Broken Aesop

"You can't have an anti-gun message when you clearly used guns to solve your problem! It just doesn't work!"

Most children are familiar with the line "Do as I say, not as I do." A Broken Aesop is this in aesop form.

Basically, a Broken Aesop is a story where a 'moral' presented just doesn't match the original moral that the story actually contained. Sometimes the resulting moral feels so tacked on that it comes across as an Anvil Ex Machina. Or just plain hypocrisy.

Common methods of breaking An Aesop include:

Not to be confused with a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, where the lesson is followed, but the Aesop itself is strange and/or non-standard, though the two can overlap. Compare Analogy Backfire, which is when an analogy (which may or may not contain an Aesop) makes a point that is the opposite of what it was supposed to. See also Values Dissonance. For intentional Broken Aesops Played for Laughs, see Spoof Aesop.

Important Note: as tempting it may be, please do not add meta-fictional examples (while they may be a Clueless Aesop, they constitute an Ad Hominem argument). Only add examples where the aesop is broken within the narrative itself. This means do not add examples such as:
  1. "How many trees got cut down to produce that anvilicious book warning us about deforestation?"
  2. "How much money did that film with the message against being greedy or about money not being everything or the anvilicious anti-capitalist message gross at the box office?"
  3. "How great looking were the actors in that work telling us that looks aren't everything or that it's what's on the inside that counts?"
  4. "Why is a television show/video game giving an aesop about how people need to watch less TV/spend less time playing video games?"
  5. "Why is this movie/TV show/song telling us about how the entertainment industry is evil?"
  6. "If this movie/TV show/song/video game is calling me a bastard for enjoying it, then what does that say about the people who are making money off of it?"
  7. "Why is this movie/TV show/video game telling me that Ludd Was Right despite being made using modern technology?"
  8. "Why are these celebrities telling me that Celebrity Is Overrated?"

Another thing to note is that an author cannot directly invoke this trope. The whole point is that it's unintentional. The only way to directly invoke this is through other characters criticizing it via Breaking the Fourth Wall or a Show Within a Show format.


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  • A commercial for shows one such cougar, walking around a bar asserting the superiority of older women over younger women. She demonstrates how much more mature and confident she is by bullying and assaulting the younger women in the bar, who are already on dates, so she can take their place. Nothing says "Confident and Mature!" like condescending to twenty-somethings about their part-time jobs and shoving them out of their chairs.
  • Dr Pepper made an ad campaign based on individuality and "I gotta be me"... but the commercials had most everyone wearing near-identical red shirts with white text. While all of the text was different, in most crowd scenes everyone looked the same. They sorta fixed this when you could buy your own customized shirt... but then they went around giving people pre-made shirts. I guess I don't gotta be me, I just gotta be my shirt.
  • Nintendo isn't immune from this either - in 1995 and early 1996, during the early years of the PlayStation, Nintendo put out commercials about their "arcade-perfect" Killer Instinct ports and closed each commercial with "So who needs a new system?" Later in 1996, when the Nintendo 64 was released, it aired commercials asking consumers to "Change the System." A lot of said consumers did.
  • A PlayStation 3 commercial for the Move tries to say that motion control gaming is not just for children. It then shows a montage of about 6-9 games set to what may or may not be Chariots of Fire, about two of which most parents wouldn't let their child play. Even worse is the fact that a 12-year-old girl is seen playing one of the less child-friendly games. There's also the fact that the Wii made most of its money because motion control was successful for family gaming, which one who is a little more cynical could say is the entire reason Sony made the Move.
  • In the 1970s there was a well-meaning anti-smoking PSA starring Yogi Bear and friends, while they had been seen smoking in their cartoons, and sold merchandise featuring smoking.
  • sponsors the "Pass It On" series of PSAs, one of which is about listening. It shows a woman silently washing the dishes while her husband is on his cell phone. He drops it into the sink and has to fish it out, scrambling to pick his call back up, only to have his wife (still silently) take it out of his hands and smugly drop it back into the sink. Instead of being pissed that his wife just drowned a hundred dollar smartphone, he smiles contentedly and realizes the error of his ways, and goes on to focus on listening to her. The moral breaks because the story is about listening, and the wife pulls this stunt while her husband was on the phone and saying nothing out loud herself. What was he supposed to be listening to, if not the person with whom he was already speaking?
  • An Australian PSA about staying in school started out with a montage of a group of high school students sneaking out of class to party on a closed-off beach, set to optimistic-sounding music... And ended with a graphic depiction of all but one of them being killed by land mines, as the camera panned out to reveal warning signs about the beach being an explosive testing site. Because the ending is Diabolus ex Machina with no direct connection to the students' decision to cut school, the message instead becomes "don't break into fenced-in beaches"... Which is a perfectly valid Aesop, just not the intended one.
    • Yeah, that was a hoax made as a joke by a local ad agency.
  • During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the anti-independence (No) campaign ran a video called The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind, which featured a woman talking to a camera in her kitchen about how this talk of independence was all very well, but did the pro-independence (Yes) campaign really know what they were talking about? Did they really know what would happen? She comes down against independence because she "just doesn't think" it will work out, but the lesson that the Yes campaign hadn't done the research and didn't know what would happen is lost, because although the No side was trying to present itself as the party of common sense, the woman doesn't have any facts to back herself up; her own doubts are entirely based on gut instinct and knee-jerk distrust of politicians. It was widely perceived as sexist and patronising for its portrayal of women as incapable of doing a Google search, and in the wake of it being shown on TV, the Yes campaign briefly overtook the No campaign in the polls.
  • Here's a Broken Aesop that doubles as a Clueless Aesop: In the early 90's, Nickelodeon ran several PSA's about the need to turn off the television and go outside. Around that exact same time, they ran a network promo depicting a kid being left alone on a baseball field, because all of his friends are in the living room watching Nick.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series: "RIP Calvin", according to Word of God, was supposed to teach that "no one is immortal." However, the cast in said episode are revived via time travel.
  • Dakari-King Mykan wrote My Little Unicorn to try and prove that you don't need friends to succeed, and that friendship isn't magic, but rather useless. However, in the vast majority of the fights in the series, it's Lighting's friends who figure out how to defeat a monster or do most of the work, with Lightning only blasting the Rainbow Rod or the Uniforce at the end as a finishing blow. The Grand Ruler even says at one point that friendship is an important part of magic, completely contradicting the fic's intention. It gets even more broken with the fact that one of the major inspirations for the story is Power Rangers, a franchise that emphasizes teamwork, even with certain seasons (and Japanese counterparts) having notorious cases of Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
  • Discussed in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fan Fic Twilight Switch. After witnessing Applejack losing a large harvest of apples, Twilight feels guilty about not being able to help and tries to figure out a spell to fix it. Applejack eventually explains that she'd lost the apples due to her own hard-headedness; if Twilight just magicked up a solution, it'd be like a 'get out of stubbornness free' card and she wouldn't have to deal with the consequences of her actions, effectively ruining a hard-learned lesson.
  • The Prayer Warriors keeps emphasizing that women are weak and should be subservient to men. However, in Battle with the Witches, it's Ebony who does most of the work in gathering the keys to bring down Dumbledore; in Threat of Satanic Commonism, it's Mary who kills "John Lennon"; and in Evil Gods Part Two, it's Ebony (again) who is able to capture the Roman God Socrates. These examples, as well as several other cases of female Prayer Warriors fighting multiple enemies at once, makes one have to wonder just how weak and useless the women are.
  • The Elfen Lied fanfic Robo Bando goes on and on about how pedophiles are complete scum and need to die yet one of the later main 'heroes' is the Pedobear.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos emphasizes with the Angels that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are bad. Really, really bad. However, compared with the Demons, they were portrayed as the more honorable and nicer faction overall. The rewrite fixes this somewhat by making the Angels far more morally gray than the original, even with some of more sympathetic Angel characters like Jesus. It also makes the Demons more gray too, to emphasize the fact that both sides are flawed and Not So Different.

  • Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend depicts an attractive popular girl stealing a mousy nerd-girl's boyfriend. The intended message is that doing this is wrong... but at no point is the stealer called out on her behavior, the boyfriend is visibly thrilled that he's getting a hotter girl, and the nerd is repeatedly humiliated and injured. Do Not Do This Cool Thing, girls!
  • BarlowGirl's She Walked Away begins with a girl leaving her home and makes it sound like she was being abused and finally had the courage to leave after a Break the Cutie moment (If there were tears she laughed, it's time to kiss the past goodbye) but then suddenly has her family singing about how God should tell her to please come home, making the song's apparent aesop "Home is where the heart is, even if you're being abused." Alternately, she was just a plain ol' runaway. The lyrics are ambiguous.
  • The Double Take song "Hot Problems" is about two girls "singing" that even though they're hot, they're still imperfect and have their fair share of struggles. At the very end, they laugh and say, "Just kidding; we're perfect!"
  • "Escape" (The Pina Colada Song) ends with the guy rekindling his romance with his wife by answering a personal ad, only to find that she was the one who had placed it. Hurrah! Consider cheating on your spouse and you too can discover that your boring spouse is actually a fascinating person... who desperately wanted to cheat on you with somebody else!
  • Parodied by the Flight of the Conchords song "Think About It", which takes a swipe at well-meaning but ultimately fatuous protest songs. The song raises moral issues but completely misses the point of them:
    They're turning kids into slaves
    Just to make cheaper sneakers
    But what's the real cost?
    'Cause the sneakers don't seem that much cheaper...
    Why're we still paying so much for sneakers when you've got them made by little slave kids?
    What is your overhead?
  • Jennifer Lopez: Jenny from the Block. She wanted to convey humility and staying true to her roots; the music video clip did the exact opposite.
  • Kat Mc Snatch has "Don't Be A Racist", Played for Laughs, which starts with Kat advising about the song title, only for her (and her rapping partner) to burst into full-blown racism.
  • The Lemon Demon song "Geeks in Love" has a fairly good (if tired-out) message by itself, that it is better to be unique and spend time with the rare person who shares your own interests than to be hip and hang with the crowd. However, its music video by Albino Black Sheep functions largely as a tribute to every other annoying Internet fad in the world, and aligning them with the interests of the eponymous couple. It's not really individualism when you swap one dull set of pop-culture icons out for another just like it.
  • Michael Jackson examples:
    • Like "Born This Way", "They Don't Care About Us" has an anti-bigotry/injustice message, even name-dropping Martin Luther King, Jr. at one point. But thanks to poor context, the lines "Jew me, sue me" and "Kick me, Kike me", which were supposed to be refer to Jews being treated badly rather than Jews treating others badly, were misinterpreted as anti-Semitic (the "sue me" rhyme didn't help Jackson's case). These two lines were changed for the single release and later pressings of the album as a result.
    • Michael Jacksons Ghosts, according to Word of God, is a story of how True Beauty Is on the Inside, and how just because a person is "different" from others doesn't make them bad. Unfortunately, the two characters Jackson plays both break the aesop. The bigoted Mayor — a fat, middle-aged white guy — is presented as an Acceptable Target throughout, with no redeeming qualities. The ostensibly good Maestro — effectively Jackson himself — magically imprisons the angry mob confronting them and tortures the helpless Mayor, proving he really was the dangerous "freaky boy" the Mayor accused him of being! Even if you ignore the Mayor and the mob of paranoid parents, the Maestro is still a necromancer who regularly summons a bunch of undead to do his bidding. That's a legitimate concern for an otherwise normal suburban neighborhood.
    • The music video of Bad has Michael being bullied by gang members for being a pussy because he refused to "rob" people and doesn't hang down with them a lot. Michael confronts them by - suddenly appearing in a leather outfit and doing an impressive sing-and-dance routine where he boasts about how "bad" he is. In the end the others who doubted him do respect him. So... what was the message exactly? Give in to peer pressure? It's good to be "bad", because you would rather be called that than being called a coward? Being "bad" equals being a good singer and dancer? It seems that Michael was Comically Missing the Point the gang member was trying to make.
    • Black or White, Michael's famous plea for racial tolerance: "It don't matter if you're black or white" falls quite flat considering the fact that ... well... his own skin color changed so drastically over the years. Even if you believe his claim that is due to the skin disease vitiligo there is still the fact that he only made this reveal in 1993, two years after the release of this music video. As a result most people in the world at the time, who didn't know about him supposedly having this condition, found this message a tad hypocritical. And then there is of course Michael's infamous "panther dance" near the end of the video, where Michael smashes up a car and windows and then transforms into a black panther. It confused a lot of people, especially because the violence is such a contrast with the rest of the video. And the black panther also brings up associations with the Afro-American Black Panther movement, whose members weren't always that peaceful or tolerant to non-blacks either. In later broadcasts the panther dance was cut from the video, which makes it work a whole lot better on its own. When it was finally reinstated racist messages were digitally added to the things Michael smashes in the video, giving it a more understandable context.
  • Notorious B.I.G and Puff Daddy's video for Mo' Money, Mo' Problems stars Puff as a golf champion who laments over his recent acquisition of wealth in lieu with the song's title. For some reason, that doesn't seem to stop him from rapping for about three minutes about how awesome it is to be rich.
  • Oingo Boingo's song "Capitalism": "There's nothing wrong with capitalism / There's nothing wrong with free enterprise / You're just a middle-class socialist brat / From a suburban family, and you never really had to work." Then, there is something wrong with capitalism, because it turns people into "middle-class socialist brats."
    • That's kind of a simplification (and a cherry-picked quoting of the song). After the "free enterprise" line it goes "There's nothing wrong with wanting to live nice/ I'm so tired of hearing you whine." The song is a Take That at college students who spout prepackaged socialism and talk about getting back to "the workers" when they've never done menial labors. Basically, limousine liberals.
    • Danny Elfman himself reflected on this: "I'm not a doomist. My attitude is always to be critical of what's around you, but not ever to forget how lucky we are. I've traveled around the world. I left thinking I was a revolutionary. I came back real right-wing patriotic. Since then, I've kind of mellowed in between."
  • The music video for Pink's "Stupid Girls" contradicts the song's message by associating stupidity with make-up, fashion and anything pink, and implying that playing football makes you smarter and a better person while playing with dolls makes you stupid.
  • The chorus of City High's "What Would You Do?" is about a stripper and a young man attending the party she's working. He takes her aside and asks why she's dancing for money, and she tells him that the circumstances of her life (being a victim of childhood incest from her father, running away from home to escape him, being a single parent with her child's father addicted to drugs and in prison) have put her in a difficult position, but she still needs to provide for her young son. The chorus basically lays it out: sex work is work, and just because it isn't the most well-respected job, it doesn't mean that a sex worker isn't doing it for the same reasons everyone else works their job: to make ends meet. This is then completely obliterated by the second and third verses, where the narrator outright shames her for it, saying that his mother was a single parent, so Lonnie should be able to clean up her act if she just stops "making excuses" to party every night.
  • The Music Video Show sums it up in Chamillionaire's Grown and Sexy video.
  • Taylor Swift's "Mean" falls victim of this: First she states that she won't let the "mean" girl who insults and bullies her draw her into a Cycle of Revenge... and then she spends the rest of the song mocking her for how "pathetic" and "alone in life" she is and how she'll never been anything other than "mean."
  • Fuck Tha Police by NWA sees the rappers rapping a story about how they feel they are being unfairly racially profiled by police because they are young, black and from the ghetto, and they rap about how they want these stereotypes and racial profiling about young black men to stop. The solution they offer in the song? To go around shooting dead all police officers who oppose them. Precisely how murdering police officers in cold blood is going to help their case against people racially profiling them is never explained, leading to a strange example of this trope.
    • Ridin' by Chamillionaire (ft. Krayzie Bone) also has a similar message about being racially profiled, but then makes the same mistake in the second verse, bragging about smoking weed and driving drunk, making it look like the cops are actually justified in wanting to catch them "ridin' dirty".
  • "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor promotes the Aesop that you are beautiful and your body is fine the way it is, but then refers to "skinny bitches", which naturally generated a lot of criticism for undermining its message and stereotyping women based on their weight. This generally ignores the second half of the verse, which acknowledges that thin women can also be insecure about their bodies and that they are perfect from the bottom to the top too. Some other lines also imply that beauty is based on others' opinions.

    Myth And Legends / Folklore 
  • "Beauty and the Beast" in its various tellings usually ends up having a Broken Aesop (especially in modern versions) that is naturally an inversion of the complaint about Shrek. It's believed that the story was originally told to girls who were in arranged marriages to men they didn't care for, so Values Dissonance may be involved.
    • The story is supposedly saying that Beauty comes to see beyond the Beast's appearance and accept him for who he is... except that they're only able to live Happily Ever After when the curse is broken and he reverts to a perfect Handsome Prince (and thus comes off as "only beautiful people can love each other" instead... though this sort of neglects the fact that the transformation is the Beast's reward, not Belle's). Depending on how violent the Beast's personality is portrayed as being in the particular adaptation, it can also contain the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that it's okay to endure an abusive relationship, he'll change. The story in itself is hard to tell well, and thus often subverted. Some versions of the tale avert this problem by having him remain in beast form at the end, but finding true happiness anyway. Kinda like Shrek, except the prince usually doesn't actually choose to remain in beast form, he and Belle simply learn to accept it, or it's shown that Belle still loves him and thinks he's beautiful even though the spell failed to be broken. So, the "Beauty and the Beast" myth is applicable to the contemporary refinement of the modern counter-traditional you can't change the bastard message, to your love cannot change him, it can only be supportive of him while he creates his own change, assuming he desires and is willing to work for it.
    • Needless to say, the Broken Aesop-ness and possible Unfortunate Implications of this tale in all versions have been heavily debated and still continues to be. At least one source argues that the original fairy tale is actually the one with greater Unfortunate Implications because it implies that the true monster is not the Beast himself but the Beauty who, despite her goodness, cannot see him for the kind man he is and does seem to imply that the Beast turning into a handsome prince as soon as she agrees to marry him is more her reward than his as the Beast was kind to her from the beginning and it was she who needed to change - and that the Disney film inverts this, perhaps a little too much, by making the Beauty closer to Earth and the Beast the one who needs to change to be worthy of her.
    • There's also the broken aesop that comes from the fact that in a story that is supposed to be about not judging people by their appearances, the most notable aspect of the heroine is her beauty. It can make the story seem a bit less about looking beyond appearances and more beautiful women should be willing to settle for ugly men. Some variants avoid this by making Beauty's name at least partially ironic, but usually she is presented as the epitome of both physical and inner beauty, while her less attractive sisters are just as ugly on the inside. Not to mention how many variants explicitly state that the Prince is not just handsome but the handsomest man Beauty has ever seen or even the handsomest one in the world, which can lead to Unfortunate Implications about how it's apparently not enough for the Beast to become human again because he has to be gorgeous beyond belief to be a proper husband/reward for Beauty.
    • Christian novelist Karen Kingsbury's Unlocked inadvertently showed up some of the problems with this story by using it as a metaphor for autism. The novel has a beautiful, popular high school senior named Ella (re)befriending a boy, Holden, who has Hollywood Autism and is completely noncommunicative — a situation triggered when he wants to sit in on rehearsals for a School Play of the Disney adaptation of this story as he's drawn to the music. She's playing Belle, and Holden is a metaphorical Beast figure in that he's "cursed" with autism. The whole story is about how music, friendship, and God "break" this "curse" and get him out of his shell, suggesting that autistic people cannot be appreciated for their inner qualities and have fulfilling lives unless others help them become more "normal". If the intended Aesop were being followed, the other characters would be happy with him as he is — after all, it isn't something that he can help or brought upon himself — if still helping him to have a more-rounded out life. As well, he's as physically attractive as Ella, and while the author tries to couch this as a reflection of his inner beauty, it again suggests that the hero has to be incredibly handsome to be worthy of the beautiful heroine... and especially if he's disabled.
  • The original story of The Bluebeard by Charles Perault seemed to be going for an Aesop of if you get too curious you may not like what you find. Here's the problem: Bluebeard's wife may not have liked what she found, but it still probably saved her life in the end, if what she found is any guide. If she hadn't looked in the forbidden room, she probably would have wound up getting on his bad side when her sister and brothers hadn't been around. The true moral should be please be curious.
    • Or, "Be curious and not clumsy."
  • The fairy tale of Donkey Skin. It's not enough that the prince loves the beautiful mystery girl who is found hiding as a scullery maid; she has to be outed as a runaway princess before the marriage is acceptable. Even though her hard work, intelligence, and bravery note  show her to be an amazing young woman.
  • The boy who cried wolf. Although the Aesop is "Don't lie," the true meaning of the story was "don't tell the same lie twice" because that was what caused the trouble, not lying in and of itself. Amazingly parodied here.
    • Garak of Deep Space Nine managed to find this meaning to the story.
    • It should be noted that Aesop never actually said what the morals of his story were, instead leaving it up to the reader to decide, so "don't lie" might not be the actual moral. Such morals as "If you get a reputation for lying, nobody will believe you even when you're telling the truth" or "don't play games on other people's serious fears, or they won't take you seriously even when you need them to" would be completely unbroken Aesops.
      • And on the other side, "Don't rely on a faulty security system" seeing as the villagers acknowledge that the boy can't be trusted but keep him in charge of the sheep anyway and lose them all to the wolf because they never put someone trustworthy in his place. Like having a fire alarm that goes off on its own occasionally and not acknowledging that you have nothing reliable to inform you of a real fire.
      • The alternative moral of the story was described in an episode of U.S. Acres, that "Sometimes Liars tell the Truth."
  • There are countless legends (as well as other types of works) that feature the story of a young princess who is in love with a commoner but cannot marry him because he is not of noble blood. Different stories end differently, but in the majority of cases, this "commoner" will be revealed to have noble blood by the end of the story. The often spontaneous discovery that the commoner is a prince will suddenly lift all boundaries, put a satisfied smile on the king's previously-angry face, and be followed by the sound of wedding bells. In other words, while the intended Aesop is usually that "true love conquers all", it is in fact social status that conquers all, and must be properly matched before true love can do its magic. Now, this may have been fine in the days when most societies on Earth had a strict class structure - even commoners held the misconception that the nobles were somehow innately more elevated than they were, and thus should look after their bloodlines. In today's world however, these stories continue to be told just the same, despite Unfortunate Implications that true love only works when social stature is compatible. In fact, it's not uncommon for new works to be written based on the old ones without the writer even realizing how misguided this is.
  • One of Aesop's fables, The Satyr and the Peasant, is about a satyr who meets a poor traveler lost in the woods, and invites him to his home. He notices the peasant first blowing on his hands to warm them, then blowing on a bowl of soup to cool it off. The Satyr immediately kicks his guest out, declaring that "a man who blows hot and cold in the same breath can't be trusted", metaphorically meaning that someone who frequently changes his mind to avoid committing to a conclusion or to align himself with both sides of a conflict. The problem is, obviously, that the man isn't blowing hot and cold in the same breath, his breath is the same temperature every time! It's just that his breath is warmer than his cold hands and cooler than his hot soup, meaning he was actually being consistently moderate.
  • Another Aesop's fables, The Tortoise and the Hare, is usually quoted with the moral of "slow and steady wins the race". Except, that's not what happened. The Hare only lost the race because he got overconfident and took a nap during the race. The real moral could have been "don't underestimate your opponent and get cocky." From the point of view of the tortoise, it's more that "slow and steady wins the race if your opponent is fast but unsteady enough in his progress that you can catch up".
  • Aesop's tale of Boreas and Helios is often used to prommote the moral that gentleness wins over harshness. Except it doesn't work, because the reasons for Helios' victory and Boreas' loss are inherent to the characters. No matter how gentle wind would blow, you'd still cling on to your cloak, while you wouldn't really have any choice but to take it off if the sun suddenly flared.
  • Another fable, "The Cock and the Jewel", is the very short tale of a rooster who goes scratching in the yard to find himself and his hens some food, and turns up a gemstone that someone lost from a piece of jewelry. He says that if its owner had found it, the owner would take it and put it back in its setting because it's obviously a very precious stone, but since he's a rooster and has no use for them, he'd rather have a single piece of corn than all the jewels in the world. The moral is "be content with your own lot", but the rooster clearly understands that a jewel has material worth to others and he can talk. The jewel could have bought him plenty of corn and nothing about his situation would have changed, except he would have succeeded in providing for his family.
  • "The Wolf and the Dog" has a wolf, near-dead with hunger, meet a dog. The dog says that if the wolf had steady work and steady food like dogs do, he'd be much better off, and the wolf quite agrees, but he's a wolf so no one will take him in. The dog assures him that he can get him a job on his farm, and the wolf accepts. But then he notices the dog's collar and asks what it is. The dog responds that it's a thing his master puts on his neck so that he can be chained up at night, and the wolf immediately rejects the idea and goes back to starving in the wild. The moral is supposed to be "It's better to be free and starving than enslaved and fat", but a few factors in the story challenge this: the wolf is on the verge of starving to death, meaning that his pride is about to get him killed, the dog is quite happy with his life of steady work and steady pay; and the dog clearly has enough freedom to be out in the wilderness and hanging out with wolves and enough authority on the farm to offer jobs. Maybe starving is better than being enslaved, but the way the story plays out, the wolf isn't rejecting slavery, he's just rejecting a good, stable job because he doesn't want to wear the uniform.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes points out a common use of this in Christmas Specials:
    Dad: Watching a Christmas special?
    Calvin: Yep.
    Dad: Another show extolling love and peace interrupted every seven minutes by commercials extolling greed and waste. I hate to think what you're learning from this.
  • The Dick Tracy "Crimestopper's Guide" feature that runs with the Sunday strip provides a number of generally helpful crime prevention tips. However, they often are, if not broken, then at least hypocritical in the face of the main action: It reminds that "you cannot spot a criminal by their facial features", while the strip is best known for its grotesquely ugly villains. It also has exhortations for people to "get involved" when they see a crime committed, while in the strip helpful bystanders tend to quickly end up dead. And so on.
  • E.C. Segar's Thimble Theater, where Popeye first appeared, sometimes had an And Knowing Is Half the Battle segment in which Popeye would teach morals. In one of them Popeye seriously teaches kids not to be lazy with their language and mispronounce words ("sumpin' for "something", for instance). I would desperately like to believe that to be tongue-in-cheek, but if memory serves then none of the others were...

    Professional Wresting 

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In his stand-up, Ricky Gervais identifies the Broken Aesop inherent in a version of the children's folk tale 'The Lazy Mouse and the Industrious Mouse' that he was told by his headmaster, at a school assembly. In the story, the Industrious Mouse labours long and hard to prepare himself for winter, whilst the Lazy Mouse bunks off and has fun. When winter comes, the Lazy Mouse has nothing, so goes to avail himself of the charity of the Industrious Mouse — who, after beginning a lecture about how the Lazy Mouse should have done his own preparing, suddenly turns around and invites him in to share. Gervais notes with exasperation that the moral is mangled from being "work hard and be prepared for the future" into becoming, in his words, "fuck around, do whatever you want and then scrounge off a do-gooder". He also notes that most of the pupils at that assembly took the latter aesop and "kept it up" for the entirety of their academic careers. He also points out that, thanks to the Rule of Three, the moral of the tale of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is not "never tell a lie", but rather "never tell the same lie twice." And rounds it off by inferring that the moral of "Humpty Dumpty" must be "don't climb walls if you're an egg".

  • The Gingerbread House in the Forest has Johann chastising Gretel for assuming Nada is a witch just because she is ugly. Nada is a witch.
  • Molière often has stories involving young people in love, wanting to marry despite being rich/poor, or noble/commoner, and most time at least one has his parents planning an Arranged Marriage for him. Stories always end with the poor revealed to be actually rich, the commoner a noble. In Les Fourberies de Scapin, he also makes 2 pairs of people revealed to be actually brother and sister. Remember Molière was playing for the king, so the twist endings can be interpreted as a means of Getting Crap Past the Radar: the whole story is about refusing the parental Arranged Marriage, last five minutes have the parents agree with the true love marriage.
  • RENT:
    • We are told we should all live our lives to the full because we could die tomorrow, and there is no day like today. But if you do happen to die, you can come back to life through The Power of Rock.
    • The concept of there being "no day but today," which is sung about a lot, is subverted in the second act through the use of passage of time: the first act, in which the mantra occurs extremely frequently, takes place in one day while the second takes place over the course of a year (in which the mantra is shown to be faulty at best).
    • RENT also likes to complain about how hard it is to be an artist, but any kind of artistic job working for someone else would be selling out. One wonders what would happen if Roger actually starts selling CDs. Or, indeed, if Rent itself becoming so extremely lucrative means we shouldn't listen to it as it sells itself out...
    • For people who spend the whole time talking about love and loving life, the circle of friends seems to have a lot of cheating, poor communication, and emotional sniping at each other - no one is enjoying themselves very much, or following Angel's lauded example. And, for that matter, Collins, who spends his time loving Angel and loving life with Angel ends up pretty much broken because of Angel's death.
  • Starlight Express:
    • According to the finale, electricity and diesel fuel will eventually run out, but somehow steam power is sustainable. What exactly are we burning to get this magical steam? Also (presumably) coal burning steam engines are better than environmentally friendly options like solar and nuclear power. This last one may be because it was written in the 1980s.
    • In the closing number "Light At The End Of The Tunnel," the characters do briefly consider solar and nuclear energy, but then dismiss them because 1) How is one supposed to make use of solar power at night? and 2) People would get poisoned by nuclear fallout. Oversimplifications, to be sure - but, then, this is a children's story.
    • Richard Stilgoe, the show's lyricist, knew full well that steam engines polluted the environment; he claimed that it was far easier for audiences to sympathize with a steam locomotive than a diesel or electric one, since steamers had more of a historical precedent. But the finale, according to him, is meant to symbolize the triumph of "old-fashioned craftsmanship" over new technology. Take a moment to consider why a steam locomotive is not a suitable representative of "old-fashioned craftsmanship."
  • Wicked:
    • Wicked's primary aesop 'what makes one wicked' ends up mildly broken due to the Lighter and Softer adaptation. For all of Elphaba's problems, in the musical, she is never truly wicked, so the musings seem kind of pointless. Also, the (admittedly depressing) aesop of 'No good deed going unpunished' is broken by Elphaba getting a happy ending in contrast to the extreme Downer Ending of the book.
  • We Will Rock You depicts a future where people have become mindless consumers who all consume the same band fashions, music and lifestyles. Our heroes are the Bohemians, underground rebels who see oppose the mainstream and wish to reclaim the old ways. At the end of the show our heroes realize that in order to defeat the villains they have to perform an awesome song, mainly Queen's "We Will Rock You". They decide to also broadcast the performance so that the whole world will see and then become Bohemians too. Huh. So mindlessly following trends was bad when it was pop music and bright colors but it's okay when the stuff you like is what is being consumed. Nice.

  • BIONICLE's Vakama was ridiculed by his fellow heroes-in-the-making for his weird dreams and visions. He always misinterpreted them, seemingly leading his friends into danger, which lead to him going emo over his situation, calling himself a "cross-wired freak". Yet in a Tear Jerker scene, his former hero, the wise Turaga Lhikan persuaded him to have more confidence, both in himself and his visions, and after he followed his feelings, he ended up saving his people. The aesop was somewhat broken when he became so reckless that he almost undid all the good his team had done so far, and then some. However, when the story began following a Doing In the Wizard-path, trying to squeeze in as many "all your beliefs will be turned upside-down" plot-twists as possible, it became permanently broken, since we learned that these visions were nothing more than glitches in his artificial intelligence, and he really was a cross-wired freak, who "lucked out".
    • Also the moral introduced in the first '06 novel: "You don't have to be a Toa to be a hero", meaning that even a small and powerless Matoran is able to do great deeds. There are two "set" of Matoran characters who independently make this their mantra. Come the next novel, and what happens? One team is zapped into Toa, because only with their new special powers could they stop that year's villains. The others are meanwhile dumped into the trash by said villains. However, the storylines of earlier years did manage to make this message clear.
  • Glasnost The Game is a Risk clone that requires you to disarm all your territories to win the game in an anti-war aesop. Of course, you need to first build arms so you can conquer territories.
  • The Crash Test Dummies were part of a series of public service announcements to teach kids about seat belt safety and the importance of buckling up. This was popular enough to get a line of toy vehicles and dummy figures where the entire point was crashing the cars and watching the dolls fly out of the wreckage, and the villain wanted to...stop them from crashing so much, because horrific traffic accidents are just the best thing ever. So buckle up, kids! Then drive into a wall and scatter car parts all over the highway! Safety first!

  • The Achewood story arc where Philippe finally gets to live with his mom again ends with the moral that nothing lasts forever and everyone has to grow up sometime. But as readers have emphatically stated, Philippe will always be five!
  • In Ctrl+Alt+Del, the comic makes it clear it's wrong to be a "console fanboy," in one strip even having God personally squash one. Fine. We'll buy that; a bit Anvilicious, but an adequate Aesop of its own. However, there are issues with this, since the fanboys are always gamecube fans, the evil Gamer King in an early strip used a staff with a golden Gamecube controller on top (versus Ethan's Xbox one), Ethan playing a Gamecube is referred to as a "sin against the gaming gods"; he mentions that turning the Gamecube into a robot would result into a girl robot, and doing the same to a Playstation would produce a gay one while the Xbox appears to be perfect and sinless.
  • Homestuck: The trolls have different-coloured blood ranked on a spectrum; the closer your blood is to purple, the more power you have in society, while the closer it is to red, the less authority you hold, the rationale being that highbloods are superior due to the fact they're viewed as stronger. The author stated that he made the opposite ends of the spectrum so close to show how meaningless the whole thing was, and true to form, the audience is clearly intended to view the practice as wrong and side with the trolls opposed to it... except trolls do not differ only in blood colour; it is shown that highbloods are actually stronger, more psychically resilent, and longer-lived, albeit more violent (which the trolls would probably consider a good thing anyway) but compensate by having less powerful psychic abilities than lowbloods. The metaphor for racism fails because blood color actually does matter in several ways.

    The aesop is broken again when another alien race is introduced that has its blood color as an indicator of their alignment. Green-blooded members of that species are benevolent and red-blooded members are malevolent, and from the four examples of them givenSpoilers  none of them challenge this at all. They do not have a caste system based on blood color, but their blood color still does matter more so than trolls since it either gives or indicates whether they're "good" or "evil."
  • Insecticomics pokes fun at fangirls quite often, while at the same time being a host to some of the more prominent traits.
  • Jack:
    • Hell Is That Noise is the story of Todd, a soldier who obeys an order to kill children, commits suicide, and ends up in Hell. He argues that he had no choice and Fate had already decided what would happen in his life. The story and everyone in it judges Todd for refusing to take responsibility for his actions, but that order came from Satan disguised as a general, meaning that Todd was a Cosmic Plaything after all.
    • The non-linear nature of time in Hell tends to screw around wildly with the concept of free will and personal choice; the Devil often resorts to directly manipulating the circumstances of the past and future in order to compel his victims to act, and then blame them for it all. This is most notable with Drip: It's his own fault that his parents are dead because the Devil has him in a Stable Time Loop: he's sent to live with his grandmother after his parents die, his grandmother abuses him until he becomes a violent rapist, and when he dies, the Devil trades him a memento of his dead mother for a favor: the murder of his own parents.
    • This has the added bonus of making the angels complicit in pretty much everything Drip does, since they only refrain from saving any of his victims because "it has to be his choice". Central is later shown to have murdered Bob and Lisa specifically to prevent them from turning away from their life of sin, meaning that actually, choice doesn't matter at all. The correct course of action is the one that generates the most rape scenes.
    • The general lesson being taught to all those sent to Hell is to realize their own sin and allow them to atone for it, and that Hell exists to force them to confront their misdeeds in life, but they're too busy being tortured to contemplate the philosophical implications of the torture itself. Even the ones who do realize their sin and repent never make it out of Hell, and it's impossible for them to successfully do that unless agents of Heaven intercede on their behalf and the agents of Hell don't prevent it.
  • A Princess Pi comic had Princess Pi learn to believe in herself and not let bullies' insults bring her down. The Aesop breaks when she starts believing her most mediocre attempts at fulfillng her royal duties suffice, and doesn't let her subjects' complaints bring her down until they tar and feather her.
  • Sabrina Online had a series of strips in December 2010 which were a reference to the sequence in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where the two heroes go on the road and beat up everyone who ever criticized them on the Internet. It works in the film because it's entirely in-character. In the comic, however, it's a series of Take Thats against the strip's critics. One notable strip involves Zig Zag, the viewpoint character for this sequence, beating up a guy who said mean things about her because he thinks he can say anything on the Internet without consequences. This isn't exactly true, but that's not the Broken Aesop. What's broken is the fact that Zig is the owner and star of her own porno company. You know, the industry that has historically relied on First Amendment rights to stay in business? And the "consequences" bit doesn't work either, because legally, Zig Zag committed real-world, premeditated, first-degree assault against a guy who knows her name, her face, and could easily press charges. The implication in the comic is that she'll suffer no repercussions at all.
    • When Sabrina brings this up later, Zig Zag admits that it cost her a small fortune to settle all the legal issues. (But it was "worth it.")
      • Although the incident does get mentioned during her trial for assaulting Sabrina's mugger.
      • And we eventually learn that Zig was convicted and paid a fine.
  • Shortpacked! constantly complains about fandoms (particularly the Transformers fandom), as do author David Willis' newsposts. Willis is not only a prominent part of said fandom, but also embodies many of the issues he complains about. This is often Played for Laughs.
  • Sonichu is ripe for the picking of Broken Aesops. One of the most well known is when Sonichu and Rosechu preach forgiveness... shortly before Rosechu viciously maims Jason Kendric Howell.
  • The Wotch: Cheer. The main character does not want to undo his/her and his/her friends' Gender Bender because he/she feels they now have no reason for being dicks. Apart from the fact that they had none before either, her speaking about how they became good people after that is disturbing because a) it has a Ginormous Unfortunate Implication (Man= Jerk, Woman = Good) b) he/she is making his/her decision for his/her friends too, who don't remember who they were before and thus can't properly decide. In The Wotch, it was suggested that the other friends had some recollection of their actions as boys and were very ashamed of it, to the point at which they described the "bullies" (their former selves) as "jerks of the lowest caliber". That was probably an Author's Saving Throw though, and still has the initial Unfortunate Implications.
    • This is actually remarkably common in Gender Bender fiction; guy is a dick to a woman, and is turned into a woman as "punishment" or to "learn how women feel". For some reason, they tend to end up staying as a woman forever. It's rarely explained how the new woman is supposed to survive with no prior records, no money, and thus no legal existence, nor are the psychological issues examined, though this story takes a run at it.
    • The spinoff comic Cheer does show some negative consequences of the choice, when the same girl breaks down crying because no one will remember any of the good things she and her friends accomplished as boys.
  • Questionable Content discusses this in the context of Clinton's prosthetic hand.
    Marten: Modern cybernetics is really sending mixed messages to kids. "Don't play with fireworks, or you'll end up with sweet robot body parts."

    Web Original 
  • Coming from The Angry Video Game Nerd, a character who is synonymous with Rolling Rock Beer, this line paraphrased from American Movie is actually pretty darned funny:
    "... but I guess it's better than using drugs or alcohol, because with drugs and alcohol, especially drugs, you always lose, lose, lose."
  • Because of a Creator Breakdown and Real Life Writes the Plot, "The Review Must Go On" had Doug's past consume what was meant to be his Magnum Opus, the direct opposite of what Demo Reel's Earn Your Happy Ending episode said. ("Don't let your past consume you and be happy for the future".) This seems to be intentional, and the commentary for it says that it's not supposed to be a happy ending.
    • The Nostalgia Critic's reviews of Patch Adams and Pearl Harbor said it was wrong to poorly represent Real Life people. However, in the latter's case, he had a subplot in his review depicting the supposed production of the film and Michael Bay's career, where he depicts it as inaccurately as possible, pretty much the exact thing he complained about the movies doing. While it was intended as a parody, it's kinda weird he'd make such a big deal about it while doing the exact same thing.
    • Doug Walker once made a plea in an editorial, "Is Parody Dead?", that parodies should not just be references and that they all need to be a clear understanding of what you are spoofing. A good message, yet in most of his own videos, including Nostalgia Critic, Demo Reel and his anniversary specials, he makes countless random pop culture references and spoofs that often don't even tie in with the plot of that episode. He and his actors often just dress up as well known franchise characters for the sake of the reference.
  • Parodied in Act III of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. While Designated Hero Captain Hammer is notionally singing a rousing, inspirational anthem to the homeless in "Everyone's A Hero", every verse manages, through either Metaphorgotten or just plain dickishness, to insult its audience and demonstrate how Hammer thinks of himself as superior.
    "It may not feel too classy / Begging just to eat / But you know who does that? Lassie / And she always gets a treat"
    "Everyone's a hero in their own way / You and you and mostly me and you"
  • In 20 Socially Unacceptable Things by Matt Santoro, Matt says that it's bad to pick your nose and flick the booger onto the carpet. At the end, he does this.
  • As seen on, in this PSA "The Kool-Aid man tells kids to buckle up, and then proceeds to walk right into the path of a moving car." And here's another one, about the War On Drugs:
    Captain America: Remember, kids! Stay away from drugs, and you can grow up to be a superhero just like me!
    Kids: But Cap, didn't you get your powers from drugs?
  • Whateley Academy stories regularly break their aesops. Characters that were created to explore gender issues in a superhero setting end up enforcing gender stereotypes on other characters. Gunny Sergeant Bardue, a strict gun safety nut, decides that the best way to ensure the safety of one of his students, "Loophole", is to fling a car at her head and then just hope that he manifests a mutation that can save her life.

  • The foundation One Drop has a traveling exposition promoting their water preservation message...while making use of large quantity of water effects. Unsurprising, as the foundation's founder is the millionaire ex-president of Cirque du Soleil, who once used his cause as a excuse for a little cruise in orbital space. Poachers don't always make the best park rangers.

Alternative Title(s):

Broken Moral, Lafontaine Was Wrong