An Aesop is, increasingly, one of the most Subverted Tropes on television — to the point where parodies of them are becoming almost as repetitive as the morals themselves (though to some they will always be better than an actual Aesop). Aesops are too basic a tool to become a Discredited Trope, so new comedies will likely keep on spoofing them.
There are several common ways to do this:
Ignored Aesop, in which characters use a generous dose of Lampshade Hanging to discuss what the moral is that they were supposed to learn. After going through several possibilities they end up concluding that they either learned something ridiculous or they didn't learn anything at all.
Speedy Cerviche of Samurai Pizza Cats offered up a great Spoof Aesop after a battle: "Whoever said 'Violence never solved anything' wasn't a Pizza Cat!"
In Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, the eponymous character spends a great deal of the fight against Halekulani (a money-obsessed villain) trying to convince him that friendship and normal life is more important than money. At the end, he starts saying what the most important thing in the world really is, and just as he knocks out Halekulani, admits that it's money, after all.
Gintama combines this with Idiosyncratic Episode Naming; each anime episode/manga chapter is usually something like "Stress can lead to baldness, but if you try not to be stressed then that will make you stressed, so there's nothing we can do."
One episode of Magical Project S opens with Sasami and Ginji driving off a cliffside road into the ocean and getting stranded on an island because the latter fell asleep at the wheel. When Ginji explains to Sasami what happened (in an intentionally labored way), they then enthusiastically jump up in excitement, having learned nothing as they continue their summer vacation.
It may or may not be intentional, but much of the first-season Gag Dub of Duel Masters implies that in order to win at card games, you gotta have great hair.
Ninin Ga Shinobuden had "Don't waste food" at the end of episode eleven, which up until that point had nothing to do with the subject and consisted of an (extraordinary inaccurate) retelling of the "Crane Wife" folk tale. Then in the last 2 minutes, everybody falls asleep and Onsokumaru starts sticking oranges on people's faces, only to get chewed out by Kaede's mom. The ninjas comment "Thats the first moral we've had since the show began."
In the Full Metal Panic! novel side story "Cinderella Panic!", it parodies the original fairy tale and gives a sort of backwards moral. Granted, the moral it gave was quite a bit more realistic than the original fairy tale's moral - "Don't always just rely on trying to find a "Prince Charming" who will bring you out of a bad situation, instead use your own strength and find a way out."
Cinderella takes the lesson to heart and sells the other glass slipper for ludicrous profit to a would-be princess, before leaving the kingdom forever (together with the fairy godmother) to become a traveling merchant.
The English dub of Keroro Gunsou had "Recycle and don't pollute the ocean, or the creatures that live in it will eat you alive."
A later episode has "Feel good about your body. Unless you're ugly."
Sonic X, or at least the English dub, gives up this gem: 'Remember kids, don't use Formula 1 race cars to catch hedgehogs!"
An issue of Marvel Adventures: Avengers involved the group being turned against each other by the Hate-Monger, who was actually trying to help them by giving them a common enemy: himself, in order to improve their teamwork. After pointing out how stupid this plan was ("We already have common enemies!"), we get this exchange from Spider-Man and Storm:
Spider-Man: So the lesson today is "Trust no one." Storm: That's not the lesson.
The Slave Labor Graphics Hsu and Chan comics, tend to lampshade this at the end of the stories. A comic on the author's website, The Mummy's Tooth, continues this tradition when Chan notes how the morals of their adventures are getting vaguer and vaguer. Hsu replies by saying that he likes to think that their inherent strength of virtue compensates for that. Immediately after this, one of their friends employees uses a skeleton he looted from a museum garbage can as a ventriloquist dummy to say "That's all folks!"
Another example from the issue Evening of Destruction
Chan: You suppose there's a moral in all of this? Hsu: Oh... probably.
While not necessarily the "lessons" of the cast's misadventures, the infoscrolls present at the bottom of nearly every page of The Intimates tend to skew this way, especially the "Teen Tips". "Teen Relationship Tip: Have sex early so you can get better at it sooner." "Teen Behavioral Tip: When frustrated by life, feel free to act out your aggressions." "Teen Empowerment Tips: Embrace feelings of insecurity, ambivalence, frustration, anxiety, and confusion." Those are all just in the first two issues.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance has this little gem: "Heroes die. Fame lives forever."
Brooklyn delivers us this gem in the Gargoyles comics- "You never know when a giant flaming magical time-travelling bird is gonna swallow you whole and spit you out in the tenth century- so hit those books, kids!"
Eastern European Animation
Kerem A Kovetkezot, a Hungarian animated series, ends every episode with a parodied Aesop.
Crack Shotsby yonwords is a story Wes Janson is telling to the Wraiths, after which he tells them that he just gave them valuable insight about their commander. They think he picked the story to illustrate that Wedge Antilles has survivor's guilt and holds himself aloof from people he thinks will die on him.
Gremlins 2 which features a new gremlin outbreak in a state of the art automated high rise office building ends with the following statement "This isn't a place for people, it's a place for things, and when you build a place for things... well, it ends up getting filled with THINGS". The implication being the "Things" are gremlins. The gremlins have nothing to do with the automated nature of the building. Their outbreak had nothing to do with it other then the fact that they were leasing to a laboratory and Gizmo got wet initially from a malfunctioning drinking fountain. Further more several of the building's high tech features came in handy such as the pest detectors and their telephone network. The real moral of the story should be "mogwai make terrible pets".
The Rocky Horror Picture Show reads like a morality play, saying essentially that hedonism and a queer lifestyle will get you kidnapped and/or killed by aliens.
Brad: You're going to kill him? What's his crime? Dr. Scott: You saw what became of Eddie; society must be protected.
The typical audience response at this point is "Fuck society!"
In xXx, Xander Cage steals the car of an anti-free speech senator named Dick. He then drives the car off a bridge and base jumps from the car. On the way down, he delivers the line "And the moral of the story is 'Don't be a dick, Dick!'"
In Love Actually, jaded rock star Billy Mack appears on what seems to be a live talk show for teenagers, promoting his new album. After defacing a poster of a rival band - which prompts the hosts to inform him that there are kids watching - he looks deeply into the camera and intones:
Billy Mack: Here's an important message from your uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. [the hosts of the television show smile in relief] Billy Mack: Become a pop star, and they give them to you for free!
Elizabeth: For what becomes of the moral if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? ... Darcy: You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine's unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts.
Love and Freindship has a mock-Anvilicious scene at a dying friend's bedside that delivers the spoof Aesop, "Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint." Mind you, the whole thing is a rather wicked parody of late-18th-century sentimental novels, so all the over-the-top shows of emotion are kind of required.
Hilaire Belloc's book of poems Cautionary Tales, written in 1907, parodies the little stories with morals that the Victorians loved to tell their children, in which dire consequences would befall any child who broke the slightest rule. The poems include Matilda, Who Told Lies, And Was Burned To Death (a retelling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf), and Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse, And Was Eaten By A Lion.
And, of course, Algernon who played with a Loaded Gun and upon missing his Sister was Reprimanded by his Father.
Lewis Carroll threw a bunch into a single chapter of Alice in Wonderland, in which the Duchess responds to every piece of news with a moral, ranging from statements which are sensible but irrelevant to complete nonsense.
Borgel by Daniel Pinkwater contains several folk tales which contain Spoof Aesops of the third type (e.g., "Never bet on an eggplant").
In the last page of Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, several Wild Dada Ducks ask what the story's moral is, and one of them answers that it doesn't have a moral — "it is a Dada story."
This from Catch-22: Yossarian left his tent in Marrakech one night to fetch a candy bar, and was lured into the bushes by some unknown WAC, and wound up with a dose of the clap. Clevinger once suggested that this should have taught Yossarian the evil of sexual misconduct. "It teaches me the evil of candy," says Yossarian.
Older Than Print: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: What valuable lesson in chivalry and virtue does Sir Gawain learn after failing his Secret Test of Character? "Never trust women." — it really is a Spoof Aesop, not just a case of Values Dissonance. Gawain's short speech, in which he explains that, ever since Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit, women have been leading men into evil, is just a shameless attempt to excuse his own failure by blaming someone else. The Green Knight sets him straight.
Poe does this again in "The Spectacles", in which the moral is basically "always wear glasses if you need to".
In Jonathan Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy, one footnote goes off on a tangent about how after being trapped in a bottle for several decades, he was released by a fisherman. Bartimaeus emerged in suitably spectacular fashion as a lightning bolt throwing giant, and offered the fisherman a wish. Guy dropped dead on the spot of a heart attack. Bartimaeus then says "I know there's a moral in there somewhere, but for the life of me I just can't find it."
A footnote in Terry Pratchett's novel Eric explains, "Interestingly enough, the gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won't do if they don't know about it. This explains why it is important to shoot missionaries on sight."
The Code of Dinotopia is a list of proverbs carved on a stone tablet. The bottom right-hand corner broke off at some point, cutting off the last code at "Don't p—" One Dinotopian suggests that the line might be "Don't pee in the bath."
In the classic Canadian children's book, The Hockey Sweater, a boy in 1940s Quebec orders a Montreal Canadians sweater but a Toronto Maple Leafs one arrives instead (which, in that setting, was Serious Business). He is convinced that he is not allowed to play because of his sweater (which might be true) and breaks his stick in anger. The curate sees him and tells him to go to church and ask God to forgive him.
"Wearing my Maple Leafs sweater I went to the church, where I prayed to God. I asked God to send me right away, a hundred million moths that would eat up my Toronto Maple Leafs sweater."
Live Action TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the fourth-season episode "Beer Bad," after a cursed batch of beer turns Buffy into a neanderthal, Xander steers us into a Spoof Aesop:
Xander: And was there a lesson in all of this? What have we learned about beer? Buffy: Foamy! Xander: Good. Just so that's clear.
There was a realAesop to this episode, too (namely, "Beer Bad"), so that the show could apply for funding from the National Office of Drug Control Policy. Though most fans dislike "Beer Bad" for its extreme anviliciousness, the show didn't get the funds because the feds thought that the episode wasn't anvilicious enough.
Giles: I can't believe you served Buffy that beer. Xander: I didn't know it was evil! Giles: You knew it was beer.
An episode of Angel starts out this way, although there was a hidden moral. Cordelia has been impregnated by the monster of the week, and was surprised when her teammates helped her out:
Wes: What did we learn? Cordelia: Men are evil? No, wait, I knew that. Sex is bad? Angel: We all knew that. Cordelia: Okay, fine. I learned that I have two people I can count on absolutely in my life. And that's new.
In Diff'rent Strokes, Arnold gets into a fight with the bullying son of the landlord's brother who is subbing for a short time. This leads to a loud confrontation where the brother confronts Mr. Drummond, threatens to evict the family and provokes Drummond to punch the blowhard out. This gives the landlord the excuse to exploit a lease violation that the brother found to raise the rent on the Drummonds, with a veiled threat of eviction to convince them to give in. The punchline is this: after the Drummonds cave in to this threat, the father tells the kids that this is the result of his act of violence. However, when asked if it was worth it, Mr. Drummond immediately remarks it was, for having the pleasure of shutting a bully up.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will yell at his uncle's political rival, which leads him to have a heart attack. When his funeral comes around, all the mourners turn out to hate him, with most of them showing up to make sure he is actually dead. Will — wracked by guilt — yells at them all for it, saying they should respect the dead. It seems like this will end the scene on An Aesop, but when they ask who he is, he answers "I'm the dude that killed him" to rapturous applause.
As was mentioned in Berserk Button, the Aesop of The King of Queens episode "Bun Dummy" is "Save the bun hairstyle for when you're an old lady, and if you're bold enough to wear it as a young lady, don't act like it's the greatest thing that ever happened to you".
The Bernadette Peters episode of The Muppet Show, Sam the Eagle started reading the famous story of "The Ant and the Grasshopper". However, when winter came in the story, Sam was shocked to learn that the grasshopper drove his sports car to Florida, and the ant got stepped on.
Serling: So, there you have it. Something that is beautiful to one is not beautiful to another. As this woman learned when she... well... she didn't really learn anything. And neither did we. Frankly, usually I try to have some kind of ironic twist or moral in these things, but... I got nothing this time, because that woman was hot! In The Twilight Zone.
Another one from a TV Funhouse segment starring Tracy Morgan (later of 30 Rock fame) as Mr. T, complete with mixed metaphors:
Mr. T: Let that be a lesson to all the Gary Burghoffs, Joey Lawrences, Tina Yotherses, and George "Goober" Lindsays! If you believe in yourself, eat all your school, stay in milk, drink your teeth, don't do sleep, and get eight hours of drugs - you can get work!
Even with its "No hugging, no learning" motto, an episode of Seinfeld does have a Spoof Aesop. In the episode "The Summer of George", George's plan to fulfill his personal goals during that summer (which he declared "The Summer of George", hence the title) go terribly awry. The Spoof Aesop here would seem to be "Never name a season after yourself; it will only end in tragedy".
On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dr. Bashir attempts to get Token Evil Teammate Garak to stop lying by telling him the story of the boy who cried wolf. Garak thinks about it for a minute, then hilariously concludes that the real moral of the story is "Never tell the same lie twice."
Don't forget that a woman who worked for one of the charities they went through to find people to donate the cars to approached them and threatened to sue them because one of the cars was two years older than she had been told it was... even though it was a charitable donation.
Virtually all the "Top Gear Top Tips" fit this trope
Jeremy Clarkson: If you're a 17 year old boy and need car insurance, slice your penis off.
In an Adam Sandler comedy sketch, a driver ejects his friends from his car one-by-one as they accidentally reveal that they've each had sexual liaisons with sixty-year-old men. In the end, the driver is killed in a car crash. The moral, we are told, is, "If your friends have fooled around with a sixty-year-old man, do not throw them out of your car. Or you will die."
At the end of every episode of The Sarah Silverman Program Sarah sits on her bed and discusses the lessons she has learned for the day to her dog. These lessons will always be completely incorrect or will have absolutely nothing to do with the lessons she should have learned. For example, in the episode "Not Without My Daughter", the lesson she should have learned was not to live her life through her children, the lesson she learned was that children are evil, and in "High, It's Sarah" the lesson she should have learned was that pot impairs your judgment and it is not a good idea to act on ideas you have while high, the lesson she learned was "bacon spelled backwards is 'no cab'... which is what black people get!"
Dinosaurs once ended a Very Special Episode on drugs with one of the characters addressing the audience, telling them that drugs were the leading cause of crappy anti-drug episodes of your favorite TV shows. To paraphrase the end of it, "Put an end to PSA's, don't do drugs."
Ted: Dougal, don't put too much faith in people who are 'cool'. Most of the time, they're just on the fast track to a life of crime. Father Lennon will probably end up like that corrupt cardinal in The Godfather 3. Dougal: Oh, you're right there, Ted. Ted: So, have you learned something from your experience? Dougal: ...No.
The State did a series of spoof Spring Break Safety promos for MTV - one started out seeming to be about the dangers of excessive drinking, but turned out to have the backwards moral that you should drink whiskey instead of beer because you'll get drunk faster and won't get a hangover. Others had more non sequitir messages, like "raw pork chops that you find lying on the beach are perfectly safe to eat, but you should trim the fat first, make sure there aren't any crabs on it, and check for cartons of chocolate milk washing up onshore too", and "Don't get gangrene". That last one also seemed to be a parody of the kind of Clueless Aesop that's too vague to be useful: there was no discussion of what causes gangrene or what should be done if you do get it, just constant reiteration that it is a serious, potentially life-threatening infection and you should try to avoid it.
Michael Kelso and Jackie Burkhart are a good-looking but dim and very shallow teen couple. In the episode "Hyde Moves In", Jackie catches a cold, which slightly hinders her looks, but when Kelso sees her, he screams in horror. He later comes back to apologize, and tells that he learned a lesson: "Just because you look bad now, that, that doesn't mean you're gonna look bad forever! [...] I realized that this whole mess, that's just a temporary thing. But physical beauty, that lasts forever!" Jackie is touched.
Another episode, "Streaking" from the first season contained one. Donna doesn't want to go with her parents to a presidential rally for Gerald Ford because she's embarassed because she and her parents would be wearing jumpsuits to make them look like an American flag. When Kitty talks with her about it, it results in this exchange.
Kitty: Aren't you going Donna? Donna: No, my dad's gonna make me wear this really queer jumpsuit. I don't know if I can do it. It's just too embarrassing. Kitty: You know Donna, my grandmother came from Sweden, and she had this thick thick accent and it embarrassed me to no end. Well, I asked her not to come to my high-school graduation 'cause I didn't want my friends to hear her talk. And she didn't come. Sixteen years later, she got the gout and died. You see? Donna: No. Kitty: All families are embarrassing. And if they're not embarrassing, then they're dead.
In the Better Off Ted episode "The Long and Winding High Road", Linda and Veronica come up with one way of cheating to make sure their project beats out its competitor from the other division, while Ted comes up with a completely different way; the combination of the two of them ends up being worse for the project than if they'd just done nothing.
Ted: Look, the project is now dead. Because we all took the low road. So, I was right. We should always stay on the high road. Lesson learned. The end. And you two are worse than me. Veronica: Actually, I think the lesson here is, when we're on the low road, we really need to coordinate better.
Britta: Maybe you're one of those rare people with nothing underneath the surface. Maybe if you put stain remover on a turd, you don't get a diamond - you just get a turd with less direction in life.
One episode of Arrested Development, following various fake dismemberments, has the moral that you shouldn't use a one-armed man to scare someone. This aesop comes into the ridiculously over-specific category, although for the show it's actually good advice.
For bonus points, it's also a Broken Aesop, since the lesson was completely hypocritical.
"And that's why you don't teach lessons to your son." -J. Walter Weatherman, who just got done teaching Michael a lesson about not teaching lessons
Blossom has a Show Within a Show example. One episode has Blossom, Joey and Six showing the short movies they made for a school project. According to their teacher, "it's an automatic A as long as it teaches a lesson". Joey's movie is a So Bad, It's Good Science Fiction Cliché Storm with no overarching message whatsoever - and then, once the movie's over, he has superimposed "Don't Drink and Drive" onto the final image.
Blossom: I think it's cheating. The moral of some low-budget scifi ripoff movie is "Don't drink and drive"? Joey: See? Even you got it!
Castle gives us this gem, when his daughter considers trying out for cheerleading.
"Well, we both learned a valuable lesson today. You learned you can expand your horizons and grow. I learned that if that involves short skirts and boys I'm not gonna like it."
The closing songs of the second series of Blackadder sometimes fell into this category
Take heed the moral of this tale. Be not a borrower or a lender And if your finances do fail Be sure your banker's not a bender.
The final episode of The Gong Show was told as one of "Chuckie's Fables" ("The Land Of Ferb And Fenwick Gotterer"). The moral: "Never bet against the Minnesota Vikings at home in the wintertime."
The Nanny did this twice with the same moral. Any time the children were arguing, Fran would tell them to be nicer to each other. Rather than do the typical Aesop about loving your family, the first time she said "Yes, because someday your father's going to be old and sick... You're gonna want him to live with her." The second was more abrupt, "Be nicer to your sister, someday you might need an organ... and your brother's a different blood type."
"Three Little Pigs" by Green Jellÿ: "And the moral of the story is: A band with no talent can easily amuse idiots with a stupid puppet show."
Few people probably needed to be told the moral of Tom Lehrer's song Oedipus Rex: "So be sweet and kind to mother, now and then have a chat // buy her candy or some flowers or a brand new hat // but maybe you had better let it go at that..."
In The Lonely Island's Threw it on the Ground, Andy Samberg throws Elijah Wood and Ryan Reynolds' table to the ground, causing them to retaliate by tazing his butthole. The moral? You can't trust the system!
"The Curse of Millhaven", by Nick Cave, is told from the perspective of a young girl who is recounting all the terrible things that have been happening in town lately. Near the end, she reveals that she is responsible for (almost) all of it, and is locked away in a mental institution. At the end, she's asked if she's learned her lesson.
''They ask if I feel remorse/And I answer "Why, of course"/There's so much more I could have done if they had let me
"So if I have one message for you tonight, it's do good in the world and love each other...and that's two messages, so if I have just one message for you tonight, it's do each other!"
Calvin and Hobbes did it twice: after the duplicator incident, Calvin tried to say what lesson they'd learned, but decided "OK, we didn't learn any big lesson." ("Live and don't learn, that's us," quipped Hobbes.) The "moral" of the encounter with Calvin's 'Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons' was the extremely valid and helpful "Snow Goons are bad news." As Calvin noted: "I like maxims that don't encourage behavior modification." Another Spoof Aesop appears at the end of the strip where Calvin gets sent to bed after spending all Sunday getting his chores done, following Hobbes's advice that it would give them more time to goof off:
Calvin[angrily]: See if I ever listen to you again. Hobbes[with subtle sarcasm]: Never put the low priorities first.
This◊ Bob the Angry Flower comic featuring wheelchair basketball.
Zebra: So, Saint Peter wouldn't allow you into heaven? Rat: No. He said I was bad. Zebra: Well, now that you know your actions have consequences, what kind of things are you going to avoid from now on? Rat: Death.
The morals Rat gives for his "Angry Bob" stories tend to be absolute non sequiturs. And they're not nearly as bad as the ones in his "Danny Donkey" stories...
An Oor Wullie comic has the main character being asked to play hooky with his friends. He refuses, because he wants to go to art class instead. However, once at school, he gets mocked for the goofy smock he is wearing. The lesson he learns? Next time he should just play hooky. No "stay in school" here!
Every episode of The BBC World Service's Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show ended with Austin Tichner asking the other two members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company what they'd learned. In a couple of episodes it was vaguely relevant to the events of the episode, but at no point was immediately useful, or anything to do with William Shakespeare.
Adam: I learned people are animals too. Reed: I learned you can't hug a child with nuclear arms. Austin: And I learned never to ask Reed and Adam what they learned today.
A sketch on a Monty Python record parodying fairy tales ends with a character being run over by a bus on his return from his quest to buy a packet of cigarettes for the King, with the end moral proving to be "Smoking is bad for your health."
The Catchup Advisory Council "commercials" on A Prairie Home Companion inevitably make "eat more ketchup" not merely the logical end of a sales pitch, but a full-on Spoof Aesop.
Twelfth Night ends with a song that teases a moral, but merely ends with A long while ago/The world was begun/But that's all one/Our play is done.
Othello is adapted from an Italian story in which Desdemona delivers a Writer on Board speech saying Venetian/Italian women can't trust Turks or Moors or foreigners in general. Shakespeare leaves the plot largely unchanged but replaces this with a more appropriate speech by the villain saying a Moor such as Othello was silly to trust (an Italian?) man (himself) over his own wife, a Venetian... we can only guess at the contemporary audience reaction. But to audiences in slaving states of the Antebellum United States in particular, and to some extent Anglophone audiences in general in the 19th and 20th centuries, the idea that a negro or oriental should be cautious of trusting a European was (quite) laughable.
Well the moral of the story is, of course: Don't love your mother, pardner, save it for your horse. I guarantee you will be filled with great remorse If you give your mom the love you should be saving for your horse!
(Could also be a case of Space Whale Aesop) There is a 16th century French farce which goes as follows: An alchemist arrives to a village and proclaims that he can remelt old men and make them young again. The old crones of the village convince their husbands to try the alchemist's foundry. They come out of it rejuvenated... and immediately dump their wrinkled wives and start chasing young girls. The moral of the play? "God save you from the idea to remelt your husbands".
Or, more mundanely, "be careful what you wish for".
The opera Don Pasquale ends with the characters pointing out that the elderly shouldn't get married.
The song "Turn It Off" in The Book of Mormon is essentially a drawn-out version of this, where the characters explain how problems are easiest to deal with if you simply ignore them and suppress your feelings.
Elder Mc Kinley: Turn it off, like a light switch - just go click! It's a cool little Mormon trick. We do it all the time! ...Really, what's so hard about that?
In the second half of the song, Elder Mc Kinley also goes on a rant about how he has to crushhis homosexuality because "boys should be with girls, that's heavenly father's plan - so if you ever feel you'd rather be with a man, turn it off!"
Jan Jansen: Well, there's a lesson in there somewhere, I suppose. Never whip a sick ogre? Never tell someone twice your size to pick something up? Never boss someone around unless you can run faster than they can? Aha! If you're going to hire ogres, give them sick days and benefits or they will kill you. Yes... that about sums it up, I think.
Which is actually a rather useful Aesop, all things considered.
Actually all of them are rather useful. Especially the third one.
In Earthworm Jim 3D, Jim just spent the entire game exploring his four worm brains repairing his sanity, defeating the villains affecting his mind, collecting marbles to rebuild his IQ, and defeat his suppressed feminine side trying to take over his mind and body. Jim's reflection on the whole ordeal:
Jim: I can't believe it's over. I had no idea it would be so strange! ...But I think I learned something from all this. Nothing can destroy the Super-Suited worm hero! I am invincible!"
Some of Otacon's misinterpreted proverbs in Metal Gear Solid 2, such as how the concept of original sin means Snake has to take no responsibility for stealing and killing, and how the lack of profit in the fashion industry for pre-ripped jeans shows that no-one should subvert the natural order of things.
In Psychonauts, Razputin accidentally sets loose the censors in Sasha Nein's brain during Psychic Blast training, and after Raz is forced to seal them away again, the following exchange occurs:
Sasha Nein: Young man, I hope you've learned a lesson here today. Razputin: Yes I have. That shooting things is fun and useful!
Spoofed in the same level after Raz defeats the grotesque Mega-Censor.
1. How to deal with frustration, disappointment, and irritating cynicism. Elaine: That sounds like something my husband would say. Guybrush: Yikes! 2. It's not the size of the ship... Elaine: Yes, I've heard that one. 3. Never pay more than 20 bucks for a computer game. Elaine: A what? Guybrush: I don't know, I'm not sure why I said that.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge has another one, after Guybrush is tasked to find the answer to the riddle "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, what color is the tree?". After finally finding an answer ("all of them") we get this exchange:
A trailer for Portal had GLaDOS deliver the Aesop: "If at first you don't succeed, you fail."
In Kingdom of Loathing, low-quality booze gives one very few adventures, and some even does Stench/ Sleaze damage, and takes one forever to get drunk off of. Only go for the good stuff.
When you complete all of Brütal Legend's Overslaughter side-quests, the Hunter leaves with: "Whenever you kill something, a part of you dies. A tiny, pathetic little part of you that you didn't need anyway." (paraphrased)
One of Zaeed Massani's anecdotes in Mass Effect 2 starts out with him telling Shepard not to smoke.
Zaeed: You smoke, Shepard? Don't. That stuff'll kill you. Knew a kid once, half your age. Smoked too close to a cache of explosives. Tossed a butt, blew himself sky high.
And leads into the more useful Aesop "If your door is broken crazy people can wander into your house and deliver bad jokes".
8-Bit Theater frequently uses the joke that Character Development cannot and will not happen to the main characters of the comic, and much of the humor deals with them missing out on/ignoring/or sometimes straight avoiding Aesops and opportunities for growth.
Several times, Black Mage has learned a valuable Aesop - such as that a path of violence and hatred will only cause himself suffering, or that use of evil spells will alienate White Mage from him - but they just can't stick to his teflon soul and one knife-worthy comment from Fighter and he's all but forgotten they ever existed.
The story "Cannibals Anonymous" is about Aylee overcoming her addiction to eating humans. After she's "cured", she goes Actual Pacifist on Torg just when he and Riff are being held by cannibals who intend to eat them and she's the only one who could save them. Torg decides to announce that he was wrong to force Aylee to be someone she wasn't, and to make it up, he'd like her to eat all the cannibals in the room. (Even she doesn't buy it, until he says "Who's the prettiest alien in the world?") The aftermath prompts the following Aesops:
Percy the Mammoth: I've learned that I can be friends, even with people different from me. Aylee: And I've learned that true friendship is worth more than eating even the tastiest human. Torg: I've learned that I need to appreciate you more. I've been taking your friendship for granted when I should have listened with my heart. Riff: And I learned it's OK to eat people if they're the bad guys.
Riff's story "The Isle of the Ployees" ends with:
Luckily the volcano was actually a magic portal that returned me to the real world. It was my salvation, not my destruction. I learned an important lesson that day. Lava heals all wounds. When life gets me down, I look to jump in some lava. Barring that, I remember that freedom is not found on the horizon. True freedom is found by looking within. Within mountains filled with lava.
This story also seems to have a real aesop, which is that corporate jobs suck or something, but it turns out it's just a dream he had and has no particular point.
Also done in this strip in the chapter "Mandatory Applause". The Aesop's actually a decent one, but it's too much of a Space Whale Aesop to take seriously.
Torg: Devaluing everything material is a road to ruin. That was a lesson Clutter Monster learned too late and at too high a price.
In Gunnerkrigg Court, chapter 15, Antimony and Kat see that Red has become estranged from her friend, Blue; they blame her acerbic personality, but Red blames her hair. Annie and Kat humor her by taking her to get a haircut, but they also tell Red that it will take more than new hair to win her friend back. Then the new haircut does win Blue back. So the real lesson is that fairies are capricious and weird.Or alternatively, "No one is too happy to wang (throw) tomatoes".
Commissioned teaches us an important lesson about donuts and arm pimples here: .
ThisOrder of the Stick strip. "See what we learned today, Mr. Scruffy. Solve a mans problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, you help him for the rest of his life."
The strip in question is entitled: "Technically, the 'Fish' Version is a Subset of This One."
Just moments earlier, Belkar learned that his sociopathic nature was going to get him killed off. The conclusion his mentor (or hallucination; it's never made clear) drives him to is that he needs to FAKE character development.
Belkar did this stuff pretty much from the beginning like this strip. When he quit from the Banjoist church, he says "I got into it strictly to injure Roy[...] but I've learned a valuable lesson: the power to inflict bodily harm was always mine. I just needed to use it more often...like so" and he throws one of his knives at Roy.
This strip. Roy's lesson learned after jumping on an undead dragon and then falling to his death from it? "I learned to do it where the ground is softer." The comic's title "Also, At Lower Altitude" applies as well.
When Keira Knightley shows Rayne of Least I Could Do his future, this is the lesson he says he learns.
There's a fine line between this and Family-Unfriendly Aesop in the aftermath of Axel and Aerith's bachelor and bachelorette nights in Ansem Retort. The most obvious Spoof Aesop is Red XIII declaring "Bullshit I'm not adorable!"
Second most obvious.
Darth Maul: I can hijack a plane using only a comb and a pack of Tic-Tacs!
This arc of Skin Horse ends with the team discussing what they learned on the mission. The first two are reasonable Aesops, though your typical Saturday morning cartoon show might have used "power" instead of "violence" for Unity's. Tip, however, learned that "sex is even better if you get the woman's name first!", prompting newcomer Nick to say "I learned not to let the lady-dude tell us his lesson".
Homestuck: "This is exactly why babies should not be allowed to dual-wield flintlock pistols."
One Ozy and Millie sequence ends with Millie learning the lesson that "pirates are good at math".
Sandra from Sandra and Woo theorizes where loot from a robbery may be hidden, goes searching there with Larisa, Cloud and Woo. After finding nothing, they go home with several (more or less serious) aesops. A few minutes later, Cloud's mother finds the loot, inches away from where the kids were looking.
In episode 100 of Red vs. Blue, Church gives a speech which is halfway between an Aesop and an angry rant about everyone around him.
Caboose: You ever wonder why we're here? Church: You know, Caboose? I used to not care. I just went along with orders and hoped that everything would work out for me. But, after all that's happened, you know what I've learned? It's not about hating the guy on the other side because someone told you to. I mean, you should hate someone because they're an asshole or a pervert or a snob. Or they're lazy or arrogant or an idiot or a know-it-all. Those are reasons to dislike somebody. You don't hate a person because someone told you to. You have to learn to despise people on a personal level. Not because they're Red or because they're Blue, but because you know them... and you see them every single day... and you can't stand them because they're a complete and total fucking douchebag. Caboose: ... I meant why are we up here in the sun when we could be standing down there in the shade? Church: Oh! ... Yeah, okay. Let's go stand in the shade.
"You know, I learned something that day. Yeah, I may have it rough sometimes. I may lose an arm or even an eye or even lose all hope. We all have our bad times, I'm no exception. But regardless of how bumpy the road becomes and regardless of how many limbs I lose or how bleak the future looks, I can always be thankful that hey, at least I'm not French."
I think there are two lessons here: Don't believe all those Coke stories you hear. And don't, for any reason, let a fly drink Roto-Rooter.
An SMBC Theater sketch rewrote the ending of Wargames so that the computer picks up on one of these.
Joshua: Strange game. The only winning move is not to play. [everyone cheers]Joshua: Or to be player one. See, if you go first you take the middle square. Yeah, I guess that's the lesson. Go first, and hope your opponent messes up the first move.
Seanbaby said this about River City Ransom: "Kids, if there's one thing you take away from River City Ransom, may it be that violence is the answer to your problems. If you beat a gang member hard enough, he will become an honor student. And if you beat an honor student hard enough, he will give you his lunch money. And the final moral is: it's all about good grades and trips to the mall."
This Cracked list about impersonators points out that at least two of them were able to achieve fame, fortune and very little punishment after dropping out of school and pretending to be someone else. #1 died of diabetes, so the writer decides that that's the moral: impersonate someone, and you get diabetes.
"Whether we think about Santa this season, or Jesus, whether we're religious, or we just like presents, we can all agree on one thing. And that's that killing Nazis is fun."
Near the end of Doppelgänger, Victor's friend Lisa cheers him up by saying that his life basically sucks and there's nothing he can do to change that or stop being a loser. But hey, at least there's always someone out there who's life is even worse!
Friendship is Witchcraft includes a few of these, such as "Dear Princess Celestia, today I learned that you have got to check this ball out!"
Mr. Poniator's What I Learned Today is based on a series of tongue-in-cheek alternate morals for the first 2 seasons of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic posted on an image board. It includes claims that the moral of "Family Appreciation Day" is "Your granny was young and hot once!" and the moral of "Sweet and Elite" is "You friends will be hicks, but that's okay, because rich people will save your ass if you're hot!"
Abraham Lincoln: It doesn't matter. What does matter is you need to believe in yourself! Finn: NEVER!
In one episode, Finn tries to make everyone happy by fixing all their problems for them, but discovers it's impossible, because there's too many problems to fix and solving one always means making a different one worse. Then Jake asks, "What do YOU want, Finn?" and of course the viewer expects Finn to have an aesop and realize that he can't please everybody all the time. There's a pause, then Finn proceeds to fix everyone's problems and make everyone happy anyway.
Another episode had the Magic Man turns Finn into a foot after Finn gives him a sugar cube in order to teach him a lesson. In the end, Finn tells the Magic Man he's learned his lesson that he shouldn't have hesitated when he gave him the sugar cube. Magic Man still keeps Finn as a foot, prompting Finn to say "You're a jerk"-which turns out to be the actual lesson that the Magic Man was trying to teach him.
"His Hero" had the Aesop of "Never listen to old people".
The moral of "The Other Tarts" is that "This cosmic dance bursting with decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but... If sweetness can win, (and it can!), then I'll still be here tomorrow to high-five you, yesterday, my friends. Peace."
In American Dad!, Stan's realization of his dream, becoming his boss Avery Bullock's Number Two, results in his unreasonably imposing on, and neglecting, Francine. Every time she tells him he must finally say "no" to Bullock, Stan immediately breaks his promise. When he finally "gets" the "stand up for yourself" Aesop, it's at the worst possible moment, when Bullock is shot and tells him to call for help. Stan ignores him and walks away even after Francine assures him it's okay to say "yes" this one time.
In American Dragon Jake Long, at the end of the episode "Siren Says," the main characters try to figure out an Aesop but can't. For instance, they start out thinking that it's that old chestnut "don't be prejudiced for the beautiful and against the less attractive"...except that lesson would be rather inappropriate since the beautiful girl was innocent, and the less attractive girl was the evil Siren that was framing the beautiful one. Jake briefly considers that agreeing to date the less attractive girl in the first place would have prevented her from attacking him in the first place...but then he'd be dating a clingy, psychotic Siren who could go off at any minute.
They eventually decide the lesson is don't trust children's paper fortunetelling toys, and always wait an hour after eating before going swimming.
Many episodes of Animaniacs ended with the Warners getting a random lesson for the day from the "Wheel of Morality". In a great gag, one of the spots reads "Bankrupt", making it both a parody of "Wheel of Fortune" and of the phrase "morally bankrupt". There's also a prize space, which they actually hit at one point.
Lessons "we should learn" from the Wheel of Morality include "Never ask what hot dogs are made of," "If you don't have something nice to say, you're probably at the Ice Capades," and "If at first you don't succeed, blame it on your parents."
There's also the occasional utterly nonsensical moral, such as "2B or not 2B, that is the pencil" and "Do not back up. Severe tire damage."
An example not coming from the Wheel of Morality bits came from the show's Power Rangers parody "Super Strong Warner Siblings", with Yakko, Wakko, and Dot as pseudo-Power Rangers fighting off bug monsters and the like. At the end of the short, the Warners show up to deliver the moral of the story...
Yakko: Hey, kids! Remember: Playing with giant bugs isn't cool! If someone wants you to play with a giant bug, just say "No, thanks!"
Pinky: I suppose the moral of this whole story is: if you give a mean big-headed kitty love, they won't try to dumb down the world with an evil dance.
One episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force had Frylock spending the entire episode saying too much TV was bad for you. In the end, however, he purchases a brand new television set for the house, which leads to this exchange:
Meatwad: I thought you said TV was bad for you. Frylock: Oh, it is...but we *** ing need it!
ATHF also gave us:
Meatwad: "Well really the morale is that technology... and that that yellow padded chair in the living room is mine I, I called it from now on."
Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the first-season episode "The Waterbending Scroll," Katara shoplifts a valuable scroll of waterbending techniques from pirates, which brings down both the pirates and the Fire Nation on their heads. At the end of the episode, Sokka reveals that he had the presumed-lost scroll, and demands, "First, what did you learn?" Katara says, contritely, "Stealing is wrong." Then, snatching the scroll from Sokka, she adds, "Unless it's from pirates!" (This was Katara's original justification for stealing — that the scroll was stolen by the pirates in the first place, and theft from a thief isn't really theft.)
Of course, this event is suitably skewered during "The Ember Island Players" which primarily consists of a comedic fanfic-esque take on the Gaang's adventures
Actor!Sokka: Katara, why did you steal that waterbending scroll? Actor!Katara:[sniff] Because it gave me [sniff] so much HOPE!
"The Fortuneteller" would have probably had the actual Aesop of Screw Destiny/don't rely heavily on another person, but as one the villagers pointed out, all of Aunt Wu's predictions did come true.
Although, Aunt Wu herself seemed to lean towards the Screw Destiny theme, and as for don't rely heavily on another person, the entire village was involved in stopping the lava, even if Aang did save the day.
"The Cave of Two Lovers" features a group of pseudo-hippies who repeatedly tell Sokka that he needs to focus less on the destination and more on the journey, and other such platitudes. At the end of the episode, the leader, Chong, delivers an Aesop-style summation and tells Sokka he hopes he's learned something. Sokka is no more impressed than he was at the start of the episode.
Aang: It's just like the legend said: we let love lead the way. Sokka: Really? We let huge ferocious beasts lead our way.
The Brak Show was fond of nonsensical morals delivered by the title character.
Brak's spoof Aesops don't hold a candle to his father's:
Brak's Dad: Brak, remember that even though a man may have more hairs on his head that there are stars in the sky, that does not mean that he can plan a successful party that movie stars will attend and enjoy... responsibly.
Lampshaded by Danny Phantom: "Ghost attacks, we exchange witty banter, I kick ghost butt, then we all go home having learned a valuable lesson about honesty or some such nonsense."
Drawn Together has a number of these. An example is at the end of the Indian casino episode, where Captain Hero preaches the moral of the story; that it was wrong for him to let innocent people die so he could make some money. Instead he preaches that although white people slaughtered the Indians and took their land, they shouldn't be allowed to have casinos because casinos bring out the worst in weak minded white people. He concludes his speech by yelling, "U.S.A.!" repeatedly while the crowd cheers along in a spoof of the film Rocky IV.
Another one is when Clara learns that it's bad to keep your roommate sick by force feeding him an entire bottle of drain cleaner... because then if the sink gets clogged, you'll have no way to unclog it.
Lois: Well Peter, I guess you learned a very important lesson. Peter: Nope!
"I think the lesson here is, it really doesn’t matter where you’re from, as long as we’re all the same religion."
Lois: So, how'd the test go? Brian: I failed. [Griffins react in shock] Yes, I failed. But the important thing is that I finished what I started and I didn't cheat. Lois:[pause] Well, you should have cheated. [Griffins mutter to each other in agreement] Brian: But I finished what I started and that's all that matters, right? Lois:[Another pause] No. Peter: Yeah, what are you, out of your mind? [Griffins mutter to each other again in agreement] Chris:[to Brian] I hate you! [runs away in shame]
In Family Guy the Spoof Aesop is the rule, not the exception. It's hard to think of a single aesop that wasn't treated like a spoof by the writers.
Another episode had Stewie finish a time reversal device just as Peter learned a valuable lesson about not taking Lois for granted, thus eradicating the whole ordeal from existence. It takes him a near-death experience to relearn that one.
One episode went so far as to have Lois, Stewie, and Meg make politically incorrect outbursts followed by a Spoof Aesop and the iconic "The More You Know" logo (Lois gives one about American Indians, Stewie gives one about Mexicans, and Meg gives one about Swedish people). Except the last one, in which Peter calls Canadians freeloaders, then just flat out says, "Canada sucks!" after a minute of silence.
"It doesn't matter whether you're black or white. The only colour that matters is green."
The ending of "April in Quahog", where after Peter's heartfelt speech fails to convince the kids he loves them he decides to use bribery as a last resort and wins them over with a new Xbox 360.
And who could forget:
Peter: And I learned that it doesn't matter what your family thinks of me. Lois: That's right, because I love you anyway. Peter: No, because your ancestors were all just a bunch of pimps and whores. Heheheheheheh.
"Of course I love you, son-I just don't like you."
"Not All Dogs Go To Heaven" (for at the vitriol it has against it for its Broken Aesop) has Meg learning that religion doesn't have all the answers about life, but whatever the answer is, it's probably something far greater than we could ever imagine. The show then pans out to show that the universe is all part of Adam West's bedside lamp.
"Family Goy" had the moral of "It doesn't really matter what religion you are, because they're all complete crap."
"Here's to our neighbours. Sure, they may be black (Cleveland), handicapped (Joe), and a perverted sex hound (Quagmire), but without them, some damn Hawaiians might move in.
In the episode "Once Upon A Time Warp", Roy is convinced that he should pay Wade the $5 owed him by a rocket that homes in on the pilot's debtors. When the rocket disappears, Roy takes the money back, but then Orson finds his book of prehistoric monsters:
Orson: As you can see, kids, there's a lesson to be learned from this story. Roy: Yeah. You don't repay money you owe, a dinosaur squishes your head. Orson: That's pretty much it.
In one episode, Jon, Garfield and Odie go to Doc Boy's farm. Doc is proud of running an efficient operation, and to Garfield's horror he has no TV, because he thinks that would make things inefficient. While he's away, Garfield signs the farm up for cable. Now at this point the most likely moral would be "Doc learns that, in moderation, TV is okay" (or possibly "Garfield learns it's wrong to sign other people up for things they'll be expected to pay for without asking them"). Instead, this being Mark Evanier, we get "Doc Boy learns watching TV does indeed make farm animals lazy and inefficient, but that's okay because you can win Big Cash Prizes, and not need to work."
Inner Frat Boy: Aw, clowns aren't scary, Billy. They're just different. And just because someone looks different than you, or thinks differently than you, doesn't mean you should be afraid of them. It means you should be angry at them! How dare they be different! What, my way of life's not good enough for them? Billy: So you're saying I should beat them up? Inner Frat Boy: Billy, fighting outside of a hockey rink is wrong. But I'm imaginary, so do what you gotta do.
Also, "Don't be afraid of failure. It's what keeps families together!"
In the Histeria! episode about World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt who saves the Freedom League from certain death at the hands of the Axis Powers teaches us that the moral lesson we're supposed to learn from WWII is that "sometimes the best man for the job... is a woman." Which, while certainly not the main lesson to be learned from WWII, is nevertheless worth considering.
Shego: What have we learned? Drakken [reluctantly]: No clones. Shego: Get in the car.
Return To Wannaweep
Ron: Normally I'd say we learned that suspicion and paranoia is bad, except that's what saved us. Kim: Well, maybe we learned that... oh, I don't know. Bonnie: I didn't learn anything. Ron: That's it! Looking at you two, it's so clear! Kim and Bonnie: What is so clear? Ron: If you two had set aside your differences earlier, one of you could have won that Spirit Stick. That's the lesson here! Bonnie: How about, "Cheer camp stinks"? Kim: Yeah, agreed. Ron: Works for me.
On most episodes of Moral Orel, Orel is given a Spoof Aesop, but sometimes the Aesops are only Spoofs in comparison to the wrongdoings that go unaesoped. For example, an aesop about not playing favorites with your friends in an episode where Orel blindly follows his delinquent friend into vandalizing cars and beating up little kids, or the episode where Orel is chided for his crack addition because crack is a gateway to (* gasp* ) SLANG.
Note that Orel became addicted to crack based on Clay's advice in the first place. The poor kid just can't win.
In one episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot, Brad, having accidentally hijacked a flying saucer, baiting the military, and nearly getting himself and Tuck killed, delivers one to Jenny:
Brad: I think we've both learned something here today: you learned to never interfere with a driver at the wheel, and I learned...to forgive.
In a Ned's Newt episode, Ned (a kid) and his Newt build a gigantic corporation by acquisitions and then let it collapse in on itself when they tire of it. As Ned enters his house:
Dad: I hope you've learned your lesson from this. Ned: I sure have Dad. Never buy a company on leveraged credit.
Something of a subversion of the trope as the moral is actually sound for a lot of people, just not 8 year old kids and the target audience of their cartoons.
So 8 year old kids should buy companies on everaged credit?
Well, they'd do less damage than a lot of the adults.
The Simpsons frequently makes use of spoof Aesops. One memorable instance occurs at the conclusion of an episode where Lisa has persuaded Bill Clinton to issue an executive order overturning the results of an elementary school band competition;
Clinton: If something doesn't go right, just complain until you get what you want. Marge: That's a pretty lousy lesson. Clinton: Well, I'm a pretty lousy president.
"The Old Man and the Lisa" had a particularly disturbing twist on the traditional Green Aesop. Lisa spends the episode teaching Mr. Burns about recycling and conservation. Burns takes the lesson to heart ... so he kills all of Springfield's marine life to create a meat slurry "made out of 100% recycled animals."
Homer Simpson, when trying to give advice to his children, is an endless source of these.
Homer: Well, kids, you both tried your best and you both failed miserably. The moral is, never try. Homer: If something's hard to do, it's probably not worth doing! Homer: I hope you learned your lesson, Lisa. Never help anyone. Homer: (To Marge) Trying is the first step toward failure.
"Homer Bad Man" has the classic fourth type:
Marge: Hasn't this experience taught you you can't believe everything you hear? Homer: Marge, my friend...I haven't learned a thing.
The comic collection The Simpsons Royale has two pages of this, including "Just do it. If that doesn't do it, undo it.", "The love you take is equal to the love you make, plus postage and handling fees.", "Tomorrow is the day after the first day of the rest of your life.", "Playing Solitaire is its own punishment.", "Don't follow advice you get from comic books.", and "Stalk your bliss."
The backwards moral was common on South Park, with such gems as "don't vote — it makes no difference" (from "Turd and Douche"), and "stop the rain forest before it's too late" (from "Rainforest Schmainforest"). Also, many earlier episodes in the series ended with Stan or Kyle stepping forward to announce, "You know, I learned something today..." while the music swells and the ensuing monologue leads inexorably to yet another cruel spoof of the clichéd cheesy aesop one would expect in such a situation. They, however, tend to be more serious in later episodes.
Rainforest Schomainforest ends with text on a black background, while the new "destroy the rainforest" music from the last scene keeps playing.
Each year, the Rainforest is responsible for over three thousand deaths from accidents, attacks, or illnesses. There are over seven hundred things in the Rainforest that cause cancer. Join the fight now and help stop the Rainforest before it's too late.
The Toilet Paper episode ends with Cartman setting up the moral, but only manages to say, "Sometimes you..." before Kyle interrupts and claims that he learned nothing.
In "The Snuke," Cartman interrogates an innocent Arab family like terrorists, and tells Kyle to research them. Kyle does and finds nothing suspicious, but in the process discovers information about an actual attack by Russian terrorists hired by the United Kingdom. Kyle points out to Cartman that his fear of Arab-Americans as terrorists was misplaced, but Cartman points out that if he hadn't suspected them, Kyle wouldn't have discovered the real terrorist plot.
Cartman: Me being a bigot stopped a nuclear bomb from going off, yes or no?! Kyle: Th—that's not the right way to look at it, I— Cartman: YES OR NO, KYLE?! Kyle:No! ...Not...not like you're saying.
Stan: I learned something today. Halloween isn't about costumes or candy. It's about being good to one another and giving and loving. Kyle: No dude, that's Christmas. Stan: Oh. Well then what's Halloween about? Kyle: Costumes and candy. Stan: Oh yeah.
In one episode (parodying the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) where Stan and Cartman break a dam, which everyone blames on various things from global warming, to terrorists to Crab People. At the end of the episode Stan has had enough and admits "I broke the dam!" Everyone takes this metaphorically though, in that they all broke the dam, and all begin repeating "I broke the dam!" to Stan's annoyance.
Done in every episode of the short-lived cartoon Spacecats. In an unfortunate irony, the first such lesson was "Don't watch cartoons. They will rot your brain." The cartoon aired on NBC the year the network decided to replace its Saturday morning cartoon lineup with an expanded morning news show.
In the Trapped in TV Land episode of Teen Titans (Control Freak gets into the television and starts hypnotizing the viewers, so they have to go in there and stop him), at the end of the episode we're treated to this exchange not unlike The Simpsons', above:
Robin: So, I guess it is bad to watch too much TV. Starfire: But, we were only victorious because Beast Boy watches too much the television. Raven: So, I guess there really is no lesson. Cyborg: Yep, it was all completely meaningless. Everyone: [forced laughter] SFX: [canned laughter]
"The moral of this story? Never make a deal with an interdimensional demon without a little protection." Something we should all take to heart. Especially since it's coming from a monster who seconds earlier had described Mind Raping a teenager, complete with undertones of so much worse, as one of the perks of working for said interdimensional demon.
Tick: You know, though today was the worst day of my life, I learned many things. First, the world looks a lot different when you're six inches tall and covered with feathers. Second, two heads are definitely not better than one. And finally, you can lay an egg and still feel like a man.
Moral of the Story (Pick One): 1) Enjoy Your Vacation 2) Relish Your Youth 3) Don't Pick Up Chainsaw-Wielding Hitchhikers 4) Feature Length Movies Should Not Have18 Different Plots.
The 2 Stupid Dogs episode "Family Values", a parody of The Brady Bunch, had a lot of this trope. Every time some random mishap would happen (like getting a finger set on fire), the mother would ask the kids what they learned from all of it. The children would respond with such morals (irrelevant within the episode, but taken from actual Brady Bunch episodes) as "I learned not to get hit in the face with a football!" or "I learned that Jesse James is not a good role model."
Big Dog: What did you learn today? Little Dog: Nothing. What did you learn? Big Dog: I learned I like to shake. (shakes his whole body)note A Running Gag in the episode, after the dogs misinterpreted a command to "shake" Little Dog: Yeah! (begins shaking too)
One recurring segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle was "Aesop and Son". In each story, Aesop would illustrate a standard proverb with a silly fable, and his son would reply with an alternate, punny moral based on the events of the story, such as "A chain is as strong as its weakest mink", or "A rolling stone gathers no moth."
In the VeggieTales song "The Yodeling Veterinarian Of The Alps", the last line (which makes sense in context) is, "So the moral of our story is the point we hope we've made—if you've gone a little loopy, better keep your nurse well paid!"
Narrator: The following story could have happened. Only by treating everyone with dignity and respect can we hope to maintain that element of surprise on that inevitable day when we wipe our enemies from the face of the earth.
In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Powerless!" Captain Atom, after acting like a Smug Super, loses his super powers and has to save the day by being brave and using his brain. At the end of the episode, he is asked if he has learned his lesson. Cut to him telling kids that he now knows that non-powered humans are the most fragile and pathetic beings on Earth.
After Heffer falls in (and out) with a cult of crazy sausage-worshipers in "Schnit-Heads", Rocko asks him if he's learned anything from the experience.
Heffer: I sure have, Rock. All that's shiny is not sausage... or something.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic ends almost every single episode with Twilight (or as of season two, one of the others) writing a lesson to Princess Celestia about what they learned. The episode "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" gives this chance to Applejack, who goes with this;
Applejack: Dear Princess Celestia, I wanted to share my thoughts with you. Eh hem- (beat) I didn't learn anything! Heh, I was right all along!
Of course, she does follow it up with a real Aesop, about how hardwork is better than cheating and taking short-cuts. She also says that she might have learned that her friends are always there for her, but that "the truth is, [she] knew that already, too".
In one episode of Futurama, Bender joins the Ultimate Robot Fighting League. His final opponent in the episode is trained by Leela's sexist martial arts teacher, and while Bender gets curbstomped by Destructor, Leela fights Master Phnog under the ring and wins. Leela tells Bender's flattened form, "Sure, you lost. You lost bad. But the important thing is, I beat up a guy who hurt my feelings in high school."
At the end of The Beast with a Billion Backs, after Bender "rescues" all the citizens of Earth from Fluffy Cloud Heaven and they all start bickering about various things (like Kif breaking up with Amy because she gave in to Zap Brannigan's sleazy charms while Kif was temporarily dead), Bender announces that the moral of the story is that true love is all about having to wrangle with jealousy and other negative emotions.
Brandy & Mr. Whiskers: At the end of one episode, they were asked 'What did you learn today?' Unable to think of anything to say to fill the twenty-five seconds left of the episode, (and to keep Mr. Whiskers from dancing) the pair decides to say everything that they didn't learn. Hilarity Ensues.
Dipper: Man, revenge is underrated. That felt awesome!
In "Summerween", Grunkle Stan decides that in the end, the titular holiday isn't about costumes, candy, or scaring people. It's a time for the whole family to get together and celebrate what really matters; Pure evil!(Cue Evil Laugh)
Daria is prone to giving sarcastic summaries of an episode's morals, even if there is an actual moral buried within an episode.
Daria: Yeah. Look, why don't you just come back with us? Jane: I don't know. Some kind of dumb-ass notion about seeing this through, I guess. Anyway, it's just another two weeks and then we'll be back at school! ...Wait, what's my point? Daria: That life sucks no matter what, so don't be fooled by location changes.
In Wolves Witches and Giants a princess is fated to marry a common soldier and the episode follows a soldier that wishes to marry her. He goes to a witch's lair and finds an enchanted box of matches that contains three matches, each of which will grant one wish. He uses the first match to escape the witch, the second to get some food from the wolves, and the third to become a prince (forgetting that the princess is fated to marry a common soldier, thus preventing himself from marrying her). The princess later marries another common soldier and the moral is "never play with matches".
One episode of The Cleveland Show has Cleveland Jr. and Kendra, the former being an obese pre-teen and the latter being so morbidly obese that she has to use a scooter to get around, attempt to get a law passed that would make discrimination against fat people illegal. They don't succeed so they attempt to run away from their problems by moving to Massachusetts where the entire state is nothing but fat people eating all day. They later admit that their eating habits are part of a problem they are hurting from, but they just shrug and eat some more.
It does have an actual Aesop at the end: a black screen that reads, "Hey America, stop being so fat!"
In the Looney Tunes short "Barbary Coast Bunny", after Bugs gets even with Nasty Canasta for stealing his gold by breaking the bank at Canasta's new casino (and getting the bad guy to shoot himself in the face), Bugs announces that the moral of the story is "Dont' try to take no fourteen-carrots from no rabbit.
At the end of the short "Now Hear This", in which a man goes back to his old ear trumpet after he unwittingly uses the Devil's horn as a replacement, the moral of the story is announced as "The other fellow's trumpet always looks greener."
Then there's The Looney Tunes Show, which in the first episode of season 2 had Daffy deliver the vitally important lesson "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, because nobody cares about water polo."
In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, after a failed mission, Numbuh One asks his teammates what they learned from their mistakes.
Numbuh 1: What did we learn today? Numbuh 2: Do not deviate from plans. Numbuh 5: Teamwork is the key to mission success. Numbuh 3: Operational procedures are important. Numbuh 4:(in a wheelchair and a full-body cast)Pianos are ''heavy''. Numbuh 1: Oh, close enough.
In Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, Bill Mason mentions that in his first real crime his partner was caught. While the police didn't have any real evidence against him, his partner was on parole. The DA told Bill that if Bill confessed the partner would go clear but if Bill took it to court it would lead to the DA revoking his partner's parole. Bill's lesson here: never use a partner. He was never caught later.