Follow TV Tropes


Family Unfriendly Aesop / Western Animation

Go To

  • Despite its deranged flavor, Adventure Time still works in serious messages from time to time. The show being what it is, it occasionally leads to this.
    • "Tree Trunks": When you encourage people to pursue their dreams when they don't have a talent for it, it will lead to disappointment at best.
    • The episode "His Hero" applies. Finn and Jake are convinced to practice nonviolence by their hero Billy. After a while they realize that violence is necessary sometimes and use force to rescue an old lady that's in peril. They go back and explain that to Billy and we all learn a valuable lesson.
    • Advertisement:
    • "It Came From the Nightosphere": If somebody is estranged from their parent, it might be because the parent is actually a dangerous psychopath who you shouldn't invite over without asking.
    • "Jake Suit" has Finn using Jake's body as armor in the beginning and being very rough him. When he acts callously to Jake saying that he hurt him, Jake takes over Finn's body to show him how it feels. The end result: Finn takes it no problem, and Jake comes to the conclusion that he was overreacting to Finn's violent behavior. (Or maybe Finn's just invulnerable)
    • "Ocarina" sees Jake deliver a rather cynical monologue that "the law ain't made to help earthy cats like us", and that the powerful make laws to protect themselves and keep "the little guys" down.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    Nicole: Okay, kids. Sometimes when you're an adult, you have to lie. All of the time about absolutely everything and never show your feelings because it's impolite, sit on them when you die and bury them with you like the ancient Egyptians did.
  • Advertisement:
  • American Dad!: "Daddy Queerest" has Terry's dad coming to visit him, then discovering he's gay and disowning him. After the characters scramble to convince him to accept homosexuals, he says "I know it's not dangerous. I know it isn't something that can be changed. I just don't like it." The moral is, "Some people will be bigots no matter what you say to them, and sometimes they're people you love" (which, sadly, is Truth in Television). It could also be a much more blunt version of “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind". Maybe not very comforting or "family-friendly" when it involves a loved one acting unreasonable or callous, but it's still arguably true.
  • While the popular TV show Arthur almost always gives good aesops, one time they accidentally made an episode where the moral seems this in many people's eyes, and that is "Arthur's Big Hit". DW pesters Arthur and carelessly breaks his model plane, which prompts a furious Arthur to yell " I TOLD YOU NOT TO TOUCH IT!" and punch her. Even though it's true that physical violence is bad and breaking a model plane isn't grounds for getting punched, Arthur gets promptly grounded for a full week, with his friends being mad at him (even when he tries to explain himself; Muffy even outright states that Arthur's side of the story is invalid). Also, DW was shown to be in the wrong too (acting like the plane was useless), but it's all ignored, and she continues to justify what she did. Worse still, Arthur's parents view Arthur being punched by Binky as Laser-Guided Karma, rather than bullying.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Subverted in the case where the series as a whole, but the finale in particular, looked for awhile to be building up to a very family unfriendly Aesop: that sometimes Violence Really Is the Answer. Aang spoke with all of his past lives and was told by Roku, indirectly, about how many lives they could have saved if they had "acted decisively," and by Kyoshi and Yangchen how they were willing to do "anything" to save the lives of millions of people, and that as Avatar his duty was to put the well-being of the people of the world over his own path to enlightenment. Kuruk was the only one who provided a clear opposition to the idea, advising Aang to "actively shape your own destiny." Ultimately Aang chose to go with Kuruk's advice and was given a way to stop Ozai for good without having to kill him.
    • Also there's Avatar Yangchen's conversation with Aang which says that while the desire to preserve all life is admirable, trying to spare the Fire Lord with no alternative solution is ultimately a selfish action to make himself feel better at the cost of everyone else. Interestingly, this also outright defies Aang and Yangchen's Air Nomad background: she argues that the duty of the Avatar is above personal spiritual fulfillment.
    • "The Great Divide": Lying through your teeth is an acceptable and effective way to resolve deeply ingrained disputes. Doubly so when you don't really know what the real cause behind the issue is, and that fighting over something that happened 20 years ago is foolish when your lives are in jeopardy now. Amusingly, this is a contributing factor to that episode's general dislike both In-Universe and out of it; the characters within the Ember Island Players episode directly talk about skipping the canyon entirely.
    • "Zuko Alone:" A few good deeds here and there will not save or protect you from years of damage and abuse caused by your family or nation.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! episode "Ultron-5" begins with Ant-Man annoyed with his teammates' constantly fighting criminals in order to resolve conflicts. While he prepares for quitting the Avengers, he talks to his robot, Ultron, about how there must be "a better way" to reduce crime. What does Ultron do afterward? Since Ant-Man deemed humanity responsible for all the violence, Ultron decides to Kill All Humans to rid the world of fighting. Feeling responsible for nearly causing the extinction of everything, Ant-Man never seems to find a better way by the time the first season ends, which could leave some viewers wondering if violence really is the answer… For that matter, in the second season Hank has a complete personality shift and becomes almost a caricature of the kind of action-oriented hero the rest of the Avengers are. And he stays that way for the rest of the show, as if confirming that he was indeed just being unrealistically optimistic before.
  • The Berenstain Bears series from the 1980s had one episode called "The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Mansion" which was about a old woman that Mama Bear knew as a cub that just died (they never go out and say it because mentioning death on a kids' show was forbidden at the time) but she's leaving them an inheritance. The catch is that they must trudge through her old, dilapidated mansion in the middle of the night to claim it. So they do that, and the inheritance isn't a pile of money, keys to a new car, an all-expenses-paid vacation or anything... it's a note that says by making them do this, she's granting them the gift of courage. While the family is very happy with all this moral goodness, most people would curse her out and leave, and probably order the mansion demolished the next day. It seems like the moral here is "It's okay if you make people waste time and energy, get scared, and risk getting hurt all for a hypocritical display of virtue" (did she plant it there?), or worse: "It's okay if someone is treating you like crap."
  • An episode of Bobby's World had a message that was mildly family-unfriendly, mainly because it portrayed respect for adult authority as something that should be limited. While other shows might portray being a tattle-tale as a somewhat annoying trait, this episode portrayed it as something that can be socially damaging as hell. The message, itself, however was fairly positive, if a bit unusual. "Don't be a tattletale. Assess the situation, determine if there's any potential real harm, and base your decision to go to an authority figure on that."
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • The episode "The Telescope" has the message of "apologizing to someone does not automatically make everything better, especially when you're only apologizing to make yourself feel better". When BoJack visits Herb Kazazz, the former director of the show he starred in who he hasn't seen in twenty years, he tries to apologize to Herb for not threatening to quit the show after Herb was outed as gay and subsequently fired. Herb flat-out refuses to accept the apology, partially because BoJack essentially abandoned him when Herb needed him just so he could stay on the show, and partially because Herb knows that BoJack is mostly just trying to make himself feel better rather than being genuinely remorseful for his actions.
    • "Live Fast, Diane Nguyen" has "you don't owe anything to your family that they don't deserve". Diane was raised by a family that emotionally and verbally abused her on a daily basis and she ran away as soon as she got the chance, however, being the only one with a steady income and sense of responsibility, she has to come back to take care of her father's funeral since everyone else is too incompetent to do it, after being harshly reminded of the reason why she ran away in the first place. Afterwards, BoJack convinces her that she did the right thing, her family is horrible and she is much better off without them.
    • "Still Broken" revolves around Herb's funeral. While it is true that one only gets one chance at life to accomplish anything, most people die for naught, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.
    • Season 3's "It's You" throws a harsh reality on BoJack's face after a fallout with Todd that ends their friendship: no matter how much he wants to pin everything he does on his abusive parents, drinking problems, broken relationships, and traumas, ultimately he is the only one to blame for the bad things he has done. Having a Freudian Excuse does NOT make him unaccountable for when his actions hurt others or even himself.
  • Bucky O Hare #2: in an early episode, a guy named Al Negator tries to get a job on the Righteous Indignation. As he's a shifty-looking reptile, the crew is generally suspicious. But Captain Bucky O'Hare hires him on anyway, making a big point of mentioning how he trusted the gunner Deadeye Duck, despite him being a pirate with somewhat questionable morals. So it looks like a "beauty is on the inside" or "different doesn't mean bad" kind of Aesop... until Al betrays them, steals classified info, and sabotages the ship, and it becomes "if they look evil, they are evil." On the other hand, Deadeye never did a Face–Heel Turn, so Bucky was right about him... This could also be An Aesop for Bucky about trusting his crew and taking the advice of subordinates seriously, which may or may not qualify as a case of The Complainer Is Always Wrong.
  • Maybe subverted with Caillou, which parents frequently bash for teaching that whining to get your way is good. However, as people in business will tell you, especially anyone working in customer service, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." Of course, this still doesn't mean very many of us want our children to start practicing being obnoxious so early in life. Also, unfortunately, while whining is bad behavior, it's natural behavior of kids of Caillou's age. One would be more worried if a kid of his age acts all angelic because it would cross into Uncanny Valley and Stepford Smiler territory. Usually if a kid that age is that “well behaved”, it’s through abuse and the lack of “bad behavior” is out of fear.
    • Played straight with one infamous episode, which had Caillou being afraid of a man just because he doesn't know him. His mother then actually leaves him alone with said man to teach him to get over his fears. While this is apparently intended to be a subversion of the Stranger Danger specials of the 1980s-1990s, it remains that Caillou's mother leaving him alone with someone who's a complete stranger to her as well is irresponsible for being a statistically slight but potentially very terrible risk to take with her child.
  • Captain Planet:
    • In the episode "Numbers Game", Wheeler dreams he and Linka have 8 kids and another on the way, as the planet is being destroyed by overpopulation. Kwame and the others chew him out, explicitly telling him it's irresponsible to have more than 2 children. In the end, Wheeler indeed learns it's wrong to have more than two kids. Now, imagine watching that if you're the third child in your family...
    • The "lesson" given in the episode "Wheeler's Ark" is even worse. The Planeteers have developed a habit of picking up injured and endangered animals on their missions and bringing them back to Hope Island. Gaia, naturally, tells them this is impractical and orders them to take them all back; however, they just pick up more at every location, all while Wheeler tries to tell them this is a bad idea. The other kids and the episode portray Wheeler as heartless and cruel for this and him bonding with the baby wolf that started the whole thing and being unable to part with it, either, as a good, admirable thing. The episode ends with Gaia simply smiling in amusement at the new load of critters they bring home and nonchalantly planning to return them herself, without bothering to remind her sidekicks that what they've done is wrong and can have devastating consequences for the environment. Instead of teaching what could have been a perfectly valid Green Aesop about how you shouldn't take exotic species out of their natural habitat, Wheeler just learns, "If you don't want to take a wild wolf pup home with you, you're a heartless jerk." This might be dismissed as unexplored implications on any other show, but one would expect a show that centers around protecting the environment not to portray its heroes doing something so environmentally unfriendly with no consequences.
  • The Critic has a hot actress (with an upcoming movie) crushing on Jay which he and the rest of the cast see as blatant pandering for a good first. She ignores Jeremy (a Mel Gibson Expy) and seems to genuinely endear herself to everyone, steering the episode to being "Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover" while Jay procrastinates about seeing her movie. He finally does, realizes she's god-awful and puts his integrity as a critic above romance...and she immediately turns nasty. Ironically, if she put that much effort into her movies, she'd have more Oscars than Tom Hanks.
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood had the episode "Daniel Can't Ride Trolley; Daniel Can't Get What He Wants". Both segments in the episode had a moral of "stomp your feet when you get angry and you will feel better". Unfortunately, this seemed very similar to a temper tantrum in the eyes of most parents. Not helping matters is that the show already did an episode on what to do when you get angry that aired a few years prior with a better moral of breathing and counting when you are mad.
  • Daria: For the show in general, the lesson one learns is "People are all flawed in their own way, and adulthood is not a panacea for mental and emotional immaturity."
    • Also, for Daria herself: while it's good to have an ethical standard, neither you nor anybody else can live up to that standard all the time. For example, "Through a Lens, Darkly" has her learn that it's okay for her to be a little vain, because yes, wanting people to find you attractive is only natural.
    • While sticking to your personal morals and refusing to take part in a corrupt system is admirable, doing so will also usually make things in life much more difficult. Daria (and Jane in "See Jane Run") would tell several people with questionable ethics off, or quit a project that went against her morals only to have nothing to show for it afterwards (and sometimes, even be punished for it). At least twice they even lampshade this; in Jane's case, when she quit the track team, they point out while Jane refused to take part in a corrupt school athletic system, she also did nothing to try and change said system and both Daria and Jane were punished by the gym teacher for it, and in a later episode after Daria says she had to quit the school yearbook for 'moral reasons' Helen just sighs and says "again?"
    • "Prize Fighters" brutally deconstructs "Be Yourself". Daria is vying for a scholarship and will have to be interviewed; however, she dislikes the impression that she needs to act any differently than her typical blunt, sarcastic self. Ultimately, she acts like her normal self and doesn't get the scholarship; Jodie and Upchuck, who were more professional to the point of boring/butt-kissing, respectively, didn't either. None of them are really sure whether or not they did the right thing.
    • Invoked in "The F Word," where Mr. O'Neill tries to teach the class that it's okay to fail. Crosses over into Broken Aesop or Clueless Aesop, however, in that he just winds up depressing them.
  • Dilbert has an intentional example where, at a charity ball, a former NBA player tells how he turned to drugs and destroyed his life, only to have the Associated Way bail him out and return him to a life of wealth and luxury where he hasn't payed any taxes in years. Dilbert promptly calls him out for how terrible of a lesson that is:
    Dilbert: What, exactly, was the lesson we were supposed to get from this drugged-out basketball player? I mean, didn't he just teach us that if you become a drug addict your life will turn out fine?
  • DuckTales (1987) gives us such gems as "Bubba's Big Brainstorm," where the Idiot Hero becomes a genius using a special "thinking cap". Unfortunately, Bubba's desire to please his surrogate father Scrooge leads him to become a money-grubbing sociopath and lose his brute strength. To sum the episode, the Aesop is "smart people are monsters, so stay stupid."
  • In Education for Death, the Nazi school teacher uses a story of a fox hunting and eating a rabbit to point out an Aesop. When Hans does what a reasonable human being would do and voices sympathy for the "poor rabbit", the teacher is horrified and punishes him, before pointing out the true moral of the story: that the rabbit should be despised for being too weak and stupid to stop the strong, cunning fox from killing him, and that the children should aspire to be like the fox. This is entirely intentional on the part of the film-makers, as Nazi ideology was very big on Virtue Is Weakness and Might Makes Right.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • An episode where AJ is getting all As and Timmy is getting all Fs has AJ gloating about it. Later he apologizes to Timmy who says "You deserved to gloat" for getting high marks. So if you are doing better than someone, rub it in their face? Though it helps a little that in the end, AJ is so busy gloating he accidentally breaks the trophy he won and decides he should stop gloating.
  • Family Guy in general isn't exactly the type of show you should look for Aesops in:
    • One that just happens to be rather "politically incorrect," occurs in the controversial "Down's Syndrome" episode, which is supposed to remind people that being disabled doesn't prevent you from being an arrogant sack of shit. While sadly true, it was probably too over the top and awkward to be effective. The constant "retards are funny" jokes also probably didn't help.
    • "Brian Goes Back to College" has Brian going (back) to college to get a degree he never had. Long story short, Brian has the option to get a cheat sheet from someone so he can ace the test or take the test without it and likely fail. Brian chooses to not cheat and happily tells the family that he failed. His message is that he stayed true to his morals and, when trying things on his own, "legitimately" failed so he has nothing to be ashamed of... the family says he should've just cheated.
    • "Holy Crap" has Peter continually try to make his hard-working and religious father, Francis, accept him, even going so far as to have the Pope vouch for him. The moral is that Francis will never accept how Peter lives, but that doesn't mean he doesn't love Peter. After a moment's reflection, Peter realizes that's the same way he feels about Francis too.
    • "Prick Up Your Ears" endorses premarital sex, asserts that vaginal sex is "just tops," pushes for schools to teach about contraceptives, and, most controversially, says that abstinence (not abstinence-only education but actual abstinence) is "just wrong." They demonstrate this by having Lois rape Peter.
    • "Seahorse Seashell Party" ends with the Aesop that the definition of maturity is taking physical, verbal, and emotional abuse from everyone around you, no matter what kind of damage it does to you personally, because your abusers can't handle what horrible, horrible people they are. Or, as The Mysterious Mr. Enter said: "Abuse victims should stay in abusive relationships for the abuser's benefit".
    • "Brian's Play" shows us that some people can't handle being outshined, and it's up to the young and talented to limit themselves and forsake their opportunities to protect those people's egos because, being older and mediocre, it's a lot harder for them to have any success at all before they die.
    • In another episode Peter, Quagmire, and Mort burn down Mort's pharmacy for the insurance money when Mort's having financial troubles. Joe finds out and arrests them. While in jail, they beg him to remember a time when the insurance companies cheated him. He flashes back to when he first became handicapped and the insurance company refused him a treatment that could save him and he lets them out of jail. Even though they'll probably never do something like that again and it was probably just an excuse to return to the status quo, the whole thing comes off more like "It's okay to cheat big insurance companies because they're rich." Having Joe make them promise never to do anything so stupid again before he lets them out of jail would've helped.
    • "Peter-assment" teaches that female-on-male sexual harassment and rape is okay if the female hasn't had sex in a while.
      • In the same episode, Quagmire tells Peter that if the latter doesn't have sex with his harasser, he is gay, despite having a wife and three kids. No attempt is made to prove Quagmire wrong, so the episode also implies that men should cheat on their wives to prove that they aren't gay, and then deal with being berated for deciding to go through with it by the very same person who insisted that you do it.
  • Futurama:
    • "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back" seemingly semi-spoofs its own Aesop. Hermes loses his job as a professional bureaucrat and later him and the gang are forced to sneak into his old office to find Bender's hard drive. When they are caught, Hermes shows just how much information he can sort as he sings a showtune about how it's what he was born to do. As the jaunty Jamaican-sounding lyrics proclaim "When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love, even if it's not a good idea!"
    • "The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz" plays with this. It portrays hunting as a necessary part of conservation to prevent overpopulation and eventual famine among animals. But having fun doing so is apparently wrong and results in karmic death.
    • Parodied in "Yo Leela Leela" where Leela lies about creating a children's show from scratch when in reality she's just writing about the antics of an alien species. Eventually the guilt catches up with her and she confesses... only to be praised for the lie. Wrong or not, her actions improved the lives of everyone involved: the alien species was able to buy medicine and infrastructure with the paychecks they earned while the orphans were inspired by Leela's success story and ended up Happily Adopted and employed at the TV studio. It ends with everyone standing around Leela in a circle cheering her on as a hero while she begs them to stop and wails about how she deserves to be punished. It also plays it straight as it ends on the lesson "a morally wrong act that harms no one and only benefits people is a good thing".
    • The Beast With a Billion Backs: "Love" for the whole world is impossible, since true love is greedy and jealous.
  • A Christmas special based on For Better or for Worse taught us that people will only appreciate what you do for them if they think you've died.
  • Gravity Falls: Per the photo montage in "Legend of the Gobblewonker," Grunkle Stan's idea of spending quality time with his progeny includes stealing fish from small children and fleeing the authorities. Though given the show, this was likely Played for Laughs.
    • In "Irrational Treasure," after spending the whole episode tracking down the real founder of Gravity Falls in order to humble Pacifica (descendant of the fake founder), Mabel decides that she doesn't need to break someone else down to feel good about herself. Dipper on the other hand, shrugs that he's still upset, tosses the damning file to Pacifica, and announces that "Revenge feels good."note 
    • A lot of kids shows are willing to teach the message that it's sometimes okay to lie in order to spare people's feelings, the episode "Bottomless Pit" takes it farther and has Mabel learn it's okay to lie to get out of trouble.
    • Making fun of your family means that they will inevitably stop trusting you until you wise up. Dipper nearly lets Bill Cipher steal Stan's memories, and Stan finds out that he was pushing away Dipper by making fun of his role playing games.
    • Arbitrary beings cannot determine if you are a good person or worthy because "morality is relative". Mabel and Grunkle Ford find out that creatures you put on a pedestal will use you for selfish purposes or send you on one Snipe Hunt after another, most likely for giggles.
    • Sometimes the people you love are going to hurt you the most, especially when they lack the maturity to let you go. Hating them for it, however, will make things worse. Ford never forgave Stan for accidentally sabotaging his efforts to go to a great college, and as a result the two were estranged, Stan got badly burned in their fight, and Ford ended up hopping dimensions for thirty years. Ford only forgave Stan when the latter sacrificed his mind to destroy Bill and thus "died" for a few days. In contrast, when Mabel accidentally gives the rift to Bill Cipher thinking she will stop time and keep herself with Dipper in Gravity Falls, and causes the Apocalypse, Dipper risks his life and starvation to save her, and all but states that reuniting with her is his greatest desire. It doesn't matter that he never finds out that she gave the rift thinking it would keep them together; she's his sister, and she needed his help.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • Episodes featuring Helga's mom tend to teach that parents are sometimes idiots. While this is Truth in Television, it's still not the kind of message that parents usually want their kids to be exposed to.
    • Another episode was about Helga performing a stand-up comedy act in which she made insulting jokes about her friends. This upset them, so she stopped, but then her act wasn't funny. Arnold encouraged her to go back to doing the insult routine, and the audience loved it. The moral: It's OK to insult people if you're funny enough. When going back to the insult routine, she added a bit of Self-Deprecation humor to warm her audience up to the idea and it was something they all expected to see. The moral could therefore be "insults can be funny as long as everyone gets a chance to laugh." SpongeBob SquarePants had a similar Aesop in the episode "Squirrel Jokes."
    • And how about the episode where Harold, Sid, and Stinky mooned the school principal, who gave Arnold a month of detention for not divulging the names of the three boys who mooned him? This episode is either teaching us that being a "rat" is wrong or that the people who committed the prank should confess themselves. Or that it's wrong to let your friend be punished because of something you did.
  • Horrid Henry has the character always get into mischief despite being reprimanded in almost every episode for it. This has lead to many a child viewer copying the behavior because they think it's OK.
  • Kaeloo:
    • Episode 63 teaches kids that they should put up a fight if someone tries bullying them, rather than resolve the fight in a peaceful manner.
    • In Episode 136, Kaeloo's friends are offended by her honesty, so Mr. Cat gives her lessons on how to tell lies, with some help from the others. At the end of the episode, she becomes super popular because she told people lies which made them happy instead of being honest with them. Nothing happens to prove that honesty is good.
  • An in-universe example in The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. The comic book Boom-Fist gives messages like "use violence as a first resort," "put yourself before others," and "if you can't win, make sure the other guy loses."
  • The Loud House: "No Such Luck" gives us the moral that it's okay to blame others for your failings. Ah yes, and shunning your siblings/children if you think they're bad luck is fine too.
  • The Magic School Bus Rides Again has an episode that teaches it's okay to fail. While most people will tell you it's part of life... try saying that to people, especially to your parents or your teachers because you brought home a failing grade. IT does deliver a much more idealistic method than when Mr. O'Neil tried to teach his class that it was okay to fail, one of the few other shows to even mention failure as a learning experience.
  • Metalocalypse doesn't exactly go out of its way to teach anyone anything because it's a show about a death metal band comprised of monumentally stupid people, but some of the episodes have this trope at the core of their themes, often with a heavy dose of Take That! aimed at various things. One story has the Tribunal wanting to stop Nathan from getting his GED because it would cause people to realize that a person's social class and education level don't define their intelligence; another had Pickles having to face the fact that nothing he does, no matter how rich or successful he is, will ever earn his mother's love and respect, and the only solution is to stop valuing her opinion of him (by telling her to go fuck herself).
  • Mission Hill:
    • In one episode Andy says "sometimes a little irresponsibility solves everything" and is proven to be right. Teaching that to kids would piss off a lot of parentsnote , but it's absolutely true: you can't always be honest and responsible, and sometimes doing the opposite is the best choice.
    • Kevin also exists as a harsh deconstruction of a gifted student in school, as his complete lack of social skills and common sense make him more or less completely unable to function in the real world. Just being intelligent and a hard worker simply isn't enough, and you're basically toast if that's all you have when you're thrust into adulthood.
    • On the flip-side, Andy is shown to be a complete slacker who only works hard when he absolutely has to or when it's for his own interests, yet is (despite the occasional hiccup) leading a quite happy and content life. Again, teaching children it's okay to not strive for success and that it's totally okay to just live a simple life for yourself would probably offend parents, but it's completely true.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Winter Wrap-Up" has Twilight being put in charge of the Wrap-Up for her organizational skills, after proving herself disastrously incapable of everything else. Of course the show puts it in its best possible light (the final lesson is "Anything is possible with teamwork!")...but it's still a story about a privileged employee being promoted to supervisor because she's completely incompetent at everything else. Good luck finding a harsher truth about adult life in a kid's show.
    • "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well" came under a lot of fire because of its concept of humbling someone being interpreted as "If your friend is being an obnoxious braggart, rather than talking to them, you should anonymously take them down a peg or twelve". It wasn't helped by the fact that the ponies who were involved proceeded to brag about themselves out of the costume.
    • While it doesn't necessarily make the intended moral of "Ponyville Confidential" about gossip being bad any less relevant, the scene where the Cutie Mark Crusaders get shunned by the entire town after word gets out about them being Gabby Gums seems to suggest "If you go far enough in humiliating others, you will be greatly hated where you live, even if you are just a kid."
    • "One Bad Apple" has Babs Seed getting away with bullying the Cutie Mark Crusaders because she was also bullied in her hometown of Manehattan. When we find out why Babs has been picking on the CMC, we get An Aesop that "standing up to a bully will make you a bully as well".
    • "It ain't Easy Bein' Breezy" teaches us the lesson that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, or lazy people will take advantage of your kindness even unto the point of self-harm. (Though it does soften the lesson by also pointing out that there is a difference between necessary and unnecessary harshness.)
    • "To Change A Changeling" has the lesson that total passiveness and non-violence doesn't always work, and that sometimes Violence Really Is the Answer. You can't always be a totally violent jerk like Pharynx, or always be a complete pushover like the rest of the changelings: you need to know when to use words, feelings, and let things go, and when to stand up for yourself and others. It could also be seen as something of an Author's Saving Throw to the botched moral of "One Bad Apple".
  • The New Adventures of Superman: A subverted regular Aesop from "Can a Luthor Change His Spots?". Luthor convinces Perry White that he's gone straight and is given a laboratory in the Daily Planet building. Jimmy Olsen (correctly) believes that Luthor is lying and tries to catch him committing a crime. So the Aesop is, "You shouldn't be suspicious and people can change...except for sometimes they don't and suspicion can be a good thing."
  • An unintentional one in PAW Patrol: a Running Gag in the show has Chase, a dog character, trying to get things that cause allergies like fur or feathers off his nose. Since the human and dog ways of sneezing are different note , many children who pretend to be the characters of the show might accidentally expose other children to germs if they include this sneezing routine in their play.
  • An accidental case of this due to Values Dissonance caused the Peppa Pig episode "Mister Skinnylegs" to be stricken from Australian airwaves. The plot of the episode is that spiders shouldn't be considered scary and are okay to have in the house. While that works fine in the show's native Britain, it's unacceptable to teach this to young kids in Australia because the country is loaded with venomous spiders, and actually includes some of the most dangerous spiders in the world. To put this in perspective, a short list of "dangerous Australian spiders" would include the ubiquitous Red-Back Spider (basically a Black Widow with anger management issues), the White-Tailed Spider (highly poisonous, and suspected of being the infamous "necrotizing spider", a spider whose bite causes your flesh to start rotting away whilst you're still alive) and the Sydney Funnelweb (a highly aggressive pseudo-tarantula known to have the most powerful venom in the world). Understandably, Australians don't particularly want small children to think it's okay to play with these things.
  • The Proud Family had a fairly standard episode where Penny got bullied, right up to the last minute. She eventually got the bullies to leave her alone by becoming their money manager and ends the episode happily waving her cut of the stolen money. "If you can't beat them, join them" is a fairly standard Aesop, but usually isn't applied to criminal behavior.
  • Redakai seems to be showing up on several of these lists. While flinging fire around in a forest is more of a Broken Aesop in context, there are family-unfriendly ones, as well. In one episode, both the good guys and bad guys are betrayed by a Paleontologist who is trying to get his hands on a resurrected Pterodactyl. In the end, the heroes catch up to him, then attach him to a rope tied to the pterodactyl so he is dragged through the air like someone being dragged by a truck while the heroes laugh. In other words, "Lynching is an acceptable form of retribution to someone who betrays you".
  • Regular Show episode "Think Positive" gives us "sometimes yelling at people is the best way to solve your problems".
  • Rick and Morty:
    • "Mortynight Run" and "Auto-Erotic Assimilation" have "the universe doesn't function according to Black and White Morality, and if you don't know the full details of the situation, it's best to not get involved at all because you can make things a whole lot worse."
    • "Auto-Erotic Assimilation" also takes the "find your True Love" concept for a bend with Rick and Unity's relationship, and shows that a dysfunctional relationship can exist between two people who truly do love each other and are happy together. Unlike many stories that would end with them finding a way to live Happily Ever After, it instead ends with Unity realizing the only way she can be happy is to leave Rick:
      Unity: Rick, forgive me for doing this in notes. I'm not strong enough to do it in persons. I realize now that I'm attracted to you for the same reason I can’t be with you. You can't change. And I have no problem with that, but... it clearly means I have a problem with myself. I'm sure there's no perfect version of me. I’m sure I'll just unify species after species and never really be complete. But I know how it goes with us. I lose who I am and become part of you. Because in a strange way you're better at what I do without even trying. Yours, and nobody else's, Unity.
    • "Look Who's Purging Now" seems to teach "No matter how good a person you think you are, in the right set of circumstances, you will end up being just as bad as those you look down upon for being 'evil'." Also, "no matter what happens, people will always find reasons to be violent and not learn from their mistakes".
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer teaches that if you're different than others, nobody except your mother and a few others will love you for who you are... unless that is, they can exploit the unique trait that they mocked you for in the first place.
  • The pilot of Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat teaches that doing the ethically right thing and providing for one's family are sometimes mutually exclusive. Which is true, but not exactly optimistic.
  • "Family-unfriendly" Aesops on The Simpsons are usually just parodical, and the Aesops they actually mean are typically more family-friendly than the show itself, but over the long span of the show various episodes have had some rather controversial messages. Many of these are connected to the reputed liberal tone of the show, which yields messages that from time to time offend viewers of more conservative persuasions.
    • "Moaning Lisa" drops a small one for kids and parents. Marge tells Lisa to shove down her sad feelings and fit in by always smiling no matter what because that's what her mother taught her even though it made her miserable, but she changes her tune once she sees Lisa smiling through the regular pains of her day within a few seconds of getting to school: bullying from other kids and derision from teachers who won't let her express herself in her music. Marge then tells her to just feel however she wants and her family will be there for her regardless, with the lesson ending up "Learn the difference between parenting and parroting, because parents can be wrong in ways that will destroy their children emotionally."
    • "Bart Gets an F" ends with the ultimate moral that failure is an inherent part of life, and that we can all fail sometimes, even when we try our very hardest (by the end of the episode Bart has improved—but only marginally, and clearly not enough to deserve the pride and respect of his family). Some fans have actually praised the episode for not being afraid to broach this topic (see "Web Original" above), and for unapologetically breaking it with the standard happy ending where perseverance and dedication always results in success.
    • In "Bart the Lover", when Bart confesses that he's been writing love letters to his teacher pretending to be an adult man, Homer immediately tells him that he has to go to her and confess. Marge interjects that that would just humiliate her, meaning that no, honesty is not the best policy.
    • "Mr. Plow" has one. Homer starts a plowing business (removing snow with a snowplow), and he gets a lot of money for it, until Barney comes with a bigger snowplow and stops Homer's success. Homer even claims that Barney stole his idea. Barney is presented as an antagonist, but at the end, Homer and Barney decide to be partners instead, so the moral is "Starting a competing business is being a jerk" or maybe "If you have a friend with a business, you can't be a real friend if you start competing with him" and maybe also "Stealing ideas is wrong", but in real life, competition is a key factor in our free market and it's good for the customers (who Homer shows nothing but contempt for, incidentally). Also, there are cases of people who are business competitors but still friends, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Plus the law says you can't own such a generic idea and many people agree. Barney was shown as clearly wrong on shooting out the tires of Homer's plow and making a defaming commercial against Homer, but the aspect of competing with a friend is debatable. Also, Homer, by trying to get Barney to stop, puts Barney's life in danger. Homer saves him and only then does Barney agree to stop the competition and be partners, but Homer conveniently doesn't tell Barney he was responsible for this, furthering the moral that two friends can't have both competing businesses and stating that if you put someone's life in danger and then save them, it's not necessary to tell that you made the problem in the first place.
    • Homer finds out the reason he's so dumb is because he's got a crayon shoved up his nose and once it's removed, he develops a genius-level IQ. However, at the end of the episode he has the crayon put back in because being intelligent has made him lose all his friends and he'd rather be mediocre and happy than exceptional and miserable. The real moral may be Status Quo Is God, but it's also true that being different from other people, even in "good" ways, can be terribly isolating.
    • The most brazen lampshading of this trope occurs in "Saddlesore Galactica". The sub-plot involves Lisa's bitterness over her school's band losing a competition against Ogdenville Elementary (who used glowsticks as visual aid, which was against the rules). She complains to anyone who will listen, even calling the White House. In the end, President Clinton stops by and announces he has decided to strip Ogdenville of their title. "Thank you, Lisa," he says, "for teaching kids everywhere a valuable lesson: If things don't go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true." Marge replies "that's a pretty lousy lesson," and Clinton shrugs. "Well, I'm a pretty lousy president."
    • "Love is a Many Strangled Thing" teaches the lesson that it's okay to strangle your child, otherwise they'll become a sociopath.
  • The very first episode of Six Teen has the group try to be honest during job interviews and fail miserably. Then they try lying and get the jobs. While it's absolutely true that being completely honest during a job interview is a bad idea and that they expect you to at least embellish the truth, hearing the moral of "Honesty Is Not The Best Policy" is rare in a kid's show, especially for a goal as mundane as just getting a part-time job.
  • The Sofia the First episode "The Enchanted Feast" has the moral "If a new person enters your life and is popular with your family but you have trouble accepting them, it probably means they're evil".
  • South Park:
    • "Gnomes" basically teaches that being a big corporation does not automatically make a company evil, and that being a small family-owned business does not automatically make it good. It's made clear at the end that big corporations tend to get big in the first place because they make superior products ("25 percent less raw sewage taste!"), while protectionist laws like the one the small coffee shop owner is lobbying South Park to pass are demonstrated to be a terrible idea and the coffee shop owner himself is revealed to be smarmy, manipulative, and self-serving.
    • "Goobacks": Immigrants are regular people just trying to get by, but unchecked immigration ultimately harms the host society rather than helps it. It's reasonable for people who are losing jobs to immigrants to be upset about it.
    • "Breast Cancer Show Ever": Some people (like Cartman) are too awful to reason with and must be beaten into submission.
    • Some episodes like "Whale Whores" and "Night of the Living Homeless" teaches that the best way to handle your problems is to pass it onto another target.
    • In the uncensored version of "201" the characters learn that the only true way to stop being mocked is through intimidation and violence.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Played for Laughs at the end of "Stuck In The Wringer". It ends with SpongeBob, after going through an incredibly rough day while stuck in a wringer, breaking down crying, which gets him out of the wringer. SpongeBob then turns to the camera and says: "I guess crying can solve your problems after all!". Many didn't get that it very likely wasn't intended to be taken seriously.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: The moral of "Heinous" seems to be that you can't always rely on authority figures to protect you from oppression and abuse.
  • Steven Universe:
    • From "Steven vs Amethyst"; despite the old saying "You can be anything you set your mind to", sometimes Reality Ensues and you just can't be something you are just not physically or mentally capable of doing. Amethyst has to accept that she will never be a huge Quartz soldier like Jasper, and only after accepting that does she start to accept the things she can do, which still makes her a pretty great fighter in her own right.
    • In a straighter example, we get "running away from the cops is cool", from "Last One Out of Beach City".
    Rebecca Sugar: And then Pearl guns it through the red light.
    Deedee Magno Hall: Oh no! My kids are going to see this!
    • "Space Race" ends with the message that sometimes, it's important to know when to give up and accept failure, and if you don't you might end up hurting yourself and the people around you.
    • In Season 3, Steven's confrontations with Bismuth, Jasper and Eyeball force him to learn that sometimes reasoning and showing kindness to somebody won't be enough to convince them to change their ways, and sometimes Violence Is the Only Option.
    • From "The Zoo", even if you make other people unhappy, you have to establish boundaries and consent that makes you comfortable. Greg is completely in the right to reject the rest of the Zoomans for Choosening him, even though they become miserable over it.
    • In Season 5, Sadie learns that you shouldn't continue with something that makes you miserable and deteriorates your social life just because it's what's expected of you and may even be somewhat beneficial. Similarly, Lars has to accept that Sadie is allowed to have her own life and friends without him while he's away.
  • The 2009 Strawberry Shortcake has a lot of these. In particular, Plum Pudding is upset over losing a musical instrument that she's going to play in a talent show. Lemon Meringue not only doesn't help her find it, she invites Plum Pudding to be a hairstyle-model for her talent show act; the keyboard is never found and Plum doesn't enter the talent show at all, saying that if you see a chance to eliminate your competition, you should take it.
    • A lot of the lessons Berry Bitty Adventures teaches are typical Aesops, but the characters tend to apply them in the most misdirecting, dishonest, and outright manipulative ways possible, specifically to avoid hurting anyone's feelings in any way, even when they're being self-destructive. In general, most episodes revolve around the idea that if people don't do what you want when you tell them, it's better to trick them into doing it than give them an opportunity to cause strife by resisting.
  • One has to wonder about the "morals" that Teen Titans Go! tries to teach. While there's always a chance that Poe's Law is in effect for the some of the more baffling ones, some others you'd hope that the target audience wouldn't take to heart:
    • "Hot Garbage"'s message seems to be that never taking out the trash and letting it pile up is an acceptable thing to do. Never mind that hoarding is a very real psychological issue that affects people.
    • "Artful Dodgers" seems to teach that cheating at games can actually help a person in the long run.
    • "Black Friday" is an entire episode dedicated to showing how wonderful Black Friday is. And considering how Black Friday usually is, the episode pretty much speaks for itself.
    • "Pyramid Scheme" encourages viewers to commit Ponzi schemes, which carry very serious legal consequences.
    • For several episodes, the moral of the story is "committing crimes to get what you want is okay and even cool".
  • Master Splinter gets off several of these "unPC but true" Aesops in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) series. In the pilot, he makes Leonardo the leader, not because he is the most even tempered, wisest, or skilled fighter in the group (in this series, the latter would go to Raphael), but because he showed the initiative to ask for the position of leader before any of the other turtles. In one episode, he admonishes Leonardo for seeking a fair fight, and demonstrates that he should "seek victory, not fairness". In a later episode, Leonardo asks Splinter if at least getting some gratitude for his efforts as leader is too much to expect. Splinter's response is to tell him that yes, it is too much to expect, to stop whining, and to get back to work. Leadership is often a thankless job in real life, but it's still jarring to hear on a television show, especially when a character is in need of some sympathy. Splinter also provides this wonderful gem: "The first rule of ninjutsu is do no harm. Unless you mean to do harm. Then do LOTS of harm!"
  • Ultimate Spider-Man had an episode where Spider-Man finds out that, since he joined SHIELD, Fury has been placing cameras all over his house for security measures. Understandably pissed off, he goes to complain to Nick Fury and leaves SHIELD. The episode portrays his whole attitude as immature (even his own teammates reveal they got cameras as well and agreed to it), he ends up being attacked by Octopus because of it, and to add insult to the injury, when he agrees to come back in exchange for a compromise (after apologizing for his behavior and conceding that Fury was right), Fury decides to show the tape of all his humiliating moments to his teammates as a punishment for his immaturity. The way it appears, the episode seems to be about him accepting to have no personal space left for the sake of his security. This episode seems to teach that it's okay to violate people's privacy as long as you're doing it to protect them.
  • In Winx Club, there's the Official Couple of Bloom and Sky. Sky has been courting Bloom for most of Season 1. But then, wait, Sky was already engaged to Princess Diaspro. Thus he would be cheating on both girls at the same time. But no one ever points this out as a bad thing, giving off the moral "When you grow up and get a significant other, it's okay to cheat".
    • Not only that, but Bloom sneaks into Red Fountain and attacks Diaspro, believing her to be one of the Trix. While it's understandable that Bloom would be hurt, Diaspro didn't even have any idea that she existed. In other words it wasn't her fault that Sky cheated on Bloom.
      • After Bloom finds out the truth, she decides that she doesn't want to be a fairy anymore and leaves Alfea. In other words, she decides to give up all her dreams just because she got her heart broken. And when her friends attempt to talk her out of it, she barely even considers what they're saying.
  • Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! has the occasional moral that is a bit off.
    • The Aesop of The Grass is Always Plaider is supposed to be something akin to "there's no place like home," but plays out more like "places other than your hometown may seem interesting, but are actually boring once you get there."
    • In the episode "A Tale of Tails," the moral appears to be the standard "it's okay to be different" moral, right up until the end, in which the title character uses his "kooky" tail to prove himself better at all the games the other kids play, at which point they all change their minds and love him. This seems to change the message to "it's okay to be different if that difference gives you an advantage" or "if you're different you have to prove yourself better than everyone else to be accepted." Then the closing song changes the moral yet again, this time implying that if you're not different in some way, you're not cool at all. "Don't conform ever" isn't necessarily a bad Aesop, but it is a little unusual.
  • A couple of episodes of Xiaolin Showdown had Master Fung encouraging the team to play mind games with their opponents.
  • In an episode of Yogi Bear, Yogi and another bear begin fighting over Cindy, and she tells them that whoever brings her the best present gets to be with her. Yogi and the other bear proceed to steal not only food but TV's and radios. Yogi eventually wins by bringing her a car. Ranger Smith finds out but sees he stole it for Cindy, and decides not to turn him in because "it's spring." So the moral seems like "Stealing is okay if it could get you laid." Also, material possessions buy love.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: