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Accidental Aesop

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When a writer intends to simply write a piece of fiction without An Aesop but someone reads something into their work that they didn't intend.

This seems to stem from some people always assuming Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory, which leads to them gasping "What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?" when you tell them as such. This also generally requires the Word of God to clear things up — if, indeed, even that helps; don't count on it.

Like Misaimed Fandom (where readers fail to catch the moral or satire intended by an author), an Accidental Aesop may result from poor authorial communication or, indeed, the Unfortunate Implications that come with poor use of common symbols.

Compare with: Alternate Aesop Interpretation (where a work is intended to have an An Aesop, but people just manage to find a different one), Broken Aesop (where a work's moral is contradicted by its delivery), Clueless Aesop (where a work fails to get its moral across), Hard Truth Aesop (where the moral goes against accepted wisdom), What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic? or Death of the Author. Unintended Aesops in horror and speculative fiction often end up as Space Whale Aesops. Occasionally these unintended Aesops have Unfortunate Implications. However, tropes are not bad; just because a text wasn't intended to be a commentary doesn't mean it can't work perfectly well as one.

If you want to assign a work one of these aesops for comedic value, head over to Warp That Aesop.

See also Denied Parody for other unintended elements/interpretations of the work.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Baki the Grappler: There are quite a few fighters in this series who have big egos and promptly taste defeat when they underestimate their opponents, inadvertently creating the aesop that "underestimating your opponent, even if they are "weaker" than you, is a surefire way to be defeated no matter how strong you think you are". The only exception to this trope is Yujiro, and even he is humiliated extensively during Baki's final battle with him by failing to take his son seriously until the final minutes of the match.
  • Bakuman。: First impressions aren't everything. While Eiji comes off as tactless and arrogant at first glance, his remarks about drawing when he was younger hint at how it was the only form of entertainment available to a poor kid like him(and he turns out to be using the income he earns from his manga to help out his parents), and even his demand to cancel a manga if he becomes the top manga artist turns out to be a way to end his series at the height of its popularity. Similarly, Fukuda, who comes off as abrasive at first glance, turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who forms a group of collaborating manga artists, and the initially cold Aoki proves able to warm up to people like Takagi and Hiramaru over time. Contrast Nakai, who seems like a Nice Guy at first glance, but has hidden feelings of resentment and entitlement, and whose darker depths later become apparent.
  • Beastars: The Reveal behind Tem's death that kicks off the story can also be read like this: skipping out on your medication only because you feel like you don't need it anymore is not a good reason. (Though the killer's species is mandated by their society to take their prescribed meds, patients in real life have the right to arrange a plan with their doctor to wean off theirs.)
  • While Arakawa clearly didn't intend it as such, Fullmetal Alchemist as well as its 2003 anime actually end up demonstrating the effects of Height Discrimination and especially how it effects men, be they still growing or not. Edward is about 142 cm / 4'8" tall - Fudging his height via taking his high-heel shoes and Idiot Hair into account. And on multiple occasions throughout the series, people either don't take him seriously or dismiss him because of his height which causes him to look more like a child rather than a precocious teenager. He's shown to be just as competent as people who are older and taller than him, but not in an Innocently Insensitive way - Edward is shown to work just as hard and struggle just as much as other people.
    • Edward himself is somewhat of a Base-Breaking Character because of his perceived immaturity and his temper-tantrums about people calling him short. But to anyone who is short in real life, it's understandable that this is Ed's Berserk Button since this is something a lot of short people go through on a daily basis. Additionally, Ed is 15-16 throughout the series.
  • At first, Gunslinger Girl's disturbing depiction of the horrors and abuses its innocent little girl protagonists faced and how their lives were completely destroyed was lauded by many fans as a Deconstruction of the lolicon genre and/or a commentary on the use of Child Soldiers. Nope. Turns out it's straight-up Author Appeal. Many of the more subversive elements and Fan Disservice of the early part of the series were apparently to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience and probably weren't even the creator's idea. As time went on and the series' popularity grew, the creator gained Protection from Editors, and it became decidedly more Fanservice-y and disturbing for totally different reasons.
    • And then there's the straight-out porn, drawn by the creator, of the girls being intimate with their handlers, consensual or otherwise.
    • Incidentally, the fact that the first season of the Anime has this Aesop but the second doesn't is likely part of the reason why the latter season was critically panned by comparison.
  • Western viewers of Interviews with Monster Girls often see the demi-humans can be a metaphor for people who are different. As a result, this series can be seen as An Aesop on diversity and labels. While most see that as a valid interpretation, opinion is divided on whether this is Petos' intent, as they are previously known for being drawing Cute Monster Girl doujinshi, which implies they may be writing it completely out of Author Appeal.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean: The entire plot started because Jotaro read DIO's book on attaining Heaven even when he had no use for it, which allows the part's Big Bad to read Jotaro's mind and learn how to continue DIO's Evil Plan. As such, a message can be pulled from this pivotal, albeit mostly minor plot point of do not read other people's diaries or secret files. You might get into unwanted trouble.
  • Perfect Blue:
    • The whole film can be seen as a deconstruction of Fanservice and how a series should never rely on it to gain viewers. Because at the end of the day all you've done is objectify and humiliate a human being.
    • To a lesser extent, getting a driver's license and a car invites freedom to your life. It also means you won't get driven by someone who may want to kill you.
  • Princess Sarah was released at the time when bullying was a hot-button issue in Japan. Combined with Lavinia's behavior towards Sarah, this led many fans to believe that the series was covertly dealing with this issue. However, director Fumio Kurokawa says that this was purely unintentional. In the interview, he points out that some fans went overboard with this — one fan even sent the writer a razor blade, with the message "Stop bullying Sarah!"
  • The ending for Weathering With You provides two. Saving the girl you have a crush on is the most important thing in life, no matter how many people it could endanger. And humanity hasn't been living in harmony with nature, so it doesn't matter if millions of innocent people lose their homes (if not their lives) and much of a city becomes uninhabitable.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime's version of the Dungeon Dice Monsters arc is meant to be about the futility of revenge and how friendship is better, but another moral is "be patient and always check your email." If Otogi had waited a day before going out for revenge he'd have seen the contract from Pegasus and never gotten into conflict with Yugi at all.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: In-Universe example. One story had Mr. Weatherbee assigning Archie to give a speech to the male students on a subject that interests them. He chooses inflation and has Betty, Veronica and Ethel help him demonstrate its effects. Big Ethel is shown in an early 20th-Century swimsuit that covers her whole body, Betty in a standard one-piece suit, and Veronica in a bikini to symbolize "The Shrinking Dollar." Mr. Weatherbee compliments Archie on his speech, but tells him, "There's only one problem, Archie. You have the entire class looking forward to further devaluation." In other words, there won't be much on the next girl if the dollar shrinks more.
  • Asterix: The narrative generally lionizes the simple country life lived by the Gauls as honest and fulfilling while denouncing the metropole-dwelling Romans as greedy, ambitious and decadent and depicting their striving for power, wealth or glory as nerve-wracking, superficial and in the end meaningless. However, in Asterix and the Cauldron, Asterix' and Obelix' ignorance about monetary and economic matters proves almost fatal when they, in spite of their supernatural abilities, continuously fail to earn money when they suddenly have to. While it could be argued that they never would have slipped into that situation to begin with if not for the deceit of a greedy rival chieftain, the message the average reader most likely takes from the story is, especially on rereads, that at least some skill with money and trade is indeed useful, even if you live outside the economic hotspots.
  • A lot of comics written by Mark Millar seems to have pro-family messages. Several of his characters have issues that can be traced to their family lives. For example, Ultimate Red Skull and Spider-Girl in Old Man Logan are both despicable psychopaths because they had an absentee father, toward whom they hold a grudge. Hit-Girl is completely messed up because of her psychopath father. The Unfunnies' Troy Hick has a Freudian Excuse in the mental breakdown he suffered after his wife left him, and Millar's run on Fantastic Four portrays Reed and Sue Richards as perfect and extremely happy with their lives. However, Millar has said he never intentionally put any sort of message into his works, so all of this is either completely accidental or subconscious on his part.
  • Galactus from Marvel Comics is a godlike being who eats the life force of entire planets to survive. Obviously, every time he eats, potential billions if not more die. Galactus rationalizes that he's got to eat and the inhabitants of those planets are far below him on the universal pecking order. His entire character might be the greatest Accidental Aesop in favor of vegetarianism ever... or was, until it was revealed that Galactus is required for the universe to properly function. There's also the oft-forgotten fact that Galactus actually only needs to feed on planets that are capable of supporting life; he actually goes out of his way to only eat planets that actually do support life as a last resort. Furthermore, that's one of the reasons he has a herald to forewarn of his coming; so that those species who have the capacity to up sticks and go somewhere else have time to do so.
  • X-Men: A common observation is that, while the X-Men are consistently feared and reviled, other superheroes who are functionally the same thing as mutants don't tend to get nearly as much scrutiny, even if the only difference is a different Meta Origin. Characters like the Fantastic Four can be lauded as celebrities while the X-Men are struggling to survive. Some commentators have observed that, while this is mostly a result of inconsistent writing, it's actually a pretty good message on prejudice: bigots generally don't have a consistent cause-and-effect for why they hate their targets, because bigotry is senseless, petty, and cruel by nature. That other superheroes are allowed to go relatively unmolested is reminiscent of how many bigoted groups have tolerated or even lauded groups or individuals nigh-identical to those they despise for completely arbitrary reasons.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail
    • Anger Is Not Enough, no matter how much one tries to say or confirm it otherwise, and trying to hold onto that belief will only make things worse for everyone.
    • While inactivity causes more trouble than it's worth, proactivity can be just as damaging, if not even more so.
    • Catharsis is completely different from proper punishment. Sometimes, you can't have both without making things worse.
    • Sometimes, people just don't know how to forgive someone.
    • Calling people out may feel cathartic at first, but overusing it is very easy to do and will ultimately do nothing to change the situation.
    • If you don't speak up, people won't hear you and/or they will make their own assumptions. You won't like them, and it'll always make a situation worse.
  • I Will Survive, a Zootopia fan comic, is meant to be a character study, exploring what could cause even the One True Pairing to fall apart. In the comic, the cause of the breakup is a debate over abortion: Judy finds out that she's pregnant with Nick's child and wants to terminate the pregnancy, while Nick is revealed to be pro-life and tries to convince her to keep the baby. Although the author didn't intend for one side to be portrayed as right or wrong here, many readers felt that the comic appeared to favor Nick's side of the argument, mainly because Judy loses control of her temper and slaps Nick, while he never resorts to physical violence. As a result, I Will Survive is sometimes referred to as "the pro-life Zootopia comic".
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Note to Kyril: keep your journal/diary with you at all times. Don't just put it in a random place, or else some random schmuck would eventually find your journal/diary, and know most, if not all, of your secrets.
    • Related to above, here's a note to Celestine and Olga: as tempting as it is, don't go opening someone else's journal/diary. You may find out something so mind-boggling that it reduces you to a wreck.
  • Peeking Through the Fourth Wall: In-Universe — In Episode 34, the characters read Business Over Brother, in which a girl wants her brother to assist her as a party clown so she can get the leftover cake. He's too busy doing his homework, so she steals the homework and has two of their pets destroy it. However, he's too angry with her to be her assistant, but she ends up getting the cake anyway but being too sad to want it anymore. Lincoln notes that the story probably wasn't meant to have a moral, but he's found two perfectly good morals: "Have faith in yourself" and "Don't take people's homework".

    Films — Animated 
  • The Angry Birds Movie: If someone new comes to your land, they're probably thieves who are going to steal your children.
  • The Bad Guys (2022): If you want to be accepted in society, turn yourself in to the same people who discriminated against you and made you turn to crime in the first place, even though it proves to that same racist society that they were right about you the entire time and see you nothing more than a criminal for the rest of your life.
  • Coco: Be careful what you carry taboo on since it might actually be beneficial to you.
  • Eight Crazy Nights: The best way to get a selfish, destructive drunk to stop terrorizing innocent citizens is to feel bad for his unwillingness to mourn his parents.
  • The Good Dinosaur: Recklessness will get you killed faster than fear, especially out in nature.
  • The Incredibles: While it's great to have heroes who inspire you, never forget that your hero is just a real person doing a job and does not owe you any admiration in return. It is never right to interfere with their personal lives or threaten them and their families.
  • The Lorax (2012): Aside from the Green Aesop, the film argues that trying to please your family isn't worth the effort if they're shallow, materialistic people who only see you and your work as a commodity for them, as the Once-ler learns the hard way when his folks turn their backs on him the moment his Thneed-whacking business goes pear-shaped.
  • Megamind:
    • When looking to give someone a life-changing job, make sure you actually interview them first and test their character. Rather than just take advantage of an accident and not hire the first person available.
    • Don't rely on a single person to do an important job: have someone waiting in the wings in case that person isn't available. Metro Man being killed or more specifically quitting his post would've left the people of Metro City in a bad position had Megamind turned out to be a genuinely dangerous person. When Hal proves to be a genuinely violent psychopath, the city is helpless to stop him from terrorizing the populace.
    • Love and romance aren't transactional; just because you find someone attractive doesn't mean they owe it to you to find you attractive. Solely being nice to someone isn't going to convince them to date you, and you can't force them to date you either. If you really want to impress someone, you can start by improving your attitude, dressing smart, and sharing interests with your desired partner. Confidence and genuine kindness are attractive qualities when they are done sincerely and without expecting anything in return.
  • Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken: The plot's second and third acts involve Ruby's life being saved by Chelsea whom she befriends despite being a mermaid whom Ruby's Grandmother warned her about being inherently evil and was openly being baffled that Ruby's mother, Agatha, didn't kill them all when the chance was present during the Kraken-Mermaid wars. Ruby and Chelsea find common ground as secretly lonely non-human teenage girls and become "Super Sea Girl Besties" despite their on-paper differences and messy history between their people and so attempt a plan to help unify both kingdoms in the name of peace in the ocean so both of them could a live a life without a generational, inter-species conflict. The fact that Chelsea is proven to be evil mermaid queen Nerissa who was only manipulating Ruby and any plot thread about krakens and mermaids making peace and co-existing being quietly dropped caused a sizable amount of viewers to notice the Unfortunate Implications of the film having an accidental "Your racist Grandma is right about certain people being inherently evil, you should distrust and hate said people collectively for your own safety, any act of kindness from them is deception, and peace is impossible" message.
  • Shrek Forever After has Shrek get fed up with his family life and reaches his Rage Breaking Point during his children's birthday party where he yells at his wife Fiona saying that he wished his life could return to back from before he rescued her. After Shrek makes a contract with Rumpelstiltskin so that he can have one day like his old life again, the resulting Alternate Universe has none of his friends and family know him, and Shrek realizes what he truly had and lost. So if you need some time for yourself, by all means take it before you snap and say or do something you'll regret.
  • Turning Red:
    • The world doesn't revolve around you or your mindset, and thinking it's that way is a good way to get you or your family in trouble. Mei actually prefers school, with Tyler, to being at home, because Ming simply cannot comprehend that the world will not conform to her Control Freak nature. Case in point: the scene where a security guard kindly tells her that she can't spy on her daughter and seems to want to say that if Ming has something for Mei then she can drop it off at the administrators' office. Ming responds by kicking him in the shin and saying she has the right to do that because her taxes keep him employed. In real life? She'd be arrested and banned from school grounds permanently for assaulting and battering an employee who was doing his job and being nice about it. ...and that was a best case scenario. The worst case scenario is trying to forcefully enforce her family's perfectionist viewpoint on Mei when she refuses to contain her panda powers. And it results in not only Mei lashing out, but $100,000,000 worth of property damage in the process.
    • Though it's not the most prevalent of morals in the story, the prologue has Mei advise that although thinking of your family and spending time with them is good, it's also important to set boundaries and think about yourself as well.
    • The film also makes a case that as good as a caring family is, having good friends who support you and have your back are just as good and sometimes, good friends can actually be better for you than family in certain situations. After all, it was Mei's best friends and not her mother who helped Mei come to terms with her panda form, leading her to embrace the form instead of sealing it up, which was ultimately the right thing to do.
    • Nobody's child is perfect, and clinging to such a viewpoint isn't healthy for either you or your kid. Mei, for example, has to constantly hide her true nature and even lie about still being her mother's "perfect little Mei-Mei" in order to live up to Ming's high expectations. And in turn, Ming doesn't take it well when she receives the truth she needed to hear, nearly destroying hers and her daughter's bond by clinging to her daughter's perfect image.
  • WALL•E is often interpreted as having a rather heavy-handed environmentalist or anti-consumerism message, but the director stated that there was not supposed to be any political message, and the setting was created to justify the story of "the last robot on Earth". Fred Willard also ad-libbed the line "Stay the course," causing some people to assume the film was commenting on the Bush administration.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Treat your co-workers with respect, no matter who they are, because otherwise, they might leave, and you won't end up seeing how vital they are until it's too late to turn back.

    Literature 
  • Casabianca, about a loyal cabin boy who stayed on a burning warship until it exploded because he waited for his father to relieve him of duty without knowing he had died, has many times been interpreted as a warning against blindly obeying your parents.
  • The bonus section comic of Cuddly Holocaust shows the author talking to an irate reader who demands to know what the moral of the story was supposed to be.
    Author: [The book is] a metaphor for aging. People are innocent victims of society as children, rebels of society as teenagers, and then come to accept all the fucked up shit of society as adults. That was [the heroine's] arc.
    Reader: You just made that up this second, didn't you?
    Author: (smiling sheepishly) Yeah...
  • The Heather Wells Mysteries book Big Boned can easily be interpreted as having the message 'Do not ever date your teacher', even if both parties are well above legal age of consent. There always will be the power-imbalance in the relationship, he might force you into doing exercise or could simply be using you to make it big in the Big Apple.
  • Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was intended to highlight the poor treatment of workers in food packing plants, but the descriptions of what was going into the nation's food were so disgusting that they caused the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act. As Sinclair himself put it: "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach."
  • Me Before You has, especially with the release of The Film of the Book, been interpreted as having the Unfortunate Implications of if you're a quadriplegic, your life isn't worth living, so the best thing you can do is commit suicide and have it benefit the (abled) ones you love.
  • The Novel of the Iron Maid, the final story in Arthur Machen's The Three Impostors has the distinct feeling of trying to teach the reader a lesson on the value of always reading the instructions, since it revolves around a collector of antique torture devices who accidentally crushes himself to death with his latest acquisition after very explicitly neglecting to read the enclosed instruction pamphlet.
  • The Railway Series:
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth, as a work by H. P. Lovecraft, is generally seen as being about 'the dangers of inter-racial relationships' along with his general fondness for mind-bending horrors and terrors. However one can also taken as a point about racism being a two-way street, as the people of Innsmouth are just as hostile, if not more so, than the visitors. Being written by Lovecraft, this was very likely unintentional.
  • An in-universe example occurs in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five: the "moral" that the Tralfamordians derive from The Bible is before you kill anyone, make absolutely sure that they're not well-connected.
  • The Turner Diaries, by William Luther Pierce, is the story of an Organization of Neo-Nazis whose goal is to "free" society from the tyranny of the Jewish-controlled System that favors non-whites. Pierce pretty clearly wants to show that the white race will triumph over all others, becoming the One True Ethnicity of the planet. In doing so, the protagonists essentially destroy the Earth and doom the rest of the human race to a long, futile struggle against nuclear winter, fallout, and 90% of the entire planet's population being destroyed. As a result, the message of the book comes across more as "white supremacy will literally end the world."
  • The moral of the first Disney Chills book, Part of Your Nightmare, is meant to be about how popularity isn't worth true friendship and it's better to be yourself than changing yourself to fit in. The climax having Ursula turn Shelly into a fish over a technicality creates another lesson—always get contracts in writing, and check them thoroughly for loopholes.
  • The Wind in the Willows: The aristocracy will be destroyed by the proletariat if they do not retain the support of the bourgeoisie. Toad Hall, home of Idle Rich Mr Toad, is occupied by the weasels from the Wild Wood, and Toad is unable to do anything about it because there's only one of him, and he's generally useless. However, he is still somehow friends with Mole, Ratty and Badger, who are lower down the social ladder than him, but still above the weasels, and together they drive out the weasels and reclaim Toad Hall for Toad.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series finale of Battlestar Galactica (2003) seems to have heavy-handed anti-technology aesop that comes completely out of nowhere. Ron Moore admits in his podcast on the episode that this was simply a desperate last-minute attempt to explain why none of the fleet's technology was discovered after they arrived on prehistoric Earth, and he didn't put much thought into any message that could be read into it.
  • Invoked in the Community episode "Celebrity Pharmacology", where Annie tries to put on a very contrived and Anvilicious anti-drug play for a group of local middle schoolers, with Pierce playing the role of "drugs". Pierce being Pierce, he goes off script, playing a wacky, screwball character who the kids love. Out of desperation, they swap Chang into the role halfway through the play, and he also goes off-script, acting like an unhinged psychopath. Ironically, this makes for a much more meaningful anti-drug message, teaching that drugs can be fun at first, but often become dangerous and scary as things spiral out of control.
    "Did you expect me to stay the same forever? 'Cause that's not what Drugs does, baby! I'm gonna deep fry your dog and eat yo momma's face, and I'm gonna wear your little brother's skin like pajamas! I control your lives, and there is nothing you can do."
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Power of the Daleks": Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it—unless the Doctor arrives in time.
    • "The Unquiet Dead" was perceived in some quarters as an attack on immigration (since the episode features aliens who come to Earth on the pretense of finding a new home after their planet was blown up, but are actually attempting to invade), even though the subtext was entirely unintentional.
    • "Kill the Moon": Some viewers reacted angrily to what they saw as a pro-life (as in anti-abortion) message in this one. There's a question of preventing a birth and the Doctor gives the women the "choice" to terminate it. Then, in a democratic method, the whole world together decides to prevent the birth. But finally, Clara just can't bear to "kill the baby", and her decision to save it is proven to be the right one in the end. Alternatively, the message could be seen as that ultimately it is the woman's choice alone whether to terminate the pregnancy, regardless of what others tell her she should do or the outcome — making it a pro-choice message. It mostly depends on if you see Clara as analogous to the mother or as someone overriding the mother's choice.
    • "Hell Bent" features a groundbreaking moment where a Time Lord, previously seen as male, changes gender upon regeneration. This was seen as a watershed moment opening the door for the eventual regeneration of the male Twelfth Doctor into the female Thirteenth Doctor. Which is great except for the fact "Hell Bent" establishes into canon that the gender change is considered an inconvenience and something to be treated as a joke and also something that is temporary. This implication did not sit well with some transgender fans of the show who don't have the option of a) anything being "temporary", and b) treating it like a joke or inconvenience. In addition, the General outright notes that it was the only time she'd ever been male, which also drew controversy from the fandom.
  • This happens in-universe on one episode of The George Lopez Show. When Max takes the computer apart without realizing the value of such things, his father George decides to teach him a lesson; by giving him a job at the factory George manages to show him the kind of hard jobs it can take to afford things like the computer. Unfortunately, Max seems to think that the lesson was that working at the factory is great since he enjoyed and wants to work there instead of going to college. George toys with letting him do that until he has a Flash Forward picturing Max being jobless in the future after the factory is automated. He does show Max the possible downside of that Aesop by showing him how much the factory workers freak out at the slightest possibility of the factory shutting down.
  • Love Island is a Reality TV show where An Aesop is not expected, but some viewers read into the show contestant Lucie Donlan's admission she was a more Tomboy than Girly Girl in personality wasn't the best way to get a guy's attention, as compared to the more Girly Girl contestants like Amy Hart, Zara McDermott, Molly-Mae Hague, Maura Higgins and Anna Vakili, with the aesop seen in Season 5 in 2018 being "Being a Girly Girl with a girl-next-door personality will get guys' attention, whereas being a tomboy is not the way to become a Love Interest". Doubles as a Hard Truth Aesop as well.
  • One Lifetime Movie of the Week was The Remake of a mid-'90s NBC movie Mother May I Sleep With Danger. It was a typical "woman in peril" story, except for the Setting Update of making the heroine's obsessed ex a Psycho Lesbian vampire instead of a man. This resulted in the message that same-sex relationships can be just as prone to Domestic Abuse as their heterosexual counterparts, and that abuse is a serious problem regardless of the genders or sexual orientation of the people involved.
  • Seinfeld: Despite the show's explicit aversion of morals ("No hugging, no learning"), the show does deliver Aesops, even if incidentally.
    • The main characters frequently lie, and in pretty much every instance, the lie comes back to bite them in the ass by the episode's end. So the Aesop? Don't lie, it only makes things worse.
    • A great many plots that are not powered by a Snowball Lie are set off by small violations of the unwritten rules of society — laughing in a concert hall, refusing junk mail, and so on. These can each be read in a variety of ways: "accept responsibility for your actions," "let's communicate with one another more," "don't take perceived slights personally," etc. Of course, they're also exaggerated for comedy and wouldn't be as funny if used as learning opportunities.
    • The finale, divisive as it may be, does send the roundabout message of "it's better to be kind than to be a cynical, selfish jerkass because you never know when you'll need help from someone you were a jerk to in the past." Had the four main characters earned a few more friends instead of countless enemies, they might have saved a little face in court.
    • "The Deal" is probably the only one that plays this (mostly) straight, in that it sends the message that you can't just turn your emotions on and off. As civil and reasonable as their agreement for casual sex was, Jerry and Elaine's differing feeling about it were going to make it awkward no matter what.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • The episode "The Neutral Zone" is about cryogenically frozen humans from the 20th Century coping with being awoken in the 24th. It's full of all sorts of heavy-handed dialogue about how superior humanity has become, and seems to be intended as a Take That! to the audience. One character in particular, a financier, gets the worst of it. However, at the end, he gives Picard some vital insight into what his opponents, the Romulans, are thinking. This has the effect of implying that the 24th-century humans have become complacent and naive (the script was in the midst of revision when a Writer's Guild strike hit, so it's possible that it was going to be rewritten to be more in line with later episodes, where humanity is still quite flawed).
      • "The Masterpiece Society" features a colony that practices strict eugenics to create perfect people free of genetic weaknesses. As a blind man, Geordi bristles several times at the idea that the colony would have aborted him in utero. In the end, it's Geordi's vision prosthesis that provides the technology to save the colony. It's easy to see this as an aesop against abortion, particularly for reasons of genetic defects, but the showrunner Michael Pillar insists that this was not intentional, saying that most people on the production staff would have refused to work on a pro-life episode. Some people have also interpreted it as having a moral about disabled people, and how they shouldn't be looked down upon or seen as inferior.
      • In "Force Of Nature", the interstellar civilization had almost collapsed just because a scientist had no alternate way to test his theory outside a "Science Council" which rejected it, leading to the aesop: "Monopoly is bad. Especially in science."
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
  • The Torchwood episode "Meat" appears to have a pro-vegetarianism Aesop. But episode writer Cath Treganna "enjoys a good fillet steak as much as the next person".
  • The episode "Darkness Falls" of The X-Files, where a logging company accidentally releases a marabunta of man-eating bugs, was praised and even received an award for its never intended ecologist message against deforestation. This is even funnier if you consider that every death in the episode could be blamed on the actions of an Animal Wrongs Group in continuous possession of the Idiot Ball and that the bugs' release was going to happen anyway since they were originally trapped in a very old tree that was going to fall sooner or later.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: NJ
    • Kids know more than you think they do. Calvin is a smartass but remarkably observant about human behavior, double standards, and cultural oddities. He knows that Mrs. Wormwood is a chain smoker and likes Maalox when stressed and that his dad is a G-rated masochist about exercise while finding excuses to make Calvin do chores so as to "build character" and make him miserable.
    • Know when to compromise. No one likes an overly stubborn Determinator who won't give an inch of ground no matter what. Calvin and his Dad have one thing in common: they absolutely refuse to be flexible. Dad insists on taking the family on camping trips for vacations no matter how much they dislike them, and won't consider Calvin's requests of wanting to go to a casino (which is actually not a bad idea for families) or a regular hotel. Calvin, in the meantime, always thinks that he knows best and won't listen to others, and this often messes him up. Case in point, when Hobbes tells him he should do his homework on a day when school is canceled due to snow, Calvin refuses and procrastinates until it's too late.
    • Sometimes a kid who is acting out will do it just for the sake of it; in one strip, Calvin hammers nails into the coffee table just because. The best way of handling an uncooperative kid is calming them down by empathizing with them and talking on their wavelength. Uncle Max becomes the Cool Uncle in Calvin's eyes by pretending that Hobbes is real and that he's a killer, while also not scolding him. Meanwhile, Rosalyn against all odds gets Calvin to cooperate by offering to play his favorite game and letting him stay up half an hour past his bedtime. Not only do she and Calvin have a lot of fun playing Calvinball, it's the only time he did his homework early and showed kindness in her presence.
    • Not everyone learns from their mistakes resulting in consequences, nor does punishing an out of control kid guarantee a lesson will stick (especially if this hypothetical kid has a mental/neurological disorder, diagnosed or not). Indeed, Calvin almost always gets trouble for his antics but no matter how many times his parents, Miss Wormwood, Susie or even Hobbes retaliate, Calvin practically doesn't change his ways at all, instead content to deny responsibility for it altogether. It can also be presumed that his parents and teacher never tried to properly explain to him basic cause-and-effect regarding his actions, opting instead for the old-fashioned (and demonstrably ineffective) approach of expecting him to learn only from getting disciplined.
  • Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, due to its popularity and long run, often ran into this trope:
    • Schulz said he only created the Great Pumpkin as a fun idea: "What if someone believed in a Halloween Santa Claus?" Many saw Linus's efforts as a mockery of the foolishness of religious people, but Schulz himself was quite religious, at least in the early years.note  Linus's statement that you should never discuss "religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin" was intended to show that he doesn't view the Great Pumpkin as his religion per se (Linus quotes the Bible in other strips, which he seems to believe in, so he's presumably a Christian- the Great Pumpkin appears to be unrelated).
    • There's a strip where Linus asks Lucy about what would happen if a baby was in heaven waiting to be born but its parents decided that they didn't want any more children. Lucy decries his theological and medical ignorance. It was meant to be a parody of people who ask really weird hypothetical questions, but people on both sides of the abortion debate seized on it as proof that Schulz supported them and asked him if they could have permission to reprint it in their literature. He said no. It may or may not be coincidence that Rerun, younger brother to Lucy and Linus, was born a few years later.
    • In an anthology, 1960s letters written to Schulz about his new African-American character Franklin are reprinted; because he was introduced during the Civil Rights Movement, people assumed Schulz was trying to make some sort of statement. No, he said, Franklin's just black by coincidence. However, when some Southern newspaper editors told him to stop showing Franklin in the same classroom as white students, he consciously chose to use Franklin even more.
  • Pearls Before Swine: In one strip, Rat and Pig take to online shopping, buying all sorts of things, then one day they go into town and notice that all the local shops have gone out of business. The intended message was "Shop local instead of just buying everything online," but instead it came off as "Small businesses must have an online presence if they wish to survive in this day and age."

    Podcasts 
  • In the Escape from Vault Disney! episode on Life with Mikey, they point out that both Mikey and Angie shoplift and are forgiven once people realize they are celebrities from television. They say the movie then implies that wealthy celebrities are above the law.

    Theatre 
  • Although the original purpose of Inherit the Wind was a condemnation of McCarthyism but many interpret the play to be primarily about the value of human reason over religious faith.
    Drummond: "In a child's power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "amens" and "holy holies" and "hosannas." An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters."
  • In Julius Caesar, Caesar claims "I am constant as the Northern Star". However, Science Marches On, and we now know that not only is Polaris a variable star that changes in brightness significantly, during Caesar's lifetime, there was no Northern Star at all, due to the change in direction of Earth's axis over the centuries. And then he gets murdered. Now, his boast sounds like a testament of man's ego and one's smallness amongst the cosmos.
  • The Merchant of Venice, particularly the affronts Shylock goes through, can be interpreted as sharp indictment of antisemitism. It is likely that audiences were meant to sympathize with the anti-semites Shylock confronts, but most modern productions emphasize the sympathetic aspects of Shylock to give the play a Prejudice Aesop.
  • The eighteenth-century critic Thomas Rhymer said that there seemed to be two possible Aesops in Othello: either "Don't elope with blackamoors" or else "Take better care of your laundry." (The latter being a reference to Desdemona's handkerchief, which convinces Othello that his wife is cheating on him.)
  • It is easy to interpret Richard III as a cautionary tale about how absolute monarchy is a terrible form of government because there is no way for the system to prevent a tyrant (like Richard III) from coming to power. Even if the king is benevolent the country isn't safe, because an aspiring tyrant would have no reason not to kill everyone closer in line to the throne than he. Naturally, Shakespeare's monarchical audience didn't take this away or he'd be hanged, but in contemporary democracies, this reading is pretty standard.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Don't judge people by who their relatives are. There can be black sheep and white sheep in every family.
    • Don't Bowdlerise the world to children and hide truths from them. They need to know how the world works to make good decisions and understand the consequences of their actions. In the case of Regina Berry, their actions led to someone in a coma and another being permanently crippled and they were completely unapologetic, not out of malice, but because they couldn't understand the severity of their Deadly Prank. In the case of Pearl Fey, because they were never told about Morgan's previous attempt to frame Maya, they went along with the plan to murder Maya because they genuinely thought Morgan was a good person and it was for Maya's benefit.
    • The series can come off as anti-death penalty. There's a very real possibility that more than a few innocent people were falsely convicted and executed due to the system favoring the prosecution, especially in the kingdom of Khurain, where the Defense Culpability Act causes lawyers to share their clients' punishment (for example, in the first case of Spirit of Justice, Phoenix and Ahlbi, a young boy, would have been executed if the latter had been convicted). There's also the case of Dahlia Hawthorne, who was executed for murder, resulting in her mother Morgan manipulating Pearl into channeling Dahlia's spirit. Godot manages to thwart the plot, but at the cost of Mia and Maya's mother Misty's life, and the tragedy would have never happened if Dahlia had not been executed.
    • The series, especially Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, seems to warn against using your daughter as a pawn in your criminal schemes. In the original trilogy, Morgan tries to manipulate her daughter Pearl into channeling Morgan's other daughter Dahlia in order to kill Maya and enable Pearl to become head of the family. In Apollo Justice, Magnifi Gramarye blackmailed his disciples Zak and Valant over their role in an accident that had seemingly killed his daughter Thalassa. In the case resulting from Magnifi's death, Phoenix gets disbarred after unwittingly accepting forged evidence from Zak's daughter Trucy (made by a young girl on her father's behalf), and Trucy ends up enabling her father's escape from the courtroom. Years later, Phoenix has Trucy deliver Apollo forged evidence to convict the man responsible for disbarring him, and Apollo is furious when he discovers how Phoenix used him. Given the large number of cases of this, especially in the course of a single game, one has to wonder whether this is intentional.
    • The series also shows how, contrary to what other courtroom dramas may say, witness testimony does not constitute reliable evidence. Nearly every single witness in each case gives incorrect information at least once for a whole slew of reasons- whether it be intentional lying to cover their ass or someone else, mistaken information, seeing something wrong, or reporting something accurately that turns out to have another explanation which does not implicate the defendant. It is ultimately the cold-hard evidence, and the way in which the defense ties it all together, that proves the innocence or guilt of the defendant.
  • Among Us:
    • The voting process to remove Imposters shows the dangers of condemning people on flimsy or incomplete evidence. There is rarely an Open-and-Shut Case in real life, but it's easy to doom people based on accusations, rumors and happenstance.
    • It is also a cold fact that life is not always fair. You could be the most diligent Crewmember in the game and still wind up being framed by an Imposter and voted out and you can only watch as the Imposter wins the match because no one trusted you despite your hard work.
    • While there are exceptions and times this doesn't work, generally not being an asshole is a viable strategy to last longer. If you do your tasks, are polite to others, and refuse to vote on flimsy evidence, you are far less likely to be targeted by others and they will most likely take your word if you accuse someone. If you establish yourself as a reasonable, decently friendly person, earning people's trust becomes a lot easier.
  • BioShock 2 has a "forgiveness" aesop by making three enemy NPCs who don't directly hurt you, but do inconvenience you (in addition to doing something bad in your past) and can be killed or spared. The game expects you to spare them, which would be acceptable were it not for the facts that: 1) Only the first of them is truly innocent. 2) Even if you forgive the second NPC for stalling you and being partly responsible for your character becoming a Big Daddy, he also kidnapped a child and murdered an entire district full of sophisticated people because they knew too much. 3) To make things worse, the most common reason for killing the third of these NPCs was not because he was responsible for turning you into a Big Daddy - it was either because he had mutated into a giant, evil, squid-thing due to a failed experiment, or because there is a series of Audio Diaries by his former self, who knew what was going to happen to him and requests that someone euthanize him, taking very great steps to make it easier for you to do so. 4) All of the above only affects the outcome of the Big Bad, who some would consider irredeemable and thus would consider the "violent" outcome to be better, as the fate of the Little Sisters once more determines whether or not the story ends on a high note overall. The aesop goes from teaching forgiveness to teaching that you don't get to punish someone for their crimes, or commit a Mercy Kill. All the while, the player is forced to kill magnitudes of mooks anyway.
  • Mission 3 of Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour's Chinese campaign is regarded as one of the toughest missions in the game. A huge reason why is because you are on a time limit, and the units available to build are restricted to the lower tier tech levels, with no aircraft or support powers available (other than calling in minefield airdrops). The mission briefing explains this as China agreeing to exercise restraint to appease international opinion while liberating the city of Coburg from GLA occupation, due to the fact that China had already used a nuclear missile to wipe out the GLA presence in Stuttgart. But the GLA have no such restrictions, and will absolutely hammer you with everything they have, including powerful weapons like SCUD launchers and Rocket Buggies (which no Chinese unit is fast enough to catch up with outside of aircraft). The lesson that can be taken away from this is that following restrictive rules of engagement against an enemy that has no morals will only cause massive casualties on your side that could have been avoided in the first place.
  • Crusader Kings III:
    • The Stress mechanic means that characters consistently acting in ways they struggle with start suffering psychological breaks, beginning with 'coping mechanisms' and can end with them basically coming apart at the seams. So it turns out, it's important to look after your mental health. You can go against the natural grain, but don't expect to keep it up for long periods without also finding ways to let steam off.
    • Yes, it's annoying to have your succession rules mean that on your character's death, your new character only controls a third of the territory you used to. But let it be a message that power is fleeting and even historic achievements won't last forever.
  • Deadly Premonition: Smoking literally shaves hours of York's life off. The smoking-to-pass-time mechanic does allow the player to bypass time for plot or sidequest purposes, but the fact remains that one minute of smoking passes easily an entire day!
  • Final Fantasy Legend II: The original Japanese script involves a smuggling ring of illegal opium in Edo. The 1991 official English localization could not mention such drugs, so changed opium to "bananas". An NPC lampshades this by asking why bananas have to be illegal in the first place. It's obvious to most players that criminalizing bananas is silly, and the sheer organized crime involved might not exist without a legal ban on bananas. In the real world, this is an increasingly vocal argument against the War on Drugs, especially after a 2011 United Nations commission declared the international War on Drugs to be a costly, violent failure — drug crime and drug violence are usually caused by drug bans, not vice versa. On the other hand, drugs have tangible, deleterious and frequently fatal effects, which (barring allergies)bananas do not, hence why they're banned. It could be read as an urge to ban the correct substances.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The Endwalker expansion is intended to be, among other things, a meditation on mortality and existentialism. But it also shows the importance of peer review in science: had Hermes gotten some of the other Ancients to check over the Meteia's design and instructions instead of immediately sending out the very first draft he came up with, they would likely have pointed out some of the more obvious flaws in his methodology — for example, that an alien birdgirl descending from the heavens to ask the meaning of life might well taint the data by changing a society's approach to answering the question, or that an empathic Hive Mind might get caught in a negative feedback loop the first time they encounter a discouraging result.
    • The game's housing system and all its various dramas have been referred to as the most unintentionally accurate portrayal of the modern Real Estate market. Prior to 6.1, the artificial scarcity of available housing locations was awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis. As a result? People employed the use of alternate accounts and bots to snipe houses the second they went up for sale - similar to how real-life investment firms and real estate moguls scoop up lots the second they become available. When 6.1 added a lottery system to help cut down on sniping, players started using alt accounts and Free Company members to stuff the lottery box in hopes of getting picked for the lot - mirroring how real life investment firms and AirBnB stack the market in their favour. When some people finally managed to get the lots, some proceeded to make the house of their dreams... while others Trolled their neighbours by doing things like constructing hideous houses resembling McMansions, constructing spite fences, leaving their lot empty to taunt others, making their lot look like a garbage dump, or even getting into contests with the neighbours to try and outdo the other with their opulent houses. It wound up teaching a lot of people just how unfair and how broken the market truly is, and how people even use real estate to harass others.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Everything that you can do to protect yourself from the animatronics costs power. Use too much and you'll run out of power before the night is over. What does this mean? Conserving energy is good, and if you don't do it, you'll be murdered.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach: The RUIN DLC gives us the following accidental Aesop: Don't blindly trust someone pretending to be your friend. Always try to get in contact with them first.
  • Golden Sun: Sheba mentions that in The Lost Age, she wants to find more about her Mysterious Past. While the player is able to put together somewhat of a hypothesis as to her origins, in-universe Sheba doesn't get any answers. Some cried foul, others saw this trope: That sometimes, you'll never find any concrete answers to your questions.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: Aqua ends up a victim of this trope. She's told at one point that a greater light may cause a greater shadow to emerge; thus to make her consider the balance between light and darkness. Then, she's up against Xehanort who uses the darkness that takes away her two best friends and leaves her imprisoned in the Realm of Darkness for 10+ years; which breaks her and causes her to fall to darkness in the process. Aqua laments it all in the end, stating that darkness "is really nothing but hate and rage". The aesop the audience seemed to take was that "While yes, sometimes issues are gray and should have more consideration, sometimes the issues are as simple as right and wrong."
  • The Legend of Zelda: Empty Bottles are (almost) always incredibly versatile and useful items, showing the value of reusing and recycling.
  • Mega Man (Classic): Thanks to Capcom's inability to make new main characters, the series argues in favor of capital punishment, and possibly the dangers of racism. Because Dr. Wily was not executed after he was captured by the Blue Bomber in 6 (the intended end point of the series), he built Zero, causing a chain of events that, as of the Mega Man Zero series, has killed more than half the population of earth, and has left the planet itself almost scorched beyond recovery, which oddly enough involved another human villain that also wasn't executed once captured by our robotic heroes, which only made things worse when said villain came back. Also, because Capcom hasn't continued the Mega Man ZX series, it's implied that in the Mega Man Legends series, humanity has ultimately gone extinct because the legal system in this world couldn't put down a Mad Scientist who had certainly caused enough chaos to warrant such a punishment.
    • Mega Man 7 has an accidental aesop found only in the English version. In both versions, the blue bomber prepares to shoot Wily and Wily reminds him that robots can't hurt humans due to being Three Laws-Compliant. In the Japanese version, Mega Man puts his blaster down with no argument, while in the English version we get "I am more than a robot!! Die Wily!!" but still hesitates long enough for Wily to escape. This not only supports the above message about capital punishment but can also be seen as condemning pacifism or that there are exceptions to principles like do not kill.
    • What seems to be a running theme in the series is that all of the problems stem from people charged with protecting the innocent not doing their jobs properly. The government neither executed Dr. Wily when he was caught nor stepped in and ordered Dr. Light to take lethal measures at an earlier time. Also, a cut-scene in Mega Man X4 shows Sigma fought a Maverick Zero when he was still a Hunter. He lost because he didn't take Zero out immediately with his sword, even though his job was to kill Mavericks as quickly as possible, and decided to screw around. If he had done this, the events of the X and subsequent series wouldn't have happened.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network (and its anime) has a lot of conflict stem from how Everything Is Online. This results in three notable aesops that were probably not intended:
    • The fact that so many problems could not only be solved with just a little bit of security, but be completely prevented by simply not having as many things be online. The fact that so many things can be accessed remotely or even cause trouble by simple viruses spells out a very good idea for making sure system(s) are completely closed or offline.
    • The sheer incompetence of most adults in the series demonstrates that a surprising amount of people just accept what technology is capable of at face value, and aren't aware of what sorts of hazards they have - sometimes until it's too late. In the first game, people are easily scammed into trying to buy something for their car to keep it from crashing. (As these are self-driving vehicles) It shows that adults really really need to be taught about the risk(s) of technology.
    • Lan, who is 11-12 years old throughout the series, is able to fix problems with electronics all the time. Showcasing that it's a very good idea to teach and train people to be able to troubleshoot and even fix problem(s) with electronic devices, appliances, etc from a young age.
    • Technology is always evolving- and sometimes, safety protocols are written in blood.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: You can smoke an (electric) cigar to advance time, and Venom is even seen doing it in cutscenes with the same effect. The previous Metal Gear games have the intentional aesop of "smoking kills" as using the cigarettes/cigar will cause your health to decrease quickly and can actually kill you, but not so here.
  • Minecraft:
    • The game has an accidental Green Aesop as the player discovers grand sweeping vistas and slowly exhausts them through constant resource extraction, looking back only to find the landscape logged and mined into barrenness, a shell of its former self. Many players try and keep the landscape as pristine as possible just to avoid this, or replant religiously. According to Notch, this was completely accidental and people probably shouldn't read so much into it.
    • Creepers are taken as a representation that all work is transitory, here one point and gone the next, or that some people just can't accept what you have built (or, in light of the Green Aesop approach, they represent Gaia's Vengeance). Because the game is so open-ended, it's very possible that quite a few accidental Aesops may just pop up at any time.
      • A very similar Aesop can be derived from "anarchy" multiplayer servers, where there are "no rules" and people are allowed to hack and cheat. There are groups on these servers dedicated to griefing any build they can find. If your build's coordinates are found, it will soon be destroyed. Why build anything then, knowing it will be destroyed? Some people view their builds like a Japanese sand garden, where the fact that it existed at all is more important than preserving it perpetually.
  • Monster Loves You!: While the game can be called a morality tale, the way its morality system works can create results implying that being evil is better than being nothing at all. This may be part of the reason some versions of the game changed the name of one ending from "Dissolve into Mediocrity" to "Modest Legacy."
  • Pokémon: The early games have playable slot machines in the Game Corners, which were removed around Generation IV due to being gambling in a kid's game. Some players have said that the Game Corner slot machines taught them at an early age that it's impossible to win at gambling, and as such you shouldn't bother.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves: The Cooper Gang recruits a few new members that specialize in things they don't to help them pull off a big heist. Among them is Penelope, a Gadgeteer Genius mouse who works making RC vehicles, who Bentley comes into contact with on his laptop. Later, in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, she ends up backstabbing the team, which leads to the moral of "don't trust people you meet on the Internet."
  • Spec Ops: The Line: Writer Walt Williams is not terribly keen on the game being described as "anti-war": he has stated that his primary intention was to create a narrative which asked players to question why they play shooters in the first place, and the War Is Hell aspect of the game came about largely as a necessary consequence of this rather than out of any particular desire to attack war in its own right. The game grapples with how such a life and state of being would be one of constant fear, endless violence, and bloodshed, which would take a toll on any individual's sanity.
    Antagonist: The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to be something you're not — a hero.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: Throughout the game, Mario and company attempt to rebuild the Star Road, the medium in which wishes come true, after it's destroyed by the Smithy Gang. During their journey, however, they inadvertently end up fulfilling several unrealized dreams through their actions, most notably reuniting Mallow with his true family, well before the Star Road was even close to being fixed, suggesting that it's better to put in hard work and effort in trying to fulfill your dreams, rather than relying on magic and prayers for them to come true someday.
    • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: Two of the most powerful items in the game are the Dark Boots and the Dark Hammer, but you get hurt each time you use them. The accidental moral is that evil deeds may give you more power but end up hurting you in the process.
  • Total War: Warhammer: A result of how alliance mechanics work is the phenomenon known as the Ordertide, where the "good" factions (Empire, Bretonnia, High Elves, Dwarves, etc.) ally with each other due to having faction mechanics that emphasize and reward diplomacy, while more monstrous ones (Chaos Warriors, Orcs, Vampires, etc.) are geared towards hostility and trying to overpower both other civilizations and other members of their groups. As a result, the Order factions, free from perpetual skirmishing, can turn on the divided, squabbling evil factions as a singe unified blob that vastly outnumbers all their enemies (and, due to how the alliance system works, attacking one of them brings all of the allies into conflict with you). Essentially The Horde but coming from the good guys, when pretty much the exact opposite (Chaos unites under a single leader against the disparate and isolationist good factions) happens in Warhammer canon. The result is a surprisingly uplifting moral about how diplomacy and unity are ultimately more successful than selfishness and division and that being an Ineffectual Loner doesn't pay.
  • Until Dawn:
    • Never underestimate the damage a prank can cause. Not all damage may be physical.
    • Emily can show some remorse for treating Matt badly in their relationship after Matt calls her out on her behavior and can then potentially abandon her when the tower falls. The lesson is that being nice and sugar-coating words your words won't always be the most effective strategy. Sometimes you need to get angry for people to understand why and change for the better.
    • Hannah's decision to move around aimlessly when lost in a remote location without any clear destination made the police unable to find them. Unless you have a very good reason, like being in a dangerous area, stay where you are and wait for help.
    • Josh's experience with doctors shows the dangers of being misdiagnosed. It's strongly implied that Josh was not suffering from depression but schizophrenia which would explain the state of their psyche even prior to his sisters' disappearance.
  • The Urbz: As with the series it's spun-off from, this game probably never intended to teach any sort of message/moral lesson, but its primary goal to appeal to the various members of the subculture to climb the social ladder can be interpreted as two unconventional aesops:
    • The more reasonable of the two, and an inversion of Be Yourself, is that one must adjust their behaviors with their environment in order to be accepted by those within it. This is represented in-game as wearing the appropriate clothing for each area, in which the Urb will act accordingly. As cynical as this aesop may be put so bluntly, it's actually something average people demonstrate without thinking: one wouldn't walk into an important business meeting in cosplay, and designer dresses have no place in a biker club.
    • The more ridiculous aesop is that, in order to be popular, one must please everyone all the time. There's a reason for demographics: certain traits appeal to certain groups of people, and it's easier to be wildly popular within a group rather than within the entire population, and it may not even be in one's best interests to appeal to outside groups. To understand how ridiculous this logic is, imagine Paris Hilton holding a panel at an anime convention, complete with pandering attire.
  • Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun: Historian Brett Devereaux praises Victoria II for a powerful and completely unintended anti-war message. The game is set up so that World War I is almost certain to break out, and the player is encouraged to take part... but it's always better to avoid the war, ideally by finding a diplomatic solution, or, failing that, simply sitting it out.

    Web Animation 
  • The short horror film The Twins (2022) doesn't really have an overt message, but one can interpret the film as peddling the message: Sibling rivalries must always be regulated. Harmless bickering is one thing and fine enough. But when taken to insidious, manipulative, and toxic levels, the parents or authority figures must step in to prevent anything worse from happening.

    Web Comics 
  • Depending on who you are, the first arc of Ray Fox may give off the idea that you can only be a good guy if the law approves of your actions or if you're working with the authorities and following their every order, especially since vigilantism is treated as a negative in the first two chapters despite it saving Morales.
  • This strip of Shortpacked! was seen by most fans, including Willis's own girlfriend, as his commentary on the New York Post cartoon controversy. Word of God is that he hadn't heard of it.

    Web Original 
  • Facebook and YouTube comments, usually from older people (particularly from India), often point out moral lessons on just about anything, even in the most unexpected places. For example, the So Bad, It's Good nature of Who Killed Captain Alex? is, to them, a reflection on how passion can lead to great things even with a lack of money or sophisticated equipment, contrasting with the perceived inauthentic, Money, Dear Boy nature of Hollywood.
  • H.Bomberguy, in his review of The Room (2003), explains how he believes that the film is a close impression of how Tommy Wiseau saw an actual breakup. Lisa's characterization as a manipulative gold-digging harpy who cuts off her relationship For the Evulz and Johnny's as an Ideal Hero suffering from the senseless betrayals of everyone around him are pretty accurate to how a lot of people feel about their exes and themselves after a bad breakup. This means that the film (unintentionally) works very well as a statement about how bad relationships warp your perceptions, with the nonsense characterization, rampant misogyny, and Random Events Plot being a symptom of the fact that Wiseau's viewpoint wasn't healthy or accurate.
  • I Am a Building is a comedic short where two guys having a picnic see the Empire State Building come to life and give a lecture about how not to be racist. The obvious joke is the absurdity of the premise, but given how the building never really goes in to why its wrong to be racist, you could make the case its a mockery of campaigns that claim to preach against social issues while doing nothing to contextualise the message or add nuance to it.
  • Jet Lag: The Game: The German Deutsche Bahn in the Tag Across Europe seasons, in comparison to other European transit services, gives the lesson that providing proper care to your train networks is essential for helping people in high-stress situations get to where they need to go.
  • Maggie Mae Fish, when talking about Cats (both the play and the movie), she mentions how, in a weird way, the two work as a parody of fascism. T. S. Eliot, the man behind the source material, was a royalist whose fascist beliefs bled into his work, and elevating his original poems into this weird, fever dream-like works, while keeping the stuff that made it fascist-like, like the death cult, make it seems like an ode to how his beliefs were flawed and crazy to begin with.
  • From a Nezumi Man review "GAH! See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Smoke, and all your skin falls off".
  • The Nostalgia Critic's review of The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement came off like "fake geek girls are real and they're bad" (because Hyper was using boy toys that she didn't like and pretending she did to get Critic to sleep with her). Later episodes focused on the kidnapping and whatever else she did bad to him to maybe dilute this.
  • Origins SMP: The work everyone goes to to make sure the Pub(e) is accessible to everyone, no matter their Origin, has led many fans to draw comparisons with the importance of accommodating and providing access for disabled people in real life.
  • If the way reincarnation works in the Reincarny webgame series is to be believed, the safest way to prevent criminals from committing crimes again for a long time is to give them life imprisonment without parole, since executing them will just allow them to escape from Hell and be reincarnated as adults who immediately start doing the same things they did before. (The game series is at least 90% of the way toward the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.)
  • Twitch Plays Pokémon Red became an almost debate of democracy vs. anarchy as well after democracy was implemented.


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