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- 7th Heaven: Many, many times, though the episode "Tunes" stands out as the most glaring example. In the episode, the show attempts to have a pro-woman equality message, though in the process, the message itself becomes muddled because the show also intermixes a "rap music causes misogyny" message in the same episode. In short (for full details, see YMMV page under "Designated Hero"), 7th Heaven states that women should be equal to men, which in itself is a great message, and that hip hop shouldn't be listened because of its treatment of women. However, while an equality message would work if the episode were written better, the message becomes broken twice over because of the way female characters were written in the past, as well as its rap message. In earlier seasons, Lucy and Mary were depicted as boy crazy, and later became shrill stereotypes of female characters in later seasons (though both were exalted because they were great mothers and wives), while many career women were frequently depicted as selfish, rude, uncaring, and often in the wrong. Additionally, John Hamilton (Matt's then-roommate/friend) calls out a doctor after the latter asked him to simply put rap music on during a surgery, calling it "prejudicial" that the doctor would assume him, being black, would be all for it; Matt also states that people shouldn't listen to hip hop because it causes more ignorance about the plights of women (to be specific, he says "Ignorance is the enemy"). However, that statement becomes cracked because the whole episode is basically an excuse to rip on rap listeners, thus the show becoming prejudicial towards them, and if the writers did their homework, they would know that there are numerous female rappers (e.g. Missy Elliott) and tons of women who listen to rap music themselves. As a result, the writers come off as both ignorant and prejudicial towards both women and rap listeners; though in the case of women, this was likely unintentional (considering that the episode's writer was show creator Brenda Hampton).
- American Horror Story: Coven uses the "supernatural monsters are people too" analogy, this time with witches and intended to be an analogy with gay people, in its finale. The result is an even more Broken Aesop than True Blood, since all of the witches shown in the season bar the Supreme Cordelia have been murderous bitches.
- The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale of the Pinball Wizard" makes an Anvilicious statement that its Aesop is "don't get obsessed with computer games, you don't get anything when you win". Except that Ross has no choice but to play the game forever, as he's trapped; and he didn't get trapped in the game because he was obsessed with it, but because he played a particular game machine one time. Well, ok, maybe the Aesop is "keep your promises, and when someone tells you not to do something, don't do it"; after all, he did promise Mr Olsen he'd watch his shop, only to abandon it to play the machine he was told not to. Except that Mr Olsen turns out to be the villain and quite happy to torture Ross inside the machine, presumably meaning that his interaction was planned all along. So, um, "old men who own curio shops are psychopaths"?
- The short-lived reality dating show Average Joe was basically a Broken Aesop incarnate. The premise was that a beautiful, though superficial model was brought into the show on false pretenses, and was forced to date a dozen dorky, unattractive nerds instead of the hunks she was promised. The implied understanding was that she would eventually come to realize that appearances are only skin deep etc etc. However, halfway through the season a team of actual hunks were abruptly thrown into the mix, competing against the nerds. After the crowd was whittled down to the two final men one nerd, one hunk the beauty always chose the hunk!
- In the episode "Don't Quote Me", it is discovered that somebody in the governor's mansion leaked damaging information to a reporter. Paranoia quickly infects the staff as, one after another, Benson, Marcy, Kraus, and Taylor are all suspected of being the leak. The entire episode seems to be warning against the paranoia that can develop in these situations, and depicts the characters as being wrong for turning the matter into a witch hunt, and for accusing people they should have known were trustworthy and loyal to the governor. This aesop about trust would work, if it wasn't for the fact that the leak turned out to be, of all people, Katie. When the governor's 8-year-old daughter proves to be the guilty party ... Well, it appears that nobody was above suspicion, after all.
- In "Checkmate", Benson strikes a deal with the visiting Russian official, Petrov. Since there is no way to ensure that either man would keep his end of the bargain, Benson and Petrov agree that they will simply have to trust each other. The episode would make a solid point about the value of people trusting each other and working together ... if it wasn't for the fact that Benson was only able to make the deal after tricking Petrov into revealing a secret about the impending arrival of a high-ranking Russian official.
- In an episode of Bluestone 42, Simon loses his gun's firing pin while cleaning it. Squad prankster/Simon's nemesis Mac finds it, but doesn't return it because Simon would assume he stole it. Therefore, through a series of wacky misadventures Mac tries to trick Simon into "finding" it, eventually just dumping the pin in his tea, and Simon swallows it. When Tower Block tells Simon this should teach him to trust his men next time, Simon responds that it hasn't because next time his pin goes missing Mac will have actually stolen it, to which Mac cheerfully replies "Aye, I will".
- Pretty much any episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon is called out for being a Jerkass and learns not to be one falls flat when the other characters are ALSO Jerkasses yet are rarely if ever called out on it. One episode even has Sheldon call out Leonard for how mean HE is to him, but of course Leonard goes back to being a jerk to him in other episodes.
- On two episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, when Carol was vacationing, Bob was saddled with an extremely incompetent elderly secretary who could neither answer the phone nor remember his name. At the end of her second appearance (which started with an exasperated Bob pleading to Jerry not to get this same woman again), it's revealed that once she was young and cute, and hired solely for this reason. Now that she was older, all of her presumed ditz qualities were magnified and she was not in a good place. Bob feels bad for this, and we are supposed to as well—but consider. When she was younger, she got all kinds of employment opportunities women deemed less attractive but presumably more competent did not. In the present of that show, it can be inferred that these other women are the competent vets badly wanted for their skills. The villain is supposed to be sexism and tossing someone aside when their looks fade. But while this woman got used by the system, she also once made good use of the system. It's hard to sympathize with her entirely, since this sad turnaround is also a bit of karmic justice. Plus, she is blazingly incompetent. She is also very far on in years, so her looks have probably not been a factor for some time. One wonders how she's had any recent employment. It seems like she's now trading on people feeling sorry for her, again diluting potential sympathy.
- In the Bones episode "The Goop on the Girl", a bank is hit by a suicide bomber who apparently triggered the bomb using the signal from an angry left-wing radio show. Booth accuses the show's host of spreading "poison" on the airwaves and claims that he is responsible for the attack, even if he isn't legally responsible. As it turns out, the suicide bomber had been forced to do it by a pair of bank robbers who were not motivated by ideology. The only reason the radio show's signal seemed to set off the bomb was because it was very close to the signal used by the robbers' own detonator. The episode ends with the host lecturing to his audience on the dangers of media-stoked anger and signing off for the last time.
- Boston Public had an incident from a previous episode's Aesop altered to fit the Aesop of the current ep. An academically-overachieving girl suffers a stress-related panic attack meant to open Lauren Davis' eyes to the intense pressure she puts on her students with her Death Glare, high standards and stern attitude. In the next episode, which is about students using performance-enhancing drugs, the hospitalized student is revealed to have been on a Ritalin-esque drug that caused her attack. Lauren still struggled with it in later storylines but the girl's speech to Lauren about how her students really see her falls flat. Furthermore, it's implied that the teacher's techniques work.
- The Brothers Garcia:
- "You Go Girl" attempts a feminism Aesop, where Lorena decides she wants to be considered equal to her brothers. She spends the whole episode interrupting their activities just to Troll them, claiming it's in the name of equality. Yet when the brothers give her a taste of her own medicine and trash her cupcake baking with friends, it's portrayed as a low moment. The boys are forced to apologise for excluding her - except they never exclude because of her gender; they exclude her because she's always trying to get them into trouble (a Running Gag is that she makes her money by blackmailing them). Lorena gets a free pass for her actions because she claims she just wanted to be included - and she never apologises to her father for making him miss a hockey game in the name of equalitynote just to be a Troll.
- "Larry's Curse" has Ray getting on his high horse to preach about how there's no such thing as bad luck - after an episode where Larry had broken an Aztec antique that brought inexplicable rushes of bad luck to the house. But after Larry and Abuelita cleanse the house, all the bad luck stops happening. What's more is that the bad luck isn't just Larry's childish imagination; it comes from Abuelita's beliefs. So Ray also comes across as very intolerant to his mother-in-law's beliefs.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Beer Bad" is notorious for its Anviliciousness, but its message also just doesn't work. The reason the beer caused the problem is because someone tampered with it. The plot would not change in any way if the beverage were soda. The moral, if there is one, is "Don't accept food or drink from people who hate you," or possibly "Be polite to waiters and bartenders, because if they snap they can totally mess you up." Which aren't actually bad lessons, albeit a little situational. But as for the beer, the intended moral target? Foamy. In fact, the episode was made to procure funding from the anti-alcohol lobby, who then noticed the broken message and refused to pay up.
- "Gingerbread" is also bizarrely self-contradictory in its lessons. For most of the episode it appears to be a libertarian satire about knee-jerk attempts to aggressively suppress "darkness" in youth culture in response to isolated horrible events, but then in the end it takes the very paternalistic approach of "The Masquerade must be maintained because if humans in general learn about magic they'll start persecuting good or neutral magic-users along with the evil ones".
- A Mexican telenovela called La Catrina revolves around the story of a rich woman just before the Mexican Revolution who went around in disguise, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. It's meant to be heroic, but the question is: since she was so rich, why didn't she just give to the poor from her own fortune, instead of stealing others'?
- Invoked in Dad's Army. When a committee is planning for there to be a Squander Bug in the St George's Day celebrations, it is pointed out it would defeat the point if they had to spend a lot of money on a Squander bug costume. This is averted as Mrs. Pike already has a Squander Bug costume.
- Derek: This was a recurring criticism of the series as a whole, where the actions of the title character and the central cast generally often failed to honour the stated theme of kindness is magic i.e. social ills are best solved by determined benevolence. Conflict was resolved by recourse to verbal and physical abuse of designated antagonists, Derek himself is often depicted as self-absorbed, petty and greedy and his constant indulgence is justified in the final episode is justified by the statement Dereks always right which comes across as less a simple statement of accepted wisdom than a concession to Protagonist Centred Morality. This Tumblr feed began as a log of some of these tonal inconsistencies although has since evolved into a repository for ironic fan art.
- Doc Martin:
- In the final episode of season 1, a nine-year old boy who's kind of a loner is told by Louisa that, if you allow people to make fun of you and don't react, then they'll accept you because "they'll see you're okay". Even worse, this Aesop is repeated by the boy to Martin... who in the same episode had been the victim of a practical joke that wasn't strictly a Deadly Prank, but was still pretty cruel and quickly made him a laughing stock by pretty much everybody in the village, to the point where he was being discussed on local radio. Notably this was Lampshaded and Deconstructed in the same episode, as Louisa's advice ends up getting said boy a ruptured spleen for his trouble and rushed into emergency surgery. In the end, she amends her advice to "Some people won't ever fit in, but we should appreciate their uniqueness".
- There's another one played for laughs in an episode where the school's caretaker is kicked out and is sleeping in the school shed. He's delirious from carbon monoxide from a gas heater in a closed area, and has been putting fertilizer on the floors and floor cleaner on the vegetables. One of the teachers is trying to teach the kids the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, when Martin bursts into the room and shouts "Don't eat those! Destroy them immediately!"
- Doctor Who:
- "The Ark" is about a slave race, the Monoids, who are mute and subservient to humans. After a plague occurs, the Monoids eventually rise up over the humans and enslave them instead. The (apparent) attempted moral is announced at the end of the episode when the Doctor tells the humans and Monoids that they need to live in equality to survive, but thanks to What Measure Is a Non-Human? writing (in which the Doctor doesn't care about the deaths of tens of Monoids but realises it's an emergency when a human dies) and the fact that the Monoids' defining character traits are being "savages" and making terrible tactical decisions for no reasons other than to allow the humans to win, how the Monoids are returned to an underclass at the end, and how the story was made in 1966, it comes across more like a racist allegory for how extending civil rights will cause the oppressor to become oppressed by a race that can only run civilisation with incompetent savagery unless they are returned to Happiness in Slavery. Elizabeth Sandifer of the TARDIS Eruditorum subscribes to this interpretation and believes the stupidity of the Monoids was intentional, rather than the Special Effect Failure it is generally imagined as.
- In "The Wheel in Space", Zoe confidently asserts that the Silver Carrier must have been deliberately piloted to the space station. The Doctor dismisses her argument with "Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority." As it turns out, the ship was deliberately piloted, and her reasoning was absolutely correct.
- "The Dominators" has two. The Word of God aim was an allegory about how the hippie movement is bad because they would have got their arses kicked if they'd been in control when the Nazis had invaded. However, the oppressed, pacifistic Dulcians don't work as a hippie allegory, as they're characterised either as elderly politicians or as attractive young people who unthinkingly repeat the elders' lessons by rote until the Doctor and companions turn them against their racist, fascist oppressors, while the old Dulcians get slaughtered through trying to negotiate with Always Chaotic Evil aliens. The result is that it comes off as an allegory about how student activism is the future because the apathetic old politicians are only concerned with keeping superficial comfort and not with fixing big societal problems, and have engineered their own destruction. The second is in the B-plot: The villains have an internal conflict, between Rago, who favours caution and condemns meaningless destruction, and Toba, a Psycho for Hire who just loves destroying things. The problem is that everything Toba says is right if he just had blown everyone up on sight (including the Doctor and Jamie) the Dominators would have succeeded in their plan. The result of this is that the story is simultaneously both far more left-wing and far more right-wing than intended.
- In the Script Wank at the end of "Planet of the Daleks", the Doctor delivers a heartfelt speech that the Thals must tell their people War Is Hell, and not to make it sound like their adventure was a 'fun game'. The story involves, amongst other things, them escaping fun, toyetic Always Chaotic Evil nasty pepperpot people by dressing up in purple fur coats and MacGyvering a hot air balloon. The reason for this discrepancy is because the scene was appended to the end by Terrance Dicks at the last minute because the script was underrunning.
- Some people including Tom Baker have expressed discomfort that the moral of the show is about how violence is never as good as love and understanding, and yet most of the stories still end with the Doctor murdering the aliens. This was pointed out in New Who but led to more broken aesops (see below).
- "The Face of Evil" is based on the premise that the Doctor's egotistical attempts to save a space mission AI (by simply imposing a print of his own brain over it instead of actually fixing the problem) led to the AI becoming an insane God who selectively breeds the settlers into opposing Cargo Cult factions that worship him, and creating a dystopic Egopolis based on the Doctor's image. It all seems like it's set up to criticise the Doctor's big ego and Chronic Hero Syndrome... but it ends with the AI, having realised who it is, asking the Doctor for an explanation as to where he went wrong, absolving the Doctor of all responsibility and even having 'God' ask him for tips on how to be better. Striking because the new series absolutely would never have missed the opportunity to criticise the Doctor's god complex.
- "The Sun Makers" is supposed to be a right-wing allegory about how taxation is bad, written by an openly Conservative writer. However, ignoring a few throwaway flippant comments made by the Doctor, the story is really about the evil of taxation that targets the poorest in society, and societies that strip away social safety nets so the untaxed rich can rake in massive profits. The reason for this situation is privatisation, where every utility (including sunlight) is run by corporate interests and the government is viewed only as an extension of the Mega-Corp. At the very least, it comes across as left-wing in an Occupy kind of way. If you choose to read into the fact that the Doctor wins by inspiring a populist revolt to execute their leaders while quoting Karl Marx, it becomes actively Communist. Not what you'd expect from something written by a Margaret Thatcher supporter in 1977.
- The character of Whizzkid in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" was intended as a Take That! to fans who criticised 80s Doctor Who by saying it wasn't as good as it used to be in a time they couldn't possibly remember. The problem here is that Whizzkid's similar opinions about the titular Psychic Circus are shown to be absolutely correct. Consequently, all Whizzkid does is vindicate the same fans the character was supposed to be chastising.
- In "Dalek", while the Doctor is certainly being unpleasant in torturing the Lone Dalek, he is treated as wrong for wanting to kill the Dalek and treating it as absolutely evil. However when the Dalek gets free it kills hundreds of people and it is clear it intends to wipe out all humanity. It does gain human feelings but is clearly an exception and Rose's sympathy towards it is largely born from ignorance, while the Doctor knows first-hand how dangerous the Daleks are and is proved right.
- "The Parting of the Ways": The Doctor is faced with using a weapon called a Delta Wave to destroy a Dalek fleet, which will destroy them, but also any humans still living on Earth, as he didn't have time to refine the transmission when he set it up. He declines to do so, on the grounds that it's the morally better choice to not wipe out humanity with the Daleks. However, the Daleks have bombarded Earth with such force that they deformed entire continents, meaning they have probably wiped out all humans living on Earth, and any survivors will probably soon be killed, enslaved or converted into Daleks, a Fate Worse than Death. The Doctor even points out that humanity will survive, as it's the far future and they've spread to other worlds by now, saying "You're the only Daleks in existence. The whole universe is in danger if I let you live." The only thing that saves the universe from them is a literal Deus ex Machina. The Doctor's decision, given that he's probably the only non-Dalek in range of the transmitter, looks quite odd. However, it's suggested that the Doctor's decision stems from his lingering guilt over how he resolved the Time War, by wiping out both the Daleks and the Time Lords. He's too broken and demoralized to make the same decision regarding Earth, and is looking for even the slightest shred of hope that will justify him not having to make that choice.
- How the series handles the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler's codependent relationship. It's very apparent that the Doctor and Rose were just what each other needed in Series 1. The Doctor needed to cope with his depression and survivor's guilt so he could enjoy saving the world again, and Rose needed someone to come along and change her monotone outlook on life. But the problem with the idea of needing someone is that that line of thought leads to really codependent places really fast, and thats what eventually happens with the Doctor and Rose. In Series 2, the Doctor and Rose become increasingly lost in each other and their clever adventures, and increasingly detached from and uninterested in everyone around them, treating others with callous indifference, which numerous characters notice and become worried about. By the second half of the season, Rose comes to loathe her old life and builds so much of her new happiness around the Doctor that she can't live without him in her life. She even tries to ditch all of her friends and family in an alternate universe forever so she won't have to say goodbye to him. The denouement of "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday", in which the Doctor and Rose are forcibly separated and Rose in particular is absolutely devastated, appears to be a cautionary tale about why you shouldnt make one person the center of your world, because it will only lead to heartbreak (hints of this were seeded back in "School Reunion", when Rose realized that while the Doctor might be the center of her world, he's lived far longer than her and she will never be the center of his). But if thats the case, then Roses return in Series 4 is positively baffling. In "The Stolen Earth"/"Journeys End", we learn Rose has not even tried to move on, shes spent at least six years trying to think of ways to get back to the Doctor (since time moves faster in Petes world), and when the Daleks almost destroy the universe Rose leaps at the chance to jump universes so she can try to find the Doctor. Not only that, but her dialogue implies she was trying to travel between universes beforehand even though the Doctor said travelling between universes again would destroy both worlds, meaning Rose risked two worlds just for her happiness. Shes rewarded with a clone Doctor that can grow old for the rest of his life with her, and in a deleted scene she was going to receive a TARDIS so they can go traveling again. So that Rose can receive a happy ending, the lesson of her arc is changed from "beware unhealthy, codependent relationships" to "if you cling to someone hard enough, and never ever let go, eventually youll get everything you ever wanted and more".
- This seems to be a general problem with Dalek stories in New Who, as "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" tries to be a story entirely themed around the evils of racism, while still blatantly depicting humans and Time Lords being good and Daleks being evil as overwhelmingly determined by their genes.
- "Journey's End" is yet another and even worse example of the series trying to suggest that the Doctor's attitude to the Daleks is Fantastic Racism while still depicting them as Always Chaotic Evil. The Doctor treats his clone as wrong for wiping out the Daleks (they're back next series), saying it shows how violent and brutal he is. Yet the Daleks had just come very close to wiping out entire Universes and are fictions poster creature for Scary Dogmatic Aliens. The Doctor had temporarily incapacitated them but considering how resourceful they are it was unlikely they would have remained like that for long. The moral makes even less sense considering that 10 in the same series had basically done the same thing to a race that wasn't as dangerous as the Daleks and in the process killed 20,000 innocent people, even if this was what history decreed. Meanwhile his clone was only wiping out the Daleks and their Omnicidal Maniac Creator Davros (who is later revealed to have survived), who refused a chance to be saved by the Doctor. Not only that but when the Doctor declined a chance to destroy the last Dalek in their previous appearance, claiming there has been too much death today, that Dalek had escaped and caused the problems of this episode. Not only that but that Dalek had been responsible for most of the deaths, killing the Dalek-Humans that numbered over a thousand because they were not Dalek enough. To be fair, the Doctor may just be using the clone Doctor's supposed "genocide" of the Daleks as a convenient excuse to put the human Doctor onto Rose and prevent her from damaging the universe through the disk-hopping. Though that leads to further problems (see above).
- On a related note, the times the Doctor questions whether he should kill the villains or not contradicts itself. A Monster of the Week will be slaughtered without a second thought, regardless of motives but when it comes to recurring aliens like the Daleks or the Master, who have proven to be Always Chaotic Evil or unlikely to change no matter what, it is suddenly wrong to kill them.
- The Doctor talking about how wonderful and resourceful humanity is can be slightly undermined by the fact a lot of their achievements and survival are due to him and many other aliens, the Daemons, the Osirians and the Silence to name a few. It makes you wonder what about other races that don't have the benefit of the Doctor helping them out?
- The two-parters story "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People" is about a rebellion of clones who are sick of being treated as disposable vessels by miners to operate in dangerous circumstances. The Doctor even sides with them saying Clones Are People, Too and try his best to save them. At the end of the day, the Doctor reveals to his companions the reason of their visit to the factory: Amy has been replaced with a clone all along. The Doctor immediately and rather hypocritically kills Amy's clone with his sonic screwdriver as if nothing in the last few hours ever happened. The problem is lessened a bit in that Amy's clone appeared to just be remotely controlled by the real Amy, which the next episode confirms, but it's still a matter of how sure was the Doctor that it hadn't been gaining sentience like the others. He axed Amy's clone awfully quickly when he figured it would help Amy.
- "The Doctor Falls", the Twelfth Doctor's second-to-last episode, draws a parallel between him and his companion Bill Potts, who are both in situations where they each must deal with and accept an unwanted, fundamental change to their lives. She's been converted into a Cyberman against her will, he's on the cusp of regeneration. Neither wants to live if they can't stay who they are. At the end of this episode, the frustrated Doctor gets a Ray of Hope Ending setting up a Christmas Episode in which he accepts regeneration and the Loss of Identity it comes with at last. Too bad that in the meantime Bill gets her original form restored with awesome new powers to boot when a barely foreshadowed Deus ex Machina (Bill's former empowered girlfriend, Heather) steps in to make her Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. "Twice Upon a Time" does end with the Doctor deciding that helping the universe is Worth Living For even if it means he has to lose his identity, but never addresses Bill's fate so the Aesop remains broken. In the episode's defence, the traditional rules of Who would not have been in Bill's favour had the Aesop not been broken since she would have succumbed to the Cybermen's Hive Mind eventually and have to be killed, and given that Bill is a rare Twofer Token Minority (black and lesbian) among series regulars it would have looked really bad for the show. And a novelisation reveals that Bill eventually chose to have her mortal body back, and lived to a ripe old age, eventually passing away.
- Also, the Doctor's stirring "Because it's kind" speech explaining that he's defending the seemingly doomed solar farmers from the Cybermen because it's the right, kind thing to do comes very close to being broken. In order to save the farmers, he has to wipe out the Cybermen who were all once humans, some converted as children en masse in a giant Taking You with Me explosion, and blast them individually with his sonic screwdriver in the run-up to that (and this from a character who Doesn't Like Guns). The only reason this isn't broken is that Cybermen are irredeemable once fully linked to the Hive Mind, as their modus operandi is to either convert or destroy other species, so there really is no kinder option.
- Family Matters:
- One of Extraverted Nerd Steve Urkel's redeeming traits was originally that he was a personification of the aesop "just Be Yourself." The original appearance of his alter-ego Stefan Urquelle was merely a vehicle for anvilicious preaching of this aesop. Unfortunately, then someone on the creative team decided that Stefan should become a regular part of Urkel's bag of Mad Scientist tricks, and the aesop was broken. Attempts to mend it — for instance, the fact that Steve and Stefan could not exist at the same time, forcing Laura to give up her romance with Stefan because Steve had the right to exist as himself — were themselves broken by later, new wrinkles (Steve accidentally clones himself and the clone decides to be permanently Stefan). The Aesop was finally mended in the final season when Laura accepted Steve's proposal over Stefan's but by then, the series had moved to CBS and not enough viewers were watching to keep the show on the air.
- When a Jerkass date ridicules Steve, Laura defends him by ranting about how despite his many flaws, Steve always treated her with "respect". Except that when you sum up Steve's behavior towards Laura throughout the series, you realize that he hasn't been any better. Steve repeatedly refused to accept that Laura was not interested in him, took even the most minutely nice thing that she said or did as a sign that she did return his feelings, constantly ignored her requests that he leave her alone, and just as frequently interfered with her dates and relationships to the point where he was literally chasing guys off. That is not respect, that's the basis for an episode of the Investigation Discovery series "Stalked".
- The series finale of Fi essentially backtracks on the thematic core the show, which examines how abusers can manipulate the people around them while hiding their true face from the world.. After two seasons establishing Can as an obsessive, manipulative man (and more significantly, holding him culpable for his wrongdoings), the episode essentially exonerates Can of responsibility and paints him as a victim. Meanwhile, the blame is shifted to his mental illness, childhood trauma, and the influence of his guardian/mother figure, Eti. Naturally, many viewers were left wondering how a show that generally handled these issues well in the beginning got it so wrong in the end.
- In The Flash (2014) season two Super Serum Velocity 9 gives that temporary Super Speed or improves it if one already has it is used as stand-in for performance-enhancing drugs in sports. At one point Barry is tempted to use V9 to level the playing field against evil speedster but is discouraged from it by Dr Wells. Message is pretty clear, but earlier in the series Jay Garrick was encouraged to use Velocity and 3 out of 4 times he used it he ended up saving the day thanks to it. Bonus points for Wells saying "Be like Jay" when discouraging Barry from doing exactly what Jay did.
- Frasier: In "I Hate Frasier Crane," when Frasier decides to renege on fighting with a man who he had accepted an invitation to fight with, Martin is furious and brings up a past incident where Frasier decided not to fight a guy. An incident from Frasier's CHILDHOOD. His anger seems to stem from embarrassment at his son not being "man" enough to go through with such a fight. However, it's first lampshaded by Frasier how stupid it is that Martin won't be satisfied until he comes home with a black eye, and then Subverted when Martin says he only wants Frasier to carry out promises he makes; once it becomes clear that Frasier is actually going to fight, Martin calls in the cops to break it up before things really get physical.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
- There's an episode where the moral is supposed to be that slacker Will shouldn't be afraid to work hard in school. It's about how Will's Aunt Viv teaches Black History at the private school, where Will and his cousin Carlton are the only two black students in their class. Will is reprimanded for thinking that he would just ease himself through a Black History class, but it turns out that Viv gave more work to him and Carlton than to the others, because they were black! That's totally not fair, but everybody seems cool with it...
- Another example is an episode, where Will pretends to be his baby cousin Nicky's father to impress a girl. It all gets out of hand, until a TV show is going to award him several gifts (including a trip to Hawaii) for being such a devoted single father. Will feels guilty and reveals that he had been lying, so all those gifts go to another man, who seems to be a real single father. Except for that this man suddenly tells Will that he had been faking it too! So the aesop seems to not be that lying is wrong, but that you should know when to keep your mouth shut...
- Full House:
- A later episode had Jesse going back to school so he can get his GED. The Aesop of stay in school, no matter what ends up being undermined by the fact that he has to deal with the same rude teacher who was convinced that he would never amount to anything and who scared him away from his education in the first place. Oh, sure on one hand he should not have let him deter him from graduating, but on the other hand, what the hell is wrong with that board of education for allowing such an unprofessional and condescending Jerkass that has no problem humiliating others to continue teaching students? Even worse, at the end of the episode, it was Jesse who was completely in the wrong for not staying in the class. What's more, Jesse isn't exactly a loser; some of the (very successful) jobs he's had over the years have included rock star, nightclub owner, and Radio DJ, plus he's got a hot wife and is clearly doing well for himself. Not graduating clearly hasn't hurt his life in the slightest.
- Popular blogger Billy Superstar of Full House Reviewed has also pointed out that many times—especially in the later seasons, when Michelle became the major focus of most plots—the intended Aesops of "Sometimes things don't work out the way you want to" or "You don't always get what you want" almost always fall flat. Why? Because after Michelle (or, more rarely, Stephanie or D.J.) decides to accept the lesson, they're immediately rewarded with what they wanted in the first place. For instance, in one episode, Michelle is upset because she doesn't get to play Yankee Doodle in a school play; after she accepts her new role and encourages Derek, who's playing Yankee Doodle, to do the best he can, he makes up an entire verse of the song all about her to sing to everyone. Similarly, in "Day of the Rhino," Michelle is tricked into spending her saved-up money on what turns out to be a cheap toy given away by Rigby the Rhino, her favorite TV character. She leads a protest against his unfair tricks, and while she doesn't get her money back, Joey praises her for speaking up and therefore keeping other kids from making the same mistake she did... but then Rigby literally shows up at the Tanner house to give Michelle a much better toy!
- One episode had Michelle being picked on by a kid. Michelle is then told to fight back the next time, and she does. It gets her in trouble at school, and she learns that she should always go to an adult when she is picked on. The problem? The one who told her to fight back was Jesse. Michelle did go to an adult, and it was how the situation got worse in the first place.
- In another episode, Danny dumps a woman he's been dating after seeing what a slob she is. When he tells Joey and Jesse about this, they gently, but firmly tell him that every time he meets a woman he likes, he dumps her for some ridiculous reason because he still misses his late wife and doesn't want to let her go. They lecture him about how unhealthy this pattern is, etc, etc. This is all true...except Danny didn't break up with this woman for a dumb reason. He dumped her because her apartment looked like a trash heap, something that would bother anybody, especially a Neat Freak like Danny.
- The episode "Aftershocks" tries to promote a positive message about therapy, and how parents shouldn't be embarrassed to admit that their children need help, by having Stephanie become obsessively clingy to Danny after an earthquake. The Aesop falls apart because Stephanie is only in therapy for about ten minutes: the psychologist asks her to draw a picture of her family, and Stephanie depicts Danny as outside of the house, because he was late getting home during the earthquake and she didn't know where he was. The psychologist suggests making a list of ways for Stephanie to feel better about knowing where Danny is, and she's apparently cured of her separation anxiety, which makes the Aesop seem like "if you talk to a therapist for a few minutes and draw a picture, all of your problems will be revealed and instantly solved." Yeah...
- One Christmas Episode saw Stephanie and Michelle greedily thinking about all the presents they'll be getting. Uncle Jesse promises to give them a truly unique gift; later, the girls come home and reveal that the mystery gift was time spent volunteering at a homeless shelter. Stephanie and Michelle talk about how eye-opening and inspiring the visit was...a visit that the audience never sees. And neither of them imply that they're going to give up any of the presents they received anyway to homeless people.
- Another Christmas Episode had the whole family stranded in an airport on Christmas Eve; the presents get lost, the connecting flights are all snowed in, and everyone's miserable in general. Uncle Jesse then steps up to give a speech about how Christmas isn't about material things. How does he do that? By comparing random objects in the airport to material things. So he's cancelling out his own Aesop as he's speaking. And then, just to twist the knife further, the real Santa Claus shows up to magically summon the girls' missing presents, so they get them anyway. What is it about this show and Christmas episodes?
- Another good one is in "Michelle a la Carte", wherein Michelle enters a Soap Box Derby. The intended Aesop is, naturally, that girls are just as capable as boys, since she builds the car with Aunt Becky and beats a boy who had been bullying her throughout the episode. Why is this broken? Because Aunt Becky gives Michelle a rose, both for good luck and as a symbol of femininity. This would be fine if she carried it in her pocket, tucked it in her hair or something like that. But no, Michelle attaches it to the front of the car, and manages to win a photo finish thanks to the rose. This is a huge violation of the official rules of Soap Box Derby racing, as it's artificially increasing the length of the car outside of guidelines. In other words, girls are just as capable as boys...provided they cheat.
- But the one that really takes the cake has got to be "The House Meets The Mouse". Michelle becomes "Princess for a Day" at Disney World after cutting in front of Stephanie and winning the draw. She gets 3 wishes that can be fulfilled by the staff. Stephanie is treated as in the wrong for being jealous of Michelle, even though the prize should have been hers in the first place. After using the first two selfishly, Michelle then decides to relinquish the position over to Stephanie. Right as the day is ending and she'd no longer be princess anymore anyways. They treat this as a big generous gesture for Michelle, when she really wasn't giving up much, just an hour or two of special privileges. Hell, she still gets to be in the parade! Nothing indicates that they'll let Stephanie keep the title for a full day tomorrow, or even if the Tanners would be there the next day. The moral seems to be "be generous to your sister, by given back something that was rightfully hers to begin with after you've already milked all the benefits of it dry."
- Game of Thrones:
- Jon Snow got made Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and King in the North mainly for his prowess in battle and as an example of his charismatic leadershipfrom the books . The show presents both of these events as good things, seemingly forgetting that the whole purpose of King Robert's character from Season 1 was to show that good warriors tend to be terrible rulers.
- For that matter, a consistent trend running through the later arcs is that Ambition Is Evil and that the Reluctant Ruler such as Jon or Bran is the best kind, while those who seek out power like Dany or Stannis are inevitably going to corrupt themselves. Again, this goes against Robert's entire throughline, which is that if you put someone who doesn't want power in a position of power, you're going to get someone who doesn't care about doing their job. Not to mention, plenty of other ambitious characters, like Renly or Sansa, had their ambitiousness framed neutrally or even positively. This also goes against franchise creator, George R. R. Martin's stated Central Theme of the books, i.e. a good person would not inherently qualify as a good ruler and vice-versa.
- The throughline of the White Walker storyline is more or less that all the petty politicking of Westeros is harmful and meaningless because it does nothing about the genuine existential threat bearing down on them, and they need to work together. This gets broken by the fact that the White Walkers are a Keystone Army, meaning the threat is dealt with by a lone assassin and the armies sent against the White Walkers don't do much but thin their ranks a bit. It's also damaged by an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole—namely, the removal of a magic horn that would have allowed the White Walkers to break the Wall and threaten Westeros, in favor of a zombified dragon that was only sent there because of people thinking the White Walkers were a threat, meaning just shrugging and assuming the Wall would hold would seemingly have been a better call.
- The series finale has characters arguing against hereditary monarchy because it leads to entitled inheritors who let power go through their heads while creating an Elective Monarchy run by feudal nobles who got their titles through the same bloodline inheritance, and who all scoff at expanding the franchise to true democracy. They exchange one set of ruling dynasties and bloodlines (Targaryens and Lannisters) for another (Starks) on the basis that the latter are "good guys" which more or less says feudalism and aristocracy is fine as long as it's the good guys doing it.
- The Hound telling Arya to give up on her quest for revenge before it corrupts her and ruins her life falls rather flat when Arya has already committed some majorly brutal acts of vengeance, so it's hard to argue one more would hurt, and by that point, the one remaining person Arya wants vengeance on (Cersei) is a major-league Asshole Victim who is largely responsible for the worst events of the series. To the viewer, it seems like the only problem with Arya taking revenge is the bafflement that she didn't sneak into King's Landing with her ridiculous stealth skills and knife Cersei at the first opportunity.
- A major plot element in the series is the idea of real consequences: big dramatic gestures have thousands of impacts and implications, because people are complicated and will respond in equally dramatic ways. Joffrey's execution of Ned triggering the War of the Five Kings is probably the most notable example, and another is the Red Wedding as a result of Robb disrespecting the Frey family. Then Cersei in the sixth season blows up the Sept, killing the heads of a powerful and popular noble house and the high priests of the main state religion while already being a deeply unpopular and fairly-illegitimate ruler... and receives essentially no meaningful consequences as a result. She rules for two straight seasons after with no real problems, and when she's finally deposed, it's because of circumstances that had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
- On the other side, a similar case of consequences happens with the North, a result of changing in adaptation. It's hammered in a fair bit that the North is so willing to rise up in revolt exactly because Ned was such an excellent ruler, and he fashioned bonds between all kinds of local lords and houses that could stand together. This is the entire point of the phrase "The North Remembers:" it remembers the bad and the good that people have done for it, and repays either in kind. But after the Red Wedding, that doesn't really happen. The Boltons conquer the North pretty easily, and most of those local powers don't care to rise up against them or even subvert them from within, even though they're now hell-bent on killing the people the North owes everything to. "The North Remembers"... but whether or not it cares appears to be another story.
- Gilligan's Island:
- According to series creator Sherwood Schwartz, the show was supposed to be about the need for us all to work together. So who ends up getting off the island? The guest stars, by betraying the regular cast.
- Also worse considering the one sure fire way they could have gotten off the island.
- Towards the end of Season 1, the show tried to promote a Gay Aesop. Finn learns to his shock from his mother that they're moving in with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend happens to be the father of Kurt, who has a crush on Finn. The two have to room together, and Finn's homophobia causes tension between the two. Eventually at the end, Finn has to learn to respect others despite their differences. Sounds simple enough, but the way they go about achieving this aesop made it broken. Kurt, both in this episode and over the course of the season, had a blatant crush on Finn, and continued to make advances toward him despite Finn clearly being uncomfortable with the situation; Kurt even deliberately arranged the rooming situation while making the room itself look "romantic" to try to get into Finn's pants. Thankfully, the writers realized this flawed Aesop, and had Kurt's father give his son a speech in the following season which made it clear that Kurt's behavior was completely unacceptable, and that if Finn had been a girl and Kurt a straight guy, the latter probably would have been arrested.
- In season 2, Kurt calls Blaine out on the fact that Blaine is the only one to even have solos with The Warblers and everybody else just sways in the background and provide back vocals for him. Blaine takes this seriously and when the Warbler council argue which song would be the best for Blaine to sing at Regionals, Blaine stands up and tells them he wants their voices to be heard too and that they should have solos as well. When the council wants to vote who should have the solos instead, Blaine tells them he already decided he wants one of his songs to be a duet with Kurt, then he tells Kurt he picked him to spend more time with him, because he wants them to be boyfriends. Then at Regionals they sing one duet together and the second song is a Blaine solo with the rest of the Warblers swaying in the background and providing back vocals.
- In the Christmas episode in season 3, the club is given the choice between volunteering at a homeless shelter for the holidays and filming a Christmas special. They arrive near the end and we are clearly supposed to see it as a noble heartwarming moment which ignores the fact that they filmed the special anyway and arrived later. It wouldn't be as troubling but for the way the writers obviously want this to be seen as a selfless moment on their part. The message comes across "Do the right thing but only if it doesn't cost you anything".
- Much of the criticism of Glee stems from a perception that, despite its pro-tolerance and inclusive message, it frequently undercuts itself through the fact that many of its non-white and non-American characters are heavily stereotyped and often reduced to background roles, e.g. an Asian character freaking out over an A-, calling it an "Asian F". It also doesn't help matters that, while the show routinely condemns homophobia, biphobic or transphobic statements made in-universe go by almost entirely unchallenged. For instance, a lesbian dumps her bisexual girlfriend on the assumption that she would have eventually cheated with a man, and is never called out for it, and a transwoman forced to dress as a man on school property is basically told to suck it up. In another instance, Kurt—who's the show's poster boy for "Don't mock/bully/harm gay people"—becomes upset when Blaine thinks he might be bisexual after kissing Rachel while drunk. Kurt (remember—the one who tells us that bullying is never, ever, ever, ever right) outright says that's impossible, and that bisexual men are clearly just gay guys who don't want to admit it. Blaine tries to speak up for himself, but Kurt keeps shooting him down. And guess who's proven right in the end? Kurt, of course! Because Blaine was gay all along!
- A perfect example of the above is "The Rocky Horror Glee Show". It attempts to have a big message about how the show represents people because they're "outcasts" and therefore the glee club can empathize with that - ignoring that one of the biggest elements of The Rocky Horror Picture Show that made it such a hit among those outcasts was its use of transgender characters, something the episode scrubs out by giving its version of Frank N. Furter a Gender Flip and editing "Sweet Transvestite" to turn "transsexual" to "sensational".
- Also in season 1, Puck wants to be recognized as the father of Quinn's baby. Mercedes gives him a stern talking-to, saying Quinn has already chosen the man she wants to be her baby's father, and it's Finn. Who doesn't know it isn't his and has been led to believe that the baby is his responsibility whether he wants it or not. And doesn't know that Quinn cheated on him with his best friend. Yep, the decision is all Quinn's.
- The show tried to redeem itself on transgender issues in the final season by having Coach Shannon Beiste come out as transgender and beginning to live as a man, but even this backfired. The message was supposed to be that you're never too old to live your truth, but it contradicted Beiste's previous characterization as a cisgender straight woman who had a masculine appearance and interests but still wanted to be treated like a lady. In fact, Beiste was already popular with trans and non-binary viewers for subverting gender with a level of subtlety not normally seen on the show. All of this was thrown out by revealing that Beiste had secretly identified as a man all along.
- The Golden Girls
- One episode had a visit by Blanche's estranged daughter Rebecca, who, during her time in Paris, has become very overweight. Rebecca wants to introduce her mother to her boyfriend Jeremy, who's a massive Jerkass: he verbally abuses her and makes cruel, rude comments about her weight. This is treated as unacceptable, and she dumps him in the end. But the moral of the story breaks, because the whole first half of the episode involves some fat jokes being made at her expense (either by snarky Sophia or by dumb Rose ) and ends with Blanche suggesting they go outside rather than the previous intent to eat some cheesecake. It's somewhat justified in that Sophia can't censor her statements due to a stroke and Rose is, to be frank, too stupid to realize that she's being mean; furthermore, Blanche's initial statements about Rebecca's weight are treated as serious by the younger woman, who makes it clear that she won't take her mother's interference any longer. But still, it could have been presented better—especially because Rebecca was later recast, with a much thinner actress playing the role.
- The Handmaid's Tale: June has her child baptized into the Catholic Church, which has been implicated in major sexual abuse, undermining her opposition to the similarly sexually abusive Gilead. In-Universe, her own mother points this out. To be fair, the Church is portrayed as violently persecuted under the Gilead regime, and June probably also does this because her father was Catholic (it's possibly she was raised as one too).
- A Hannah Montana episode where Miley goes out with a rich boy and his parents make fun of her accent and stereotype her. They're portrayed as jerks for this and get comeuppance. Earlier in the same episode Miley said that they talked funny and the Zany Scheme of the episode involves everyone donning bad British accents.
- When Hiro from Heroes discovers that his father had died, he traveled back into the past to save his father, but his father declined the offer by saying that he should not play God with his powers; then the entire episode is about Hiro learning that his father is absolutely correct and he presents this as An Aesop during his father's funeral. The problem is that Hiro's Time Travel abilities are about changing the past and he had done it before without complaining once. Worse, Present!Dad wouldn't have died if Future!Hiro hadn't traveled through time to save Past!Dad from dying in the first place! It could be that the very Stargate-Aesop is, "Time Travel gives everyone a headache, even when it's their main ability." This was somewhat lampshaded when Hiro was put on trial in his own mind for playing around with causality for his own benefit.
- Highway to Heaven
- Johnathan, the angel, is often reminding his mortal friend, Mark, that violence is not the answer, often in cases where violence could reasonably be used. However, there are times when Johnathan uses violence himself, such as a time when he beats up three guys for stealing another guy's lunch. So, violence is not the answer, except when it is, but only if it's for something trivial.
- The episode "Friends" has a fat girl who doesn't have any friends. Why? Apparently, it's because she's fat. The just be yourself Aesop is broken in this episode. The life lesson this fat girl learns at the end of the episode is that it's okay to be yourself - unless you're fat! Then, it's okay to lose weight, but not because it's healthy or because doughnuts were costing her $3.10 a day, but because people will like you if you're thin. The intention may have been "Obesity is bad. Diet and exercise can make you thin" which isn't so bad, but pretty much the opposite of "Be Yourself".
- In the episode "Man to Man", a 19-year-old is good at just about everything he does. Johnathan and Mark discuss how winning isn't everything, despite the fact that the guy is just good at the things he does and applies himself. Mark and Johnathan come up with a few ways to show him how it's okay to lose sometimes, then use God's power to make him lose.
- A student athletic star ends up getting his legs paralyzed in an accident, which makes him feel worthless until someone helps him learn that there are other sports that he can participate in without the use of his legs, such as the pommel horse, except that there's no way he'd be able to do the routine he did without the use of his legs.
- There are a few ways "iGo Nuclear" could be considered to have broken the supposed Green Aesop: The first telling Freddie he failed because he imported worms for Portugal, then telling Carly that taking the bus would've been better. When Sam passed for doing nothing, it made it seem like the moral was "Don't bother trying to help the planet, because you are unwittingly doing it wrong anyway." It's worth noting that Executive Meddling mandated a Green Aesop that the creators didn't want to write—this might be a purposeful Spoof Aesop that being forced into environmentalism just sucks.
- A shocking truth in Real Life is presented in "iBeat the Heat." Carly gives An Aesop speech based from her utopian city project contrasting the Old American "neighborhood" life to the hubbub of the people in her loft. The lesson seemed to have sunk in, until all power inside the building gets restored, prompting the residents to leave the loft immediately without giving any form of gratitude. The stunned expressions of the main characters are just priceless.
- The aesop of "iStart a Fanwar," where everyone should concentrate on the show itself because it's only about comedy and not shipping? The very next episode started a 5 part Shipping arc that Dan Schneider himself hyped to the point he was expecting it to break the 12 million viewer record of iSaved Your Life. It didn't.
- "iMeet Fred" has a very confused moral about not expressing your opinions online in public forums. Freddie politely says he doesn't think Fred is that funny. He doesn't say he hates the character, but just says that the humor isn't his cup of tea. Then Lucas Cruikshank, Fred's creator and actor, declares Fred's dead due to Freddie's comments. After, Freddie's relentlessly bullied by pretty much everyone in school, as apparently they're all fans of Fred. When the gang all travel to Idaho to confront him, it's revealed that Lucas did it to start an internet fight between iCarly fans and his to boost their ratings. Before this, Freddie refused to apologize on the grounds that he doesn't think Lucas deserves it. That is until Sam beats the apology out of him with a Tennis racket. What should've been a story about sticking to your opinions, especially when you're proven right or not wrong for having them, becomes an episode about the exact opposite of that. Neither moral holds up because Lucas was a major Jerkass to them by not informing them of his plan and not even apologizing for all the pain he caused Freddie. On top of that, Fred wasn't always seen as comedy gold back when he was popular and is now seen as a laughingstock of the early days of YouTube, so Freddie was ultimately proven right in the end.
- Iron Fist (2017): In the second season, Danny gets the Iron Fist power stolen by Davos, but when he's ready to take it back towards the end of the season, he makes the difficult decision to let Colleen have it instead, knowing she'd make better use of it because she has more clarity of purpose. Even though he wanted the Fist back, he gave it up for the greater good, and he leaves New York to find his purpose without it. Then we get a six-month Time Skip where Danny has not only gotten a new Fist, but he's even learned a few tricks like channeling his chi through his guns and controlling bullets in mid air, meaning his sacrifice meant nothing since he ended up with powers after all. Also, considering Davos had to resort to some pretty dark magic to steal the Fist from Danny, it becomes Fridge Horror when you wonder what Danny had to do to get his new powers.
- Kids Incorporated frequently had to shave off some load-bearing plot elements to fit in their morals — each episode only had about 7 minutes of actual show between the musical numbers. The two most common:
- Anything based around the Aesop of "Be Yourself". Time after time, one of the Kids would try something new or to hang out with someone who was different from their usual peer group. Unless this newcomer was Inspirationally Disadvantaged, the end result was always that hanging out with the new person made them change, act like a punk, act too sophisticated, act arrogant, etc. The writers wanted to show that it was bad to change yourself to make new "cooler" friends, but the story was used with such frequency that it seemed as if trying in any way to broaden your horizons or make friends outside your usual circle was a bad thing.
- Ambition Is Evil: About once a season, something would give one or all of the kids a taste of stardom, and they would promptly forget about The Power of Friendship and start acting like jackasses and rivals. In the end, they would have to turn down any chance at becoming rich and famous in order to keep to what's "really important". Aside from the usual "Success is evil" vibe, we're repeatedly told in the early seasons that Kids Incorporated are already the most famous juvenile band on the planet, and are world famous. Heck, the theme song includes the phrase "Looks like we made it!" So, um, exactly how successful are you allowed to be before it becomes immoral?
- Law & Order: SVU:
- There are a few episodes centering on what becomes of child pornography victims when they grow up, and a few of those focus on the lives of those victims who are constantly re-victimized because of how permanent the materials are once they hit the internet. The message is very clear: it may be easier for consumers of kiddie porn to convince themselves that they're not hurting anyone because they personally do not harm children and the kids they watch are no longer children by now, but they're still the reason there's a demand for kiddie porn to begin with, and those kids do indeed grow up into deeply scarred adults. It's a very consistent message across several episodes... and then we get an episode where a city official is an avid consumer of huge amounts of kiddie porn, but the SVU team works to get him the lightest possible sentence and express sympathy for him because his porn consumption wasn't hurting anyone.
- One episode shares with us in great detail the importance of not judging sex workers for their jobs and valuing them as people, because sex work is work, and being paid to perform in pornographic movies does not mean that a porn actress is degraded or less worthy. The ending spits on the whole thing when the actress in question decides to become a full-time porn star, starting with group sex with a crowd of men, something she previously considered too extreme and is framed in a way to show she's going down a dark path. This is explicitly stated to be a result of her rape. In the end, the message maths out to being porn isn't degrading in and of itself, but degradation will improve your career.
- The episode "Gray" started with a college girl accusing a male classmate of raping her while she was drunk, but the man said she consented and didn't remember the next day because she was drunk. This gave Olivia the opportunity to lecture the squad that if a woman has been drinking, it's rape (one might think that a sex crimes detective would know the legal definition of rape) and that if a man is equally drunk it's still the man's responsibility not to take advantage of her. The episode was set up to be an episode-long Author Tract about drunken he-said-she-said rape cases, but then the investigation went on a tangent, it turned out that the man got his girlfriend pregnant and then caused her to have a miscarriage by using an abortive agent as a sexual lubricant. When the case went to trial, the defense attorney asked the judge to recuse herself because of her bias involving cases with "this type of victim". The judge then went to the reluctant witness victim to tell her own story about how she was raped and no one took her seriously. This speech might have been perfectly in place in many other episodes of the series, it might have even made sense to have the judge give this speech to the first victim who accused the man of rape, but by this point in the story everyone had forgotten about her. The victim the judge gave the speech to wasn't raped, in fact she was the one girl everyone knew for certain had consensual sex with the perpetrator. So the judge had no reason to recuse herself, her speech to the victim was weirdly out of place, and the perpetrator was never punished for anything he did to the first victim, and even though the episode was supposed to teach the importance of believing women who say they were raped, they never really proved that the original accusation was true.
- The opening lines of the intro point out that Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil, but that doesn't stop any of the squad from threatening any of its suspects with Prison Rape. Sure, for them it's just an intimidation tactic, but we see several characters who actually do get raped in prison, and those few who actually survive it end up in very bad places and bring consequences back on the squad. Olivia even gets some severe backlash for a casual Prison Rape threat being interpreted as actually conspiring to have a convict brutally assaulted. The entire premise of the show is that rape is serious and terrible, but still largely buys into the idea that Prison Rape is the icing on the karmic justice cake.
- In Lincoln Heights the whole point of the series seems to be to show how dangerous it is to raise a family there. So then why do the Suttons insist on raising their family there? Because they love the neighborhood so much despite the fact that their kids have been shot, kidnapped and held hostage every other episode. So it's fine to raise your family in a dangerous neighborhood as long as they're comfortable there.
- The L Word constantly defended itself from being just a cash cow pandering to the straight male demographic, while featuring extensive sex scenes between women and restricting gay guys to extras. Let's just say most of the so-called PSAs in the show never really got much impact. Even better, the following line, spoken by Jenny after tasering a homophobic bully no less, is one of the most hypocritical things to say in a minority show:
- Jenny: We're dykes, not fags.
- MacGyver says guns are bad and that you shouldn't use them. Then, there's an episode where a racist newspaper editor is confronted by MacGyver at gunpoint. Someone has to remind MacGyver that shooting this person would be bad.
- There's an episode where Klinger wants a nose job, but the doctors convince him that he should be happy the way he is. Klinger goes for it and all is great for a while. Then comes the later episode where a guy named Baker, who has a smaller nose than Klinger, wants to get a nose job. He easily convinces the doctors that he should have a nose job because his life would be so much better if he didn't have such an unattractive nose. The doctors even risk court-martial to get a plastic surgeon to do the surgery.
- The episode "Rainbow Bridge" has one, when you think of the Fridge Logic involved. The plot is that the 4077th is treating a number of Chinese prisoners, and is somehow contacted by a Chinese field hospital who has in its care some UN troops. The Chinese, not capable of treating the UN troops up to their level of care, want to arrange a prisoner swap at the titular bridge, on the condition that Hawkeye, Trapper, Radar and Frank come unarmed to the swap. When they arrive, they are confronted by numerous Chinese guards carrying submachine guns. When it's revealed that Frank snuck a handgun (a tiny derringer that looks like it could have come out of a box of Cracker Jack, really) the commanding Chinese doctor launches into an anvilicious tirade about US actions ("Is it not enough that your planes harass us day and night? It makes it impossible for me to treat my own people. We make a civilized gesture, and you respond by coming here with a gun ready to shoot us down.") and is about ready to call off the exchange. At which point, Hawkeye browbeats Frank into surrendering the gun and makes an impassioned plea for the exchange to go on as planned. The intended Aesop seems to be "take any proffered olive branch during a war, especially if it saves lives", but it falls apart when you consider the Chinese were flagrantly violating the very conditions they demanded of Hawkeye et. al. by bringing armed men to the rendezvous point. Granted, there was no condition prohibiting this, but it's at least a Double Standard. Not to mention, the Chinese doctor complaining about trying to treat people while being bombed? If you watch the show, you'll see the 4077th in this exact situation frequently. As the Chinese could have been laying a trap and taken Hawkeye and the others prisoner or gunned them down with impunity, it seems more likely that the Accidental Aesop was "You know what? This once, in retrospect, Frank was probably right."
- There's the episode "Souvenirs", in which Hawkeye and BJ force a chopper pilot to stop selling trinkets made out of junk found on battlefields. Granted that people, including little kids, are getting hurt and killed when they try to scavenge something that turns out to be booby-trapped, but this doesn't solve the problem. Fact #1: These people are dirt poor and desperate for every penny they can scrape up. Fact #2: Metal is valuable. Even if the souvenir industry dried up, the brass shells could be sold to someone who can use them, to melt down if nothing else. Fact #2 can't be changed. Fact #1 can, but Hawkeye and BJ don't do anything about it. In fact, they put a guy out of business who gives fifty bucks to the family of one of his suppliers who got hurt. Nice move. He even mentions that his predecessor used to just send flowers. Those families are certainly better off with him gone.
- One episode features Margaret dealing with Nurse Cooper, who repeatedly emotionally breaks down, up to and including running out of OR in the middle of an operation because the wounded soldiers remind her of her kid brother. Margaret is viewed as an ogre for coming down on Cooper and eventually trying to get her transferred to an easier post, and she eventually learns to empathize with Cooper, letting up on her after crying over a dead dog (NOT while she was working). See the problems here?
- In episode 17 of Mirai Sentai Timeranger, an Aesop is taught that fighting is wrong, even in self-defense - in a Super Sentai series where fights are the preferred method of problem solving.
- My Name Is Earl: Does anyone else find it a little strange that Earl puts his list away for a day so people will stop calling him "Karma Guy" while saying an Aesop about not letting other people's labels define you? Since when does changing your actions because of people's labels fit into that Aesop?
- The Noah's Arc movie gets in several aesops, but one is particularly broken. When Noah finds out Alex is addicted to caffeine pills he takes it very seriously, and that's where the Drugs Are Bad aesop is played out. But throughout the movie we've seen Brandy enjoy a variety of drugs quite a bit harsher than caffeine, and its all Played for Laughs with no real consequences.
- One Tree Hill: A season four episode had Nathan finally sick of his mother Deb's alcoholism, lack of any responsibility for her actions and overall Jerkass behavior, especially towards his wife Haley and he decides to confront her about it. However, what should have been a great moment of him calling the old woman out was undermined by him, who after she admitted that she had a disease, just dismisses this and reminds her that Peyton's biological mother, Ellie, died of a real disease, cancer. Even though Deb was being an insufferable bitch and he was ultimately trying to get her admit she had a problem and take control of her life by getting help, it was still wrong of him to imply that alcoholism is just a weak excuse to be an asshole instead of a legitimate disease.
- Out of This World:
- In one episode Evie uses her powers to pass her driving test, with the result that she gets a license despite not being able to parallel park. This is, obviously, a reprehensible thing, and consequentially, she gets in a car accident the very first time she takes the car out. Everything's reasonable so far, except for the fact that the tester was being a jerk and demanded she park in a space visibly smaller than the car. So the moral is "It's not fair to use your superpowers to succeed at something that would be physically impossible to do without them."
- "I Want My Evie TV": Evie's recently-arrived Uncle Mick tries to persuade her to use her powers for personal gain. After being repeatedly cautioned about using her powers for personal gain, she uses her powers to make a music video for a school project. She is punished by her mom, for using her powers for personal gain. So far so good, right? In the end, her video gets entered in a contest and she wins $500. And that's the end of the episode. That's it. No confession, no moment of revelation. No moral epiphany. Turns out that using her powers for personal gain just works with no negative consequences.
- The Outer Limits (1995): The episode "Judgment Day" revolves around a murderer being hunted down on national television as part of an Immoral Reality Show. They make a point about condemning sensationalization of violence in the media and people who would watch it, before revealing that the target was actually framed by the show's producer. In the end the former target hunts down and murders the producer with just as much glee as he had previously been pursued, turning the intended message "killing people for public entertainment is wrong" into "killing people for public entertainment is wrong only if they didn't do it".
- Power Rangers:
- An episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has the Yellow Ranger being talked to about honor. Most notably, how she should fight monsters all on her own because it's honorable. Besides of all the other things wrong with this aesop, this episode was very closely placed to an episode about teamwork, which had literally the exact opposite aesop. And between the two, on a show where 5 super heroes usually beat up on one monster, the whole honor thing just doesn't make as much sense.
- The lesson in the Power Rangers Mystic Force three-parter "Dark Wish" is supposed to be "don't take shortcuts, do the work you're supposed to", demonstrated by having the Rangers try to wish away the bad guys through the resident genie and having it backfire horribly. This is undermined by A) the Rangers have been encouraged all season to embrace their magical gifts, so "don't cheat with magic" rings hollow, B) the bad guys get the chance to use the genie themselves, and their wish to depower the Rangers is completely successful, and C) the Rangers' reward for learning not to use magic is even stronger magic that fuels their Super Mode.
- A second one is when Itassis asks why the Rangers continuously defeat the Terrors despite the latter's greater power. The answer she gets is "We're more courageous than you". This is despite the fact that Isassis personally bailed the Rangers out when four of them were down for the count and the other two couldn't morph and killed a Terror the Rangers couldn't scratch because of the 'Rules of Darkness'. Then there's the whole 'one Terror vs six Rangers' thing.
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm when Sensei told Dustin not to use his abilities for trivial matters. Said trivial matter involved protecting a business that was basically being vandalised. In other words, "Don't use your abilities to stop crime." Or in other words, an invoked example of Reed Richards Is Useless.
- Power Rangers S.P.D. has the Robot Girl two-parter, where the team is supposedly suspecting the cadet who turns out to be a robot just because she's different, obviously a metaphor for racism. However, Sophie did a great deal of suspicious things, and not telling anyone that she was who the villain of the week was after put everyone in danger. They had many good reasons not to trust her before the Robotic Reveal that happens in the last five seconds or so of Part One. That doesn't stop Part Two from pretending Part One was all about racism instead of a someone who couldn't have done more to look suspicious if she were going out of her way to.
- Power Rangers Jungle Fury has Jared being shown his past, when he was being bullied by older kids and the villain was mocking him for simply taking it, despite knowing martial arts at the time. Jared states that his code was to never use his arts against weaker opponents and that fighting the bullies with his martial arts was bad, anyway. To paraphrase Linkara, one can't have a Do Not Fight Bad Guys message in a Power Rangers show that is having martial arts as its main source of fighting the bad guys!
- In Power Rangers Samurai, the Red Ranger stays behind to train on his day off while all the other Rangers go to an amusement park. His master says that in order to master his weapon, he needs balance in his life and should have more fun. The Ranger shrugs him off and eventually masters the weapon with more training, even after all these hints that in order to master his weapon, he needed to have more fun.
- In Power Rangers Megaforce, there's an aesop about not taking things too seriously by having Noah, the blue ranger and team brain, examine jokes too closely. The problem is that the jokes in the episode are legitimately awful to anyone over the age of 7, so he comes across as the Only Sane Man in the episode when the rest of the cast are laughing their heads off at the terrible jokes.
- In Megaforce, and especially its second season, Super Megaforce, one of the most complained about parts is that in almost every episode of both seasons, the rangers are given new zords out of nowhere, with Gosei's dialogue implying that they learned a lesson to get them, but the lesson was either never set up, more often than not, or it's barely there. There's also the fact that the central message of all of Power Rangers is that every single team was chosen for good reasons to be the rangers of their teams. However, with the rushed pacing of both of these seasons and absolutely zero character development for the team as people, we never get any sense as to why that is outside of the first season's first episode, where we're explicitly told why they were chosen by Gosei's computer. Outside of that, we never delve into their personal lives and they never really show off any hidden depths of self doubt or anything and the rangers seem to treat defending the Earth like it's a video game with no real stakes involved, thus making the aesop go from, "if you're good enough, you can too be someone who can help the planet" to, "if you're picked randomly by a computer owned by an alien, you too can transform into spandex suits with powers and pilot giant robots."
- In the Super Megaforce, tribute episode to Jungle Fury, Troy, the red ranger, says that "a ranger never lets go of their weapons," ostensibly to justify later footage used from the source series, Gokaiger, where there it was originally the rangers learning from the tricks of the Action Commander earlier in the episode so that they wouldn't fall for the same trick twice of him using his magnet fists to take their weapons from them. Not only does this make no sense within the episode itself, since they mainly use the powers of Jungle Fury and Wild Force, which used mainly kung-fu-based martial arts first and weapons second, and had the rangers have a versatile range of weapons from their fists to their weapons, respectively, but in the very last episode, TROY throws his sword into the beach ground in the last minute of the episode for no reason, ostensibly making him a hypocrite, which was also pointed out by Linkara with him saying, "Oh, I thought a Ranger never lets go of his weapon, Troy. Dickhead." The characters were also pretty inconsistent in their characterizations, so this isn't surprising.
- Super Megaforce also has Orion say, in the second to last last episode, that he wasn't filled with as much hate as he was when he got to Earth and that he was going to go back to his planet to search for survivors. Not only does this move from him make no sense where it's placed in the episode, since not only is the Armada still a threat to Earth, but it's also not even for Sentai stock footage reasons, but the Armada is still a threat in need of taking care of, meaning his whole revenge storyline completely crumbles for making bad guys pay for their misdeeds. On top of that, we never personally see his transformation into a happier person. After the episode where he's properly introduced is over, he's suddenly much happier the very next episode for no reason. The intended development of a character like him is supposed to be that he dreads having any other world end up like his, which is his entire reason for coming to Earth, but then he finds value in the new planet he's on and makes it his new home with his friends helping him cope, as well as defeating the ones who caused the genocide to give him a sense of relief that no one else will feel what he did. It's a message saying that you can't change the past, but you can try to assure a better future. Too bad this also crumbles under him not getting any proper development of this, but his leaving Earth before the threat is defeated makes him seem like he doesn't care to help take care of them anymore.
- Red Dwarf:
- In the episode "Timeslides" Rimmer attempts to convince an alternate Lister (created by Lister's fiddling with the past) to come back to the ship.You call this happiness? Surrounded by toadying lackeys and paid sycophants? Living with a love-goddess sex-bomb model megastar? You call this contentment? You know, I stand here now and I look at the two of us, and I ask one simple question: Who is the rich man? You, with your fifty-eight houses, your private island in the Bahamas, your multi-billion pound business empire; or me, with... with... with what I've got. (Pause) It's you, isn't it? Yes, it's all very clear to me now. You — richer and happier. I should have thought a bit harder about that speech, really. I cocked it up a bit, didn't I...?
- Also a straightforward example; In a season 1 episode, Lister's Confidence and Paranoia become personified. Lister completely ignores Paranoia and only listens to Confidence - which almost gets him killed. The lesson Lister takes from this? He should stop listening to his paranoia and be confident. Then again, perhaps the point was to highlight the fact that Lister learned the wrong lesson: the result of listening to his confidence was having to live with two Rimmers.
- In the episode "Timeslides" Rimmer attempts to convince an alternate Lister (created by Lister's fiddling with the past) to come back to the ship.
- The Nickelodeon sitcom Romeo! had an episode in which Romeo's older sister got a boyfriend. She is lectured on how she is not mature enough for a relationship. Later, when the boyfriend comes over for dinner, he eats some Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce and reacts hilariously. The sister dumps him and it's presented as her being "mature." However, what would be truly mature is not breaking up with your boyfriend over something so minor.
- Mexican's La rosa de Guadalupe it's supposed to give valour and ethics to the people but it manages to screw things so bad more times than not, at times like in a Chick strip the bad guy will repent and get a happy ending with some innocent dying in the process, others with clear "Didn't do the research" scenarios, and one particular time with all of the people about to get killed saved by nothing but a miracle which in a country like Mexico sounds cruel and unnecessary.
- The final episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch badly mangled its moral. On the eve of her wedding, Sabrina gets cold feet because the magical stone representing her soul doesn't quite interlock with the magical stone representing the groom's. The entire rest of the episode builds to a clear moral: there are no sure things, don't rely on magic, just do your best and have faith. Then she leaves him at the altar to run off with Harvey — and their magic stones interlock perfectly. Hm. Guess the moral was that magic is right after all. Also, First Guy Wins, so the whole 'no sure things' lesson is out as well.
- Another episode ostensibly tells us not to be hard on geeks, but about 95% of its humor amounts to making fun of geeks.
- A Saturday Night Live sketch parodying The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Eye of the Beholder" intentionally does this by having the male characters look at the "ugly" patient (played by Pamela Anderson) and proclaim, "She's hot!" Not only did they lampshade this trope, they slightly-more-subtly sent a message of modern media eschewing thought-provoking entertainment in favor of gratuitous T&A that ensures ratings. They took this even further by having all the characters except the patient literally have pig noses, and the male pig-people complain that after having seen the patient, they would no longer be able to stand looking at their pig-faced wives. This drives a pig-nurse to angrily point out (to no avail) that the men had pig faces themselves! Even Rod Serling (played by Norm MacDonald) has to concede that he didn't have a point this time, because c'mon; she really was hot.
- Saved by the Bell:
- One episode of The College Years has Slater discovering his Hispanic heritage and that his father changed his name to get into the army. Zack is presented as being ignorant of this and the one who has to learn An Aesop. Except Slater out of nowhere calls Zack a racist because he tries to set Slater up with a blonde girl. The exact quote is "why do you only think girls with blonde hair and blue eyes are attractive? I've dated girls with dark hair and dark eyes before" - which is a massive Continuity Snarl given that many girls of different ethnicities have served as Zack's love interests and Slater's own major love interest was a Caucasian blonde. Zack apologizes for his behavior at the end of the episode but Slater never apologizes for being overly sensitive. Oh and there's a scene where Zack uses a racist remark and Slater comes back with a racist response of his own. Zack apologizes for his but Slater doesn't.
- Also, in the original show's Series Finale, "The Graduation", after Jessie bad mouths Screech for being a dorky guy, Lisa immediately scolds her, explaining that upon learning he was valedictorian instead of her, he gave it up as he knew how much it would mean to her, with her even guilt-tripping Jessie by saying that "the world would be much better place if we had more little dorky guys, don't you think?" However, as true as that comment in its respective context, it all becomes significantly weakened by the fact that it's Lisa trying to call someone else out on their treatment of Screech. In reality, she was the main one who consistently insulted him throughout the series, calling him a dork and a nerd while either mocking or downright dismissing him and his ideas (even the logical ones) and was really bitchy to him whenever she sought fit, even in those times that he wasn't flirting with her.
- An episode of Sex and the City had an Aesop about how you can't change a man. However, in this same episode, every male character who appears changes in some way.
- At the end of Smallville episode "Unsafe", Martha Kent lectures Clark on using better judgment about something he did while he was on red Kryptonite, which impairs his judgment. Characters in the show are pretty consistently forgiven for things they did "while they weren't themselves," including at the beginning of season 3 when Clark comes home after a much longer bout with red Kryptonite in Metropolis during which he was committing serious crimes. And for all of that he was on red Kryptonite voluntarily, whereas in "Unsafe" Alicia gives it to him without his knowledge.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Chuck: In their attempt to address the elephant in the room, they've unwittingly called attention to the mammoth standing next to it.
- Because of course the episode "Profit and Lace" didn't have enough problems, it had to undercut not just one, but two different morals! First was the lesson about female equality, carried out through a display by a sex-changed Quark that was agonizingly sexist even after Armin Shimerman insisted the script be toned down to be less misogynistic. Then came everything dealing with Quark's relationship with his mother, where the effects of their mutual loathing for each other is portrayed as entirely his fault; sadly for its attempt to portray Quark as in the wrong and badly in need of a lesson, Ishka consistently treats him like shit throughout the episode, either ignoring or forgetting the time Quark risked his own life to save her from the Dominion, even after he undergoes extensive surgery, flirts with another man, endures Zek hitting on him and pisses off the Acting Grand Nagus in order to bring about a social change he doesn't even want in order to help Ishka get the reform she was pushing for.
- In SF Debris's review of DS9's "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang", Chuck notes how Sisko complains about the racism present during the time period of the holodeck program (the 1960s), but says nothing about the sexism also present in that time, made worse by how the team's Batman Gambit uses its three female members in mostly passive roles (e.g. Distracted by the Sexy), rather than taking a fully active part in the casino heist like the men. As Chuck put it:
- Star Trek: Enterprise:
- Deconstructed with T'Pol's Pa'nar syndrome. The Vulcan mind-meld subculture and related Pa'nar syndrome disease served as allegories for homosexuality and AIDS, including the scorn heaped upon the former and the stigma attached to contracting the latter. Archer and Phlox repeatedly expressed their distaste for the Vulcan bigotry related to this issue, but they themselves continually point out that T'Pol, who has Pa'nar Syndrome, is not a member of the mind-meld minority, and attracted the disease through a non-consensual attack. T'Pol eventually pointed out to them that, by attempting to "excuse" her having the disease, they are supporting and even justifying the Double Standard that the High Command has against the mind-meld minority.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In "The Outrageous Okana," Data's entire subplot is similar to the above one from Power Rangers Megaforce, where he attempts to learn the basics of comedy and not automatically analyze jokes he's told in an aesop of trying to just enjoy humor. Not only does he go about learning about comedy the wrong way for the kind of humor he wasn't getting (learning from a computer simulation of a 20th-century comedian on the holodeck in a recreation of a comedy club from the same era), but the holographic comedian is played by Joe Piscopo, a comedian whose career didn't survive too long past the episode's airing. Not only that, but the jokes in the episode are either bad because of their deliveries, or are so obtuse and forced (the majority of them were made up on set, and not just from Joe deciding he could come up with better material than what was in the script either) to the point that a wordplay joke needs subtitles to understand as it's told because of the delivery before it's explained in the show, that no one in the audience would be laughing at them either, making Data justified in not laughing at them outside of his lacking emotions. Not only that, but with how Brent Spiner was copying Joe during an impression of Jerry Lewis, as SF Debris said, he was making fun of Joe, making Data look like he's faking not understanding at least some types of humor. Not only that, but the deadpan way Data reacts to the jokes he's told are also decently funny unintentionally.
- The episode "The Game" attempted to make an aesop that video games are EVIL. However, the game in question (a weird "put disc into bad CGI tubes" game) was actively programmed to brainwash whoever plays it. Also, holodecks are the final form of video games (they can simulate ANY scenario imaginable, and stimulate all the senses while doing it), and nobody had a problem with them (at least, the fact that certain personality types had a tendency to find them addictive didn't lead to demands that they be banned).
- Picard's actions in "Hide and Q" where the moral is that with with great power Comes Great Responsibility, unless it can be used to save a little pink-clad dead girl.
- In "Ethics", Worf suffers an injury that leaves him quadriplegic, and, rather than take the standard treatment of implants which would restore most of his mobility, he opts for a risky, unproven spinal surgery performed by a visiting doctor who has a reputation for cutting corners in her research. The operation is a success, although Worf does end up clinically dead for a few minutes during the procedure. Crusher tears into the doctor for using Worf as a guinea pig to prove a pet theory, but this is undercut since: A. it worked perfectly and Worf makes a complete recovery, and B. performing risky procedures based on the scantest evidence is basically a Starfleet doctor's job description, and every CMO in Star Trek, including Crusher, has done much more serious operations on organisms they knew even less about.
- "The Outcast" as a metaphor for homosexuality... except all the androgynous aliens are portrayed by women, the titular character identifies as a woman, and falls in love with a man. So the story ends up looking more like a heroic straight woman rebelling against lesbian tyranny. This might have been the point (reverse the discrimination to show people what it's like), but it didn't come across quite right. Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker, called out the producers for not having the balls to cast a man in the role of the alien who falls in love with him, which would've made the metaphor work seamlessly.
- In "Up The Long Ladder", Riker expresses horror and disgust at the mere notion of cloning human beings, saying "It's not a question of harm. One William Riker is unique, perhaps even special. But a hundred of him, a thousand of him, diminishes me in ways I can't even imagine." Then he and Dr. Pulaski vaporize all of their clones. Later, in "Second Chances", he learns that a transporter malfunction created an identical duplicate of him eight years ago... and it turns out to be no big deal. He just has a twin brother that he didn't know about before. The option of just drawing a phaser and killing the other Will on the spot doesn't even occur to him, because Clones Are People, Too.
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- The episode "Tattoo", as summarized by SF Debris:Chuck: So here's Star Trek's message: "We have a great respect for the cultures of the Native Americans... and we convey that by showing that they were backwards, languageless cavemen until they were touched by mystical white people from outer space." You're welcome.
- Prejudice against Cardassians seemed to be disturbingly well-accepted by the Star Trek franchise, considering how firm it normally was against any sort of bigotry. In "Nothing Human", B'Elanna displays racial prejudice against a holographic Cardassian physician. The Doctor objects to this racism, and the episode seems to be building toward an Aesop opposing bigotry ... until it is revealed that the Cardassian doctor, Crell Moset, is actually a war criminal. The episode then turns into a debate on medical ethics, and the racism issue is all but forgotten. In fact, the remainder of the episode seemed to take the view that the prejudiced characters had been right all along. B'Elanna acts like the discovery of Moset's war crimes vindicates her earlier hostility toward him. When she says that she had "a bad feeling" about the Cardassian as soon as she saw him, nobody calls her out on the fact that her "bad feeling" was the product of nothing more than her own racial prejudice.
- The two recurring themes in "Flesh and Blood" are that people should take responsibility for their actions, and whether an artificially-intelligent hologram has the same rights as a person or is Just a Machine. However to let the Doctor off the hook Janeway declares that he's not responsible for his actions. Which would certainly be the case if the Doctor were Just a Machine, but not if he has the right to exercise his free will.
- "Repentance" is about the moral dilemma when the ship rescues a ship of prisoners on death row. The warden is abusive and closed-minded, and one of the prisoners reveals that he's part of a minority who are disproportionately found guilty and sentenced to death. The statistics he quotes are confirmed by the government itself. But he turns out to be a liar and manipulator who did commit murder after all, which handily kneecaps the whole allegory to how black people are treated in the American justice system.
- The episode "Tattoo", as summarized by SF Debris:
- Step by Step has an episode where J.T. takes a part time job as a shampoo boy for Carol's salon after he fails spectacularly at working at his dad's construction site. This upsets Frank because "there are some things men shouldn't do" and Carol calls him out for having a sexist attitude, but when he tells J.T. he's okay with him being a shampoo boy, J.T. tells him he's only doing it so he can touch girls without getting in trouble and Frank is visibly relieved to hear that, despite an effeminate line of work, he's straight. Frank then goes and hires his tomboy daughter to take J.T.'s spot on the construction company and has no problems at all, so rather than "gender roles shouldn't matter in the workplace", we get "girls can do masculine work if they want, but a boy doing feminine work is weird and wrong unless he can prove he's heterosexual."
- Strong Medicine:
- Lu Delgado is constantly ranting and raving about the evils of rich people and acting holier-than-thou because she isn't. However, she's horrified when her son's girlfriend (whom she's been incredibly nasty to, despite the girl being nice and polite) insinuates that Lu dislikes her for being white (Lu is Hispanic), and distressed that her son thinks she's racist. So, automatically disliking and judging people because of their race is wrong (which it is, of course), but automatically disliking and judging people because they have money is perfectly fine?
- Also another fine example of Lu's dislike of wealthy people was in another episode where two couples (one being working class and the other one being, you guessed it, wealthy) are trying to adopt the same baby girl. Well, Lu wanted the working class couple to get the baby, so she told both couples that the girl had some incurable disease (which she didn't; Lu was just trying to trick the wealthy couple into forfeiting the process of adopting a "sick" baby.) After this revelation to both couples, the wealthy couple said to Lu that they would love the child no matter what (and ended up with the child) while the working class couple, upon learning the other couple were now the girl's parents, were relieved that they didn't get the baby, seeing how they felt that they couldn't handle a sick child.
- Or when she acts downright outraged when Dr. Dylan West joins the staff, saying that he knows nothing about women's health. This is someone who has likely dealt with considerable prejudice given her race and gender, yet is ready to dismiss West simply because he's a man.
- On the Nevada Day episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The writers clearly tried to get across a message about how not everyone in small towns is an unreasonable, stuck in the dark ages bible bashing gun-nut (To the point where John Goodman's character actually says something to that effect). Its a nice if glaringly obvious aesop that gets broken because the Judge was giving them every reason to believe that he really was as bad as they thought he was. When he comes into the sheriff's office, He puts a holstered gun on the table,refers to nearby Chinese people as "Japs", refuses to listen to any legal arguments from the attorney and threatens to have him shot if he keeps talking (I.e, actually trying to defend his client) and claims to have never heard of the station they work for. He then has a good laugh at their expense and chastises them in a manner clearly directed at audience members who had made their mind up. Its like calling someone a racist name and chastising them for assuming you're racist. The judge even tells Tom that he doesn't like his show in a manner that basically says "I don't like what you do for a living so I'm not going to be fair or do my job right". The only thing that saves Tom is having a brother in the army and we never get a sense that the judge would have been fair or lenient otherwise. It also doesn't help that the show has previously shown Tom's parents from the Mid West as so hopelessly out of touch with pop culture that they've never heard of Abbot & Costello despite presumable growing up in the 1950's.
- That '70s Show: The Season 4 finale "Love, Wisconsin Style" focuses primarily on jerkass Casey Kelso breaking up with Donna. Donna then attempted to get back together with Eric, but Eric rejected her because he felt like her "backup". Red and Kitty then proceed to ridicule Eric for "being so stupid" for not taking her back. Where to begin? For one, the previous episode, "Everybody Loves Casey", focused on the fact that Casey was a known jerkass (in which his younger brother even concurred), and Eric tried to warn Donna that she could be hurt. Donna, of course, shrugged it off. When the inevitable happened, Donna was broken down and crying from the heartbreak, and almost immediately asked Eric if they could get back together. So why should Red and Kitty ridicule Eric for rejecting her? She was clearly shaken, and not thinking straight. And she clearly came back to her "safe, good boy" Eric after her "cool bad boy" boyfriend Casey left her in the dust. Everything about how that situation played out screamed out that Eric was clearly a backup that Donna ran to when feeling lonely and shaken. The Broken Aesop additionally plays out when you consider the series' history. It's almost as if Eric was right when he said that his parents (mostly Red) don't truly respect him. Especially if they think he should be someone's backup. Perhaps they don't think he can do better?
- Totally Minnie is a Disney special from the 80s about a guy that goes to a place run by Minnie Mouse that teaches people how to be "totally hip" to pick up girls. She and her human assistant teach him how to dress, converse, and other things related. What's the ending message? "Just be yourself." Huh?
- True Blood. The vampire rights movement seems to parallel every oppressed minority ever, but the Vampires Are People Too message just doesn't ring when you examine how the vampires actually behave. Examples:
- The vampires that are main/recurring characters have no problem killing and exploiting humans for their own gain. Even "nice" vampires like Bill and Jessica aren't an exception.
- Flashbacks to the middle ages show that vampires have infiltrated human institutions to do as they please and kill, torture, and/or rape humans who challenge them, which begs the question of who is oppressing who.
- Despite claiming that they want to integrate with human society, they still maintain their own parallel system of government, with Monarchs and Sheriffs empowered to deal out punishment.
- They view and keep humans as property. Sookie is kept relatively "safe" because Bill says that she belongs to him, and Sookie agrees to go along with it.
- In short, the fears that many people have against vampires are legitimate, not just the result of ignorant prejudice. This is entirely deliberate on the part of both the show and the novels it's based on. Which makes the resulting Aesop... maybe the bigots were right all along?
- Screenwriter Alan Ball, who's gay himself, quickly noticed this problem and objected that comparing vampires with the LGBT movement would only serve homophobia, but he was overruled.
- In one episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jacqueline puts Buckley on a new medication, Dyziplen, which makes him quiet, emotionless, and obedient. By the end of the episode, Jaqueline learns that medication is no substitute for parenting and never gives it to him again. Except the episode repeatedly demonstrates that Buckley is far more destructive and violent than most children his age and previous episodes even imply that he is a psychopath in the making. So while Dyziplen is wrong for Buckley, the idea of medicating him is not. Downplayed, if not subverted, later on, when Characterization Marches On and Buckley's later appearances paint him as fairly normal kid.
- The Vampire Diaries seems to be making a powerful statement about how unhealthy Stefan and Damon's relationship is, and how bad codependent relationships are in general this season. Everyone keeps telling Damon that Stefan is always suffering due to his selfish behavior. While that is true, the problem is that Stefan seems to be the one causing his own problems. First off, his blood feud with Julian, which he kept on pushing with Valerie's help, resulted in his mother's death and Damon being trapped in the phoenix stone. Then, when Damon had a nervous breakdown, he was willing to help, to stop when Damon revealed that he thought he had killed Elena (Enzo led him to believe that). Most recently, Stefan willingly went to Damon for help with Rayna, the vampire hunter, only to complain and fear that Damon would let him down. But, the reason he went to Damon in the first place was because Rayna was released by MATT, who is very angry with Stefan for something that happened during the three years that Damon was asleep that resulted in Matt's girlfriend's death. Maybe the moral is intended to be that "there are just some people you need to let go of", but it's coming off more like "if you have a problem, find an emotional punching bag and blame all of your troubles on that person instead."
- The West Wing: The Season 4 premiere two-parter "24 Hours in America" ends with Donna eloquently scolding Toby and Josh for politicizing everything, telling them that, in all the time they were traveling from Indiana to D.C., no one brought up the Bartlet vs. Ritchie election except them. It's a nice speech, but it's not true: at several points along the way, when Toby or Josh merely mentions working for Bartlet, whoever they were talking to would immediately shoot back a surly, "Didn't vote for him the first time, don't plan to the second time."
- Wizards of Waverly Place:
- Alex never learns to handle life without using magic to get her way. However - she is learning...
- The Season 3 episode "Moving On" is all about how Justin needs to move on and be open to new relationships after his girlfriend (a vampire) gets scratched by a werewolf (Alex's boyfriend) and Rapid Aging sets in, causing her to run into the woods to hide. Near the end of "Wizards Vs. Everything", guess who comes back, returned to her teenage form and ready to date Justin again?
- Xena: Warrior Princess:
- In the Season 2 episode "Here She Comes, Miss Amphipolis" Xena has to go undercover in a beauty pageant, and finds that one of the other contestants has only entered because she wants to get a winter's supply of food for her village. At the end of the episode (along with the other girls), she quits, stating that winning the competition isn't worth losing her pride and dignity. First of all (according to her), she's already lost it, so she may as well have hung in there and gotten a winter's supply of food to go with it. Secondly, endangering the lives of hungry children over the winter isn't a particularly good reason to quit a competition for the sake of one's dignity. Thirdly, it doesn't seem to occur to her that she had her pride and dignity all along considering she only entered the pageant in the first place for the sake of others. For an episode that was meant to demonstrate that beauty pageant contestants aren't just pretty faces, they really missed the boat with this one. It gets slightly more off-key, since most beauty pageants aren't held for charity, and when they are, the charitable donations don't go to the winner.
- The "Twilight of the Gods" story arc from the fifth season is one long broken Aesop. The gods of Olympus are said to be oppressive tyrants who torment humanity, persecute worshippers of other gods, want to kill Xena's child and viewers are told repeatedly all mankind needs is love. The Aesop is broken since the gods are not oppressive tyrants. They generally leave humanity alone with most human problems being each other and only a few gods being jerks. Ironically, the three gods perhaps depicted as the biggest Jerkasses in the whole Hercules/Xena series - Hera, Aphrodite and Ares - all end up helping Xena in this arc. Until this arc, they did not persecute the followers of other gods. They only wanted to kill Xena's child because it was prophesied to be their doom and from their perspective the child would go to Elysium. Xena is willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to save her child. And worst of all, the Olympian gods are being replaced by the One God who preaches love and nonviolence, but in the series itself has Xena violently wipe away all of the Olympians because it cannot stand other gods, and its dictates in many ways come off as more oppressive than the Olympians with everything being Black and White Morality and being thrown into Hell which is stated to be worse than Tartarus if you do not measure up.
- One episode of Zoey 101 involved Zoey and Logan starting a web segment that quickly became popular in school. However, the dean bans them from doing it, so they fight back and win, the moral being "censorship is bad". Which would be fine, except for the fact that the show was causing full-scale riots in the halls during school hours. That kind of response is a valid reason to ban something.