Do Not Do This Cool Thing
Just look at these losers. note
Futurama, the show that does not advocate the cool crime of robbery!"
, "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV"
You want to have An Aesop
about something that we should avoid at all costs
. Trouble is, just by showing or describing it in lavish detail, you end up undermining your message by showing just how damn appealing it is
and cause the audience to get the wrong idea
This trope is especially easy to fall into when a piece of media aims for a realistic portrayal of why people get lured into things like smoking, doing drugs, fighting awesome action sequences, etc., thereby identifying to the audience what others see in it, possibly causing them to view it in a light they hadn't previously seen it in. Conversely to this trope, if you gloss over the very real appeal, you end up with a bad habit that it seems no rational person would ever pick up (akin to an ad reading "Stop Punching Kittens"). The trick is finding the balance between getting the audience to understand the appeal and understanding why these things are bad. If the negative aspects don't come across as outweighing the appeal, this trope comes into effect. This makes the vice into Forbidden Fruit
and therefore much more appealing when the audience is told not to do it.
If a work attempts to play down the attractive aspects and stick to the unappealing ones, the work itself may become unappealing as a result, which again undermines the goal of spreading its message. The trope was formerly called "Truffaut was right", named for French director François Truffaut who noted that you simply cannot make a truly anti-war movie.
This can be caused by, and often leads to, a Misaimed Fandom
. Can also lead to No Such Thing as Bad Publicity
, Rooting for the Empire
, Sympathy for the Devil
, Springtime for Hitler
, Strawman Has a Point
, or Unfortunate Implications
. But Not Too Evil
is often invoked to prevent this trope. You Bastard
is another option, whereby the creators let you enjoy the Cool Thing that's being Done, then try to make you feel bad by showing the horrific consequences. Sometimes a Spoof Aesop
may attempt to show this trope in-universe.
A sub-trope of Broken Aesop
. Sometimes the result of an Accidental Aesop
or an Alternate Aesop Interpretation
or Poe's Law
. Can overlap with Clueless Aesop
or Family-Unfriendly Aesop
Compare & contrast Stealth Cigarette Commercial
for when this is done intentionally. Also compare Do Not Attempt
and Don't Try This at Home
See also Evil Is Cool
, Evil Is Sexy
, Forbidden Fruit
, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
, and Television Is Trying to Kill Us
open/close all folders
- Anti-drug ads tend to fall victim to this, especially the ones aimed at kids and teens. In general they have the same problem as Stealth Cigarette Commercials. That is, the ads are considered so stupid and lame and insulting to one's intelligence, that people who watch them will want go use drugs simply out of spite. This is far from their only problem, however.
- Some ads try to send the message of "Drugs aren't cool" or "Not doing drugs is totally cool". Except some of them do this by showing a person who does think drugs are cool, and the ad intentionally goes to great lengths to give them the traits typically associated with being cool, which usually makes the drug user look a lot cooler than the other person in the ad who chooses not to use drugs.
- Ads like this one that show embarrassing things happening to people who get too drunk or too stoned at parties. Hindered by the problem that telling your friends all the crazy antics you did while drunk or stoned makes you look so cool.
- There are ads that show the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs. While these ones are more honest and may actually discourage people from doing so, the message that viewers get from this is "Just stay home and use drugs" or "If you're going to get high, be sure to take a cab or have a designated driver." Which, to be fair is also a pretty good message, just a very different one from the one that they wanted to convey.
- The UK government attempted to steer kids off drugs in The Eighties with a series of TV advertisements featuring emaciated youths in dingy surroundings. The kids in question are reputed to have thought they looked really cool. It doesn't help this was during the second wave of Goth pop music! If only they had known "heroin chic" was an existing underground fashion trend waiting to break into the mainstream.
- Ads that show an accident happening because someone was using drugs, such as one where a kid picks up a gun and accidentally shoots his friend while high, or one where a little girl is shown getting into a pool unsupervised and a narration says, "Don't feel bad. Just tell her parents you weren't watching her because you were getting stoned. They'll understand." The only message that viewers get from this is "Make sure you're more careful than these people while using drugs".
- An ad from the early 2000's depicts two kids in the bathroom at a concert getting high before a cop comes in and busts them. A caption appears on the screen saying "Marijuana can get you busted. Harmless?" It's telling viewers that the reason marijuana is bad is simply because it's illegal, which leads the viewer to think that there would be no problem if it was legal.
- Another ad from the early 2000's depicts dealing with peer pressure. It shows a kid walking into a room and getting offered some weed by a laid back stoner. The kid makes up an excuse, and the scene repeats several times with the kid walking into the room again, each time offering a different excuse. Finally he tells the stoner, "It's just not for me." to which the stoner simply shrugs and replies, "It's cool." The ad certainly portrayed the stoner as much more relaxed and laid back than the uptight other kid.
- The Gruen Transfer pointed out that most anti-drinking ads look almost exactly like what advertising agencies would do for actual alcohol ads if they could get away with it.
- There is the famously counter-productive anti-drug ad featuring Rachael Leigh Cook. The ad itself isn't so bad, but after watching it, how many people associated "drug use" with "Rachael Leigh Cook in a tanktop and tight jeans"?
- An elementary school created and distributed customized pencils for their students to use. The pencils were emblazoned with the words, "It's Not Cool to Do Drugs." This lasted until a student pointed out that, as the pencils are sharpened, they begin to read "Cool to Do Drugs," and then later, "Do Drugs."
- Some anti-tobacco and anti-drinking billboard and radio ads emphasize the percentage of kids locally who don't smoke or drink. Apparently the adults who create these ads have completely forgotten how being "cool" works and think it has something to do with being in the majority, as if the Fonz was cool because everyone else wore leather jackets. If you want to be different, they just told you how.
- One of the worst car advertisements ever was a magazine ad, "An Unfair Comparison Between the Javelin and the Mustang." And boy, was it unfair: anyone could look at the huge, detailed photos of each car and see the Mustang was more attractive and better designed. Which worked out badly for the makers of the Javelin, who placed the ad.
- Although car makers are heavily prohibited from glamorising the performance aspects of their products most television car advertisements need the disclaimer 'Professional Driver on Closed Course. Do Not Attempt' to try to counter the fact that driving across a frozen lake or a desert or round a racetrack looks pretty damn fun.
- Which is oddly extended to such crazy actions as driving normal speed down paved roads with leaves on it.
- This upbeat commercial for Gofer Cakes, a fictitious snack cake akin to Ding Dongs. Aimed at children and teens, it is a PSA for The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; the kids in the ad end up all sloppy and lazy from eating too much junk food. Unfortunately, many ads for real junk food work along similar principles — the real ones try to say "this food is so tasty that it's worth being anti-social over!" The comments on the PSA confirm that the satire element went over most kids' heads, and seems to have turned a lot of youngsters on to Gofer Cakes.
- A lot of anti-gun PSA's and arguments. They start out by inflating the power and lethality of weapons currently available on the civilian market. Then they show someone somebody being victimized by a criminal with that powerful gun. Wouldn't you sleep better if you had a weapon of your own to use if someone scary like that came at you?
- An ad by the Brady Campaign depicts a man loading what looks like a large magazine into a handgun and firing away seventeen times before reloading. However, this would better be served if the narration wasn't dramatic and saying how you could kill a lot of people quickly.
- The ad has a bit of notoriety in the gun community for three reasons. Number one: The large magazine used is the 33 round aftermarket mag, but the guy only fires seventeen shots. Number two: The marksmanship and general handling is actually pretty good. Number three: having lived through the Assault Weapons Ban era, it becomes joke fodder because it seems as if anything can now be deemed to be an assault <insert noun here>.
- This ad◊ attempts to show buying counterfeit products as bad... by showing that they look great on a rather attractive woman. To someone just casually passing the ad and not reading the text the message can easily come across as "counterfeit goods can make you look great!"
Anime and Manga
- The Black Cat anime took great pains to try to show the viewers that the way of life of an assassin was wrong, and that people who have pacifist ideals are, in the end, stronger. However, all this effort was undermined when Train was shown to be infinitely cooler and stronger when he was working for Chronos. His sleek black clothes complete with an awesome Black Cloak, the way he managed to effortlessly defeat every single person who ever stepped in his way, and the way he tended to remain calm and collected all made him seem like he was much better off before he became a pacifist. After he becomes a pacifist, he constantly ends up having to be saved by others, wangsts and throws temper tantrums, and wears clothes that aren't nearly as cool. One can understand why Creed goes to such lengths to make him go back to being the way he was when he was an assassin...
- Also Chronos, despite being portrayed as a negative organization filled with "bad" people, the fact that most of the characters are Badasses and some of the most rational characters in the series, doesn't help the Sweeper's case on their opinion on them.
- It also shows that the good guys who just out right kill their opponents like the Cronos Numbers against the Super Cyborgs have a significantly easier time dealing with their opponents.
- Most entries into the Gundam metaseries are meant to have an anti-war message - and many, especially those by Yoshiyuki Tomino do a decent job of depicting how war can utterly ruin people's lives. At the same time, it has beautiful, brightly colored weapons of mass destruction that move with the grace and artistry of the Bolshoi, plenty of Magnificent Bastard villains you can't help but admire, gorgeous costumes on the forces of dangerous space-fascists, and perhaps worst of all, some of the protagonists actually find some kind of meaning to their lives through the war that they may not have had without it.
- And the Gundam models, let's not forget the models of those "beautiful, brightly colored weapons of mass destruction."
- This trope is lampshaded in Gundam 0080, where the 11 year old protagonist Al - who started the series excited about mobile suits and space battles - ends the series crying his brains out after failing to stop Bernie from needlessly sacrificing himself to destroy the Alex, all while his friends are cheerfully talking about how the mobile suit battle that destroyed their school looked awesome, and that they can't wait for the next war to break out with even cooler mobile suits.
- Averted by an earlier production not involving Tomino by the same company, Armored Trooper VOTOMS. If anyone remembers the comical and disgustingly hideous suit of armor the bank robbers came up with in Yahoo Serious, this is essentially a macronised version of such suits. Everything about this series is gritty and depressing and practically uber alles (because anything else gets you killed). It doesn't help the hero begins the series just recovering from his own My Lai (he was ordered to flambé a group of children and did so unquestioningly), because their black ops unit worked on a principle of 'no witnesses.' Throughout the series he delves deeper and deeper into conspiratorial military intrigue on both sides, and also when his troupe runs low on funds, as a side venture he winds up being hired into the role of a mercenary in a civil war far more nasty and hateful than the war he just got out of. It is essentially taking all the cynicism Gundam at times lacks (especially in the more recent post-Tomino era), and piles it all into a single series. Because of the way the series starts, it leaves the price of Chirico's badassness always at the back of one's mind, which probably dumps out a lot of the people who would be on the fence about warfare. This was oddly in direct contrast to the manga, which played it more straightforward, and were it not for the clunky ugly mechas, could be easily mistaken for Wing Commander The Comic. Bleakness thy name is Votoms.
- Throughout the entire Mazinger trilogy - Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger and UFO Robo Grendizer - and alternate series, Go Nagai tried to send the message of War Is Hell. Cities were destroyed and burnt to ashes, innocent people was hurt and suffered or died in horrible ways (there are several instances of genocide) or lost their loved ones or were enslaved or brainwashed... And victory always had a high price. Unfortunately, he did so by showing real cool battles between colourful, awesome Humongous Mechas and impressive, imaginative monsters duking it out among them with spectacular Weapons Of Mass Destruction, so a lot of viewers kind of missed the point.
- He did manage to successfully get his point across in Devilman, when he showed that war has no real winners by killing everyone the viewers came to know and love.
- Dan, the protagonist of Basquash!, succeeds at this within the show itself. He wants to destroy the popular sport "Big Foot Basketball" (Basketball... with giant robots!) because of a personal vendetta but also because the sport is really lame (the player robots move sluggishly, use basic moves and tend to fall down; the broadcast has to spice it up with special effects to interest people). Dan manages to obtain a Big Foot and crashes a public game, showing off real moves... then gets arrested and put away in juvie for a year. He's convinced he's "killed" BFB, only to find, on his release, his stunt showed that you can do kickass moves with a robot, thus making the game more popular than ever! He's not happy.
- The original Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot on Earth" attempted to have an anti-war message while still being a shonen fighting robots series.
- The original manga of Ghost in the Shell carries often painfully apparent warnings about the consequences of unchecked accumulation of power among not just government offices—including Section 9 itself—as well as commercial interests and, thanks to cybernetics, individuals themselves. The television series caries this further, demonstrating what happens when technology advances at a faster pace the law can hope to keep up with. And yet, the Major and her comrades come off as supremely professional and awesome, even as they consciously abuse the powers vested in them by the state.
- The manga of Dominion Tank Police comes right and says it: any society that not just uses tanks to police itself, but feels as though it has no other option, has crossed a line from which there is probably no easy return. Masamune Shirow acknowledged that he made the mini-tank Bonaparte deliberately smaller and cuter than practical as a concession to the misery of having tanks driving around, trying to establish some semblance of order.
- Full Metal Panic!. War is bad and can seriously mess you up, but it's so awesome and Badass to do things like fight epic mech duels, compromise enemy bases single-handedly, and wrestle a Hind gunship out of the sky with a Humongous Mecha.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has similar War Is Hell themes and deconstructs the whole "Spunky teenagers piloting cool giant robots" trope by showing that they're basically Child Soldiers. The problem is, the Humongous Mechas the kids pilot are extremely cool and have been immortalized in tons of video games, toys, model kits and other merchandise. So even though the show is trying to say "No sane person would ever want to pilot an EVA," quite a few people walk away thinking it'd be awesome to be an EVA pilot. Or "I can pilot an Eva better since I am not a Shrinking Violet".
- A major theme in the Area 88 manga and OVA is that War Is Hell because it devastates countries and turns soldiers into broken men. The problem is, the pilots look awesome as they engage in aerial combat.
- Muteki Kanban Musume, being and hilarious deconstruction of the Fighting Series, where everyone states violence is bad and then solves the problems with awesome violence, manages to avert this problem in the very first short: After seeing two teens fighting, Mikiď's mother ask them to stop them with violence. Miki prefers to defy them to a Eating Contest. Things degenerate to a violent fight between Miki and her mother and after seeing two Man Childs fighting, the two teens feel ashamed of themselves and leave as friends.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has this going on both in-universe and out. Mami constantly tells Madoka and Sayaka that being a Magical Girl is very dangerous, while she skillfully beats the crap out of Eldritch Abominations with awesome giant magical guns. They clearly don't take her warnings very seriously, and even though Mami dies in action, Sayaka's decision to make a contract was partly for the cool factor. In the fandom, wanting to become a Puella Magi is very common, despite the nasty revelations that show up later in the story (which are partially negated by the ending, but not completely).
- The third movie portrays Homura's devotion to Madoka as emotionally unhealthy and harmful to both of them. However, before Homura vowed to protect Madoka from the Incubators, she was a frail, self-hating victim who didn't have anything to live for. Comparatively, Homura's Mad Love strengthened her (both physically and psychologically) and gave her a purpose in life- which was to kill Witches with high-powered artillery and pimped-out time powers. It's kind of hard to argue that the net result is negative.
- Although it didn't really come with a "message" per se, Shiki still fell victim to this a little with the character of Natsuno Yuuki. He's a cold, unfriendly high school student who has very few friends in Sotoba as a result, and although he's one of the first people to start investigating the vampires, once his best friend becomes one he instantly loses the will to fight and tells his friend to feed on him until he dies instead, despite having no way of knowing he would ever come back. Once he's reborn as a werewolf, he spends the remainder of the series organizing an elaborate assisted suicide in the process of bringing down the vampires. Unfortunately, all many fans of the series remember about him is that he was willing to fight off the vampires before anyone else, and so they think he's a total badass and Only Sane Man, even though he's not really any less of a flawed Jerkass than many of the other characters. It doesn't help that he doesn't face any lasting consequences for anything he says or does, while the other characters do.
- Heat Guy J consistently promotes the message that violence and hate only beget more violence and hate, and that forgiveness and connection are the way to go. It even goes out of its way to point out that the two most violent major characters (Clair and Boma) are seriously screwed up in the head. Problem is, they both look awesome as they endanger other people's lives!
- Yu-Gi-Oh!'s moral is supposed to be that games are a way of making friends and being a “Stop Having Fun” Guy is not the way to go. The resident SHFG is The Rival, Seto Kaiba, who is fabulously wealthy, physically attractive, a Badass Bookworm, and a master Duelist in his own right, with a host of powerful and impressive cards. The anime took this even further by adding a fair amount of Adaptational Heroism, and then the dub gave him all the best lines. Is it any wonder that he became the most popular character in the franchise?
- Since Word of God finally made up their minds that the anti-registration side was in the wrong, this means Civil War was one of these for the message they were trying to send... whatever the hell that was.
- The Aesop was something along the lines of "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." Not a good aesop to use when your main readers are nerds, and (in America anyway) Liberal nerds who distrust the government on social issues, Conservative nerds who distrust the government on economic and Second Amendment issues, and Libertarians who REALLY distrust the government on ALL issues.
- It also doesn't make much sense independent of the audience's political leanings. We're none of us perfect, so we're all doing something wrong and all have something to hide.
- And in addition to all of the above, the "intended" pro-registration aesop of Civil War goes completely against the anti-registration aesop that the X-Men comics had been running with for decades. Marvel spent years preaching to their audience that mutant registration is wrong, and then turned around and tried to argue that superhero registration is good...without making it at all clear that that was what they were going for. And then they acted all surprised when the audience sided with the anti-registration side.
- Another problem is that the pro-reg side were depicted as committing multiple atrocities, especially in the tie-in books (unleashing some of the universe's most notorious Psychos For Hire on unregistered heroes, creating an evil clone of Thor, running a concentration camp where the commandant tortured people for fun), while the anti-reg side were shown as largely morally pure.
- They didn't do themselves any favors by putting Captain America, probably the closest thing Marvel has to a hero made of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, on the anti-registration side.
- The Invisibles attempts a subversion—it shows us memorably exciting action sequences, and then gives us equally memorable depictions of the suffering inherent in that flashy violence, most notably A Day in the Limelight showing us the sad life of one Mook.
- Powers goes for something similar. Many of the characters have rather cavalier attitudes towards violence, indulging in black humor, but on-screen violence can be very uncomfortable and jarring despite (or because of) the cartoony art style. Word of God has it that Bendis and Oeming want viewers to be faced with something unpleasant and ugly when characters get violent. Despite all that, the darkness of it can be compelling because Powers relies on a grim-and-gritty, street-level view of supers as its driving premise. If the whole work is darker and edgier, then showing that the violence is dark and edgy is not necessarily gonna work.
- This was very much the reason for crime comics in the 1950s, particularly EC Comics. This got them (and American comics in general) busted and led to The Comics Code being imposed.
- In Batman #1, Batman had Robin fight a bunch of unarmed crooks to see how tough they really were without their guns. Robin trounces them with ease, leaving one of the crooks to say "If only I had my gun!" Batman breaks the fourth wall to point out that the readers shouldn't emulate crooks. Sadly, the aesop and the story were probably over shadowed because the comic book also introduced The Joker, one of the most popular, and psychotic, comic book characters of all time, and Catwoman, one of the most popular Foe Yay Anti-Hero characters of all time.
- DC Comics' war books were often gritty, dark, and featured tortured protagonists (especially those written by actual veterans, such as Joe Kubert and Robert Kanigher). They often ended with the sign-off, "MAKE WAR NO MORE!" But they were and are exciting adventure stories.
- Chick Tracts fall into this quite heavily to the point where they have been believed to be parodies, and Jack Chick has had to point out that this is not the case.
- In general, the antics in the tracts often send unintended messages like "God is a dick who will send even good people to hell for not accepting my religion, meanwhile serial killers who do get off with no punishment" and "You can kill as many people and steal and burn as many things as you want, if you accept Jesus right before death, you'll be marked as a good person and thus won't have to face any consequences".
- Depending on the tracts, he'll even make the devils funny or sufficiently clever to provide comic relief... until the Big Boring White Guy In The Sky throws them into hell in the last panel.
- The notorious "Dark Dungeons" made roleplaying out to be an exciting life-or-death scenario that introduced real occultism and gave players fabulous supernatural powers that they can use to brainwash their parents into... gasp... buying them stuff. Also, apparently it's a great way to meet women since most of the players in the comic are female. More than a few roleplayers love the tract and it has been parodied and affectionately referred to in innumerable ways among the subculture.
- In his anti-Catholic tracts, he shows very little downside to being one of those dastardly papists, since they seem to have nothing but crazy sex parties, oodles of cash, and secretly run the world.
- The Contract: Feel free to make a Deal with the Devil; you won't have to hold up your end.
- Wounded Children: You should do what a demon tells you. No, really. When some people attack Brian, the demon tells David to help him. Brian dies because he didn't.
- Caravan by Kalash93 may actually avert this trope. It depicts the situation for the fighting men in Afghanistan rather accurately through the prism of an MLP fic. As a military veteran remarked, "I especially like the message towards the end: nothing has changed, despite the "victory". There will be more caravans, more insurgents, and more blood on the sand." This is exactly what the author intended.
- Poké Wars depicts the gritty, brutal, gory and just nasty side of war and there is a fairly obvious War Is Hell message. Unfortunately, few of the reviewers notice this, instead choosing to focus on the dazzling fight scenes.
- Tiberium Wars tends to depict intense, action-packed battles that nonetheless also contains a rather deep-down moral that War Is Hell. Some reviewers picked up on this, while others simply read it for the visceral combat.
Films — War
As these examples should demonstrate, Truffaut's assertion that there are no anti-war films seems to be right.
- Afghan Breakdown — Афганский Излом (Afganskij Izlom) is called by veterans possibly the most realistic and accurate film about the Soviet War in Afghanistan. The film manages to gets its message across by not trying to play up anything for propaganda purposes, rather focusing heavily on the reality of what went on in the closing days of the Afghan War. It makes the point quite well, but audiences are prone to liking the sergeant, who is a bully, but also handsome and badass. Major Bandura is also too cool and too competent of a leader to be unlikable. Still the final battle with the aerial bombardment of a village is one of the most brutal sequences in war cinema. No soundtrack plays. It's just showing a village get pounded continuously time and again by helicopters as everything is being destroyed and everyone therein killed. And, yes, it makes sure to demonstrate that many of the people killed in the village are just unlucky noncombatants.
- Aliens is mostly remembered and beloved today for the awesome Space Marines and their dozens of quotable lines showing off their confidence and boasting how they're the ultimate badasses. Most seem to forget the film was basically a Vietnam movie In Space! and the entire thing from the first encounter with the Xenomorphs on shows how underwhelming the Marines firepower is in the face of the alien threat; and after most of their squad is taken out, the comparatively subdued and borderline post traumatic stress suffering performances of the surviving troops shows off how most of their bravado in the first part of the movie was just that, and they're just as mortal and hopeless as the defenseless colonists they were sent in to rescue. That doesn't stop the fact most people who remember the movie have their entire understanding of the struggle of the marine characters begin and end at "LET'S ROCK!"
- Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola tried to make an anti-war movie, but the best-remembered scenes of the film are Colonel Kilgore's cavalry carpet bombing a village to the rousing tunes of "Ride of the Valkyries," then strutting around and giving a badass speech about loving the smell of napalm. Kick ass! The scenes are often quoted and imitated without irony by soldiers.
- Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One was apparently an aversion according to the director. He boasted that during an army screening, generals complained that the movie had "no recruiting potential". Fuller, a real-life war veteran was quite skeptical of people joining the army thinking it looks cool in the movies.
- Das Boot: The author of the novel complained that the movie, grim as it was, undermined his anti-war perspective by being too engaging. This is one of the tiny handful of examples where the fans disagree with the author, as Das Boot is generally considered to be one of the most horrific depictions of modern warfare ever committed to film. Nobody ever marched to war due to this film!
- The Dirty Dozen is an even more extreme example than The Guns of Navarone. Casual viewers treat it as a straightforward tough guy action flick with rowdy but lovable prisoners killing loads of Nazis. Never mind that the criminals are mostly violent offenders (including murderers and rapists), or that they're mass murdering vacationing German generals, along with women, which point up a much more subversive intent.
- Downfall depicts Hitler as a broken, delusional madman. Other top Nazis are just as bad. The war effort is denounced as a pointless waste, as untrained conscripts are being sent to die in a clearly hopeless struggle. Nevertheless, many neo-Nazis praised the film for depicting Hitler in a positive light, and for showing the tenacity and loyalty of the German people. This is counter-acted by the Memetic Mutation of gag-subtitling the "Hitler Breaks Down" scene, turning him once again into a figure of mockery by making it seem like he's losing his mind over the price of the PlayStation 3 or the latest Game of Thrones episode.
- Dr. Strangelove has a strong anti-war, anti-military message... but the scenes of Major Kong and his bomber crew are pure awesome. SAC crews (that is, people who fly bombers) were some of the biggest fans of the movie. The way you're sort-of rooting for Kong and his crew, even though the completion of their mission would mean the end of the world, is actually neatly summed up by the film itself in this scene.
- A Few Good Men isn't a war film, but it is a military movie that falls victim to this trope on account of issues related to war. The point of the film is to show that even service members who are Just Following Orders have an obligation to question those orders when they go too far and tries to portray Colonel Jessup as bad in this vein for ordering the Code Red on PFC Santiago. Yet the film falls headfirst into Strawman Has a Point. While Jessup is wrong for lying about the incident and leaving Downey and Dawson to take the fall, when he finally does confess, he gives a very good argument in defense of his actions. He explains how the purpose of militaries is to fight wars, and they need to be as prepared and ready as possible to fight them, and how Santiago was hindering this preparation. The credibility of his argument is given a huge boost by the fact that he's a naval academy graduate, a Vietnam veteran, a highly decorated senior officer, and just comes off as an all-around badass (the fact that he's played by Jack Nicholson definitely helps), so he probably knows what's he's doing in this matter. The film's argument is hurt by how it tries to portray Santiago as a sympathetic character on account of his having a heart condition; it ultimately fails because it reveals him to be a screw-up and a burden on his unit. Plus the message is further hurt by trying to portray Lt. Col. Markinson as a sympathetic character who opposes Jessup's actions, feels incredibly guilty over Santiago's death, and appears to want to try to rectify this mistake, yet he loses a ton (if not all) of that sympathy when he's Driven to Suicide before testifying in court hence, clearly failing to rectify it.
- On the other hand, Jessup's defense doesn't make much sense logically - he could have simply discharged Santiago instead of ordering the other marines to attack him. While he's charismatic during the climactic scene, his rationalization comes across as either self-serving or irrationally extremist.
- Fahrenheit 9/11 manages to actually deconstruct this, if only in passing. In the short clip of US soldiers talking about the music they invade Iraq to, they mention "Fire Water Burn" which then becomes the background music played over clips of rioting people and politicians speaking that they will not surrender. There is also a brief interview with another soldier who says that real war is much less exciting than video games. In this film, War Is Hell in general - it is portrayed mostly by clips of injured civilians and soldiers, street riots and news reports, ironically contrasted with politicians' speeches.
- Full Metal Jacket drove director Stanley Kubrick crazy because of this trope. He wanted to make his idea of an objective anti-war film. He got viewers enjoying things like the helicopter door gunner shooting civilians. However, unlike the other war films on this page, the film's battle scenes don't get too elaborate, but rather, this trope comes into play because of the attitudes of the characters; they're quite positive for a war movie, especially for a Vietnam one. The door gunner is shown shooting civilians and clearly enjoying it, which is supposed to be horrible, yet because he's enjoying it and making funny comments about it, the audience ends up enjoying it as well. Additionally, none of the Marines in the film are ever really shown lamenting the fact that they're at war or in Vietnam. Even when characters are killed, not too much drama is made of their deaths, such as when Cowboy's squad is shown standing over the body of two killed Marines, and Cowboy just comments on how one of them was a chronic masturbator. Joker responds to being informed about the severity of the Tet Offensive with a humorous comment. Rafterman laments being stuck in the rear and wants to see combat and is incredibly happy when he gets his first kill.
- The Guns of Navarone, written by leftist screenwriter Carl Foreman, is clearly intended (in its film incarnation anyway) as an anti-war movie. Hence David Niven's many speeches about the futility of war and Gregory Peck's callous actions as team leader, or the scenes of Navarone's civilians being subjected to brutal reprisals. Balance that however with lots of exciting action, a cast of near-indestructible heroes overcoming impossible odds, villainous Nazis and the message gets lost.
- Inglourious Basterds lampshades this in a subtle, creepy way: there is a scene where Germans are watching a Nazi propaganda movie about a German sniper who killed massive numbers of Allied troops while behind enemy lines. They are laughing and enjoying themselves watching people from our side get slaughtered, while you're laughing and enjoying yourself watching people from their side get slaughtered. Similar to the helicopter door gunner example above, some audiences even laughed and hooted while the allies were being slaughtered. Laughter, she is an infectious drug, is she not? And the funniest part is that both reactions were probably predicted and intended.
- Jarhead also lampshades this trope. It's largely about that and the mindset of the Marines (such as author Anthony Swofford) stoked up and eager to lose their battlefield virginity with a kill. When they hear that they're about to be sent to the Persian Gulf, they rent a load of war movies to watch the cool battle scenes, including Apocalypse Now, where the irony of liking anti-war movies for the violence is explicitly pointed out and reveled in. In a Double Subversion, this was misinterpreted by audiences, who cheered along with the Marines. Additionally, the film ends with none of the main characters killing any enemies in the war, which they are extremely disappointed about. In the book Swofford points out how "It doesn't matter how many Mr. and Mrs. Johnsons are anti-war. The actual killers who know how to use the weapons are not.".
- At the time Platoon came out, Roger Ebert opened his print review by mentioning the Truffaut quote and adding that "If Truffaut had lived to see Platoon, the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion." Since this film has encouraged people to recruit, apparently not.
- Saving Private Ryan falls victim to this trope, partly because of Misaimed Fandom who have no personal war experience watching the visceral first 30 minutes for the violence, but also because of the increasingly melodramatic last half of the film, where the Naďve Newcomer Desk Jockey temporarily freezes up, only to kill the assailant later, and the main characters sacrifice themselves one after another in Rambo like fashion to rescue one man. In this case, while the film is clearly anti-war, it does also try to encourage the viewer to understand and respect the soldiers who died during the war, but it goes a bit too far and falls into this instead.
- Starship Troopers: An intentional example on director Paul Verhoeven's part. He wanted to make it seem awesome, badass and alluring on first glance, but to be horrible when one starts to actually thinks about it. The film is anti-war/anti-militarist, intended to be a parody of the fascist elements in our society, but many viewers couldn't see past all the cool bug killing scenes (or the co-ed shower scene). Even for the viewers who are paying attention, the message is further hampered by Poe's Law. There are obvious spoofs of the Federation propaganda, but the rest of the movie is easy to take seriously because it suggests that the Show Within a Show is understating the Federation's case.
Considering the book's portrayal of the Federation, it's unsurprising. Heinlein intended the book to portray the positives of civic duty, necessities of war and capital punishment, etc. This led Heinlein to be accused of fascism, among other things. The movie's creators decided to remake it as a Take That against militarism and fascism, but by even superficially sticking to the book, they made the 'evil, fascist government' look awesome. Even at the end of the sequel, when a recruiter jokes about a newborn male infant as being "new meat for the grinder."
Only two war films (both, so far, thankfully Speculative Fiction
as well) have
managed to avert the trope to some extent. The Day After
both films about nuclear war, having managed to severely avert the trope to the extent that they actually encouraged Real Life
nuclear policymakers to rethink whether a nuclear war was survivable.
Films — Gangster
History has demonstrated time and time again that this trope could easily be called "Mobsters Love Mob Movies
". Interestingly, attempts at averting this trope were actually enforced
in Hollywood cinema for a long time due to the Hays Code
, which stipulated that films could not depict criminals profiting from their crimes. Hence the "rise-and-fall" narrative in gangster cinema, which is such a fundamental trope of the genre that it persisted long after the Hays Code was abolished. Not that it stopped this trope from coming into play:
- Angels with Dirty Faces has this happen In-Universe. The lead gangster and one of the two main characters, Rocky Sullivan, steals the show and makes being a 1930s-era gangster look awesome, and the other main character is trying to get him to stop making impressionable kids look up to him. But even during Rocky's few (mostly halfhearted) attempts at this, the kids all still think he's cool and want to be like him.
- Contraband: Some critics complained that the Mark Wahlberg film promoted this message as the protagonist and his family end up with a better life at the end as a result of his criminal activities, even though he was trying to resist going back to crime in the beginning.
- The Godfather, as stylized and operatic as it was, was meant to be about the horrors of the mob. Instead, it kicked off a new generation of fascination with organized crime and even inspired actual mobsters to model themselves after it.
- Goodfellas portrays the thrill of being a gangster through the first half, but the thrill turns sour over the course of the second half, as Henry Hill becomes a strung-out junkie with a wrecked marriage and friends who are either murdered or want to kill him. The trope is pretty much lampshaded at the end, where in spite of it all, Hill still pines for his glory days as a gangster. The film was based on Hill's memoirs.
Martin Scorsese has generally criticized the concept of things being too cool or not, since he feels that Viewers Are Geniuses and that having a movie tell the audience what's good or wrong is the worst idea of getting a point across. He notes that human beings are complex enough to do things without having to see it in a movie.
- Johnny Dangerously a gangster movie parody, pokes fun at this with a deliberate Broken Aesop. The title character uses his life story to convince a young thief that "crime doesn't pay"... and then has him hop in his expensive car with his beautiful gangster's moll wife and confess to the audience "OK, maybe it pays a little."
The trope goes back to the trio of films from The Thirties
that launched the genre.
- Little Caesar attempts to show that hard, honest work will lead to success whilst crime does not pay. It makes the gangster cooler, more interesting, and more important than his straight-laced best friend.
- The Public Enemy, which helped establish the gangster film genre, opens with a title card explicitly stating that the studio did not seek to "glorify the hoodlum or criminal". It makes the gangster cooler, more interesting, and more important than his straight-laced brother.
- Scarface (1932) didn't give Tony Camonte any straight-laced companions (well, his mom); but the studio changed its title to "Scarface: the Shame of a Nation" and added dull scenes of bankers — real heroes during the Depression — and a token Italian American denouncing the Mob. All three films utterly failed to deglamorize their heroes, even in their fall, in part because all three showed them getting their comeuppance in shootouts where they faced off alone against more and better armed opponents. Scarface failed so badly at this trope, in fact, that it resulted fifty years later in...
- Scarface (1983). Even though the entire film is set up to show that Tony's destruction is inevitable, even though he ends up losing or killing everyone and everything he cares about, and even though he ends up floating in his own fountain, it's hard to watch the movie and not want to be him. Especially during the Good Times Montage, set to Paul Engemann's "Push It to the Limit" showing all the material wealth Tony is acquiring, which pretty much gives the audience a picture to give to their own If I Were a Rich Man fantasy. The movie is also very popular in the hip hop community due to this appeal and had a huge following among crack dealers in the 80's. (Hence the What If? video game in which you get to be him, and you get to survive, learn your lesson, and win by rebuilding an even bigger and better criminal empire.)
Films — Others
- The Berenstain Bears series sometimes falls into this.
- The Bad Dream, which was about how being an obsessive fanboy and having a Gotta Catch Them All mentality for all the toys will lead to nightmares... somehow. But damn if those action figures didn't look cool.
- Get the Gimmies, where we all genuinely wanted those toys, games, and candies that Brother and Sister acted like hellions in public in order to get.
- The Trouble With Junk Food. All the candy they learned was bad for you was so colorful!
- Slaughterhouse-Five. In-universe. Discussed early on. Vonnegut's war buddy's wife is pissed that our narrator is writing 'another war book'.
"You were just babies then. But you won't write it like that, will you? You'll write it like you were men, and you'll be played by men in the movie, and everyone will think it's wonderful and have more wars and send more babies off to die, like those babies [their children] upstairs."
- It works out OK though. He promises her that it will be called Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade (which is indeed the full title of the book), and no one reading it gets any idea that war is good.
"I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that."
- The scenes of sinful revelry and luxury (like the island of Acrasia) in The Faerie Queene are, to many, the most appealing parts of the work. This is largely due to Values Dissonance.
- According to C. S. Lewis in The Allegory of Love that was the way it was intended—in a complex manner. Spencer was influenced by Puritans who thought married sex was real cool but were down on both the Courtly Love and the Celibate Hero traditions. He was saying effectively that Good People Have Good Sex; when it's good sex that is.
- One of Disney's kiddie books featured Donald Duck eating a poorly balanced, junk-filled meal that the mouth waters just in childhood memory of it.
- John Milton's Paradise Lost has infamously run into this problem with its Misaimed Fandom. Satan is intended to be appealing, but Milton expects his readers will be mature enough to realize that underneath all his charisma, Satan is a vain, petty and incestuous bully who picks on people smaller than him because he lost the fight against someone bigger than him. Sadly, Milton expected too much of his readers. Many just drool over Satan and think he's The Hero.
- Not helped by a strong case of Strawman Has a Point, where Satan's arguments are actually quite logically sound even if his motives aren't pure. Compounded by the fact that Satan is presented as fallen (i.e. human), meaning that his flawed motivations can easily be attributed to heroic flaws instead of overall weak character.
- Basically, Milton's intended point is somewhat undermined if his readers know more about the classical references he's making and contemporary philosophy than he expects, as well as if they know less.
- K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy and Parker's work generally. There's just so much detail and vivid fightin' action that the anti-violence message can be obscured at times.
- The first series of Warrior Cats covers the early life of a "kittypet" as he struggles to fit into his Clan, overcoming all of the racism and prejudice he faces because of his background as he grows into a hero. Of course, in order for this to work, the majority of the cast has to express some racist sentiments, meaning a lot of the more popular characters twist this lesson into "racism is good".
- The same could be said for the battles, which, combined with their irrational hatred for a pacifist character, doesn't just inspire reactions of "War is cool and pacifism is for pussies", but the occasional "Any book that doesn't contain as many gratuitous fight scenes as possible instantly sucks".
- The latter lesson can probably be connected to their love of The Darkest Hour, the most violent book in the series. It is indeed one of the best books in the series, but not because it's the most violent.
- Songmaster by Orson Scott Card ends up making a young boy and his male pedophile master seem sympathetic and his novel was criticized heavily by conservatives for glorifying homosexuality. Anyone who knows Card's opinions on homosexuality will know that this was not his intent.
- In an interview celebrating the launching of his most recent book, Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis recounted how many fans of his work would come up to him and say "You're the guy who wrote Less Than Zero, that's the book that made me want to live in L.A." Anyone who's read the book in question (or indeed anything by Ellis) will appreciate just how ridiculous this is.
- One of his aims with Imperial Bedrooms was to respond to all the readers who perceived Clay as the hero in the first book, by emphasising far more his near-sociopathic narcissism. YMMV on how much it worked, although Ellis certainly shows him doing some horrific things, but gives him one or two very small Pet the Dog moments.
- A weird borderline example in Interesting Times. Rincewind describing sticking fireworks up his nose is followed by a footnote saying Don't Try This at Home... which goes on to describe official municipal firework displays in a way that makes it clear they're very boring. Terry Pratchett is on record as saying that if stupidity kills, then it's better if it kills the stupid firstnote . This could be a stealth joke on that.
- Deliberately invoked by the entire Lesbian Pulp Erotica paperback market of the 1950s and 1960s. It was a cultural requirement that the lesbian characters end badly, either dying, getting imprisoned, or turning straight. However, the point was to sell lesbian erotica, so the "consequences" are always jammed in the last chapter, with the rest of the book glamorizing things as much as possible.
- Anthony Horvath's book Richard Dawkins, Anthony Flew and Mother Theresa Go To Heaven is supposed to make Dawkins look like an arrogant Jerk Ass, while Flew and Theresa are supposed to be viewed as good. However, the way it's written, Theresa comes across as a pathetic sycophant and Flew like a doddering simpleton, while Dawkins sounds downright courageous and noble as he stands in defiance of this frankly unsympathetic deity. It doesn't help when Heaven is depicted as a place where everyone spends the rest of eternity unable to do anything except praise God, and that's supposed to be desirable.
- Happens in-universe to a Nazi spy in Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. He starts out reporting to his superiors about a dangerous series of American comic books, but his later reports become more or less reviews of his favorite comic book series.
- In Epic, the Aesop is that you shouldn't get so involved in virtual worlds that you don't do things that need to be done in the real world. However, you can't deny that the game Epic would be freaking awesome if it were real. And the idea that doing well in video games = getting a good education and being rich is an appealing one to gamers out there.
- Robert Heinlein intended the message of Podkayne of Mars to be that parents should take better care of their children and not let them go gallivanting around the Solar System getting involved in espionage intrigues and having awesome adventures and ultimately being heroes by saving an entire planet from a villainous plot... because that would be wrong. Or something.
- Lolita. The whole book is one big condemnation of pedophilia (even the pedophile, narrator Humbert, can't stand his actions), and yet it's a Trope Namer for a fetish for underage girls. This is because Humbert is Unintentionally Sympathetic and is probably the accidental Trope Codifier for Lolicon. Humbert comes off as a completely nice guy despite his despicable actions because throughout the whole book, he casually explains his actions to the reader, and while it may not be meant to justify them, it certainly can. This book has a huge Misaimed Fandom among pedophiles and child molesters who have undoubtedly used it, not only to justify their actions, but for tips on how to avoid getting caught (ie be sure not to write down your attraction for young girls and your plans for them in your diary, and if you do be sure to do a much better job of hiding it).
Now, plainly Humbert did a very wicked thing. There is no doubt that the author knows this I have just quoted him calling Humbert a pervert. Humbert himself knows it, too, through the fog of his solipsism. He refers to himself as a "monster" or a "maniac," wearing "polluted rags," and so forth. "But never mind, never mind, I am only a brute, never mind, let us go on with my miserable story."
To drive the point home Nabokov inserts oblique, but cumulatively unignorable, references to the fact that the sexual relationship causes pain and perhaps actual physical injury to the object of Humbert's "love." And yet this cruel tormentor is redeemed a little in our eyes by the surpassing power of his creator's art, a thing any educated person in 1958 could understand. In an interview, Nabokov said that he thought Humbert should be given one day's vacation from hell every year, to stroll a green country lane in the sunlight. Such a judgment makes sense only from a grounding in some mature moral vision. It cannot be fitted at all into the infantile who-whom dogmas of our own time.
- If The Hunger Games is meant to be a condemnation of reality TV culture... well, all the action that the in-universe audience is revelling in is the same stuff that we're enjoying as readers. We are supposed at once to feel contemptuous of the audience for lapping up the romance presented to them between Katniss and Peeta but also care about the same romance as readers. While no one at this point would wish for death-based reality tv shows (probably), there are many Hunger Games fans who would love to see a non-lethal version of the Games brought to reality.
- From Star Wars, we have the Darth Bane trilogy. Where there are (allegedly) attempts to make Bane look bad. Instead a lot of readers get caught up in how much cool seems to radiate off of everything he does.
- Matched is a dystopian trilogy about an evil totalitarian government that arranges the matches between its citizens. It has as widespread and ardent a shipping fandom as any Star-Crossed Lovers story.
- The Game, which chronicles the author's experiences in the "Seduction Community" leads the reader to the conclusion that the teachings of the PUAs will serve only to become a dehumanized "social robot" and that the techniques are worthless for finding true love; However after seeing how the author transformed from an "average frustrated chump" to a PUA capable of seducing almost every woman he desired, it's no wonder why this book became the to-go source for men for becoming initiated on the "Seduction Community".
- The Help Me Be Good series by Joy Berry are juvenile books that examine a Compressed Vice in each title such as fighting, tattling, destroying possessions, and overeating. Each book would talk about the misbehavior, explain its aspects, how it hurts you and others, and strategies for overcoming it. While intended as education and self-help, some Moral Guardians have protested that the books glorify and promote the bad behavior by showing kids how to misbehave.
- Coda avoids this with the distinction between the Corp's mass-produced tracks and Anthem's band's music.
Live Action Television
- Similar to the "Marijuana is bad because it's illegal" commercials, there's an episode of House in which a drug dealer is being disparaged by the team. His response is basically "So your big problem is not that it's immoral but that it's illegal. Sounds like we've got the same problem."
- Then there is the case of 24, which might have led to soldiers in Real Life being too violent towards prisoners, especially the earlier seasons. Violence towards prisoners existed before, but the government originally backed this series. But when the hero routinely saves the world using questionable techniques in a glamorous fashion, when those techniques rarely backfired (the one person who lied to him that we know of, he shot), and when the scandals of Guantanamo Bay Delta Camp and Abu Gharib became public during the middle of the series' run, conclusions were drawn.
- Although bigoted, Alf Garnett from Till Death Do Us Part was intended to be a figure of fun showing the stupidity of racism. He became a cult hero for misogynists and xenophobes. The same goes for the show's loose American remake. All in the Family was, officially, intended to show that bigotry is bad, but Archie Bunker came across as a fairly fun, likable guy in spite of it. The more progressive "Meathead" often came across as self-righteous.
- Mad Men is about deconstructing the myth of the good ol' days and is supposed to be about the 'dark side' of social conformism, corporate careerism, and white male privilege in Sixties white collar America. The show demonstrates this by endlessly displaying hot (and frequently undressed) women, acts of debauchery, plentiful alcohol, smoking without guilt, fabulous outfits, and snazzy Jet Age decor. Wait, there's a dark side to making tons of money and being able to tell people what to do?
- Life On Mars, series one. The impression the viewer gets is that the first series of Life on Mars was written to paint Sam's contemporary attitudes as what the viewer was supposed to sympathise with, but the public response was overwhelmingly in favor of Gene Hunt's Good Old Ways. The second series and all of Ashes to Ashes was written accordingly.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a subtle anti-smoking message for the first season or two — every character who smoked either turned out to be a villain or died soon after they were introduced. But Spike, who started out as a villain, ended up being a regular and a well-liked character... who often smoked cigarettes. Sexily. Faith took up smoking in the last season.
- The fourth season episode "Beer Bad" tried to show that beer was evil by turning anyone who drank it into cavemen. But the transformation ends up mostly positive for Buffy, who finally gets over being dumped after a one night stand because of it. The concept might be seen as parody, but the episode was written as a sincere grab for government anti-alcohol PSA dollars. (It didn't work.)
- The show Manswers, on Spike TV, when talking about illicit drug use or other criminal activities or dangerous acts, will include a disclaimer to not do so. But if you do do it, you can get laid, according to them.
- Fox News, while more fiscally conservative than socially conservative, pays lip service to the Moral Guardians by doing stories on sexual perversion (especially on The O'Reilly Factor). But they punctuate these condemnations with lurid video clips and bring on Ms. Fanservice-type anchors and nagging correspondents who are more amused than angry. Thirty years ago, much of what we see on Fox News would have never been shown on basic cable. No, not even CNN. Fox going after spring break might just take the cake.
- Most daytime Talk Shows are guilty of this, especially if the episode is about people (mostly attractive young women) scandalized to discover that someone had been secretly recording them. They then have no problem when they SHOW THE VIDEO ON NATIONAL TELEVISION so that you can see the evils that are in the world. As a bonus, you get to see exactly what the pervs next door were so interested in.
- Even if they don't show the video, doing a story on it will guarantee that the number of people looking it up on the Internet will skyrocket.
- When Communist Romania broadcast Dallas, the idea was that the people would be disgusted with the pettiness and decadence of capitalism. This was, in fact, part of the reason the series was created in the first place — you probably are supposed to be vaguely disgusted with the way the Ewings live. It didn't work in either country. What was seen was, "Ooh, shiny! I want!" In a few years, communism fell and the USA had a Misaimed Fandom for Wall Street.
- Dollhouse: Turning people into objects is bad! Even when they're hot, attractive objects with blank stares and bare feet... oh hey, it's time to show Sierra getting raped again!
- Done intentionally on an episode of Community. The main characters put on an anti-drug show for a group of elementary school children, but they love Pierce's performance as "Drugs" so much it backfires. The situation is ultimately remedied by forcing Pierce to leave and replacing him with Chang. It ends up being a more effective portrait of addiction as a result, because the children loved drugs then drugs turned on them.
- The Wire: For all of its social criticism on the dysfunctions of modern society, a significant portion of the show is given to the gang wars waged between extremely colorful and badass drug lords. While almost all of them come to bad ends, the big shot dealers sure seem to have a lot of fun while they're on top.
- Similarly, Breaking Bad has the same effect of showcasing the appealing aspects of the drug business, even when the bad parts are fueled with endless paranoia, and by contributing to the business in some form or fashion, you'll hurt so many different people along the way. And oh yeah, Drugs Are Bad. But boy is it tough not to reap the rewards of selling pure meth, ain't it?
- The show's protagonist, Walter White, has been described as a deconstruction of the Escapist Character, by initially seeming like a fun character for the audience to project themselves onto, only for the show to depict his gradual transformation into a ruthless, vicious monster. Despite that, he is nevertheless depicted as an extremely intelligent and powerful villain, and one feared and respected by his peers and by the police and DEA, while the show's voice of reason, his wife Skyler is widely reviled by fans. Many viewers not unreasonably perceive White as a cool Badass (indeed, the show's creator Vince Gilligan has used the term "badass" to describe the character).
- In-universe example in Arrested Development when George Sr. is invited as a "Scared Straight" speaker to talk teens out of commiting crimes and going to jail. He accidentally picks the wrong Scared Straight tent and ends up talking to a group of gay teens who feel increasingly hornier at the thought of being locked up in a jail full of bad boys.
- The Sopranos was even MORE realistic and de-glamorized than Goodfellas. It lampshaded that mobsters love The Godfather and Goodfellas. Guess who loved it? And many viewers who weren't gangsters also missed the point and saw Tony and crew as heroes and anyone who ratted on them as deserving of death.
- Mandy Patinkin left Criminal Minds because he felt that this trope was in play. Criminal Minds is about people who catch horrible criminals by figuring out the mindset of those criminals — how they think. It is a long-running, popular show. Patikin thought that the show was becoming sick fantasy fulfillment for people and couldn't be a part of it any more.
- Occasionally played with on Top Gear when, for instance, the presenters solemnly (and with perfect insincerity) state that they strictly obey the speed limit at all times, or state "this is something we mustn't do" before engaging in impromptu drag races on public streets.
- In-universe in Malcolm in the Middle; Hal would tell his sons about his youthful escapades, supposedly as cautionary tales. As Lois puts it, "Cautionary tales do not end with 'It was so cool!'"
- MythBusters has become the living embodiment of this trope, the hosts and cast reminding the viewers multiple times per show not to attempts the awesome and ridiculously dangerous experiments they show. Adam even promised to track down and kick the ass of anyone who tried to reproduce the million match heads burnout experiment. Their cold open and ad break cards have become "Do not try this at home" warnings after the first few seasons.
- A great example would be when they were test whether drafting behind a big rig to see if doing so could increase mileage. Despite the fact that they spent nearly as much time stressing how crazy attempting to draft a big rig is as they did actually testing the myth, for some people, that's just not quite enough to balance out the simple fact that it actually works.
- On Degrassi, Ellie's storyline was meant to show people how cutting is not okay and should never be done no matter what the circumstances. However, despite this, many fans were inspired to cut after seeing Ellie do so.
- Saturday Night Live's false ad for "Amazin' Laser" was full of this. While Chris Elliot exalted the virtues of using this precise, powerful and ridiculously powerful disintegrator raygun, subtitles gave more and more precise instructions. "Do not use Amazin' Laser on live targets." "Terrorists, please do not use Amazin' Laser." "On second thought, please do not buy Amazin' Laser."
- On the Investigation Discovery channel, this happens often with the dramatizations of real crimes. The most egregious examples are the shows Sins and Secrets, Wicked Attraction, and Deadly Women. They usually discuss how sick and wrong the killer(s) are, but they then show reenactments of their scandalous affairs by attractive actors in about as much detail as you can have on cable TV. It's so bad that some of the shows have Content Warnings. Sometimes the softcore is accompanied by the narrator and interviewees going on about the unfaithful spouses' sexual needs and how they were being awesomely fulfilled by their lovers. And also that cheating and murder is bad, really.
- Downton Abbey can really make living in The Edwardian Era look appealing, despite occasional attempts to portray how bad women and the lower class had it. It doesn't help that most of the servants are portrayed as perfectly happy and content in their jobs, and with the sole exception of Gwen, the few who aren't are either petty and cruel, or stupid.
- In-universe example on Everybody Loves Raymond: Frank pays off his mortgage and invites the family over to celebrate. As he burns the paperwork, he declared that the bank can kiss his ass. Debra reminds him that the grandchildren are listening, and Frank replies, "Oh yeah. Kids—don't say 'ass'".
- Power Rangers Wild Force has strong environmental themes, as do a lot of Power Rangers seasons, but, as Power Rangers is also a marketing vehicle for toys, quite a bit of screen time is devoted to how awesome their motorcycles are and making riding motorcycles like that look fun and cool. A motorcycle even defeats Serpenterra. The message to reduce the carbon footprint is somewhat undermined by showing how great it is to drive around in fast vehicles like this.
- Played with in the anti-alcohol episode of Glee. The Glee club is asked to perform a song showing the dangers of underage drinking, but they end up getting really drunk, having a great time but screwing up the assembly. The attitude of the episode is best summed up by Coach Beaste, who tells their teacher Will that drinking is fun, and kids are going to do it and it'd be hypocritical of him to lecture them on the dangers of drinking when he himself falls into the same pitfalls the students do. The lesson? Drinking is cool and fun, but you have to be responsible about it.
- Which is probably the most effective lesson to give kids on alcohol. They're just going to go grow up to drink anyway, but you can teach them to do so in moderation.
- Lampshaded and played with in an episode of The War At Home, first with Dave's speech at the beginning:
Dave: When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was sneak into "R" rated movies. In my mind, "R" stood for "really good." Nowadays, there's warnings and ratings on everything; video games, music, booze, cigarettes. You think these warnings would keep kids away from all these things. When, actually, it's sending up a flare saying, "Hey, look. Good stuff over here.
(Disclaimer appears on screen: "Due to the mature subject matter, the following episode may not be suitable for all family members.")
Dave: (glances down at disclaimer) See? Makes you wanna watch even more, doesn't it?
- Then the main plot of the episode involves Hilary and her friend Brenda getting drunk off her parents liquor, then Vicky worries that they're drinking is a bad influence on Hilary and to Dave's annoyance, implements a rule that no one in the house can drink. Vicky only lasts two days before secretly drinking in the garage, then both Dave and Vicky get drunk off free liquor and make a scene in front of Brenda's parents, causing much embarrassment and end up lecturing Hilary that they can drink because they're the parents
- Professional Wrestling is built on this. See that awesome 720 corkscrew suicide dive? Don't do that.
- As this blog entry examining Criminal Procedural dramas puts it, crime does pay... when you're a white male.
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver pokes fun at a Singapore anti-gambling ad aired the week before the 2014 World Cup in which a young child despondently tells his friends that his dad bet all their money on underdog Germany to win. The problem? In an upset victory, Germany DID win, meaning that the kid and his family are set for life! A follow-up ad was aired the next week in which the same kid reveals that his dad turned around and spent all of their winnings on more gambling, but, as Oliver points out, as long as the dad's streak keeps up, this isn't much of a problem. Even if we assume it doesn't, the Aesop could easily be interpreted as "quit while you're ahead" or maybe "take half of a big windfall and put it into something responsible like a college fund or a house and then let the other half ride" as opposed to "gambling is bad."
- Parodied in MAD magazine's July 1994 Super Special issue, which had a sheet of fake magazine subscription stamps (for such periodicals as U.S. Nudes and Weird Retorts and Modern Insanity) that looked exactly like the genuine ones used by such outfits as the Publisher's Clearing House for their sweepstakes entries. On the page facing them, Mad printed this warning:
AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING MAD'S SILLY SWEEPSTAKES STAMPS: Please DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE affix these bogus MAD stickers onto AN ACTUAL SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY FORM, despite the deep-rooted urge in the very core of your being which inspires and calls upon you to do so! You must resist the temptation, even though it would be a truly wonderful prank that would surely cause chaos and havoc for the Magazine Sweepstakes Company(s) who have been badgering you mercilessly for years (and who have recently been sued for making false and misleading claims about their cheesy contests). Yes, it will take every ounce of your willpower, but you must NOT remove a bogus MAD stamp by carefully tearing it along the perforated lines, licking it, and then affixing it onto a REAL MAGAZINE SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY FORM in place of one of THEIR stamps. You must ABSOLUTELY NOT think of your own PERSONAL PLEASURE and the TREMENDOUS SATISFACTION you would get from pulling such a deviously ingenious stunt. The bottom line is that it would be wrong — morally, ethically, uncategorically, deliciously wrong. We trust that we can count on you, our loyal readers, to do the right thing.
- Anti-war songs are just as susceptible to this as anti-war films. The message of the song may be about the awful aspects of war, but it may have either too subtle of a title or a catchy, positive or cool sounding beat, as well as Lyrical Dissonance to keep it from getting its message across. This goes double if it's a popular song that many of the listeners only know the chorus too without knowing any other of the lyrics, often leading to cases of Isn't It Ironic?.
- Edwin Starr's "War". The lyrics denounce the act of war quite anviliciously, but it sounds like a good song to kick ass to. It was used for fight scenes in Rush Hour, Small Soldiers, and Agent Cody Banks 2.
- Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Despite being about the futility of war, it's a totally kick ass song that gets your adrenaline pumping.
- Rise Against's "Hero of War" is definitely intended as an anti-war song. It tells the story of a teenager who joins the military because he'll get to see the world, carry a gun, and he'll even get paid. The war psychologically destroys him, going through brutal basic training, being involved in the beating and humiliation of a POW, and finally killing a surrendering civilian woman by accident during a firefight. However, along the way he makes friends, learned a lot, came to love his country, become a decorated veteran, and at home everyone respects him (it's likely the lyrics are supposed to take a more sarcastic tone in the end).
- While not exactly a "catchy" song per say, Bob Dylan's "With God On Our Side" tends to get people thinking that it's a patriotic statement, despite being more about how having God on your side is little more than an excuse to go to war and force your ideals upon others because both sides will always claim this.
- Black Sabbath. Many of their early lyrics dealt with the horrors of things like violence, war, Satan and so on. This has inspired legions of metal bands to write lyrics about how awesome these same things are.
- Ozzy Osbourne's attempt to clarify this in a 2004 magazine interview didn't really work. He claimed that he and his bandmates "were the last hippie band. We were into peace." Disingenuous, no? After all, if they wanted to be seen as hippies, why didn't they perform "hippie-style" music?
- In the documentary, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey the band members talk about how they just fell headfirst into this trope. The audience saw what they wanted to see rather than what the band was really saying. They intended to portray Satanism as bad, but their use of satanic imagery and satanic references in their music made it seem a lot more awesome than bad.
- Marilyn Manson, oh dear god, Marilyn Manson. The fact that his concept albums aren't obvious to non-fans have created so many problems. Half of his songs on the album Mechanical Animals are from the point of view of the character of Omega (pronounced O-ME-ga), who is a space alien fallen to Earth and forced to be a rock star who sings empty anthems of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and has retreated into copious drug use to cope and has cut himself off from emotion. The other half are by Alpha, who is just beginning to feel emotion and is curious because of it. So, of course, most people listen to Omega's message, ironically doing the same as the mindless sheep In-Universe. It's not much better with Antichrist Superstar, in which the title character ends the universe. It's not supposed to be supported, people. Mr. Manson himself was so pissed off by this that the song This Is The New Shit is about the fans that do this, with the chorus containing the lyrics "Do we get it? NO! Do we want it? YEAH!" just to make the point more obvious, and this this is the song that starts with "Babble babble, bitch bitch, rebel rebel rebel, party party party, sex sex sex and don't forget the violence". It doesn't help that people have their own preconceived notions of Satanism (which are wildly inaccurate) and he's an ordained Reverend in the Church of Satan. So yes, properly, he is Reverend Marilyn Manson.
- In fact, a lot of heavy metal bands of note either treat these themes negatively, ironically or with a sort of horrified fascination; while a lot may seem like they glorify violence or death, it's often necessary to tune into the particular subcultural lens of heavy metal to understand them properly. Unfortunately, some of the fans (especially for bands that hit the mainstream) and more than a few of the bands don't seem to get this.
- Megadeth's album "Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?" led to a rumor that the band members were Satanists or endorsed Satanism due to nearly half of the album being explicitly about Satanism. But all three songs detail horrific things happening to those who dabble in it. The songs stem from a bad experience that Dave Mustaine had with "black magic", where he put a hex on someone and was convinced it worked, plaguing him with guilt. After that incident, he tried to make songs warning against the dark arts, but they ended up so badass-sounding that the message was ignored.
- Slayer "Angel of Death" is often called a pro-Holocaust song, but guitarist Kerry King notes that the lyrics are as brutal as they are to reflect the real horror of the Holocaust, not to glorify it. The band is not trying to glorify the Holocaust — but they're not trying to dispel it, either. They enjoy causing controversy.
- Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the USA" is about the issues faced by returning veterans of The Vietnam War. Because of the refrain, the subtle title, and it being one of the catchiest songs musically the Boss has ever done, it's constantly mistaken for an American patriotic song. It is frequently played at 4th of July events. US President Ronald Reagan — a president who had threatened Mutually Assured Destruction on the Russians — wanted to use it as his 1984 campaign theme.
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
- Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" is about the class bias of The Vietnam War — lower and middle class kids being sent to fight and die while rich kids get to stay home. This doesn't stop it from being extremely catchy, and many listeners don't really get more than the first couplet of the lyrics. It also gets mistaken for a patriotic song, thanks largely to the opening lines of "Some folks were born, made to wave the flag, ooh, the red, white, and blue".
- Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" is a sarcastic song that, if taken unironically, would send the message, "If you're a girl who follows the Rule of Cool and likes a taken boy, it's okay to throw yourself at the guy and steal him away because you know he likes you back, and his girlfriend is 'like, so whatever.'" The video points out it's okay to humiliate said girlfriend because she's a nerdy girl with glasses. Lavigne has said it's criticizing shallow boy-crazy girls who act like that. But the song doesn't make this clear, and try telling it to the song's Misaimed Fandom.
- The Dropkick Murphys cover of the old Irish anti war song "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya", when viewed on a particular AMV, makes one want to go to war.
- The same tune was reused for "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", a song from the American Civil War that glorifies soldiers returning home from war.
- Gangsta Rap.
- The videos for gangsta rap in particular are guilty of this. What was said above re: gangsters in film & television goes double for many gangsta-rap music videos. Even when the lyrics are explicitly about the dangers and harshness of street life, expect the videos to be full of images of diamond studded cars, gold jewelry everywhere, beautiful women, and champagne overflowing.
- This was on account of the standards of MTV and other "music" channels at the time. They refused to allow any video with gunplay or shooting imagery regardless of context. This was particularly notable in the 1990s during the genre's rise to prominence (since they were airing more videos then).
- This trope is deliberately invoked in Juvenile's song "Ha". The lyrics are a Take That against the glamour of rap excess (the chorus says, "You're a paper chaser, you got your block on fire, remaining a G until the moment you expire"), and in the video itself, the scenes are of poor and near-homeless residents living in housing projects in New Orleans... except during the chorus, when Juvenile and his crew visibly sing in front of expensive cars, stacks of money and visible jewellery.
- The Roots' "Never Do What They Do" is another classic music video that tries to shade light on how Mainstream Rap videos are glamorized. They do this three fold by first showing a typical "big baller" video with the big mansion, complete with huge swimming pool, bikini clad women, and high prices cars. Next they show the urban street scene, complete corner gang bangers and drug dealers. Lastly, they show the club scene with attractive women and a Jazz band on stage. Afterwards, they spend the whole video deconstructing all three settings, mostly by using box text to show how these videos are faked.
- Atmosphere has written a few songs attempting to address this issue too, including "Apple" which has a repeated refrain of "Just cause you're an MC doesn't mean you get to be an asshole" and "National Disgrace" which begins with the following dedication:
Peace to Rick James, Anna Nicole Smith, Bill Clinton
, and Mötley Crüe
, and anyone else who has ever utilised their 15 minutes of fame to realise their true dreams of being an absolute jerk-off, just to keep the masses entertained. This goes out to learning from the mistakes of others.
- Scavanger. Used for Black Comedy effect in Assassins of Ankh Morpork. "Here in Ankh Morpork they're saint", indeed.
- Visual Kei as a genre has this problem: the point of the genre is artistic freedom and using shock value to express your artistic message. Except a large percentage of the fans, looking at the beautifully stylized bandmen, seem to be convinced that to be truly Visual Kei, one must be as pretty as they are - thoroughly breaking at least one of the major aesops in a belief that art is only for the beautiful and sexy. The second problem, especially with Eroguro Kei, is the Misaimed Fandom factor - people that don't get that some of this stuff is meant to shock and disgust, not glorify. Which can be a very big Unfortunate Implications minefield with, say, the GazettE's Taion, which is meant to be a condemnation of rape and a lashout at the Japanese society for allowing such a rape to happen. When people start singing along, though... Squick.
- Sabaton has several songs about the futility and savagery of war. Unfortunately, their music is raw high energy power metal that's great for getting pumped up to. The Lyrical Dissonance in this is what caused them to stop performing some of their songs, such as "The Final Solution."
- At the beginning of the track "Tipsy", J-Kwon makes a short statement: "Yo, teen drinking is really bad!"note
- Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
- The Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right To Party" was intended as a parody of party anthems and to mock lazy and unmotivated people with a "party all the time" attitude. It ended up become a party anthem as well because... well no one can deny the narrator is having fun, and his attitude is a lot more fun than actually doing homework, chores and going to school on time. That the video looks like so much fun too is another big factor.
- "Beans In My Ears" lampshades this. The song starts with (ostensible) kids singing how their mommy said not to put beans in their ears ... followed by them wondering why they'd want to put beans in their ears ... followed by them putting the beans in their ears ... followed by them telling their mother they've done so, to which she responds "That's nice, boys, just don't put those beans in your ears." It ends with them concluding that all grownups have beans in their ears. Ironically, the hit version by The Serendipity Singers was banned in some markets because of concerns that it would actually encourage children to put foreign objects in their ears.
- In 2002, VH-1 aired a special called Inside Hate Rock, an investigation into white supremacist rock bands. While it was intended to show how these bands are funding hate groups, it instead made them look like part of a cool, underground music scene. Scheduled repeats of the show were cancelled, and it has never aired on VH-1 again.
- In Wicked, the "Dancing Through Life" song is meant to paint the singer as having the wrong idea about life in general; but it also seems to go out of its way to make his philosophy sound appealing.
- This is true of Ben Jonson's plays. Both Volpone and The Alchemist make fraud look fun, although in the former play, harsh punishments are dished out to all the "villains" right at the end.
- The musical Catch Me If You Can runs into this — it's supposed to be ultimately condemning Frank Abegnale, Jr.'s, fraudulent and lawless life, except that the songs involving Frank's wild con artist life are much more enjoyable than the ones preaching strict Lawful Goodness. It's the same problem as Wicked, above — you're trying to send the message "Stay within the law, don't be outrageous and dashing" — in a musical?
- Hanratty's opposing viewpoint song "Don't Break the Rules" is pretty much Made Of Awesome, though.
- West Side Story does a fair job of showing there are consequences to the gang life... but then it has "Jet Song" and "Cool" and "Officer Krupke", all of which are a lot more fun than the more serious songs.
''When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day
''When you're a Jet, let 'em do what they can, you got brothers around, you're a family man
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Gleefully used. Just look at those efficiently designed, finely crafted, aesthetically appealing savage tools of destruction... Tea in her fencing suit and wide smile objects to your unhealthy fascination with swords! Though it doubles as foreshadowing, as later "enjoy, but don't forget what it's about" became a good plot point.
- Quitting Time presents: Pure Evil.
- Invoked in this Something*Positive with Davan's response to a gang of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fans protesting a stage-play adaptation of Shock Treatment. "Think of every movie or video game someone else protested that you immediately went to check out. Now you're doing that for us."
- "Warning◊" from Jason Love's cartoons.
- Discussed by General Tarquin in The Order of the Stick, who points out that most stories about heroes overthrowing the Evil Overlord tend to assume that said Overlord has been ruling for years if not decades or even centuries and having a few minutes of violence and death isn't bad karma for ruling an empire or living "like a god" for all that time.
- Beavis and Butt-Head. Spoofed in the Season 4 episode, "Safe Driving" The boys watch a grisly driver's-ed film featuring two guys who seem to be grown-up versions of themselves (albeit handsomer). Naturally, they think it's cool and get into the same accident seconds after taking the wheel.
- Futurama spoofed this. Bender did a return-from-commercial gag where he stated the show does not support the "cool crime of robbery."
Bender (on TV, while lighting himself on fire): Try this, kids at home!
(on-screen subtitles): Don't try this, kids at home.
- Home Movies: Parodied in an episode where Brendon makes an educational video telling kids not to put marbles up their noses. The kids think the idea is cool, so...
- Made even funnier because everybody who saw the film immediately tried to put marbles up their nose. Even the teacher and Brendon's mom.
- There's a similar situation in Little Men where Jo tells the children a story about a mother who warned her children not stick beans up their noses, prompting them to do just that. Jo says she stuck pebbles up her nose after hearing the story.
- The Powerpuff Girls parodied this in the episode of "Mojo Jonesin'," where the mad genius chimp Mojo tempts a group of children with bootleg Chemical X which grants them superpowers. The first dose was free but to continue their addiction, they have to follow his orders. It's an obvious send-up of a don't-do-drugs episode complete with an ending when the kids decide to give up Chemical X and warn their classmates against "X abuse." Then another kid asks what it was like. "It was AWESOME!"
- This is further shown when you realize that the girls (and Mojo Jojo) are partly made of this chemical.
- The Simpsons
- Directly spoofed: Lisa is shown a short film where rap stars in costume represent tooth decay: they stylishly and violently set about some giant teeth, rapping all the while. Lisa comments that while the film is against tooth decay it also kinda glamorises it.
- Also parodied when Bart's class is shown a sex-ed video. "So now that we've shown you how it's done... don't do it."
- In the episode where Bart is working for the Mafia and leaves at the end: "Sorry Fat Tony, I've learned that crime doesn't pay". Fat Tony replies "Yeah, maybe you're right" and then leaves in an expensive limo filled with women. His henchmen have their own limos.
- Don't Do What Donny Don't Does
- Bart and Milhouse see a stunt on TV to which they want to copy. Milhouse adds "All those disclaimers makes me want to do it more!"
- When Homer is prescribed medical marijuana, he quickly gets hooked and Lisa asks him why he suddenly loves her saxophone music.
Homer: Now, daddy's special medicine, which you must never use because it will ruin your life, lets daddy see into magical places that you will never experience. Ever.
- South Park
- Another in-fiction example: In the episode "Pinkeye," when Mrs. Cartman sends her son to school dressed as Hitler, the principal shows him an educational film to scare him straight. However, the film consists solely of the message "Adolf Hitler was a very, very naughty man," followed by (untranslated) clips of his speeches and goose-stepping, saluting Nazis. There's no mention of anything evil he actually did. Cartman thinks the movie is "cool", to the point of seeing himself in place of Hitler in the video, and asks to see it again. However, given Cartman's stated Anti-Semitism, he'd probably have thought it was even cooler had it been translated.
- "Major Boobage": "Schoolchildren are often experimenting with dangerous ways to get high, like sniffing glue, or huffing paint, but they're all bad, m'kay... male cats, when they're marking their territory spray a concentrated urine to fend off other male cats, and that can get you really high... like really, really, high... probably shouldn't have told you that just now, m'kay? That was probably bad."
- "Butt Out'' also parodied this but in the opposite way. An overly upbeat anti-smoking group called Butt Out, which incorporates elements of terrible dance and hip-hop into its routine, performs at the school. All the students think it's really lame and disturbing. At the end, Butt Out enthusiastically calls out "If you don't smoke, you can grow up to be just like us!" Directly after they say this, the boys start frantically smoking.
- In "Sexual Healing," some of the kids ask what autoerotic asphyxiation is. The man they ask says he doesn't want to give them any ideas...but then describes it in detail, adding that it supposedly feels "really, really awesome." Three guesses how Kenny died in that episode.
- "Kick A Ginger Day" is not something that should ever have been defictionalized!
- Invoked in-universe when Cartman gets a fat scooter and Token and Kyle hatch a plan to make a documentary series about him. Kyle intends to warn people away from his self-destructive, fat-enabling behavior. Token, being more Genre Savvy, correctly predicts that it will become a hit along the lines of Honey Boo-Boo and inspire imitators. Averted when James Cameron (The greatest pioneer!) raises the bar and everyone loses interest.
- The Iron Giant tries to present the message that the use of weapons of mass destruction is wrong, and in fact, it was the Trope Namer for I Am Not a Gun. Problem is, when you represent weapons of mass destruction by a Humongous Mecha, it's hard not to make them look cool. Though it is helped in that the movie is never anti-Humongous Mecha, just using them as guns. Hence the trope namer. It also helps that when the normally-peaceful Iron Giant starts using weapons, it is absolutely terrifying.
- Parodied on Archer with marijuana:
Archer: And I advocate its use. As a potential role model, I advocate it.
- Family Guy spoofs the trope in one episode where all the students at James Woods High are lectured on why having sex before marriage is a sinful act. Instead of taking the lesson to heart, the kids decide to have ear sex because it doesn't count and thus they still remain pure in God's eyes.
You know the saying: once you go black, you go deaf.
- The Boondocks lampshades this in the episode "The Trial Of R. Kelly" where R. Kelly is on trial for urinating on a 14-year old girl on video, and a news reporter mentions that said video is "widely available on the internet". Of course, Riley Freeman immediately tries to sneak off and download it.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic ran into this in the episode "A Friend In Deed". The episode is designed to teach the moral "you can't force someone to be your friend; some people need their space, and that's okay", through a plot about how Pinkie Pie attempts to coerce the local grump into being her friend by never leaving the poor guy alone. It would have worked fine... if not for the fact that in the end, Pinkie ends up succeeding, which makes it look like the "pester someone until you find something that will make them like you" method is actually perfectly viable.
- Mercilessly parodied in a theater warning featuring director John Waters. He's supposed to tell the audience that smoking is restricted in the theater but he does so by intentionally sending out mixed signals, like happily puffing on a cigarette himself and questioning the validity of the rule.
- There was a case where some cops took some pictures of an accident scene and, without the families' consent, started showing them to kids, apparently wanting to Scare 'Em Straight. Instead, the kids thought they were cool and posted them on the internet. The families' attempts to get them taken them down have simply invoked the Streisand Effect.
- This is basically the reason why abstinence-only sexual education tends to be somewhat less than persuasive to high school students: sex is very physically and emotionally alluring while readily available contraception has greatly mitigated its potentially detrimental physical consequences; and its long-term personal and social consequences are rather abstract and particularly difficult for the hormone-addled teen mind to comprehend. In other words, the gratification that having sex offers is immediate and obvious, while the risks are all delayed and uncertain, and teens are notoriously reckless and short-sighted about the future.
- Content Warnings can have this effect. They're supposed to serve as warnings to parents about what's appropriate for kids, but it's impossible to stop the kids from seeing them, and all they think is, "If I'm not supposed to be exposed to it then it must be totally awesome." Indeed, back in The Nineties when the Parental Advisory warning on CDs was just becoming well-known, TV advertisements for rap albums would proudly flash the "Tipper Sticker" as a point of pride, and George Carlin even recorded an album titled Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics.
- The Meese Report on pornography. The commission's conclusions on the harmful effects of porn were transparently determined by the prejudices of Edwin Meese et al. rather than actual analysis, while the report also included plenty of excerpts and juicy descriptions of otherwise hard-to-find material.
- PETA wants to put a mural on the Mexican border fence to "warn" Mexicans not to come to the US because they'll get fat from all the junk food and meat. The painting makes the USA look like a Carnival-land made of candy and barbecues, turning the actual message into "Hey, we've got all the awesome delicious food you could ever want!" Yeah, that'll scare 'em away.
- It's not like if they were starving, anyway. Mexico is the among the fattest countries in the world, second only to the USA until overtaking it in July 2013. Combine this with the explosion in the last few decades of cheap, fattening, nutrient-poor junk food, and you have, for the first time in history, a situation where the poor are fatter than the rich on average. Indeed, many health workers in the developing world have witnessed cases of people who are simultaneously obese and malnourished because of just how awful the local diets have gotten.
- Studies have suggested that kids who went through the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program were actually more likely to do drugs than if they hadn't; the suggested explanation is this trope. Specifically, that the program focused so much on resisting peer pressure that the message morphed to "everyone is doing drugs but you". This led to a joke backronym for the group, Drugs Are Really Excellent.
- The failure and subsequent explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in STS-51 was cheered initially by audiences, since most viewers did not know what a proper shuttle launch looked like and thought the fireball was the separation of the solid boosters. Spacecraft sometimes have this problem for outside viewers, since when a rocket works right, it becomes very hard to see after it passes higher than 100,000 feet, and if it goes wrong, it's a giant tube filled with thousands of tons of high-explosives hurtling out of control (at which point, the best solution is then to blow it up in a controlled manner before it falls on something). Rocket failure is very bad, but it doesn't stop people from thinking that said failures are spectacular to watch.
- Similarly, while nobody wants to see anyone die (one hopes), it is a bit of a joke that the only reason anyone watches NASCAR, Formula One or any other high-speed racing sport is to see spectacular vehicle crashes. Many a television program that covers these events has a "crash of the week" segment, catering specifically to this mindset.
- "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."
- During the Cold War some Hollywood films were approved by the censors for release in the cinemas in the countries behind the Iron Curtain. Films were approved if they showed the US government in a bad light (evil CIA agents in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or the authorities in the first Rambo), featured evil capitalistic corporations (Aliens), or had any theme that could be portrayed in an anti-west manner (the West caused a world-wide apocalypse in The Terminator). Inevitably the audience would end up impressed by the western living standards.
- Newspapers often carry lifestyle or entertainment features that glamourise trends that their political journalism, editorials and opinion articles condemn. In Britain this is particularly pronounced in left wing newspapers - Editorial: "Global warming sucks!", Feature: "Look at all these glossy photos of a new super-car!". How much of a problem you think this is depends on how much you think the rational part of the brain is influence by the impressionistic part of the brain.
- One of the Nazis' biggest propaganda mistakes was sending their "Gallery of Degenerate Art" on tour around the whole country so that all good loyal German citizens could see just how degenerate this art was for themselves. In terms of turnout, the tour was a smashing success: people turned out in droves in order to see for themselves just how degenerate all this art was. In terms of messaging, however, it was an abject failure: for some reason, this well-nigh pornographic degeneracy was always much more popular with people than the morally wholesome state-approved art the Nazis thought their loyal citizens ought to prefer.
- Bill Lee is a former Chinatown gangster who has written about his experiences. When his own son got involved in a gang, Lee told him about his experiences to keep him out of the gang. The son's reaction was basically "My dad and granddad were gangsters! Awesome!"
- During the heyday of gangsters in the 1920s and 30s the public often viewed them quite favorably. One reason was them going against the unpopular prohibition. Furthermore, during the Great Depression, gangsters seemed to be still doing quite well. As such, people looked up to them as an example of the American dream, the self-made man. Also, fighting against government order could be seen as fighting against the impersonal market forces which caused the depression.
Another reason for this is that, as an intentional measure to get the public on their side, many of the Depression-era gangsters made considerable donations to public services like soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Al Capone in particular would routinely give away hundreds of free turkeys on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Working for a gangster, while morally reprehensible and dangerous, also meant getting paid. Meanwhile, the government did not really do anything for the people until FDR's New Deal programs started to take effect. It's a tactic that has since caught on. Minority gangs, such as the black gangs in Harlem in the 60's and 70's would use these same tactics to get the residents of their neighborhoods on their side, which admittedly was not difficult given police relations with minorities in these areas.
When Mexican cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was caught, people from Sinaloa, Mexico protected him, under the reasoning that he was doing more for the people in his area than what the government ever had done, due to his financing of city embellishment and security (because who attacks a town inhabited by the country's most powerful warlord?)in situations that a mixture of corruption, bureaucracy and blatant lack of care from the government's side had made them not answer to the people's demands.
- Author Brian Solis offers this example of how someone can produce fake tweets that appear to be coming from celebrities, which of course is totally unethical and has disturbing implications for journalism, so you should never do it like he did to promote his first book.
- During Prohibition, there was a loophole that allowed vineyards to indirectly sell wine. They would sell "grape bricks" and yeast that, when placed in water for an appropriate amount of time, would become wine. They often had "disclaimers" with something along the lines of, "After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine."
- One of the best selling books of the Restoration era was The Wandering Whore, a beautifully printed pocketbook that argues vociferously against prostitution in London's Covent Garden district. Except the booklet also includes long passages describing each one of the prostitutes working in Covent Gardens, their address, fee, appearance, and "specialty" in explicit detail...all such that "God-fearing men may better avoid them". It probably would not surprise anyone that this book later became Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, the Yellow Pages for the sex trade of 1700s London.
- In the tradition of a great many other anti-vice campaigns, anti-bullying programs are now showing signs of actually encouraging bullying by—for instance—inadvertently teaching potential bullies new techniques for teasing and harassing their peers online.
- In order to demonstrate just how cold it was during the US's "polar vortex" of January 2014, NBC News threw a pot of boiling water in the air, which immediately froze. Naturally, they warned viewers about doing the same at the time. When at least 50 copycat examples appeared on social media in which people scalded themselves or others, NBC even more urgently cautioned viewers not to repeat the trick... as they repeated showing that cool clip.
- This was basically the essence of Marshal Marmont's lessons to the Duke of Reichstadt, Napoleon's son. He gave the Duke firsthand account of his father's brilliant campaigns, detailing his tactics and strategies, while emphasizing that this example was not to be emulated at all - partly because most of Napoleon's victories were at the expense of the Emperor of Austria, who also happened to be Reichstadt's grandfather. Needless to say, it did not prevent the Duke from dreaming that he could one day take power in France and restore the country to its former glory.
- Anytime the RIAA or MPAA takes a public stance to warn internet users that downloading unlicensed media from torrent sharing sites because "they will get viruses from them", the general reaction from the internet is usually "thank you for telling us about these torrent sites we weren't aware of."
- There are theories that this phenomenon is responsible for some school shootings and other high-profile mass killings, because much of the media reporting on such crimes focuses on the killers and their motivations. While the reports are intended to show that the kinds of people who would do such things are mentally ill and/or evil, some people instead take the message as "if I kill a bunch of people, I'll get on TV and be famous". Instead, some people advocate deliberately avoiding talking about the killers as much as possible in news reports, and instead focus on promoting the memory of the victims.
- Many retail stores in the US have large posters in the employee lounge telling them to stop the meth problem by reporting "any large purchases of the following items" to the DEA. While it's meant to curb meth production, it also tells the low-paid worker "Here are the things you'll need to start a meth lab!".