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Captain Obvious Aesop

"And the moral of the story is to never call your commanding officer a bastard to his face."
Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr (prior to her assignment to a suici- er, research mission), The Better Part of Valor

Friends, there comes a time in everyone's life when they can no longer sit quietly and say nothing. Sometimes, a man's got to take a moral stand, even though it may not be popular and even though it might get him into trouble. Today, my friends, is that day. I won't stay silent any longer.

I believe that cancer is bad.

This is a trope for when characters are treated as brave revolutionaries by the other characters in the work for stating the obvious: that Eyepatch Q. Blackheart is a bad man, that the Nazis were evil, that cancer is bad, etc. Can also apply to situations or things instead of people. The important part of the trope is the reaction of others. This isn't about the work's moral message, it's about a character being treated as brave for making statements that are completely in line with the majority opinion around him.

Obviously there's Truth in Television here. Values Dissonance can sometimes result in this, if the Aesop really was revolutionary and controversial for its time/place. Also, some Aesops are uncontroversial when spoken as a plain statement, but have an implicit, less-widely-agreed-to message, such as "We're not yet doing enough about this." For example, it's easy to say "Prejudice is bad", but programs designed to help disadvantaged minorities, like affirmative action and hate crime legislation, are polarizing political issues with no clear right or wrong answers.

This trope is Played for Laughs quite often, hence why so many of these examples are parodies, but straight examples are still fairly common.

Compare Anvilicious, And That's Terrible, Stock Aesops, and Drugs Are Bad. Contrast Family-Unfriendly Aesop and Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Most of the Guinness "Brilliant!" ads were like this:
    "Don't drink six beers at the same time? Brilliant!"

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the episode "Cruise to Hell" of Gegege No Kitaro this trope is played for laughs. Two criminals called Masakishi and Mamezo are sent to Hell without even needing to wait until they die, as a punishment for the evil lives they've led.
    Mamezo: I guess doing bad things is, um, bad.

    Comics 
  • This article mocks the Grounded Aborted Arc of Superman for this, pointing out that Superman appears to be making the statement that drug dealers and child abuse are bad and treating it as though it's some radical new idea.

    Fanfics 
  • My Little Unicorn:
    • One of the many Aesops given out by the Grand Ruler can be summed up as "There are different ways to solve problems."
    • Another one deals with how nightmares are frightening.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Equilibrium argues that even if human emotion causes problems, it's still worth it. So if you were planning on turning all of humanity into emotionless automatons, think again!
  • High School Musical tells us that being yourself is good and cliques and bullying are bad. Thanks HSM, no one's ever thought of that before. Now let's go hang out with our exclusive group of friends.
  • Revenge of the Nerds: Lewis's Stirring Speech towards the end of the film.
  • The Room: Tommy Wiseau claims the message of the film is "If a lot of people love each other, the world would be a better place to live."
  • Morgan Spurlock's experiment in Super Size Me, which demonstrates that excessive fast food isn't good for your health. Spurlock lampshades it and stresses that the point is to show just how bad it is for you, which surprises even his doctors. The film as a whole is about how fast food has become such an ingrained aspect of American culture.

    Literature 
  • Spoofed in the Tanya Huff novel The Better Part of Valor when the main character explains how she wound up with a terrible assignment and says the lesson to be learned is, "never call your commanding officer a bastard to his face."
  • Discussed by George Orwell in his essay Looking Back on the Spanish War:
    We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don't take the sword perish by smelly diseases. The fact that such a platitude is worth writing down shows what the years of rentier capitalism have done to us.
    • On the other hand, Orwell also wrote:
    To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.

    Live Action TV 
  • Lampshaded on Community at one point when Britta and Annie are staging a demonstration to raise awareness about the environmental effects of the oil spill in the gulf. Britta is angry and yelling about how horrible it is to people passing by when someone mockingly points out that she doesn't need to yell at them, nobody is on the other side of this issue.
  • It happens quite often in Doctor Who, as well. One of the more obvious examples is the 2008 episode "Planet of the Ood" which appears to have the message "Slavery is a bad thing." How many of the audience didn't already know that is unclear. An alternative one, only slightly less obvious (but in some quarters probably still necessary) might be: "Even if a people doesn't look like you, and seems more primitive than you, that gives you no right to exploit them." It seems to have been a deliberate attempt at amends for the Fridge Horror of the Doctor basically saying "okie dokie" when he discovered the Ood slaves in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit" and left them to die at the end of the episode. This is the main reason they made Planet of The Ood, to address that fact. It's even lampshaded when Donna points out how uncharacteristic it is for the Doctor to not help the Ood, the Doctor points out he was battling Satan at the time.

    There's a slightly more subtle Aesop at work as well. At one point when Donna's railing against the institutionalised slavery represented by the Ood, the Doctor points out that most of the clothes she's wearing at that very moment were manufactured in sweatshops by people living only a few steps above slavery. It suggests that although people in the west intellectually know slavery is bad and wouldn't tolerate it when they're directly exposed to it, if it's out of sight and they benefit from it they're likely to not give it much thought. Although that seems to be something of a Lost Aesop, since Donna is offended by the comment, asking the Doctor if he only travels with humans so he can take cheap shots at them, and the Doctor apologises.
  • Happens on Dr. Phil often. Usually he ends up telling people something that they should already know, like that it's not okay to cheat on your wife, or it's bad to abuse your family, or that child molestation is horrible. But the people on the show will act like he's telling them something radical that they've never considered and will be belligerent to the end.
  • Referred to in an introduction to the Father Ted scripts by Graham Linehan. Commenting on the Mistaken for Racist episode 'Are You Right There Ted?', Linehan says that it seems to be the only story that has a moral... but if it does it's only 'Don't be racist' which he sarcastically says is 'pretty strong stuff'
  • ''Horrible Histories had one involving the Trope Namer himself: Aesop is sent to distribute alms to a Greek city... unfortunately his idea of crowd control involves increasingly patronising reminders of his "moral tales". The crowd's (hilariously matter-of-fact) response: "Have you ever heard the story about the fable writer and the cliff? It's a story about a highly annoying fable writer who gets thrown off a cliff by an angry mob." "Yeah, it's a moral tale about not annoying an angry mob."
  • Joked with occasionally on Mythbusters, when they warn against an obviously dangerous act due to a lesser-known risk associated with it that they had spent the episode proving was possible:
    • "Don't leave loaded guns in exploding rooms" - The myth was about a certain make of gun reputed to fire on its own if vibrated in a certain way. The original myth was about this happening via a car stereo system, but they had to eventually set off an explosion near the gun to make it happen.
    • "Don't stand near a car fire" - Because it's possible for the fire to make the car's bumper launch off at dangerous speeds. The Mythbusters couldn't make this happen themselves, but proved it was possible by finding a firewoman who had her legs broken as a result of this happening.
  • Star Trek can be prone to this sometimes.
    • The original series had the Nazi planet episode, which involved a well-intentioned Starfleet officer converting an alien planet into a recreation of Nazi Germany because, from what he knew of history, it seemed to him like a good way to introduce order to the people. Kirk has to explain to him the Aesop of "What Hitler did was wrong. Don't do that."
      • Actually, the man was a historian, not a Starfleet officer, which makes it even worse.
      • He intended to only use the 'good' elements of Nazi Germany; unfortunately, his second in command took over to make it into a full copy of Nazi Germany and kept him as a drugged figurehead. Still bad that as a historian he couldn't see that coming.
      • Also doubles as a Broken Aesop with a touch of History Marches On, as it turned out later on that Nazi Germany was not the model of efficiency people assumed it was.

    Music 
  • Michael Jackson gets some of this from the Vocal Minority of his fanbase:
    • Joe Vogel's book-length essay Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson's Magnum Opus argues that (to quote its back cover) the 1995 number "defied the cynicism and apathy of Generation X... it demanded accountability in an era of corporate greed, globalization and environmental indifference", which was a major reason why the song and video didn't catch on in the U.S. But the "challenging" message is that... pollution, environmental destruction, the killing of wild animals (especially endangered ones), and war are bad things. Those "cynical" Generation Xers, and most everyone else in the U.S., knew that already by The Nineties, a decade rife with green Aesops. As well, Jackson never gave concrete solutions to such problems in his work, apparently thinking that these things are only done For the Evulz and/or by greedy people who could stop whenever they wanted to with no consequences.
    • "Black or White" also gets praised for saying that racism, war, and the Ku Klux Klan are bad — in 1991. Even if the infamous crotch-grabbing "panther dance" coda is interpreted as Jackson showing solidarity with groups like the Black Panthers, he was rather late to the party on that one.
  • Tom Lehrer's song "The Folk Song Army" and its introduction (see quotes page):
    We are the folk song army
    Every one of us cares
    We all hate poverty, war and injustice
    Unlike the rest of you squares

    New Media 
  • If you are on Facebook, you've seen your "friends" asking everyone to put in their status that they support things like "Don't abuse animals". Really kind of annoying.
    • What makes it worse is that they do it under the pretense of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped. Sadly, it doesn't always work that way; that can actually be a pretty hard bull's eye to hit.
    • There are also countless pictures going around with this message. The ones of a soldier or a soldier's funeral will say something like "1 LIKE = 1 PRAYER TO THE FAMILY", and the pictures of sick children (usually bald due to cancer, but for some reason children with progeria are also common) saying "Like if you think this kid is the most beautiful child ever!" It gets kind of weird because very few people would say that a soldier deserves to die or that children with terminal illnesses are ugly.
    • In short, think of them as Glurge-tastic new forms of chain letters.
    • Usually tagged with something like "LIKE and SHARE if you think kitten-burning is a terrible thing!", as if to imply that if I don't immediately hit the "like" and "share" buttons I must necessarily think kitten-burning (bullying, child abuse, name it) is a WONDERFUL thing that everyone should try.
  • The Slacktivist refers to this as the "Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition".
    ... the weird part: Most of the commenters and letter-writers didn't seem to notice that they were expressing a unanimous and noncontroversial sentiment. Their comments and letters were contentious and sort of aggressively defensive. Or maybe defensively aggressive.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Game 
  • Antichamber: The quotes you find scattered throughout are intended to be both clues and musings on the nature of life (see the game's original title). Many find them more useful as the former than the latter.
  • Though there are more profound aesops to be found in the game, one of the major ones of Tales of Symphonia basically boils down to "Racism is bad, mkay?"

    Webcomics 
  • Brought up in this strip of So... You're a Cartoonist? Andrew says he's thinking of making a comic addressing terrorism or gun control. His friend argues that criticizing something everyone already hates takes no real effort. Andrew thus decides to give himself a challenge and deliberately unleash a flame war... about Mario.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic tends to rip into movies for this. He makes a lot of fun of Pokemon: The First Movie for showing an epic battle of Pokemon beating the shit out of each other... only for the protagonists to come to the realization of "fighting is bad". In his review of The Cell, he's rather baffled at what the audience is supposed to take out of the scenes which show that the serial killer was beaten as a child, by his father. The Critic seems to find it a given that most every one already knows that child abuse is bad.

    Western Animation 
  • One "Sonic Says" segment from The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog tells kids not to climb into washing machines.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Everyone knows that dumping an oil tanker in the ocean is a bad idea, yet everyone keeps going on about it. The writers reportedly did this on purpose, since more nuanced villains might have been too close to home—i.e., companies their young viewers' parents worked for, or they might fall squarely into Strawman Has a Point if they allowed a realistic portrayal of an oil executive being upset at what his employees were doing.
  • Parodied in Donkey Kong Country. Often, when King K. Rool conjures up a plan to steal something (usually the Crystal Coconut), loveable ol' Krusha says something like "Stealing is baaaaaaad".
    K. Rool: Of course it's bad! We're bad!
  • Parodied on Family Guy when Congressmen finally realize smoking is bad.
    Congressman: Smoking is a horrible vice! It shortens life expectancy and pollutes our air. And according to recent polls, air is good!
    • And in the same episode: "Hey. We had a lot of fun today. But you know what's not funny? Killing strippers."
    • In "A Fresh Heir", Peter's rich father-in-law decides to leave all of his money to Chris, meaning Peter won't be able to get to it like he had been planning to do with Lois. Peter decides to marry Chris (Just roll with it), but decides not to at the end of the episode.
    Peter: And I guess I learned it's wrong to take your son to Vermont under false pretenses to try to marry him for his inheritance.
    Stewie: You...you should have known that.
  • Parodied in Futurama:
    Jack Johnson: It's time that someone had the courage to stand up and say: "I'm against those things that everybody hates!"
    John Jackson: I respect my opponent. He's a good man. But frankly, I agree with everything he just said!
  • Redakai's pilot had the aesop "Slavery is bad." Really, there weren't enough plot points or other threads for the moral to be anything else. The "Taunting someone for a skin-blemish" potential moral is never closed. Nope. Slavery is bad.
  • Sabrina's Secret Life has an episode where Sabrina "learns" that rumours are bad and the only way to stop them is to out them as a pack of lies. Did we mention she's fifteen and yet every character spends the episode behaving like a 6-year-old?
  • Parodied Up to Eleven on a famous episode of South Park:
    Mr. Mackey: Drugs are bad. Because doing drugs is a bad thing to do. If you do drugs, you are a bad person. So don't do drugs. Mmkay?"

An AesopChildrens Show TropesAnd Knowing Is Half the Battle
Broken BaseUnexpected Reactions to This IndexClueless Aesop
Black Hole SueYMMV/HomepageCaptain Obvious Reveal
Black Hole SueYMMVCaptain Obvious Reveal
Broken AesopBad Writing IndexClueless Aesop
Broken AesopAn AesopCentral Theme

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