An Anvilicious work is one that has a moral message and makes it as subtle as an anvil dropped on the viewer's head. But sometimes, a work can be Anvilicious without suffering in the process. Some works not only pull it off gracefully, but are effective because of the Anvil — and not in a So Bad, It's Good way, either. Often seen in Reconstructions.
Other times, the anvil comes across very blatant, which might turn off some viewers, but in the era which the story is told, the message itself is more important than the story or allegory it is presented in.
A reminder that An Aesop is Not Bad. And don't let the fact that the anvils of one work are often incompatible or in direct opposition to another's get in the way either.
When an anvil needed to be dropped, but it wasn't, you have Lost Aesop. If they just dropped the wrong one, it's a Broken Aesop.
Remember, this is not whether or not you agree with the moral, it's about how a story is improved because the message is so blatant. A genuinely anvilicious aesop is not automatically excused by being an agreeable one.
Has nothing to do withAnvil On Head. Unless of course you were trying to illustrate that it's wrong to drop anvils on people's heads. Disclaimer: We at TV Tropes do not condone Anvils On Heads.
A number of EC Comics in the 1950s. In that era, doctors would appear in cigarette TV commercials telling people how healthy they were. EC in general (and Mad magazine more specifically) worked anti-smoking elements into their features quite frequently. Other notable aesops include:
Judgment Day features an astronaut from Earth refusing to allow a planet of robots whose society is segregated along color lines to join a coalition of civilized species. The anvil is then hammered into the ground when the astronaut takes his helmet off and the reader discovers that he is black. Its necessity was later proven by The Comics Code Authority when the story was being anthologized, as they tried to tell EC editor Bill Gaines that the hero could not be black.
It also dropped a second and equally important anvil - that segregation can be overcome. While the robots are refused membership to the coalition, the astronaut assures the robots that if they work at it, they can fix their social problems.
Master Race is about a German immigrant to America after World War II who is driven to near-madness because he believes he is being stalked by someone from the war. As the story unfolds, it is slowly revealed that the man was a commander at Bergen-Belsen, and the man following him is a Jew he had tortured who had vowed revenge. The story is shot through with accurate descriptions and depictions of what occurred in the Nazi concentration camps, and was one of the first pieces in American popular culture to address the Holocaust at all.
V for Vendetta, specifically the "Valerie" chapter, about a woman who had been a successful actress before the fascist regime slowly and cruelly destroyed her life, which ended in a concentration camp medical experiment, all because she was a lesbian. The narrative would not be half as effective if Moore had been subtle with it.
The entire run of Transmetropolitan was a big, long, anvil about the importance of standing up for The Truth and speaking out for what you believe in, regardless of the personal consequences; and the evils of complacency and blindly accepting authority. Making the character who most embodied these principles a self-proclaimed bastard further emphasizes the already subtle-as-a-sledgehammer point.
Spider Jerusalem: I'm sorry, is that too harsh for you? Does that sound too much like the Truth? Fuck you. If anyone in this shithole city gave two tugs of a dead dog's cock about the Truth, this wouldn't be happening.
#40, "Business", is a stark look at child prostitution and the failings of underfunded social services. Despite the comic's post-cyberpunk setting, the story rings far too true. But the conclusion/anvil that the story comes to:
Why are your kids selling themselves on the streets? Because you completely fucked up the job of raising them.
"Monstering" also has a good one about journalism and the duty of news media:
It's the Journalism of Attachment. It's caring about the world you report on. Some people say that's bad journalism, that there should be a detached, cold, unbiased view of the world in our news media. And if that's what you want, there are security cameras everywhere you could watch footage of.
Another one was dropped by the Reservations:
"Remember the past, and learn from it, or you are doomed to repeat it."
His run on Thunderbolts is basically him railing against the aftermath of Civil War - "No, the police should not be living tactical weapons roaming the streets looking for someone to wail on."
Joseph Swetnam:Justice, like Lightning, should ever appear. To few men's ruin, but to all men's fear...
We applaud masked police beating the politically inconvenient in the street and then disappearing them.
Black Summer: A lot of people don't like the president, but only a giant prick would actually kill him.
Captain America once was used quite often to address social issues. This tends to involve numerous misinformed people being led on by a few evil people against a few unfairly persecuted people, and Cap trying to resolve things.
"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - "No, you move.""
Another version was done in What If? #44, which involved Captain America being revived 'today' — or, at least, well after a virulently anti-Communist version had laid claim to the shield and turned America into a rather unpleasant place to live. The resulting fight between the real Captain America and the John Birch Society knockoff was immediately followed by Cap delivering a What the Hell, Hero? to the entire country.
In the 70's, a number of books like Captain America and The Falcon and Green Lantern / Green Arrow tried to address racism. The stories were usually very heavy-handed, but it must be remembered that at that point there was very little diversity in comics to begin with, and children were still the primary audience. When trying to teach young kids about the horrors of bigotry, subtly wasn't necessarily the best route to take.
Truth: Red, White & Black is very heavy-handed with its depiction of racism in the 1940's, but of course, the racism in that era was quite ferocious and appalling by today's standards. The actual plot, wherein we learn that the US government tested Captain America's Super Soldier Serum on a group of black soldiers, was directly inspired by the horrific Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
Most of Grant Morrison's comics (most notably Final Crisis and Flex Mentallo) are tracts speaking against the Dark Age of comics, specifically the idea that comics should mirror Real Life in their violence and morally ambiguous attitudes. Morrison's takes on Superman and Batman are extraordinarily optimistic and straight-forward; Superman is often shown as a borderline God (especially in All-Star Superman) who tirelessly works toward the betterment of mankind, while Batman represents the peak of human ingenuity and intelligence, who can break free from any trap and defeat any villain. The whole thing is a stark and welcome contrast to the Frank Miller ideal of the tortured outcast Batman, and the ultimately ineffectual government puppet Superman.
The Green Arrow storyline where he discovers that his sidekick is addicted to heroin. During a time when the title had turned into a rather anvilicious series, this particular arc was exceptionally well done and considered a turning point in the character, the series, and even to some extent comics in general being a transport for serious issues. Several anvils are dropped — not just drug-related ones, but Green Arrow's sense of betrayal of responsibility for his friend and his relationships with other superheroes. It's a remarkably deep arc during a time when most superheroes were just going "POW" at the villains.
In the "Forever" story arc of Powers, Christian Walker goes to show his abilities to Albert Einstein, to ask what they are and where they came from. In their conversation afterwards, Einstein delivers an astoundingly good speech about the nature of the scientific attitude, and afterwards...
Walker: I thought — I thought maybe my story would upset you. I thought that I might be upsetting some of your theories of the—
Einstein: Listen to me, my new friend. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. Someone who can no longer pause to wonder, and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.
A meta example is the Spider-Man comic book arc, "Green Goblin Reborn!", where Spidey encounters the negative effects of drug abuse, with his friend Harry ODing on pills. Despite this, The Comics Code Authority refused to approve the story for having any depiction of drug use — even when it was peppered with Anvilicious anti-drug messages. Stan Lee decided to publish the stories without the CCA seal of approval, and the ensuing public support prompted the CCA to relax its overly-constrictive guidelines.
On the subject of Spider-Man, it dropped one of the biggest anvils of all: "With great power comes great responsibility."
Speaking of Stan Lee, he's made it clear that Marvel's staff runs the gamut of political beliefs, and that Marvel itself has no political stance... except for one ideal. Stan Lee always tried to push a message of tolerance in his work, and encouraged all of Marvel's staff to do the same, even if it makes some of their readers uncomfortable. While not everyone has followed this example, just the fact that he's encouraged such a message, and how he's fought for it so hard, lends weight to the anvil.
The arkest story arc of The Punisher MAX, "The Slavers", includes a lot of information — including a lecture, with slides — about the sex slave trade.
The two issues of Zot!! in which Terry comes out to herself and Woody pens an editorial about the attack on a young man presumed gay.
The first story arc of Wonder Woman Vol. 2 drops the same anvil as The Day After, with Diana showing Ares that his plans to start World War III would leave him with nobody to worship him. Later, the "Who Killed Mindi Mayer" issue delves into drug use by revealing that Mindi technically wasn't murdered; she died from a cocaine overdose before her attempted killer pulled the trigger.
The moral of Watchmen is that morality is itself ambiguous. Hammered home extra hard by the death of Rorschach, perhaps the only remaining morally absolutist vigilante.
"I leave it entirely in your hands."
Also, life is a precious, fragile thing, and we should be grateful for every day we get.
Dr. Manhattan's story arc has a very touching moral that stands in defiance of most cynical viewpoints: sure, the universe can get along without us, but we are still unique, both as individuals and as the only sapient life-forms on the only planet known to harbor life, and we deserve to protect and care for it and each other.
The whole reason X-Men exists: you shouldn't be afraid of someone because they're different. Different people are people too - some are bad, some are good, and some are neither. Don't pigeonhole huge groups of people.
X-Men is also largely about the world's "good" mutants managing to band together and prove to the world that their powers can be used for good, no matter how many psychopathic mutants decide to abuse their gifts. Even when mutants have every reason to hate humanity, and could conquer the world if they chose to do so, they are always capable of choosing a higher path and working for the good of society for no other reason than that it's the right thing to do. Example? Just check Magneto's track record.
Another anvil dropped is that just because someone hates you does not mean you shouldn't do the right thing and help them.
While the Chick Tracts have been infamous for being Anvilicious in a negative way, one particular tract, "Why No Revival?", provided a positive one. Instead of criticizing unbelievers (or Catholics), in a tract that was explicitly directed at Christians (and states that it is NOT for the unsaved), he instead criticized Christians who were afraid to admit their faith and beliefs to their peers. In contrast, he shows the ancient martyrs who were under the threat of death and yet were not afraid to say that they were Christians. In the tract, he criticized the hypocrisies of some Christians and shows why many churches faced various spiritual problems and no revival. Even if Jack Chick is woefully out to lunch on a lot of things, he knows this topic very well.
The main Aesop of Scott Pilgrim is that if you've made mistakes in the past, you shouldn't run away from them, but rather to accept those flaws to become a better person and avoid making the same mistakes all over again.
Early 2000AD strips could be very heavy-handed on the issue of Fantastic Racism, but given the popularity of far-right groups in 1970s Britain and the views they held, it was an anvil that needed to be dropped.
This still continues to recent strips: Judge Dredd, in one of his few truly heroic moments, forced Mega-City One to change its policies on Mutants at the risk of his own reputation and that of the Chief Judge.
After controversial "M-Word" speech scene in Uncanny Avengers #5, that was full of Unfortunate Implications about minority politics, Brian Bendis, himself a Jewish writer, respond in All-New X-Men #13 by having Kitty Pryde, a Jewish superhero, give a page-long speech that highlighted everything that was wrong with said scene.
Mark Waid dropped a lovely anvil in Daredevil #11, in which Daredevil delivered an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech to The Punisher's female partner, shooting down her contention that heroes can only be driven by tragedy. Given the popular trend toward heroes being defined by tragedy, Daredevil's comments seem downright meta;
"Don't you ever say that to me, ever again! That is a repellent statement. It's a vomitous insult to every cop, every fireman, every soldier who steps up to fight for those who can't! I am sorry for your loss, but if you genuinely believe that only the death of a loved one can motivate a human being to take up a cause...then get your pathetic, cynical ass out of my way so I can do my job!"
X-Men #141 and #142, the "Days of Future Past" arc, drops one hard, though not in words: Whatever resources you put into keeping another group down are unavailable for lifting yourself up. Hatred and prejudice are terrible bases for policy and society.
Star Trek Voyager - Rose and the Yew Tree is a bomb raid of anvils dropped well: Civilized does not mean moral. Tolerance repaid with prejudice breeds resentment. The enemy is no different than you. Principles guide us when we lack data. Live in the now. Stories are important... That and much more. Oh so much more. Anvilicious because it's told. Effective because it's shown. Possibly best fan fiction ever written. Required reading for anyone who can tolerate SF.
Julia Carlyle: ďThereís a passage I read in a book long ago. Iím paraphrasing just a bit Ė but the meaning is something Iíve always remembered. `So we donít have a choice. You can name any reason you want, but it all comes down to the same thing; we have a debt of honor to the man who brought all of us together, and the people who believe that we stand for something more. If we donít defend that principle, we donít defend anything. And nobody will trust us, and nobody will respect us, not even ourselves. If we turn our backs on them by deciding to kill, then we are not the people we say we are, and everything weíve ever done is a lie.íĒ
Two back-to-back Malcolm in the Middle one-shot fics each drop an anvil that needed to be dropped, both of which blatantly deconstruct the shows general aesop. The first, Gravestone, drops one on Lois to take a look at her life and her character, and ask herself if that's the kind of person she wants people to think of her as at her funeral. The second, Life Is Short!, drops one on Malcolm, asking him if it's really worth trying to please the very people who abused him his whole life, and to financially support such a family that already squanders the money they themselves make. Even though potential is a good thing to strive for, and getting into an Ivy League school is not something everyone has the privilege of, he ought to reconsider his prior decision to go along with his parents' wishes.
StarCrossed, a Lucky Star fanfic about the main girls' future lives going to hell, teaches how a lack of morals and self-respect can have one disastrous consequence after another and destroy one's future beyond repair. Don't get mad and burn bridges! Don't cheat your way through life! If you suspect a relationship will eventually turn toxic, put your foot down and say "NO!" to it! Don't leave little kids home unattended! Don't sell your body! Your actions will affect yourself and other people, not least of all your loved ones.
And most of all, don't break promises of friendship. If you've got problems, share it with those you can trust, for you don't know what you really have until it's gone.
ďLuna, how many times must I remind you! The Wikipedia is scorned because it's too easy! And we as teachers and mentors dislike more than anything our students researching an assignment the easy way! Everything must be long and tedious. Otherwise, they'll begin to notice how pointless most of the work we give them really is! Is this what you desire, Luna? Young ponies questioning our brilliant education system?"
The fanfiction My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Burned Bridges drops an anvil several times about how Sugar Blossom has to own up to the fact she left behind her friends with no contact over the past few years, as well as the consequences of doing so. However, at the same time, it shows that even though Sugar Blossom burned her bridges with her friends, true friends won't just abandon her when she tries to make amends, especially if you're genuinely sorry for having hurt them so. It's not very subtle about it either.
The Lucky Star fanfic Bonds describes how school massacres take place, and how everyone is at fault for it. Even though they cannot truly be justified, you really can't blame Izumi for losing all hope in life and wanting to just end it on a literal bang. Blame her parents, for demanding perfection from her and imposing their will on her to inherit their company instead of letting her make her own decisions and accepting her for how much she was capable of achieving; the Hunt Club, for the way everyone in it treated her; anyone else who knew what was going on, for not speaking up; the school, for most likely refusing to do anything about it; and the police, for doing jack shit to save anyone from her rampage. Honor is a big deal in Japan, and in no situation does it rear its ugly head higher than here, with everybody paying the price for what certain students did to her and her fellow otaku and the lack of action taken by the school faculty.
The writing.com campfire fanfic Turtles in Distress Features the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is about visiting an alternate universe similar to Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind stories, with the genetically engineered 'Humanimals' who are created to serve the Humans. It's something of a deconstruction of Smith's stories mostly the Happiness is Mandatory part with the Human Citizens being 'conditioned' to not feel sympathy for the slaves. The conditioning is not effective, so in order to compensate, the Lord and Ladies keep on conditioning their citizens until they are unable to feel anything other than hatred. The Universe the Turtles are visiting is currently going through a civil war with The Federation who wants to liberate Humanimals, and The Empire who stubbornly cling to the old ways. The big anvil, however, is showing just how ugly and brutally dehumanizing slavery is. The Turtles are put in a situation where they can't fight back, no 'Bust out some ninja moves and save the day.' Here if they try to fight their captors, they are dead, and the fact that they are regarded as an inferior lower caste simply because they are Petting Zoo People is a pretty big blow for Leo and Raph's pride in this story. They don't save themselves; the Federation Humanimals rescue them and all the other Humanimals in the 'Slave Academy.' The only real fighting any of the Turtles do is when Mikey beats to death an overseer trying to have his way with an Okapi Girl, and at that point they're all but rescued.
Phalanx: "this story is in some ways a modern-day version of a dark fairy tale and it is in keeping with the tone of those kind of stories. They weren't particularly subtle about their aesops. If you're familiar with TV Tropes, there's one that goes 'Some Anvils Need to be Dropped'. I think this fic drops whole hailstorm of them.
Parting Words drops a lot of anvils on the handling of the issue of bullying. The Cutie Mark Crusaders point out the many times they had been bullied by Diamon Tiara and Silver Spoon and how Applejack never stepped in to help even when it was happening in front of her. Princess Celestia (in disguise) also points out how the "fighting back or standing up for yourself in any way makes you just as bad as the bullies" mentality is a very toxic and downright morally confusing thing to pass on to genuine victims of bullying, and even wonders just where that line of thinking came from.
We're Gonna Get There Soon drops a LOT of well needed anvils: Don't judge people simply by one thing. There's more to a person than just their flaws. Get the whole picture. Different and stupid don't mean the same thing. If your "friends" are being mean to someone you love to the point of laughing at them when they have a near death experience, then they're NOT friends at all, and behavior like that is NOT acceptable.
Pony Pov Series drops the message You Are Not Alone like a sledgehammer to the balls (especially during the Nightmare Whisper and Shining Armor Arcs), yet considering the goal of the cast is to rebulid the world after the horrors that Discord has caused, (and in the aforementioned arcs, Fluttershy had gone full Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and Shining had been hit with one Heroic BSOD after another), it's just what the doctor ordered.
Relating to the above Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds moment, a recurring theme is that repressing mental trauma instead of dealing with it in a healthy manner is a really bad idea.
Yet another anvil often glossed over in these kinds of stories is that nature can be a cruel thing. In fact, repressing that truth caused Fluttershy's "moment".
A major theme of the Wedding Arc is the deconstruction of Always Chaotic Evil with the Changelings, and the dangers of painting an entire race as inherently evil like that.
Sonic X: Dark Chaos is quite Anvilicious about its "religion is bad" message. However, it does this to show that if people can put aside their differences and work together against a common problem, everyone can benefit.
Shannon's Author Filibuster about the mentally handicapped - it's dropped with all the subtelty of an anvil, but it really needed to be said. Mentally handicapped people are still people, people with feelings, and people who need love.
In the Superman radio show of the 40s, there is a fairly famous serial in which Superman takes on an expy for the The Klan, complete with their real-life ranks and secret phrases.
This radio show was used to expose the Ku Klux Klan what it really was; a terrorist organization that had to be disbanded ASAP. It even went and revealed the identities of individual Klansmen, hoping to induce good-hearted people to go after the Klansmen themselves and harass them until they were too broken to so much as spit upon a black man. It Worked. Suddenly, the Ku Klux Klan was forced to disband in the face of overwhelming shame, public ridicule, and vicious assaults on its members. They've never managed to regain their former power since then. In fact, the NSA lists them as a "subversive organisation", the same designation given to the Animal Liberation Front and other "homegrown" terror organizations; and one can lose or be denied security clearance by becoming affiliated with the "nightie knights".
Exalted has, as setting rules : that some actions can never truly taken back, and that while violence can be an attractive or even necessary tool, it can not make things better on its own. Rather important gameplay mechanics to drop in when many competing products have teams of murderhobos roaming the field.
A Dolls House: the anvil, over and over, is that the modern (1870s) state of affairs between men and women robs women of all personhood.
Torvald. There's no one who gives up honor for love.
Nora. Millions of women have done just that.
Brand, and also Peer Gynt. Henrik Ibsen wrote the two plays and published them successively in 1866 and 1867, to underline the point of being either too uncompromising, or being the total opposite (no backbone at all). In Brand, Ibsen is far from subtle, and hammers his message down: The Power of Love is essential when helping out your fellow men in a time of need. Peer Gynt discusses the meaning of "self", also connected to the power of love and the relation to your fellow men. The fourth act in both plays sets up the message of isolation and communication, with the danger of isolated madness as a possible result (in Peer Gynt).
Both the play and musical versions of Spring Awakening drop the anvil of "if you don't teach kids about sex, they'll do it anyway" several times. They also address the issue of suicide and how much it hurts the people you leave behind, and all the things you'll never get to do - in fact, the musical features a Grief Song called "Left Behind" about exactly this.
This is clearly working, as there are many stories from adult viewers about how they saw Spring Awakening with their kids and were moved to talk to their children so the events of the play don't happen to them. On the other hand, there are also a lot of stories from fans about how Moritz's suicide and funeralreminded them of their own friends.
Dog Sees God drops anvils against homophobia, bullying and suicide; while the script sounds like Narm on paper, its performance is a Tear Jerker.
South Pacific had a great moment in the song "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." Hate doesn't come naturally, it gets drummed into people in their youth. When some Southerners asked to cut that song, Rodgers and Hammerstein said "If you cut that song, you might as well cut the whole musical."
Everyone's a little bit racist, so chill out and we'll all get along better. Charity feels good.
Also, it's ok if you don't live up to your dreams right now. You've got your whole life ahead of you, so enjoy it.
"If you were gay that'd be okay I mean cause hey I'd like you anyway"
We Will Rock You pretty much lives off the 'Don't be like everyone else' Aesop.
Wicked's 'skin colour shouldn't matter' aesop couldn't actually be hammered home any more heavily than it is, and yet it works remarkably well.
Also, "Don't accept moral compromises, especially not from your leaders," "go out there and fight for what you believe in", and "throw popular opinion out the window".
Sometimes fate and matters are irreversible. But a moment with a person (the power of friendship) can prove useful for the future. After all, near the ending, Elphaba and Glinda come to terms with the fact that Elphaba's wicked reputation in Oz was irreversible. And a now matured Glinda, changed for good, is left to (positively) reform Oz.
Don't immediately judge another person. The ditzy, popular, girly girl might turn out to be a good, loyal friend, not a complete bitch, and the Soapbox Sadie might not be a pretentious hipster, but instead a brave woman who is actually willing to go out and fight for what she believes in.
The message of Into the Woods, as illustrated by the songs 'No More' and 'Children Will Listen', boils down to "Don't screw up your kids, or it WILL come back and bite you in the ass."
This musical is also one of the best examples of Good Is Not Nice around. Both Little Red Riding Hood and the Witch outright state this in "I Know Things Now" ("And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good") and "Last Midnight" ("You're so nice...you're not good, you're not bad, you're just NICE"), respectively. It's part of what makes the Deconstruction of fairy tales so effective: in classic stories, it's the nice characters who are viewed universally as good. But the heroes of Into the Woods do morally questionable things throughout the whole musical, proving that just because someone acts kind doesn't make them a good person. It also proves the opposite point: everyone assumes the Witch is wicked because of her nasty attitude, but in reality, she's probably the most justified in her actions throughout the whole work—she was saddled with a curse of ugliness and age that she knew next to nothing about (all she was told was not to let anything happen to her mother's special beans), loses her magical powers in exchange for recovering her original youth and beauty, has her home and garden destroyed by the Giantess, and ends up watching her adopted daughter Rapunzel die a horrible death. The Witch is also the one to force the heroes to admit that their self-centered wishes and lack of thought regarding those wishes' consequences are to blame for the horrible mess they made of things.
Angels In America already has a pretty heavy message about the treatment of homosexuals/people infected with AIDS, but there's one part that's a little different. It's when Hannah Pitt and Prior Walter meet, and Prior realizes that she's Mormon. He comments "I can just imagine what you think of me" (that he's homosexual), and Hannah indignantly tells him off for being so presumptuous about her opinions. She finishes with "You don't make assumptions about me, and I won't make any about you". Incredibly obvious moral about everyone needing to be open-minded? Yep. Quite necessary? Oh yeah.
Little Shop of Horrors drops its anvil of "Don't give into temptation" very well, especially through its finale song, "Don't Feed The Plants".
It wasn't the original main purpose of the play, but Inherit the Wind has a powerful message about the value of human reason over unthinking faith:
Drummond: "In a child's power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "amens" and "holy holies" and "hosannas." An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters."
The 2013 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has plenty of the source novel's vital anvils on selfishness, gluttony, greed, etc. intact or given a clever Setting Update. But the biggest ones it drops both build on the original and give the story a much stronger Central Theme: The transformative power of imagination.
The naughty kids can be seen to represent anyone who spends their life mindlessly consuming and chasing fleeting, empty pleasures — food (Augustus), possessions (Veruca), fame (Violet), shallow, instant-gratification media (Mike), what have you — often with dreadful consequences. By comparison, Charlie makes the best of his meager lot in life with the help of his imagination and his loving family, and wants to create things. This makes him an excellent candidate to inherit the amazing world within the titular factory...a world that we learn sprang up not from a desire for fame and fortune, but an ache to make the world a more colorful, beautiful place in their own way (even if others don't understand it). Put simply: Cultivating one's creativity and sharing it with others is a path to true happiness, a path even the humblest soul can take.
There's also a secondary, related aesop: Be appreciative of those who cultivate their creativity and share it. Charlie is as puzzled by Mr. Wonka's eccentricity as anyone, but he's the only one of the kids who treats him with kindness and respect, in part because he understands just how wonderful his creations and world really are. This turns out to mean a great deal to Mr. Wonka.
In "Naughty," a song from the musical Matilda, the main character comments that while toughing out the hard times is occasionally necessary, always doing that leads to nothing ever getting better: "If I always take on the chin and wear it/nothing will change." It's not subtle, but it's powerful, as it encourages people to make things happen, rather than waiting for their situations to improve.
A very short one in Romeo and Juliet, but Romeo drops an important point when he's at the apothecary and is paying the poor shopkeeper-money makes more people die than poison, and is just as bad, if not even worse, than poison.
There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls,
Doing more murder in this loathsome world,
Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.
I sell thee poison. Thou hast sold be none.
Richard III has the anvil that absolute monarchy is a terrible form of government because there is no way for the system to prevent a tyrant from coming to power, and that even if the king is benevolent the country isn't safe, because an aspiring tyrant would have no reason not to kill everyone closer in line to the throne than he. Considering the time in which the play was written, it's definitely a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
Cabaret drops a big anvil near the end about how politics can and will affect you. Also if you just blindly accept what one group does, you may as well be with them.
The Ace Attorney series has a running theme of To Be Lawful or Good, as might well be expected of games centered around the legal system. The anvil comes at the very end of the fourth game in the main series, where both the Judge and the prosecutor of that game explain outright that Good is always the right choice over Lawful, because the law is always changing... and that we have a responsibility to stand up and work to change the law if the law is wrong, for the sake of anyone else who might have to face that law. Given how many protagonists are idealized for breaking laws they don't like, it's nice to hear from the other perspective on this, and leaving it as a subtle theme rather than stating it firmly would have been far less effective.
Broken Saints is loaded with these, most notably about the treatment of third world countries by first world industry.
Some say its anvil is more specifically about the animosity between Koreans and Japanese that remains to this day. Certainly needs to be dropped either way, since this issue isn't addressed very often.
Step 4 specifically: Backing down under societal pressure will not make things better.
The sequel video to This is It'sDon't Hug Me, I'm Scared leaves us a doozy of an aesop. This time around, instead of the Sketchbook from the first video, we instead are introduced to an anthropomorphic clock named Tony. He takes the puppets from the first video on a journey through time as a means to teach them that they had all the time in the world to watch their show. However, as the video progressed, Tony began to emphasize more and more the importance of time. While emphasizing, he has a tight grip on the other puppets, and he wanted them to follow his rules and not think for themselves. In the climax of the video, Tony uses time to rapidly age the puppets. When one of the puppets begged him to make it stop, Tony states that he couldn't. He then gives this line towards the end:
Tony: It's out of my hands, I'm only a clock, but don't worry, I'm sure you'll be fine. But eventually, everyone runs out of time.
Essentially, the moral of the video is that life is too short and too precious to waste. If you desire to do anything meaningful in life, you should do it right now, before your time runs out.
Chess Piece seems to be trying to get across the message that being purely idealistic or purely a cynic is a bad thing.
Sunstone is all about averting Bondage Is Bad and showing healthy and accurate BDSM relationships. This strip in particular is about the differences between common perceptions and reality, and that BDSM sessions should be planned out in advance in order to prevent any mishaps.
Every once in a while, xkcd takes a moment to get serious, or even to get funny on a serious topic, and lay down an important truth or two.
In "Helping", a reminder of the limitations of what we can do for each other.
R.K. Milholland's Dad: Never confuse the faith with the supposedly faithful.
Winston Rowntree, author of Subnormality, often deals with Aesops and Anvils with the subtlety of a falling stack of bricks. While he can get awfully heavy-handed with his messages in his webcomic, he occasionally pulls off an incredibly effective, powerful Anvil. This is exemplified in The Line, a fan favorite which illustrates a chilling, much-needed moral about conformity.
Also, A Coward's Tale. What initially seems like a trivial, grade-school-level Anvil about courage and overcoming doubt suddenly hits painfully close to home, with its Tear Jerker story.
El Goonish Shive drops one with Justin - as a gay person with gender bending technology available, he could easily turn into a woman and continue to love men without intolerance. He continues to reject this idea because he is a man, homosexual or not, rejecting the Trans Equals Gay stereotype. There's also Susan's revelation that men aren't constantly horny pigs. In her notebook, she writes how she can no longer blame her father's adultery on his gender.
It does something similar with the revelation that Tedd is genderfluid, with Grace specifically saying that there's noting wrong with it.
Kate: So. Uh...d'you think Hilary looks... good? As...as a pin-up, I mean.
Art: Yep. She's got the curves, the saucy smile, the seductive eyes. She's the perfect pin-up. That said; I think she's a troll, with looks but neither the charm nor personality to back 'em up...Probably why she hates you so much. Terrible thing; envy.
Cyanide and Happiness ran this strip in December of 2012. It's a rather scathing—but ultimately accurate—critique of the current state of some educational programs, particularly the "everyone gets a prize" mentality. It's also noteworthy for distinguishing the care and love of parents from that of society—your family does consider you special and unique, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the world will automatically do the same. It has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but it resonates loud and clear.
Sinfest of all series teaches that a serious romantic relationship requires mutual understanding, respect and love. Take a look at Criminy, shy bookworm, the nicest person in the strip, who is in a happy relationship with Fuschia, vs. the ongoing Unresolved Sexual Tension of Slick and Monique.
The Whateley Universe is chock full of these, since the stories revolve around ideas like tolerance for people who are different. They're mutants. But most of the protagonists are also Transgender or otherwise LGBTQI, so there's less of a Space Whale Aesop than usual. Several of the main characters, like Phase and Diamondback, have been treated horrifically by their own families since they 'came out' - as mutants.
In the review of Athena #1, Linkara went on a rant about how a guy can dislike the exploitation of women in comic books (and any other form of media) and not be gay, hate women's bodies, a prude, or an overzealous moral guardian. Moreover, the rant itself is a very well articulated speech decrying how female characters arebeingobjectified for the shallowest of reasons.
Linkara: "When Wizard Magazine puts out a drawing guide that says "women should look sultry; men should look heroic and strong," there's something wrong here. When Frank Miller puts in his script that the only reason Vicki Vale is in her underwear is because he wants to get the guys reading the comic turned on, then maybe there's a problem. Or maybe when Stephanie Brown a few years ago was tortured with a power drill and the artist showed off her ass, then it's just freaking sick. Which is why, today, we're digging into "Athena #1," a comic released last year (2009) that seems to think T&A are more important than good storytelling. That's why I'm criticizing it, people! It's still going on!"
Even more awesomely, he did it while still being respectful of LGBT people.
Another moment was in his triumphant speech to the Entity, who wishes to absorb all of existence into itself. Linkara points out that by destroying everything, the Entity will be left with nothing ("No Heaven to aspire to, no Hell to avoid") and thus render itself completely meaningless and utterly bored. In other words: endless destruction and subjugation is a flawed and overrated goal, especially if you don't know what you'll do after that.
Although it's meant for laughs, being one of the many parodies of Linkara's famous Catch Phrase, the following line from his review Uncanncy X-Men #423 still makes a good point:
Linkara: "I AM CONFUSED ABOUT MY GENDER IDENTITY, SO I SHOULD PROBABLY GO TO A LOCAL LIBRARY TO LOOK UP SOME MORE INFORMATION, ESPECIALLY IN LIGHT OF THE FACT THAT TRANSGENDER RIGHTS AREN'T GIVEN AS MUCH ATTENTION IN THE MEDIA AS OTHER RIGHTS!"
In his review of Cry For Justice, Linkara explains that even though he finds the Infant Immortality trope to be "ludicrous," that still doesn't mean that a child character's death should just be a pointless "shock value moment" used for the sake of giving the villain a Moral Event Horizon to cross over.
The Nostalgia Chick's video on The Smurfette Principle. While suffering from the same flaws as the Critic's Nick Month did (as in, she probably didn't have time to look over the newer stuff properly), it was intelligent along with being funny and she never came off as a Straw Feminist.
Ditto for her brief commenting on whether a character is feminist or not. She makes several good points as to why you could or couldn't consider some characters feminist, and then says that the bottom line is how you look at it.
In the same vein is The A-Word, or "No Womb at the Inn", a short documentary she did regarding the abortion debate following her own abortion. She never takes a side, and the documentary as a whole can be summed up by what she says at the end.
Lindsay Ellis: A thought among many regarding abortion is "Out of sight, out of mind." It's not a proper thing you talk about in civilized society - but how do you get past the experience if you're afraid to talk about it?
CR's character look at Anne Gwish and how subcultures like goth aren't bad, it's just conceited jerks like her who ruin it for everyone else.
In his Green M&M vid, its ok to be attracted to fictional characters. They make them that way for a reason.
For his "Top 11 Fluffy and Uranus Eviscirations", you can't pussify society. It's alright to hear "Respect others" and "Take care of yourselves and the environment" but its wrong to hear it 24/7. How someone crass can raise above a baser instinct and want to change something or say something straight from the heart, that is far greater than something sugar-coated. When they say something, it may be snarly and innappropriate, but it can be honest. When they sweeten it, its dishonest and insulting.
In the I'm a Marvel... And I'm A DC's first After Hours series drops the anvil that powerful heroes like Superman aren't outdated, because they still need to be there for others to aspire to be.
While the second season dropped one on how making all heroes Darker and Edgier is bad, since first, some heroes, it just will never work for, and second, that without the Lighter and Softer heroes to contrast to, darker and edgier losses its meaning.
In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the primary Aesops were "Don't fight the battles that you can win, fight the battles that deserve to be fought", and "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Do not allow evil to triumph. Do not do sit by and do nothing." Which are sentiments that need to be said quite a bit more than they are usually said.
Film Brain pointed out in his Bride Wars review that far from being fat, Kate Hudson's character in it would look healthy if she gained five pounds. There was also the commentary for Seven Pounds, in which Film Brain continues to go on about how horrible it is that suicide is glorified as the ultimate sacrifice, when Will Smith's character had a fantastic education and could have done so much more to help others if he didn't martyr himself.
In the same film, he snarks about one of the characters doesn't allow her dog to eat meat. ("Ya! Animals don't eat meat in the wild beat wait) Not to mention that most vets will very specifically advise you against doing this, so it's also a case of Artistic License - Animal Care.
Another example is in his review of The Condemned, where he eviscerates the movie for its hypocritical moralizing about media violence. He drops the anvils that "media violence is not the same as real violence", and "if children are exposed to stuff that's not suitable for them, it's usually the fault of their parents/guardians".
He drops another one in the Project X review in clear defiance of the film's own Family-Unfriendly Aesop; nobody should ever care too much about being popular in high school because it only lasts four years and once it's over it means diddly squat, and that the stunts the protagonists pulled will probably doom them to a life of dead-end minimum wage jobs at best.
If an innocent child is getting mistreated in a movie, The Nostalgia Critic will more often than stop the review for a long rant about it. Nice enough, but then you remember that the character is supposed to have been badly abused as a kid. It's almost poignant in a sense.
In his The Legend of the Titanic review, he makes it clear, several times, that what the film did (outright deny the deaths of hundreds of people in favor of a "SAVE THE WHALES" aesop) is completely disrespectful to those who were related to those who died on the Titanic.
Relating to that, non-stop loud music, sound or talking is annoying and takes away from building kid's appreciation for building up atmosphere.
The Moulin Rogue review has "Even if I don't like the film, maybe you do, and neither of us are definitely wrong" as well as "Guilty Pleasures are nothing to be ashamed of."
The Critic's favorite episode of The Simpsons is "Bart Gets an F", which involves Bart needing to pass a test to avoid having to repeat the fourth grade. Bart buckles down, studies harder... and still fails. The Critic praises the episode for teaching a Family-Unfriendly Aesop that many shows are afraid to touch: that you can try your hardest and still fail.
In his review of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Critic is puzzled by the positive comments from people who loved the film despite all the stuff he said about it and the narrator explains that that the Critic shouldn't force his opinions on others and that "everyone is different like every flake of snow".
In the review of ''Fifteen'': A woman has more worth than her body!
In the "review" of Chris Brown's Turn Up the Music, Todd explains that while one can still like the work a celebrity puts out, they should still hold the person accountable for their mistakes. Todd also takes a lot of issue with Team Breezy's constant excusing of Brown for not only beating his girlfriend up and his constant refusal to really own up to his mistake, but for also making Rihanna seem like the bad guy of the whole incident.
Arby And Chief is a delicious and very relevant anvil on Fan Dumb and Hate Dumb, even if delivered with crude humor, which is directed against the Halo fanbase but can be applied to everything. The episodes "Glitch" and "Panic" are a good point, because The Arbiter delivers a well-placed Reason You Suck Speech against an user named assassininja4827, who is 39 years old and freaking out because of the title glitch in the game. The moral is that there's nothing wrong with being an adult and playing computer game, but you also must act like one!
The God Fuse: Just because you're in the right (or you think you're in the right) about something, doesn't mean you need to be a dick about it.
What Is The Monkeysphere? basically sums it up by talking about Osama bin Laden: "Now, the truth is that bin Laden is as deserving of a bullet in the head as the four-color image on some redneck's T-shirt. But what you've got to realize is this: we're the caricature on his T-shirt."
10. Ladies, learn how to spot a pickup artist before they can succeed.
9. Porn is a terrible way to learn about sex.
8. The only practical/safe self-defense is learning how to run away if someone threatens you.
7. There are certain things a person living on their own needs to know how to do.
6. The oft-forgotten key to success is randomly meeting the right people and not pissing them off.
5. Those "all-natural" cures in the grocery aisle are BS.
4. Losing weight takes work. A LOT of work. Seriously.
3. Learn how to cook - it's important.
2. Talk radio is a terrible source of news information.
1. Life is hard and you will die one day
John Cheese in general writes a lot about being a recovering alcoholic and how much of a struggle it's been. He repeatedly - and to great effect - points out that it's not alcohol that makes you an alcoholic, it's that addiction in your brain, and he also points out that you're never truly "cured" from it. A powerful message. But not the only one from him:
Christina H's "8 Tiny Things That Stopped Suicides": Yes, depressed people often build up a wall around them. Yes, breaking down that wall can be extremely difficult. But sometimes, all it takes to get started is a small crack in the wall, courtesy of a friendly phone call, a hug, or something else.
"Have you ever tried *not* being a rapist?" makes a number of points about rape, starting with the title, and proceeding to cut directly to the argument that instead of teaching people how not to get raped, society ought to teach people how not to be rapists. The article is blunt, minces no words, and is beautifully direct. It was followed up with another article, "Playing the Devil's Advocate", this one on the all-too-often ignored topic of how men suffer rape just as much as women. Finally, there is "A Message to Rape Survivors", which is powerful, comforting, and hopeful.
Krissy Vaine's Vainety Fair entry "Who Believes In You" gives us a moral that mediocrity is absolutely not okay and how important it is to have good self esteem in life. Seems like Captain Obvious but Krissy reminds us all of incidents where we're taught that mediocrity is alright
If we hear good news we fear bad news is right around the corner, we're afraid to accept a gift for fear we don't deserve it.
As well as that, everyone needs someone to believe in them. Krissy says when people compliment children, they're not feeding they're ego. They're preparing them for success.
A recurring theme from Red vs. Blue is that revenge will not make things better. It's best shown with three characters.
Washington wants revenge on Project Freelancer for causing an AI to kill itself inside its head, and also for its amoral experiments. He successfully manages to EMP their command centre, but for this he inadvertently lets the Director get away and ends up in prison. When he is released as part of the Big Bad Duumvirate for Season 8, he ends up being betrayed by his partner and almost killed again.
This happens in Season 8 (again) with Tex, who ends up caught in a capture unit and then wiped from existence by Church. Things would likely have turned out differently had she not tried going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
There's another great example in Season 10 with Church and Carolina, who almost end up dead and eventually declare it isn't worth it after seeing a broken down Director.
Demo Reel's Horrible HollywoodStory Arc wasn't subtle, but heavily based off Reality Subtext. Elissa Hoffman, Donnie's mom who killed herself because the roles dried up, is based on Elizabeth Hartman, who really did commit suicide because she was an aging actress. Donnie's backstory, his being a child actor who learned about this while he was filming a movie and got abuse for his bad performance, is a far more depressing version of what happened to Mara Wilson, as she found about her mother's death while filming Matilda and also gets abuse for her bad performances. Rebecca's sexism-in-the-industry speech could be a case of the trope all on its own, but Rachel improvised half of it based on her own real-life experiences, and last but not least, Doug has very pointedly made clear that he once wanted to make movies over there, but later figured out he wouldn't have survived.
The (only available online) Women on Fire novels had a lot of problems with Author Tract and general Anviliciousness, especially in the later books, but there is one anvil in Taken Child that can't possibly be dropped hard enough: Sexual orientation is not something that can be changed, and attempts by parents to "fix" a gay child can and will tear the family apart.
If you want to succeed at something then you have to be prepared for hardship but it's all worth it if you really want to do it. "Take a little of the pain now so you can do what you love".
Real friends will accept you for who you are. Bobby thought he would have to hide his condition from them and asked if it bothered them. The friends talk about his quirks and eccentricities as reasons why they love him.
Suicide is not an option. Bobby admits that his attempt was motivated by selfishness and he could have done serious damage to the people around him. Matt says "I hope he never thinks like that again because there's no need for it".
The "It Gets Better" series of YouTube videos to prevent gay teen suicide.
Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nanking, exposing horrific atrocities committed by the Japanese Army in WWII. To say it's anvilicious is putting it lightly—it may be one of the most horribly biased and flawed books on history ever written. But it did happen, and her book has opened the floodgate.
Cleopatra's Nose. An anvil that can't be dropped hard enough: You don't need to look like everyone else to be beautiful. You have to look like you to be beautiful.
And its inverse anvil: it is the PARENTS' job to teach their children, not abandoning the responsibility to television, schools, various other people, and painful life experience to do it. And not just giving "the talk," but several "talks" over time, being a source of wisdom and advice for the growing young person along the way, even into adulthood and marriage advice when needed.
The Sword of Damocles. It's about as subtle as a freight train, but it's an excellent demonstration of the perils of absolute power.
Half the Sky is very blunt on it's possibly biasedworldview that atrocities against women continue today (ex. sexual slavery, human trafficking, and female illiteracy), especially in third-world countries. And it also states that the weak economic power that these countries have because of their oppressive misogyny.
Britain ran a series of anti-speeding adverts involving a film of a car travelling down a busy street at a mere five miles over the standard speed limit for a public area, before coming to an emergency stop. The advert shows where the car would have stopped had it been travelling at thirty. Since the car was actually travelling at thirty five, it goes on for another five or six feet: and smashes right into a child crossing the road.
This 9Gag Post talks about how being religious doesn't make you a good person-your actions determine it.
The entirety of the British Home Office's "Sex and Consent" campaign, featuring prominent personalities such as Charlie McDonnell. While it may come across as something obvious, the massive sexual abuse scandal that broke out on YouTube around the same time only made the message stronger.
The videos, by some of the victims of the aforementioned scandal, also hammer home the point repeatedly and effectively. One such example can be found here, although trigger warnings for rape and sexual abuse apply.
In light of a series of videos that YouTuber Sam Pepper put out, showing him sexually assaulting / harassing women (specifically by squeezing their backsides) under the guise of a "prank" and then showing men being the victim of the exact same thing, a series of videos, such as this one, showed that sexual harassment is not cool, regardless of gender.