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Family Unfriendly Aesop / Live-Action TV

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  • 13 Reasons Why has several Family-Unfriendly Aesops, to the point that multiple suicide prevention groups have spoken out against it for how it glorifies and romanticizes suicide. The main lessons to learn from it seem to be "Committing suicide is a great way to get revenge on everyone who's wronged you" and "If someone close to you commits suicide, it's probably your fault somehow."
  • The 100 frequently has the moral that sometimes there isn't a moral choice. Sometimes the only options available all involve doing something terrible that you'll regret forever.
    Clarke: I tried. I tried to be the good guy.
    Abby: Maybe there are no good guys.
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  • 24 and its liberal use of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique has been heavily criticised for seeming to give the message that Torture Always Works, government abuse of power is completely justified to fight terrorism, and civil rights get in the way of the good guys keeping us safe. So much so that a group of military and law enforcement leaders (including the Dean of West Point and the Director of the FBI) made a delegation to the producers and asked them to stop, since they were facing a generation of recruits raised on the show who were willing and sometimes frighteningly eager to use torture.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had one early on in the episode "Girl In The Flower Dress." Basically, Daisy's (then known as Skye) prolific hack-tivist partner and boyfriend Miles hacks into S.H.I.E.L.D. and exposes very delicate information regarding a powered person's whereabouts (which leads to him getting kidnapped by an shadowy organization), and a later mission to retrieve him gets an agent killed. At first, Miles uses the excuse that all information should be free and that he's fighting against secretive government agencies and Skye vouches for him due to her trying to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. herself. But then it's found out that he was paid one million dollars by said shadowy organization to hack S.H.I.E.L.D. for that information. Daisy is crushed by Miles's actions, willingly submits to her punishment, which in turn starts her on the path joining S.H.I.E.L.D. Mind you, this episode premiered during the Edward Snowden revelations and still presents the message that government agencies gather information and keep secrets for a reason, and that hack-tivists are not paragons of virtue and can be used for nefarious purposes.
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  • The plot of the Amazing Stories episode: "Gather Ye Acorns". A small elf tells a kid to forget about studying to be a doctor and that hard work is not a virtue. "There's doctors aplenty is this world," he says, "What we could truly do with is a few more dreamers." We switch from 1932 to 1938 and he winds up spending all his hard-earned money on a fancy car. His dad is a little peeved, to say the least, and boots him out of the house. Years go by and the boy is now old, broke, friendless, homeless and trying to beg for enough money to gas up his car to commit suicide with it. But a wealthy lady notices some collector's piece in his collection of junk and offers him $10,000 for it. Cut to him now wealthy from selling all his childhood collectables. It turns out that all his artifacts are worth millions. He's now Wealthy Ever After, but it has cost him most of his life and now has only a short amount of time to enjoy it. This is treated as a happy ending, with the message: Don't work, don't make plans, don't have relationships with friends or family, and most of all: hoard. Money is the most important thing in life, and someday you may become rich when you're extremely old which will make up for the poverty, loneliness and misery you have made for yourself up to that point. Maybe he would have lived a more fulfilling life as a doctor helping people? Or perhaps he could still have worked and maintained relationships and held onto his keepsakes?
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  • While Babylon 5 ended up more idealistic than cynical, it still had a few sprinkled here and there. Stated outright at the end of "Believers," for example:
    Sinclair: Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't change anything.
  • Barney & Friends had the infamous episodes which gave the false impression that cheating is okay. In "A Splash Party, Please," when Barney and the kids are having a tug o' war, Min helps the other kids win by tickling Barney. Later, in "Falling For Autumn," Shawn participates in a relay race with a peanut stuck to his spoon with peanut butter. While fans of the show brush it off as just a joke, critics of the show state that children of the target demographic pick up from mimicking and may copy the action because they do not understand that it's supposed to be a joke.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Sometimes you have to Shoot the Dog, you can't always Take a Third Option, and you have to Know When to Fold 'Em. You can't get much more family-unfriendly than "suicide bombing is justified."
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • The episode "The Table for Polarization" has Sheldon get grumpy over a new kitchen table; when he gets his own way at the end, he smugly tells Leonard "Sometimes the baby wins."
    • , Of course, this is really nothing new when it comes to dealing with Sheldon: Season 2's "The Panty Pinata Polarization" sees the gang always (in the words of Leonard) "knuckling under" to Sheldon's demands. When Penny gets banned from the apartment, their ever-increasing prank war only ends when Penny calls Sheldon's mother to tell on him.
  • The Courtship of Eddie's Father:
    Tom. You can't just go around inviting ladies to stay with us.
    Eddie. But didn't you teach me to not be selfish, and share my things?
    Tom. Yes. But not me, and not our home.
    Eddie. Oh, you mean I should be selfish, about some things.
  • Degrassi, despite its famous heavy-handedness, frequently has morals that are widely believed by teenagers but are unusual for adults, as well as presenting standard aesops in unconventional ways. This may be a huge part of the show's appeal to teens.
    • Emma is still hurting after being dumped by her boyfriend Sean, so she starts purposely getting him in trouble — from ratting him and his friends out when they steal from a diner, to snitching to the principal that he stole her dad's laptop (an accusation later proved to be correct). While Emma learns that she should just move on and stop trying to make Sean hurt despite his misdeeds, it also has the lesson being that no badly somebody treats you, snitching is way worse.
    • Bitter Goth girl Ellie has to learn to trust people again after her boyfriend abandons her and sticks her with the rent. Specifically, she learns to trust both her new roommate — a recently reformed schoolyard bully who wants to gamble with their rent money — and her mother, a recovering alcoholic who once burned their house down in a drunken stupor. Both of them turn out to be completely trustworthy. This is on the extreme idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, so idealistic that it can feel like "take candy from strangers."
    • Paige has a completely horrendous experience at Banting University. The next season, she's dropped out and despite working a high intensity fashion industry job, she's a lot happier. In season 9, Emma drops out of Smithdale due to the same issues Paige was facing. Spinner never goes to college and works a standard 9 to 5 restaurant job and couldn't be more content. The lesson of "College isn't for everyone/you can be successful and happy without going to college" flies in the face of almost every show aimed towards young audiences. This is likely due to the difference between American and Canadian attitudes towards college. In Canada, high school is more comprehensive and involves (optional) job training; it's much easier to be middle class in Canada with a high school diploma than in the US. This is becoming increasingly truthful especially with many in their late 20's-early 30's who realize that all they got with their diplomas, whether soft science or STEM, ending up unable to find work in their fields, is a nice piece of paper and a metric ton of debt.
    • Alli is constantly being rebuked by her boyfriend Johnny for not respecting their relationship boundaries - he wants to keep his reputation as a tough guy. So in order to get him to open up and show affection, she starts "sexting" him nude pics. However, whenever she embarrasses him in front of the whole school by showing off a lovey-dovey cute photograph of him, he sends her nude pics to his friend. At the end of the episode, the lesson presented appears to be that Alli was in the wrong, and it didn't matter that he sent those nude pics because she broke her promise in regards to their relationship rules and that was worse. Wow.
    • Jane is being harassed by the new Degrassi football team since she's the only female player. The coach (who is also the principal) is turning a blind eye. She does the "right thing" - she tells another adult about the harassment but bullying worsens and she's actually assaulted in the hallway. It isn't until she makes a stand for herself (along with a handful of teammates behind her) that bullying goes away. This episode actually makes the case it's better to stand up against bullies yourself and that telling about an adult could make the bullying intensify.
      • This is unfortunately often true, as the response of school authorities is to try and stop the complaining student since it is easier to oppress a student until they stop reporting the problems than it is to deal with the issue of students bullying, which usually involves parents, ironically complaining that the complainer is "overly sensitive" or "has issues," which leads to intensified bullying because the bullies know that they will not be punished. This is just the general rule of thumb that it is easier to ignore a problem than deal with it.
    • In the episode "Eye of the Tiger", Spinner comes clean and finally confesses that he was responsible for driving Rick over the edge and shooting Jimmy. Jimmy then calls him cowardly and only saying this to make himself feel better, and never should have told anyone about it. Then he loses all his friends. Then he gets expelled. By contrast, Alex, who was also heavily involved in the paint and feather incident but never came clean, spending time happily around Jimmy who was left unaware. The explicit moral of that storyline was basically that sometimes doing the right thing doesn't come with consequence, not to mention the truth doesn't always set you free.
    • Some people might think episode 3 of season 10 had the message that rape isn't actually rape if the victim experiences physical pleasure: Declan is trying to reunite with Holly J (they're on a break after disagreement on money issues) and he pulls off all the stops trying to get her alone. They end up having sex—but Holly J at first verbally says "No" and "No, we shouldn't be doing this" but then later ends up kissing him and they initiate sex. At the end of the episode, Holly J clearly says to Declan (who is utterly disgusted with himself and nearly flees Toronto after finding out Holly J felt pressured to have sex) "I don't think you raped me." There is already a Broken Base on how the show handled this topic, some saying it excused rape and others sayings they accurately portrayed the blurred lines in between date rape and regretted sex. Degrassi always tried to look at controversial topics in a realistic way. Compare this with the Paige storyline, wherein she's date-raped at a party, presses charges, and the guy is acquitted due to "lack of evidence," despite the judge's commendation of Paige's bravery in taking the case to trial. It's supposed to be open for debate and dialogue.
    • After a terrible bus accident, Miles's boyfriend Tristan is in a coma and his prognosis is bleak. While Miles is there for Tristan, he starts to get closer to Lola and they lean on each other and they end up having sex. Miles feels terribly guilty about cheating and when Tristan awakes, Miles tells him that he did cheat but because he was so distraught and lost without him and worried that he would regress back into opioid addiction that he may have actually committed suicide if Tristan never woke up. Tristan absorbs this and after finding out that Miles didn't actually fall in love in Lola, he is fine with Miles having someone there for him and they pick up their relationship from there. After 16 seasons of cheaters never getting back with their partners or having to work tremendously hard to get back together with them, many viewers were surprised but grateful for the show presenting that sometimes there are situations where infidelity can exist in a gray area and not always the most devastating thing that can happen in a relationship.
    • Played With when Holly J breaks Alli and her boyfriend up and starts bullying her, Alli retaliates by making an online "Facerange" group dedicated to hating her and 400 kids join the group and some kids start jokingly making death threats, culminating in a scene where everyone chants "I hate Holly J" in the lunchroom. The episode starts to frame Alli's actions as just, especially since Holly J (up to that point in the show), has been almost completely unsympathetic and everyone else tells Alli to just "ignore her." But then real life consequences catch up to Alli, from getting suspended, to getting a criminal record in regards to a police complaint about the death threats. Alli sees what her bullying did to Holly J first hand and comes to regret it and learned that no matter what Holly J did, that it was her that crossed the line leading to a standard "revenge is best served never" aesop.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Dominators". Pacificism, even if war-hungry ways have nearly wiped out the planet and left an island a whole island a nuclear wasteland full of corpses, is bad, because the first attacker will destroy you. Gun control is also bad. Arm the hippies.
      • And from the same story's B plot: If you are likely to face resistance, the best thing is to massacre everybody as soon as possible.
    • In "The Ark in Space", the Doctor manipulates Sarah Jane out of a situation in which she's panicking and screaming by giving her a very hurtful and rather sexist "The Reason You Suck" Speech until she pulls herself together out of pure rage. It's an awesome moment and one of both Sarah Jane's and the Doctor's best, but does give the impression that bullying your best friend and crushing her self-esteem is a good idea to do to someone in a panic.
    • The Doctor does the same thing to Ace in "The Curse of Fenric". He destroys her self-esteem in order to save both their lives. Learning to forgive the Doctor also helps her to forgive her mother, allowing her to let go of the resentment she's been holding onto all her life.
    • "Remembrance of the Daleks": War is a tragic waste — the trick is getting your enemies to wipe themselves out.
    • A lot of Steven Moffat stories (particularly in the Eleventh Doctor's tenure) have characters destroying themselves or causing huge amounts of destruction for love, which might not come off as so bad were his romances not overwhelmingly destructive and unhealthy fixations held by sociopaths that it's hard to imagine anyone wanting anyway, although he rarely writes a romantic relationship without at least a kernel of genuine goodness in it. His use of "charming psychopaths" as positive Escapist Characters leads some viewers to find his stories glorifying selfishness and brutality.
      • This gets particularly interesting with the show's treatment of Rose Tyler, a companion of the Russell T. Davies era, and River Song, Moffat's most famous "charming psychopath". Both make comments about how their love for the Doctor is so deep that losing him would be worse than destroying the universe (or in Rose's case two), which some critics say sends a message that if you love someone, they should be the center of your world and you should be completely selfish in pursuing them. But Rose is basically rewarded and always treated well for her selfish behavior while River is not; rather, she is called out on her actions in "The Husbands of River Song".
      • "Amy's Choice". Amy believes she's in a dream because Rory has died, and attempts suicide to escape the dream. She is proven correct about the dream, so never has to actually die, but it ends up creating the abhorrent moral that without your true love, life is not worth living and the only option is to kill yourself.
      • In "Dark Water", Clara is willing to stab the Doctor in the back, cut him off from the TARDIS forever and possibly condemn both himself and her to death in lava just because the Doctor won't break the laws of time to save her boyfriend, and while this isn't portrayed entirely sympathetically (and Clara breaks down into tears upon realizing what she's doing) the Doctor reveals he was testing her to see how far she would go and tells her "Do you think I care about you so little that your betrayal means anything?" Both sides of this are loaded with unfortunate readings: for Clara, it's that she truly is justified in doing anything in the name of love (after all, the Doctor helps her on her plan to invade the afterlife, which makes up most of the episode), and for the Doctor, it's that forgiving your abuser is proof of the depth of your love for them.
      • Compare "Dark Water" to the next season's finale "Hell Bent". The Doctor, as a result of a vicious Trauma Conga Line culminating in Cold-Blooded Torture turning him into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, breaks the laws of time — which threatens to destroy the universe — to save Clara from her fixed-point death. She's horrified by his actions and stands up to his selfishness but also implicitly forgives him. However he realizes their love is unhealthy for everyone and not only lets her go but also ends up being mind-wiped of memories of her, seeing his fate as a way of making amends for his selfish actions. So he is condemned up and down by other characters and in the end is willing to accept punishment...but he's also The Mentally Disturbed by that point, given that he let himself be tortured in hopes of saving her. Clara was sane-but-selfish when she tried to betray him, and yet was not held responsible for her actions the way the Doctor is, even though he has a far better defense. This could be compared to the Rose vs. River situation above, as River's psyche was also warped by villainous forces while Rose's was not, but it's only the character who has genuine mental heath issues who gets punished for acting up.
      • "The Eleventh Hour". Amy Pond gets a little messed up by The Doctor's intrusion into her life (and the crack in space-time in her room), letting him into her house and then waiting for him for decades, which sends her to see psychiatrists, trying to convince she made up The Doctor. While she was right to hold onto what she knew was true (rather than succumbing to what was unwitting gaslighting), and we know The Doctor is great with kids, it still might be an uncomfortable message for those with experience with adult on kid crime, or people who are genuinely hallucinating or delusional and refuse help.
    • "The Almost People". Gangers are people too — if the original is dead that is. If not then they should be used as suicide bombers to take out enemies even though the originals could do the same job with no risk to themselves.
    • ""In the Forest of the Night". People shouldn't take mental health medication because the voices in their head are helpful and true. The intended moral was that slapping diagnoses and medication on children rather than respecting their real feelings is bad, as the visions are linked to the girl's grief over the loss of her sister. Unfortunately, the girl in the story is having actual visions and performing stereotypic tics that are shown to be stopped by the medication, making it seem like the story is commenting on actual mental illnesses like psychosis, and romantically linking it to her natural self which is suppressed by the drugs.
    • "[1]". The desire for knowledge is a form of greed; even seemingly benevolent actions can become unhealthy obsessions. The events of the serial happened due to the Doctor's insatiable desire for scientific knowledge.
  • An In-Universe example Played for Laughs in an El Chavo del ocho episode. El Chavo, La Chilindrina, and Quico are playing a game, but Quico intends to cheat:
    El Chavo: I'll tell you one thing, Quico. Do you know what happens to the kids that cheat in games?
    Quico: Yes, they win. (cue Evil Laugh)
  • In-universe example: Martin states one in the appropriately titled Frasier episode "Bully for Martin." He essentially says that "You should put up with any amount of unreasonable and even disrespectful crap from your supervisor because it's respectful to the chain of command." Naturally, Frasier disagrees.
  • Freaks and Geeks could deliver one on occasion:
    • In the episode "I'm With The Band", the underlying message is that sometimes your biggest dream in life is nothing more than a pie in the sky fantasy.
    • "Chokin' And Tokin'" has the underlying message that, sometimes, people bully you because they personally feel burned by a nasty thing you might have done to them previously. Granted, Alan's reason for bullying the geeks was pretty petty, but the point still remains.
    • The entire Nick/Lindsey arc has the underlying message that, sometimes, simply being "nice" doesn't cut it when you're interested in somebody.
  • Friends: "The One With The Cat" where Phoebe thinks a stray cat is her reincarnated mother. After learning the cat belongs to a little girl, Monica, Rachel, Chandler and Joey all wimp out at telling Phoebe, and Ross alone goes through with it. When Phoebe decides to keep the cat because she has to respect her mother's wish to be with her, her friends all wimp out again, and only Ross insists on putting an end to this. For this, Ross gets chewed out for being a bad friend, because he wasn't supportive of Phoebe, like the others were. The problem with that is that Ross was supportive of Phoebe, and only stopped humoring her when he found out about the little girl. The only real difference between Ross and the others was that he was unwilling to let Phoebe keep the cat at the little girl's expense. Apparently, being a good friend means you have to support somebody unconditionally, even when they're totally wrong, when they're being selfish, or when their actions would actually hurt an innocent child. Years later, it turns out that the reason why the episode turned out this way was because one of the writers, co-creator Marta Kauffman, lost her own mother at the time. The other writers mentioned in an interview years later that the episode being written to take Phoebe's inane side would NEVER had been green-lit had it not been for the circumstances surrounding it.
  • One episode of Full House has Stephanie desperate to change her name after some mean classmate put a sign on her that made fun of it, calling her "Step-On-Me". After deciding to change her name to Dawn, while Danny goes on to say what a pretty name her own name is, he also for some reason decides to shame her out of changing it by mocking the name Dawn! So instead of just convincing her to ignore bullies and take pride in her birth name, he also mocks another name, undermines her choice of that name and reenacts how other schoolchildren will continue to tease her over her name.
  • The George Lopez Show gives the moral that sometimes bullying can get so bad, you have to run away from the situation. Carmen was called a whore at her first high school, due to her ex-boyfriend telling everyone that they had sex. George and Angie get the leader of the bullies suspended, and get the ex-boyfriend to tell the truth. However, the episode ends with Carmen still getting bullied (and groped), and George and Angie making the conclusion that Carmen can never get her reputation back, and that she must leave the school. Unfortunately, all of this is Truth in Television.
  • Growing Pains has one that comes as quite a surprise. Plenty of shows do episodes about not idolizing celebrities, so it comes as no surprise to see an episode in which Ben walks in on his favorite singer having an affair. However, most such episodes end on the note of the celebrity being a Broken Pedestal... instead, this episode continues with Jason explaining to Ben that the morality of a celebrity is not what causes us to enjoy their art, so it should not be a consideration in whether or not we continue to do so. They end up going to the singer's concert anyway.
  • Grownish has this in the episode "Who Gon' Stop Me", when Vivek gets caught up in selling cocaine to the rich kids on campus. Zoey lectures him on how dangerous this is, only for him to point out that it's no different than when he sells her Adderall. Eventually, Vivek gets jumped, but by the end of the episode, the lesson he learned is to get people to help him with his enterprise rather than to stop dealing completely. A standard Aesop follows with Zoey disposing of his adderall after she realizes she needs to stop enabling his drug dealing.
  • House is rife with these. Common ones are "Everybody lies","Nobody ever changes", "You can't always get what you want."note 
  • A recurring theme in How I Met Your Mother is that the perfect person is out there, and settling for anything less is a mistake. While seemingly benign at first, this was criticised by many viewers as Ted refuses to even give a relationship a try because he thinks relationships should be easy, and you should love everything about your partner. As it turns out, the intention behind this was to deliver a very harsh message: The series finale reveals that after Ted meets The Mother, who is the perfect woman for him in every way possible, she dies a few years into their marriage. Even if you are lucky enough to meet your soulmate, things may still not work out after that. The series then ends with Ted deciding to give his relationship with Robin another try since, despite their differences, they both know that they could be happy together.
  • Demetri Martin does this on a first season episode of Important Things with Demetri Martin. He mentions traditional "things your parents told you," like don't run with scissors, don't talk to strangers, or don't play with matches, then amends them (Don't run with scissors unless your house is being broken into while you are cutting something, in which case run and lunge with scissors, don't play with matches unless you actually want to have fun, and don't talk to strangers unless you want to meet anyone ever).
  • The League of Gentlemen has an in-universe example with Legz Akimbo, whose "educational" plays for kids about social issues all contain this trope. Examples include "Everybody Out!" about homosexuality (if a family member doesn't accept your homosexuality "they can go kill themselves, like Mom did!") or "Perv Swerve" about Stranger Danger (anyone you meet in the real world could be a paedophile, so only trust people you meet online!)
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • In "Malcolm's Job," Malcolm is written-up by his mother for not following a silly rule at his new job (the Lucky Aide grocery store where his mom Lois also works). He later discovers Lois smoking on a break (after supposedly quitting) and he's furious with her hypocrisy and yet promises to keep the secret from the family. Later, an accident (regarding the same silly rule) happens to Malcolm and Lois writes him up again, despite her asking him to keep her smoking a secret (the write-up is later revoked). He's again furious and confronts her and threatens to spill the smoking secret. Lois calmly tells him that he won't because she is his mother. She also tells him while the treatment is unfair, she is his mother and will always be no matter how old he gets and he doesn't get to ever challenge her authority. This also runs concurrent with the mindless Lucky Aide job and Lois and Malcolm's superiors plot with Malcolm learning there's only so much anyone can do to challenge authority figures and the rules they put in place, no matter how silly and unfair they may seem and to get used to it when he gets older.
    • "Life is unfair" is the theme of the shownote , and it holds true to the finale. It is revealed that Lois and Hal have planned out Malcolm's life for him to become president of the United States and they never meant for him to be happy. The other kids knew about this and Lois even screws Malcolm out of a cushy job in order to make their plans come true. They, in fact, want him to become president so that he can make life better for all lower class people, not just his family. They chose him for this because they thought he was the only one smart enough and trust-worthy enough to get it done. This is an uncomfortable message, and yet it's one of the biggest heartwarming moments in the series' history because Malcolm, in the end, accepts their vision for him and goes off to Harvard getting through school as the janitor. It is ultimately a lesson about believing in yourself and your family who believes in you but wrapped in enough Unfortunate Implications to encourage healthy debate.
    • Spoofed in the episode "Lois Strikes Back" where four girls play a mean prank on Reese and the school does nothing to punish them for it, so Lois takes matters into her own hands and gets revenge on the girls. Malcolm attempts to deliver the Aesop that two wrongs don't make a right and Lois seems to accept this, only for her to sneak out the window to get revenge on the last girl.
    • In "Lois vs. Evil" Dewey steals a $150 bottle of cognac from the store Lois works at. When she makes him return it, her boss fires her.
      Lois: You know, I hope you are at least learning something from all this.
      Dewey: Yeah. If you do something bad, don't tell!
  • The end of The Mentalist episode "Red Carpet Treatment" takes pains to show that revenge really is sweet and worth it, even if you have to invest years of your life, spend lots of money, and risk life in prison to get it.
  • The Mr. Potato Head Show: Potato Bug had an episode where she increased her intelligence dramatically—her normal mode is an idiotic Cloud Cuckoo Lander. This goes badly because she felt like she was Surrounded by Idiots and began upgrading every appliance in the kitchen to the point where she was the only one who could use them. She and her friends became utterly miserable, and the Betty-the-Kitchen-Fairy-approved means of resolving this was to completely reverse the intelligence enhancement and leave her a Cloud Cuckoo Lander once again. Dumb Is Good? Really?!
  • A subplot throughout Murder One was associate Arnold Spivak's quest to first chair a major case. Arnold is a brilliant lawyer but has zero charisma and is incredibly socially awkward, so he cannot connect with juries or bring in clients. Eventually, he decides to give up and focus on research and motions, the stuff he's actually good at. The message is that some people just aren't suited for certain things no matter how much they want it or how hard they try.
  • Once Upon a Time has frequently pushed the messages that "Being the good guy means you'll always lose," "Being a nasty bastard will get you everything you want" and "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished."
    • We have a town full of fairy tale characters stranded in small-town Maine because the evil stepmother queen successfully cursed the entire land. But even she was groomed since birth to be a mess because of her social-climbing bitch of a mother (who was a classic From Nobody to Nightmare wanting the entire universe bowing to her in a twisted form of revenge) and Magnificent Bastard Rumplestitskin wanting someone else to cast his curse for him. Regina has lied, cheated, raped, burned entire villages to the ground, sent dozens of children to their deaths, murdered a man to try and take his little boy for herself... and regrets absolutely none of it because she got what she wanted in the end.
    • Rumplestiltskin was a poor sheep farmer and weaver branded as a coward and facing the prospect of having his teenage son die in a pointless war until he embraced evil magic and began running circles around everyone. He now owns the town everyone's stuck in, living in wealth and comfort while still effortlessly playing Xanatos Speed Chess with everyone that comes along.
    • When Regina's mother showed up and started a reign of terror, trying to negotiate or deal with her through honorable means failed. What did work? Snow White of all people manipulating Regina into killing her own mother with a spell!
    • In Season 3, we get the Wicked Witch of the West holding a much redeemed Rumple as her toy and captive, driving him into madness. She effortlessly manipulated Snow White, and killed off Rumple's son, just to tighten her grip on Rumple. Of course, when they did manage to defeat the Witch, the rest of the cast were willing to let her stay in jail and have a chance to repent. Rumple decided revenge was the better option, lied to his girlfriend about not going out to seek it, and stabbed the Witch to death after altering the security tapes so none would be the wiser. The morals being "If you're sneaky about it, you can get away with anything" and "some people are just too dangerous to live, even de-powered and imprisoned."
    • Some — but not all — of these Aesops are in the process of being reversed now that Rumplestiltskin has lost nearly everything he had because he refused to change. He and Regina even discuss the "if you're sneaky about it, you can get everything" Aesop shortly before Rumples' point of view is proven wrong. Regina also suffers from a repeated failure to get permanent happiness which is implied to be the work of Laser-Guided Karma.
  • A major story arc in the final season of Outnumbered was youngest child Karen's adjustment to secondary school. Karen is a Precocious Child who spent most of her life questioning authority and offering unasked opinions to adults, which was tolerated in primary school. When she submits a list of suggestions to the office, the headmistress sits her down and informs her that challenging the administration like that won't be tolerated in the future, both in school and in most workplace settings, and Karen begins to act more maturely and respectful. The Aesop being "As you grow up, you need to learn to conform to society, or you're going to be crushed by it".
  • The Orville is a Spiritual Adaptation of Star Trek and tends towards optimism...most of the time. However, since this is a Reconstruction of Star Trek, a strong moral stance won't necessarily win the day.
    • "About a Girl" - Just because a culture's laws are backwards and cruel and you put up a good fight, doesn't mean you'll win said fight.
    • "Majority Rule" and "All the World is a Birthday Cake" - You can't change people's beliefs, but you can use those beliefs to manipulate them.
    • "Cupid's Dagger" - Sometimes, sexual assault is difficult to prove and the predator will happily use the guilt, shame, and doubt of his victims to merrily escape any fallout for his actions.
    • "Deflectors" - Being different, in many places, is a crime. Being an utterly bigoted asshole is not a crime, unfortunately. And Being Good Sucks.
    • "Sanctuary" - Realpolitik often means having to capitulate to another nation's demands, even if those demands are to let them abuse their own people. Also, political compromise deals mean no one gets what they want.
  • Penn & Teller are often prone to opposing mainstream Aesops in Bullshit! Perhaps an especially memorable case is Holier Than Thou, wherein they had some memorably harsh criticisms of such popularly revered figures as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama, but especially Mother Teresa. They've also argued that polyamorous couples can successfully raise children and that teen sex isn't that big a deal.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when compulsive liar Garak hears the tale of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" he immediately interprets the moral to be "Never tell the same lie twice."
    • Deep Space Nine has a lot of rather family-unfriendly deconstructions of Gene Roddenberry's Mary Suetopia, in fact, often spotlighting cases where the Strawman Has a Point and even the Villain Has a Point. Quark, the conniving and greedy Ferengi bartender, often makes a good case for unbridled capitalism nevertheless. Odo, shining beacon of justice that he was nevertheless often learned the value of letting Quark get away with some of his shady deals in order to apprehend the truly dangerous criminals with whom he does business. For his part, Garak is basically the Token Evil Teammate, yet is most effective at Cutting the Knot right when everyone else needs some dirty business done and yet can't bring themselves to do it.
    • The one which Kira gives near the end of "The Darkness and the Light": it's perfectly okay to kill civilians to get Occupiers Out of Our Country, as she thinks they're just as guilty and shouldn't have been there.
    • "In The Pale Moonlight" has probably the biggest example: sometimes you need to lie, bribe, cut shady deals, and even commit murder for the sake of the greater good.
  • On one episode of Step by Step, college-age Dana moves into her own apartment and goes too wild with her first party, getting drunk and making a fool of herself. When she wakes up hung over the next morning, her mother comes to visit and they have a talk about Dana's behavior. You'd think this would be where Carol advised Dana to use better judgment and give her some tips on how to let loose without going overboard, but clearly, the previous night meant the adult Dana wasn't ready to live on her own. So Dana happily agrees to move back home, having learned her lesson.
  • Taxi:
    • Latka's dreams of becoming a wealthy cookie baron like his hero Famous Amos are crushed when he learns that the secret ingredient in his grandmother's extremely popular recipe is coca leaves. While undergoing cookie withdraw, he hallucinates the real Wally Amos (playing himself) descending into his living room to give an unorthodox inspirational speech:
      Famous Amos: I came by because I wanted to say that success, fame, fortune... all that stuff. It's truly over-rated. I wanted to tell you that the really important things in life are the simple things: the sunset, the smelling of a flower. I'd like to tell you all of those things, Latka, but I can't. 'Cause it's a crock... Hey, man, success is wonderful. Cash is out of sight. Do whatever you can to be successful, because it's great. And if it happens overnight, it's even better! Hey, you're cookies went down the tubes? Big deal. Try cupcakes... jelly rolls... aluminum siding... What's the difference, man? Just get rich.
    • In the episode "Crime and Punishment": when Louie is caught stealing parts from the cab company to sell, he frames his assistant Jeff, convincing him to accept the blame with the promise that Louie will get him his job back. When Jeff is arrested for the crime, Louie is forced by Alex to tell the truth but his boss, Mr. Ratledge, doesn't believe his confession and thinks he's just covering for Jeff. Mr. Ratledge then agrees to rehire Jeff, dropping all charges against him and then also invites Louie to his golf game. At the end of the episode, Louie sits musing to Alex that he stole, lied and betrayed a friend but not only does he face no consequences, his boss now thinks more highly of him than ever. He can only come to the conclusion: "Let's face it, Rieger, crime pays."
  • An in-universe example in The Thundermans. The show that Nora and Billy used to watch when they were younger was Hootie the Owl, which taught anti-social behaviors.
  • The Twilight Zone (2019): "Not All Men" implies that men just need an excuse to become insanely violent (toward women, each other, or simply objects), while very few will rein themselves in from doing this. Also, that all men regardless of whether or not they can suppress the urge still have it.
  • When most of the lessons on Ultraman Mebius rely on the power of friendship and teamwork, their execution is noticeably rather generic. However in an episode featuring Ultraman Leo as a special guest, the lesson teaches rather harshly that "unless you yourself possess the right skills to get a job done that could endanger your life, and the life of your friends, then you're not right for a job at all," as well as "Don't be a crybaby, and tough out your hardship." However at the same time, the lesson sort of gets lost when Leo decides to help Mebius after his friends are endangered again by the Alien that caused Mebius so much trouble in the first place.
  • Veronica Mars: The season one episode Drinking the Kool-Aid seemed to preach the moral that freaky cults are actually filled with nice people. It might be family-unfriendly to say so, but it's absolutely and without question Truth in Television, and an anvil that needs to be dropped on a regular basis. Too many young people think that niceness equals goodness or trustworthiness. But anyone can be nice; all niceness requires is outward inoffensiveness. What's more, cults go out of their way to recruit nice people (or to teach their members how to be nice) for the sole purpose of recruiting new members who are too innocent to see beyond the superficial inoffensiveness.
  • You Can't Do That on Television, the show that popularized the Adults Are Useless trope in children's television, was conceived when Roger Price realized that damn near every family-friendly show on at the time depicted situations where there were always kind, reliable adults for kids to fall back on for help and advice. He wanted to teach kids that adults can be unreliable or even downright cruel and you need to be able to get along on your own in the world - though the complete and total absence of any decent adults on the series might've been taking it too far.
  • Any time a police procedural uses wanting a lawyer as evidence of guilt. This message is prevalent enough to have earned a trope of its own, "Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers." This is subverted, surprisingly, by Dexter, where an innocent man is suspected of murder, and when he realizes that it looks like he's going to be arrested for it (there was some very compelling evidence that linked him to the murder scene), he asks to speak with his lawyer before answering any questions. Many of the other characters take this as a sign of guilt, but he ends up proving his innocence, and everyone else wrong. Kind of odd for a show with a serial killer as a protagonist.


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