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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.

Specific Examples / Sub Tropes

Important Note: As tempting it may be, please do not add meta-fictional examples (which are more along the lines of a Clueless Aesop). 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?"

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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Alan Spader's ads for Child Fund International (formerly Christian Children's Fund) remind us that for just a few cents a day, we can sponsor an impoverished child in a third-world country. They do this by having Alan Spader, an overweight actor with a long and successful career, plead with the viewer to call and donate the cost of a cup of coffee per day to save the very children that he is sitting with from going hungry tonight. Sally Struthers, its previous spokesmodel, enjoyed a certain degree of infamy for the same thing.
  • A commercial for Cougar Life.com 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.
  • A recent advert in Australia was a call to end marriage discrimination, done by Australian organization Getup!. However, the advert seems to be saying, "People will accept you if you're gay, but only, and ONLY if you're an Adonis-like pretty boy twink."
  • 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.
    • "Who says motion control is for kids?" You did, back when the Wii first came out.
  • 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.
  • Values.com 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 against dropping out of 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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Calvin & 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.
  • The 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 show that emphasizes on teamwork.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • 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 personals ad, thinking he'd end up with a new girlfriend. So, it's OK to take out ads in the personals because your marriage is boring, because it just might show you what you had in front of you: a great spouse who was perfectly willing to cheat on you.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the music video for "Macho Man", it depicts the macho singers working out on some weight machines—set to the lowest settings. "Macho, macho man" indeed.
  • Michael Jackson examples:
    • Moonwalker opens with the pro-peace-and-love number "Man in the Mirror", but the segment of the anthology film everyone remembers — "Smooth Criminal" — not only has an extended dance number in which Jackson beats up and shoots thugs, even firing off a machine gun at the end, but also climaxes with him in the form of a giant robot and later spaceship mowing down mooks and the leader without a care in the world.
    • 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 still, some people saw the two lines "Jew me, sue me" and "Kick me, Kike me" as anti-Semitic. While the lyrics referred to Jews being treated badly rather than Jews treating others badly, the context wasn't strong enough for them not to be interpreted as straight-up slurs (the "sue me" rhyme didn't help). To avoid further confusion, these two lines were later changed, and on later pressings of the album, they are censored.
  • 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.
  • 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 Pussy Cat Dolls' song "I Don't Need a Man" is supposed to convey the message that a girl can be happy even without a boyfriend or husband in her life. And yet... the video features them primping and posing suggestively.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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". 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.
  • 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".

    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."

    Theater 
  • 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.

    Toys 
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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 comic arguably portrays an unintentionally justified example of Fantastic Racism. 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.
  • Insecticomics pokes fun at fangirls quite often, while at the same time being a host to some of the more prominent traits.
  • Jack:
    • The story arc "Hell is That Noise" tells the story of Todd, a fox that served in the World War I and obeyed the order to kill over a hundred children, a decision he regretted. When he comes home, he learns that his wife committed suicide, and Todd ends up committing suicide as well. In Hell, he refuses to take responsibility for his actions, arguing that he just followed orders and "fate" already decided what would happen in his life. Everyone in Hell (including Satan) calls him out on this and that what happened to him was his own fault. The Story essentially wants the reader to see Todd as irresponsible for following such an order, that he should have refused and that he should accept it's all his fault, but the problem is that a good deal of the tragedies that happened to him were beyond his direct and conscious control, including the action that condemned him to Hell. Later on, it's revealed that the major that ordered Todd to shoot the children was The Devil in disguise, who pointed out that the children would likely grow up to attack the country, and that Todd is a soldier and must obey orders. Todd would still be screwed even if he had chosen to refuse the order, because the devil tricked everyone into believing that he was a general, meaning that Todd would likely be arrested and killed for treason, and other soldiers would simply follow the order in his place, not knowing that the general is an impostor. So, as a result, the story simply prove that Todd's argument that he was a pawn of forces beyond his control is correct all along. There's a reason why David Hopkins isn't found on that arc.
      • while the aesop is broken from the perspective of the living world, it does make perfect sense in auniverse where god explicitly does exist, and the afterlife is real. especially in the case of todd, since he does believe in these things. he can't use the justification that he had no choice because it relies on the existence of the supernatural, which means he knew the eternal consequences of his actions when he did them.
    • 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, of all people. His grandmother took him in after his parents were killed, directly blamed him for their deaths and used that guilt to force him to perform sex acts with her, setting him on an escalating path of sexual violence and depravity until he finally died, and became the Sin of Lust. After spending time in Hell and being raped literally thousands of times, the Devil offers him a treasured memento of his mother in exchange for a favor: the murder of two people. Drip agrees, because at this point, it hardly makes any difference... and then he realizes that the two people the Devil has just had him brutally kill were his own parents, sealing off a Stable Time Loop. And yet, the Devil closes his argument by saying that it was always Drip's choice, and it was always his own fault, just like Grandma said.
    • 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. The problem is that the system is skewed against them horribly, and the tortures in Hell are so unendingly horrific that no one, even people who do consciously try to make amends, has enough peace to self-reflect. The only people who actually manage are "special" souls who are rescued by angels or shown a bit of mercy by Jack to help them on their way, the Devil is fully allowed to screw with the laws of space, time, and physics in order to ruin a soul's chance at redemption, while God is unable to step in on anyone's behalf unless they weren't supposed to be in Hell in the first place. So, basically, all sinners must save themselves, but the process of saving oneself can only be successful if one higher power helps, and another just neglects to ruin it.
      • except the non-linear nature of time in the afterlife means that everyone has an eternity to repent, even lucy himself. it's a simple fact that given an infinity, all things that can happen, will eventually happen. so eventually, every single soul in hell will repent, leave hell and be reincarnated, and then go to heaven. god doesn't have to intervene because she is guaranteed to win in the end.
  • 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.

    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."
  • Discussed in this article from Cracked: 5 Characters Who Totally Missed the Moral of Their Own Movie.
  • 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".)
  • Parodied in Act III of Doctor 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"
  • As seen on Superdickery.com, 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.
  • Zap Dramatic's series Sir Basil Pike Public School was created to help his daughter cope with bullying. However, not only is Janina, the character thought to be an Expy of said daughter not well liked by players because of her constantly butting into other people's business and being obnoxiously smug, but if you play as a boy, then the first day has you knock down another student off his bike and steal it. Granted, it's because you thought he was stealing your bike (since you both have the exact same model,) but then you can go on to threaten him and mock his speech impediment and earn Persuasive Power for it.

    Real Life 
  • The common Be Yourself message aimed at children isn't always realistic. Being yourself can have negative consequences in some situations. In reality, unfortunately, you may have to force yourself into roles you are uncomfortable with in order to avoid punishment, social consequences, or other undesirable outcomes.
    • On a related note, this applies to schools where uniform regulations are enforced. Basically, express yourself and be who you really are... but don't modify/wear your uniform any way other than the rules dictate, don't dye your hair any shade outside of the natural spectrum (and not a shade that's too bright/dark) or paint your nails or wear make-up, don't wear jewellery or piercings other than in your ear lobes and that's it. Remember kids, be yourself! Show the true you!
      • A recursive Broken Aesop: You should "Be Yourself" by changing your natural appearance with our product!
      • Not to mention, what if the real you turns out to be an unlikeable Jerk Ass?
  • Then, of course, there's the old saw "How you look isn't important, it's what's on the inside that counts," which eventually runs into the problem that virtually nobody in the world actually behaves as though it's true.
  • In Spain, there is a place named after George Orwell. At this place, there is a shield stating this place is under surveillance.
    • More a deliberate invocation of irony, than anything else.
  • Parents telling their children to "do as I say, not as I do" when they're caught doing some vice.
    • Parents ending an argument with "because I said so".
    • Parents telling their children that they're not old enough to try out some adult vice, which, according to psychiatrist Eric Berne, tells children that smoking/drinking will make them an adult.
    • Parents telling their children that lying is bad. Always.
  • Scroll down a little on this page to find an infamous newspaper clipping featuring a heavily pregnant smoker worried about the effect that loud noises will have on her fetus...
  • That famous anti-bullying message Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me simply does not work for a vast amount of people because in practice the victims of sustained bullying find that whilst bruises and cuts heal, the mental scars tend haunt you well into adulthood and frequently cause conditions such as chronic/manic depression, acute social anxiety and suicide. Indeed this is one of the reasons why detecting bullying in teenagers is so difficult: because normally there are very few physical symptoms that can be picked up on.
  • The moral and message of not mistreating people based on their race, gender, or sexuality is too often flown over by both people who are still bigoted even today, and by hardline social justice advocates who mistreat people who are white, cis, straight, or male because they're a part of the majority. Even though society is structured to cater to the majority, hardline social justice advocates would often use this as an excuse to be a Jerkass and dehumanize others based on their race, gender, and sexuality, rather than trying to show any sense of basic human decency.

Break-Out CharacterUnexpected Reactions to This IndexBroken Base
Boomerang BigotHypocriteDouble Standard
WimpificationBad Writing IndexCaptain Obvious Aesop
AnviliciousAn AesopCaptain Obvious Aesop
Bonus Feature FailureIndex FailureBungled Suicide

alternative title(s): Broken Moral; Lafontaine Was Wrong
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