of Kirk's actions in the past, or reference his cavalier attitude to rules — the entire film would have been averted if Kirk had not been so careless as to have marooned Khan on Ceti Alpha V without doing a complete survey of the planet and the surrounding system. He even acknowledges this when he ruefully admits that he never actually learned the lesson that the Kobayashi Maru test from the beginning of the film was actually trying to teach — instead of accepting some situations for what they were, he merely kept cheating until he was able to get his way. Both Spock and later David die for his hubris. And his refusal to raise the shields despite the fact that Starfleet regulations state that if ANY approaching ship does NOT respond to any communications, you are to RAISE THE SHIELDS. Saavik was cut off by Spock before she quoted the regulation in its entirety; however, the implication is pretty clear. Plus the fact that after the attack, Kirk said to Saavik, "You go right on quoting regulations".
If Kirk had listened to Spock and not lied in his report, he would have been able to defend his actions at the inquest instead of being chewed out by Pike, which at the very least would have delayed his demotion long enough for him to still be a captain when Khan attacked.
If Pike hadn't pulled a Not Now, Kiddo on Kirk at the captain's meeting he would have figured out Khan's plan a few precious seconds earlier, possibly saving the lives of all present.
If Kirk had listened to Scotty's complaints and let him check the payload of the torpedoes, instead of overruling Scotty so he could pursue his vendetta against Harrison, the frozen super soldiers would have been discovered, undoing everyone's plans.
Had Kirk not listened to Spock and killed Harrison with the torpedoes, he would have aided Marcus' plan to start a war. Granted, it did end up getting him killed and San Francisco leveled by a starship, but those things might have happened anyway if a war started.
More importantly, don't let your desire for revenge compromise you, lest you pay the price for it. And good friends and advisers will point this out to you.
The Wizard of Oz (1939). After Glinda asks Dorothy what she's learned, Dorothy gives one.
If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, l won't look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn't there I never really lost it to begin with.
[and after Dorothy returns to Kansas] There's no place like home!
The moral of The Brothers Karamazov is to live life, take the good and take the bad and remain true to yourself. There might be other lessons scattered about the book concerning not manipulating others or belief in God, but the big message is to take the ups and downs and keep on. It comes off as bittersweet mostly because of all the events that had to take place for the protagonist to come to this conclusion.
Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy shows that everything can be solved without resorting to violence in a incredibly clever and fascinating way, after all: "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent".
The Nightmare Machine: You have to stretch to find a moral, but you could argue that it's "You have to face your fears."
Ghost of the Jedi has a New Media Is Evil sort of message - just because you're friends with someone over the Internet doesn't mean you really know them - but also that failure happens and it's awful, but you can't mope and stop trying things just because you messed up, however badly.
Army of Terror might be that it's better not to lie. Kind of stretching, though.
The Brain Spiders: People change as they grow up, and that's okay. But don't be so eager to seem grown up that you lose track of who you were before, and don't confuse "grown up" with "reckless".
The Swarm: Careful about which secrets you keep. Also, don't think in black and white; people you think of as enemies may not be all loathsome.
Spore: Unchecked greed is bad. And it's good to feel like being part of something larger, but it isn't everything.
The Doomsday Ship: Sometimes even in frantic moments it's better to stop and think.
Clones: Don't judge too harshly by first impressions.
The Hunger: Question unexamined traditions. Don't succumb to feeling helpless.
In The Trolls while little ones crop up here and there in Aunt Sally's stories, perhaps the biggest message is also, interestingly, the stealthiest one: be nice to your siblings.
Subverted in the poem "Twice Times" by A. A. Milne about two bears, one good and one bad who then, for no apparent reason, swapped places. The poem concludes "There may be a Moral, though some say not; I think there's a moral, though I don't know what."
One episode of Boy Meets World played with the notion of the Aesop: Mister Feeny assigns Corey, Topanga, and Shawn a seemingly impossible task. After trying and failing, the Genre Savvy kids come to the conclusion that Mister Feeney was giving them a Secret Testof Character to teach them a lesson about teamwork. Unfortunately they were wrong: Mister Feeney was actually trying to teach them a lesson about never giving up, and wants them to complete their seemingly-impossible task, and so he sends them back out again.
The first episode ofCommunity has Prof. Duncan attempting to impart one to Jeff about academic honesty. Jeff, however, feels strongly that community college is not the place to learn anything. Jeff's objection notwithstanding, many episodes end with speeches, tilted-head smiling people, happy music, and reconciliations.
Even though the show isn't EI-rated, all post-Episode 1 episodes of Crash And Bernstien have at least one. Episode 2's was to not be scared of anything, Episode 3's was that some things in life are hard, Episode 4's was to follow the rules and to tell the truth, and Episode 5's was that fitting in sometimes isn't the best thing to do.
In Doctor Who, The Two Doctors was an allegory about meat-eating, hunting and butchering, ending with the Doctor announcing to Peri that, "from now on it's a healthy vegetarian diet for both of us!" Writer Robert Holmes was a vegetarian.
There are some Aesops about inner turmoil in "Vincent and the Doctor" from the Fifth Series. The episode explains that there are differences in how different people deal with depression or anxiety (the Eleventh Doctor is shown to be more resilient than Vincent van Gogh). The Doctor also delivers a particularly touching Aesop at the end, when Amy discovers that their intervention failed to stop Van Gogh from killing himself: "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things."
Not only used in virtually every episode of Hannah Montana, but occasionally played with too, with Miley once asking her dad if he can't just fix the problem instead of trying to teach her a life-lesson.
Highway To Heaven, the Christian drama starring Michael Landon and Victor French as itinerant workers who help the people they encounter deal with situations using a (though not explicitly stated) Christian solution. Said moral would come usually toward the end of the episode, after which the person gets a chance to apply what he/she learned and/or any villains are defeated.
Home Improvement frequently had these, and they were usually delivered by the character Wilson, who would dispense advice to help the other characters with the issue of the episode.
How I Met Your Mother justifies this because a sizable chunk of the premise is Future!Ted lecturing his kids about his mistakes when he was young. However, they're frequently spoof, family unfriendly, broken, space whale (i.e., "I won't bother telling you not to fight, but don't fight with Uncle Marshall. He's insane."), lost, lampshaded Do Not Do This Cool Thing, or otherwise humorously subverted, usually with Future Ted giving an Aesop, but admitting that in real life, back when the events actually took place, he and his friends didn't learn their lesson right away. However, when one of the characters gives an Aesop in the present, it's more often played straight.
The whole concept gets parodied in a Running Gag on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Every episode ends with the "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?" segment, which ranges from a Spoof Aesop to a complete non sequitur with no relation to morals or lessons whatsoever. On at least one occasion, the "lesson" learned was a Spanish vocabulary word.
Every episode of My Name Is Earl ever devised concludes with Earl dropping an Aesop on the viewer's head in a voiceover.
Every episode of Scrubs ends with J.D. reciting the theme of the episode over a musical piece. Often, though not always, an Aesop.
Vehemently averted in Seinfeld where the credo was "No hugging! No lessons! No point!"
Sister Sister was full of these, ranging from the typical (such as stranger danger and the value of wise spending) to the more complex (such as Lisa dealing with her fear that she cannot compare to Ray's dead wife).
Oft-times used in the Disney show Smart Guy, one particularly creepy example being "Strangers on the Net" in which ten-year-old T.J. meets up with a man from The Internet who later tries to get him to pose for pictures in his underwear, thus teaching us about internet safety. In about the squickiest way possible. And this was on Disney.
The Weird Al Show's staff were so annoyed by the fact that they had to shove a moral down children's throats every week, they actually started each episode with the lesson to be learned written on parchment and narrated in a fancy voice. It was then torn in half to start the show.
For more than three decades starting in the early 1950s, there were a number of Christian anthology dramas populating the airwaves. Each episode was fairly straightforward in formula: An off-screen narrator or on-camera host (always a clergyman, either real or played by an actor) will introduce a story and a situation/dilemma one or more characters are facing, along with a hint of the Christian doctrine that is about to be illustrated. The story unfolds, with the situation reaching its peak as the characters try various ways to resolve the situation; finally out of options, the characters turn to their Bible or a clergyman for advice, and the situation reaches its resolution. The moral would be told in the final act, with the host reviewing the situation and providing both commentary and appropriate Scripture. The best-known of these shows was "This is the Life," a Missouri Lutheran Synod-underwritten program that dated from 1952 (on the old Du Mont network) through syndication in the 1980s; other denominations, including the Catholics, Baptists and Methodists, had their own anthology programs. Save for perhaps rural communities and/or public access stations having old tapes and running them as filler, these Christian anthologies have all but disappeared from the airwaves, with reruns of "This is the Life" last seen in terrestrial syndication in the early 1990s.
In Oklahoma!, "The Farmer And The Cowman" ends up with Aunt Eller waving a gun at the feuding ensemble and making them repeat this lesson:
"I don't say I'm better than anybody else, But I'll be damned if I ain't jist as good!"
The doctor's speech at the graduation in Carousel.
South Pacific had one in the song "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught."
The Aesop of the Assassin's Creed series is that people should be allowed to choose, and that free will is what makes us human. This is shown with the Assassin's reaction to the Crusades-era Templars plan, and Ezio's speech at the end of Bonfire of the Vanities.
Deus Ex is one giant blizzard of Aesop. No, seriously: Whether it be an itty bitty side mission, a conversation with a random NPC, or the grand scheme of the plot, you are constantly exposed to new aesops. To this day, Deus Ex is still held in high regard for the neutrality it took in these aesops, allowing the player to make their own judgment calls.
In the Framing Device of Dragon Age II the Seeker Cassandra is trying to find out who is responsible for starting the conflict between the Mages and Templars that threatens to tear the world apart. The message that Varric is trying to get through to her (and by extension the player) is that no one person — not Hawke, not Orsino, not the Arishok, not Meredith, not even Anders — was wholly responsible. It was simply the unfortunate result of a bunch of well meaning people with different ideas of right and wrong being pushed beyond the point of compromise. Moreover, these tensions have been building up for centuries and any possible solution would be both horrific and necessary, with the status quo being just as intolerable. Sometimes there is no Big Bad whose defeat will solve everything.
Another major Aesop of the game is that prejudice is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you oppress, harass, or treat a group of people as an enemy by default because of what they might do, they WILL become your enemy in truth because you've given them a reason to hate you.
In-universe example: The Harrowing in the Mage origin of Dragon Age: Origins is designed to teach apprentices who are ready to become full mages that you should never judge anything in the Fade by appearances alone.
Similarly Wind Waker focuses on letting go of the past and starting anew.
And Majora's Mask tells us to "Have Faith", but you kinda forget it when doing all those side quests as it's only outright stated at the first two temples.
The teaching of tolerance is a big theme in the Mass Effect series but nowhere is it more clear than at the end of "Priority: Rannoch" in Mass Effect 3: A planet is big enough for everyone—just put down your guns, blockheads, and you can share it all in peace.
Ogre Battle 64 is about what it truly means to be noble. Will you rule by power alone Yumil, or will you rule based on what is right Magnus, but only if Lawful.
Persona 3: Live your life to fullest and don't let anything to regret. Also, : Help your friends, that what friends are for.
The Reconstruction has one that's never explicitly stated, but it's definitely an important part of the ending and Dehl's Character Arc. A single person cannot save the entire world, and if they could, the psychological stress would break them first. So, instead of shooting for over-ambitious goals or lamenting the fact that we can't accomplish them, we should focus on what we can do to make the world a better place.
Sonic the Hedgehog has one in "Sonic and the Black Knight". It ended with Sonic teaching Merlina how life simply works:
Sonic: Merlina, every world has its end. I know that's kind of sad, but... that's why we gotta live life to the fullest in the time we have. At least, that's what I figure.
"The world ends with you. If you want to enjoy life, expand your world. You gotta push your horizons out as far as they'll go."
Reaches critical mass in the Bonus Boss fight with Hanekoma, who spends the whole fight spewing inspirational Catch Phrases like "Enjoy the moment!" and "Don't let limits slow you!" at you as he kicks your ass.
In A Profile, building on the Family-Unfriendly Aesop of 'Your friends will lie to you directly to your face, so be careful,' it then turns it around and says 'but you should trust them anyway. They're your friends.'
At least two are present in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. The first is that you should always believe in your friendsnote Though there's an addition this one that says you should believe in your friends, but you don't have to tell them things they don't need to know and that it's never too late to repent and start over. In fact, this is a pretty striking contrast between the ends of Meakashi and Tsumihoroboshi. In the first the no attempts at amends are made even when the error is realized while Tsumihoroboshi states the Aesop outright and has the people involved seeking forgiveness.
Katawa Shoujo: People with disabilities are just that, people. Considering this is a doujin erogeVisual Novel than began on a certain image board this is surprisingly deep.
What the Fuck Is Wrong with You? caps off every live recording with what they learned from the night's bizarre news stories, sometimes also veering into Spoof Aesop and Family-Unfriendly Aesop. There are even some recurring aesops, like "No one wants to see your dick," "There's nothing sexy at the Wal-Mart" and "Poop is not a plan."
Adventure Time has some conventional morals done in really weird ways. For example, "Don't break your promises" is shown by having Finn punished by the royal Gumball Guardians.
Parodied in Animaniacs (repeatedly) with their Wheel of Morality, which would provide a random "moral of the story" for the episode that was usually humorous and always had nothing to do with the episode.
"Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn."
Played straight with Birdz, although they're not heavy-handed since they're often skewed to the avian universe (e.g. Eddie learning the hard way that he should study the map and pack properly during migration season).
Many episodes of 1980s cartoon Care Bears deliver a moral at the end. Here is a sample.
"The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings": Running away from home doesn't solve anything.
"The Cloud Worm": This episode has a Fantastic Aesop: share the clouds, and don't eat Care-a-lot. The mundane moral is that sharing is a good idea.
"Concrete Rain": Share the concrete. Don't pave over all the grass.
"Grumpy's Three Wishes": You can find a way to do anything.
"Care Bear Town Parade": You shouldn't let your friends down.
"Caring for Spring": If you help others, they will help you.
"Fountain of Youth": Growing old has its advantages. You don't want the Fountain of Youth.
"Treat Heart Baba and the Two Thieves": You can remember anything if you put your mind to it.
"Care Fair Scare": Don't let something distract you from your friends.
"The Most Ancient Gift": A gift doesn't need to be expensive. As Grams says, "... it's not how much the gift is worth, it's the amount of caring behind it."
"The Space Bubbles": The space clown learns, "It's not nice to make fun of other people." Grumpy adds, "It's a totally different thing when you make fun of yourself."
"Cheer Bear's Chance": Everyone deserves a turn.
Centurions always had some sort of science lesson at the end.
Lampshaded in Danny Phantom: when Jazz tries to organize a plan, Danny tells her, with a bored expression on his face, that the plan is to go try and beat up the bad guy, get beaten up yourself, run around for a while trying to fix things, finally beat the bad guy, and go home having learned a lesson about how the world works. Whoopie. This is also a slight breaking of the fourth wall, as it's the basic layout of each show.
Before he went to Disney, Doug had An Aesop in almost every single episode. You could tell the Aesop after a couple of minutes already, often even before the episode title.
Although The Fairly OddParents doesn't have many episodes strictly made to teach a moral, there's one where the moral is thrown in the viewers' faces with a case of breaking the fourth wall: "And sometimes the best weapon of all is to say you're sorry." Cue screen where the phrase MORAL OF THE STORY pops up.
Subverted in Family Guy: While Peter recovers in the hospital, Lois says, "I guess you learned an important lesson." Peter leans back smugly and says, "Nope," at which point the episode ends.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids had a heavy-handed Aesop in every episode, driven home by a song from the Kids themselves. One example: "Dope is for dopes/Drugs are for dummies/And if you mess around with them/That kind of mess isn't funny."
Played straight but surprisingly subtle in an animated version of Flash Gordon, Flash alludes to men on Earth who "did terrible things in the name of obedience" but does not name names. In the eighties, this was a clear allusion to Nazi Germany and impressively assumes sufficient motivation, intelligence and education of the kids watching that they would either get the point or go find out.
Parodied in an episode of Futurama. After Fry and Bender drag the Planet Express headquarters along on their joyride in the Planet Express ship, they exit the ship to find the rest of the Planet Express staff, battered and seriously pissed off, waiting for them. Attempting to divert inevitable trouble, Bender says, "And that's how we learned our lesson."
From another episode:
"It's just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you?"
The first three seasons of the U.S. Acres animated series contained these. Here are a few examples:
"Wanted: Wade": Don't break the law.
"Banana Nose": Everyone has something special about them.
"Return of Power Pig": Don't spread rumors.
"Short Story": Little people can do big things, too.
"Fortune Kooky": Don't believe in superstitions.
Gargoyles had the episode "Deadly Force", in which Broadway finds Elisa's loaded gun and starts playing Cops 'n' Robbers. Elisa is busy cooking and not paying attention to him when Broadway accidentally pulls the trigger and shoots her in the chest, nearly killing her, showing just how deadly guns can be. Elisa wasn't even healed in the next episode, either. Too bad it turned into the Missing Episode.
Each installment of The Hive, another Playhouse Disney / Disney Junior show, presents one.
Jem did this in practically any episode about the Starlight Girls — one of them would do something stupid (anything from stealing to drugs) and have to have An Aesop explained to them. A few featured other characters, such as the one where Roxy got screwed over again and again because she couldn't read.
JoJo's Circus has the title character yanked away to a stage with a spotlight at the end of each story to talk about the aesop that she learned from what happened in it.
Roughly 1/3 of all Kim Possible episodes ended on An Aesop (sometimes due to Aesop Amnesia), roughly a third of the episodes ended on a Subverted Aesop, and the remaining thirty took the Aesop and twisted it about as far as possible to create fantastic Aesops, (don't buy mutant toys) Space Whale Aesops, (Eat healthily or your DNA will mutate you into a mini-Hulk) or just outright lampshading them for comedy value.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has one of these about friendship at the end of each episode, usually given in the form of a letter from Twilight Sparkle to Princess Celestia.
Averted in episodes 1 and 2 (since they're two-parters).
While most shows would treat these as throwaway morals, these actually are a plot point in "The Return of Harmony, Part 2": Celestia sends all of them back to Twilight to remind her why she should be fighting for her friends, instead of giving up, packing her bags and leaving Ponyville and Equestria to Discord's mercy. Also, the Aesop of the episode ends up being used in Twilight's Shut Up, Hannibal! speech.
The Aesop becomes a MacGuffin in "Lesson Zero", where Twlight panics because she doesn't have an Aesop of the Week to report to the Princess.
Subverted in The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000. The usual "letter to the princess" Aesop-delivery is set up... and then Applejack points out that she knew the aesop already, and didn't need to learn a thing.
Applejack: Dear Princess Celestia, I wanted to share my thoughts with you. [Clears Throat] I didn't learn anythin'! Ha! I was right all along!
Then Double Subverted, as she proceeds to explain what it was she was right about all along.
Disney Channel's Lilo & Stitch: The Series is another one of those animated kids shows that works by rote, it's usually a lesson about the power of friendship and tolerance and honesty, to the point of being cloyingly cute.
Nina's Little Fables is a new short program on PBSKids Sprout featuring fables narrated by show hosts Nina and Star. Some of them are actual Aesop's Fables.
Happened quite often in the early episodes of Recess, though they were never in-your-face about it. Then morals came from time to time later on, and season six became Anvilicious.
The Rocky and Bullwinkle segment Aesop and Son subverted not only this trope, but the fables themselves. The titular philosopher would tell a parodied version of his story, say the moral, and then Junior would chime in with a second moral, usually a pun off some element of the story.
Subverted on The Simpsons; at the end of one episode, the family debates what lesson they're meant to learn from the events of the past 22 minutes before finally concluding that it was all "just a bunch of stuff that happened".
Repeatedly and in many different ways, too. For example, after an episode about not trusting TV Homer judges Willie just because of evil background music, pronouncing "Marge my friend, I haven't learned a thing."
Or when Apu loses his job, seems to be happy again leading Marge to philosophize: "I guess happiness is wherever you find it" and the episode seems over until they hear Apu sobbing outside.
The episode where the family house sat for Mr. Burns had what probably amounts to a genuine Aesop, with Marge saying they have everything they need right there and Homer tries to agree but breaks down after doing so, trying to say that being rich isn't that important but stopping and crying that he wants to be rich "Like these guys" as the names of Brooks, Simon and Groening appear on screen.
At the end of the episode where Homer is an overly mean food critic. At the end after narrowly escaping their murder plot, he says "The important thing is I never got my comeuppance, and never will" followed by "merely" getting beaten up by all of the chefs he insulted.
South Park often features an Aesop at the end. Many times Kyle starts a speech by saying, "I've learned something today..." The morals are sometimes humorous - though as often as not - these speeches really are didactic.
One of the funnier genuine spoofs of this trope was in "Super Fun Time", in which a completely nonsensical, out-of-left-field moral wound up being preached in the end by the episode's villain.
Kenny gives one of these speeches at the end of the Big Damn Movie. Because of his parka, we'll never know what he learned.
Cartman is sometimes opposed to the lesson at hand - and seems intent on disrupting the Aesop delivery.
"Oh goddammit, Kyle! You gave him one of your gay little speeches, didn't you?"
In "Chinpokomon," Stan delivers an aesop to Kyle to stop him from bombing Pearl Harbor, saying he shouldn't conform. Kyle uses the aesop to justify going ahead with the bombing, so Stan delivers a second aesop completely contradicting his earlier speech.
Another subversion is "The Entity", where the kids try to pull their usual "I've learned something today..." Aesop speech, only for it to die out several times when they realize that, no, they actually haven't learned anything this time.
Defied Trope in Real Life in "201" when the entire Aesop, spoken by three people, was bleeped out by the network prior to airing, which may be some of the saddest irony in the history of the show.
SpongeBob SquarePants had an Aesop in many episodes in the first few seasons, all of them being important lessons to teach children such as facing the consequences of your actions, not to curse, not to take advantage of your friends, and not to touch things that aren't yours unless instructed. Later seasons tend to lack these.
Beast Boy: So, I guess it is bad to watch too much TV. Starfire: But, we were only victorious because you watches too much the television. Raven: So, I guess there really is no lesson. Cyborg: Yep, it was all completely meaningless. (Everyone laughs)
The whole point of ThunderCats. Seriously. This was during the time when cartoons where the scourge of the Earth and were corrupting kids (in the same way that Comic Books did before and Video Games are now ... oh wait!), so the producers sat down and said that every episode must have a moral, and they actually hired a child psychologist to help them write the stories.
ThunderCats (2011) continues this out of tradition, with a discernible lesson in most of its episodes.
The Tick also ended most episodes with The Tick turning to Arthur and saying "Arthur, I think we've learned a valuable lesson today," and then expounding semi-incoherently.
The Weekenders loves Aesops. The episode "Listen Up" subverts their convention two-fold by having Carver (instead of the usual Tino) deliver it, and then having him off-center on screen and fading him out, forcing Carver to cut it short.
On What It's Like Being Alone, Aesops are usually provided by one-off characters that are on the verge of death. They then die, violently.
Young Justice episodes often have Aesops about Leadership, Teamwork or Strategy including such gems as:
"Dropzone": The best strategist isn't always the best leader. Also, always have a clear chain of command.