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Aesop Amnesia

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At least Tails can fly himself out of that pit.
"Lying is wrong! I'd know that if only I'd paid attention to anything that's ever happened to me before!"

Some characters have a particular trait or mannerism that's come to be viewed as an overall part of them. Maybe they're stingy, or abrasive, or just like using a lot of profanity. Along comes an episode with An Aesop, and a character learns how good it is to be generous, or friendly, or that they don't need curse words to make themselves known.

Then, two episodes later at the most, they're back to hoarding their money, snapping at people, or cursing like a sailor. They've just run into Aesop Amnesia.

Aesop Amnesia is a sort of Snap Back or Negative Continuity that assures that Status Quo Is God from a character development point of view. After all, if you change something about the character that fans find enjoyable or defining about them, they're not going to be happy; and if that character trait provided a valuable foil for other characters, neither will the writers that come after. (Thus, you're much more likely to run into it on a series where writing duties are handled by a rotating set of writers and guest writers.)

And, of course, it allows the character to learn the same lesson all over again later!

In more recent series, this may eventually be lampshaded, especially if the show has a strong comedy element. In dramatic series, not so much.

A secondary sort is where the same series keeps trying to teach the same moral over and over again. This is slightly different than when the show has a certain theme or Aesop as their underlying premise, but rather where a show with a broad premise just keeps hammering home that one particular one until the viewer wants to shout "I get it already!"

A standard of cartoons, especially those aimed at fairly young children (or where the writers think anyone under thirty is a dope). In comic books, this frequently occurs thanks to the Fleeting Demographic Rule. In films and books, this is often a sign of an unplanned sequel, which may result in a reset on the character's growth.

When done well, it can show that it's not always easy to change oneself, even if one wants to, and people may fall back on old habits. When done poorly, it can seem as though the writers forgot about the character's development and/or want to ignore it for the sake of conflict.

This is Truth in Television to some extent. People do not always overcome their flaws as quickly as fiction sometimes would like them to. And sometimes, when experiencing some form of media they take An Aesop for granted. Contrast Epiphany Therapy, where characters resolve long-standing issues and flaws too quickly. Compare Ignored Epiphany, Remember That You Trust Me, and Lost Aesop. A Sub-Trope of Yo Yo Plot Point. Could be used to subvert May It Never Happen Again.

Example subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Azula in the comic books intentionally does this. As what was likely the fourth generation of a toxic culture and mentality started by Sozin; her strict refusal to change (as The Beach showed us, she's got no way to function off the battlefield) puts her at odds with Zuko who desires change. Tragically enough, Azula still hasn't learned that fear isn't the best way to make friends or get people to work for you; as she still not only has it as her best weapon but in Smoke and Shadow she's completely manipulated Ukano to do her bidding and has plans to manipulate Zuko into a tyrant like she would have been and how previous Fire Lords were. It's quite difficult to tell if she's legitimately not learning anything or if she's just regressing to maintain some degree of sanity.
  • Batman:
    • Gotham City Sirens manages to impressively forget an Aesop on the same page! Harley Quinn has finally decided to stop pining after the Joker since her experiences with another former sidekick have taught her that the Joker really does not care about those people he works with, and she has seen first-hand how pathetic and depressing such obsessions truly are. She knows he will never change, and for her own good and the good of her friends she should just move on...he still might change... This is a major part of Harley's characterization, and a testament to how screwed up she is.
    • Batman has learned to be more open and caring to his wards (especially Nightwing) so often that this might as well be called A Batman Family Aesop. That will happen with seventy-odd years of having been published. One of the things that really pisses off Batman fans (who have dubbed the phenomenon "Batdickery"), is that since the mid-'90s, Batman's character has been stuck in a cycle that goes 1) Batman acts like a paranoid asshole. 2) Horrible things happen. 3) Batman realizes he shouldn't act like such a paranoid asshole. 4) Return to step 1.
    • Likewise, Nightwing and Tim Drake take turns learning not to be Batman when it comes to their friends and teammates, although Nightwing tends to be better at it: at least he has a few people he can respect, and his entire reason for becoming Nightwing was because he disagreed with Bruce's methods. Tim, on the other hand, has essentially become Batman however sans the "I work alone" nonsense.
    • Batman's biological son Damian Wayne often has trouble maintaining lessons he learned about not being brutal to supervillains or cold towards his friends. This actually culminated in his Teen Titans team and Batman actually turning on him.
  • Civil War: The Civil War was this for the Pro-Reg side. The Super Registration Act might have provoked a nuanced, thoughtful, balanced debate....if the entire flipping Marvel Universe hadn't been telling civilians for the past several decades that treating supers/mutants and normals differently was morally wrong, dangerous, pointless, and comparable to segregation and Nazism. Now, suddenly, everybody thinks it's some sort of valid option, just so a fat juicy Conflict Ball could be thrown into the ring. The biggest Face Palm, however, has got to go to Reed Richards, who once spent an issue delivering an Aesop to Congress on why a SHRA was a racist, unenforceable, and moronic idea. (And no, he didn't have any character development that showed him changing his mind.) Arguably the biggest irony is that Mark Millar thought he was delivering a balanced view.
  • Deadpool: Since his first solo series, Deadpool has been learning to be more of a hero and kill less. He often succeeds, even becoming a popular Avenger for a time, but he always ultimately returns to being a murderous villain/anti-hero who's hated and feared by the wider Marvel universe. As you'd expect for such a Genre Savvy character, Deadpool has started to lean into this and hang lampshades on it; his last major Face–Heel Turn (at the end of Gerry Duggan's writing tenure) was self-induced. He found the negative consequences of his last heroic period depressing, so he erased his own memories of it.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • The Thing learns several times over that looking like a monster isn't so bad when your friends still love you. However, this is played more realistically, as the universe keeps trying to prove, in a variety of different ways, that actually, no, having friends who love you even though you're a monster doesn't help all that much, because people are colossal dicks.
    • Similarly, there have been a lot of stories about Johnny growing up and becoming less of a Manchild, or Reed learning he needs to stop mistreating / ignoring his family to focus on SCIENCE! ... but then the next writer comes along, and Johnny's once again a doofus, and Reed brushes off Sue because he's found some new shiny thing.
    • A major part of Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four is Reed Richards learning that he can't solve everything all on his lonesome, and shouldn't be afraid to ask his friends for help when he needs to. And then in The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman), a major portion of the plot is caused by Reed Richards (and all the Illuminati, to be fair) deciding they and they alone can solve the problem, and don't bother asking their friends for help even when faced with the destruction of all existence. And when called on this by a super-scientist who could've helped, Reed's reaction is "yeah, whatevs."
  • Green Lantern:
    • The Guardians of the Universe once created the Manhunters, a robotic army built to maintain order in the universe. These then went crazy and started slaughtering people, necessitating the creation of the Green Lanterns to replace them. Then, they created the Alpha Lanterns, implanting Green Lanterns with Manhunter programming, and gave them infallible authority over the other Lanterns. They showed major Knight Templar tendencies and one of them was possessed by an evil New God, demonstrating they were wrong about the whole "incorruptible police force" idea. Turns out they're being controlled by Hank Henshaw. Good job Guardians. Then they did it again with the Third Army, which they insisted was them learning the lessons from both the Manhunters and the Lanterns, but was them back on their The Evils of Free Will kick.
    • An interesting example where the character is presented as being right to have forgotten the Aesop: When Simon Baz was first introduced, he carried a gun as backup. A major part of his character development was learning he needed to trust the ring in order to use it to its full potential. Then in Green Lantern (Infinite Frontier), the central power battery goes dark, leaving the Lanterns weaponless except for the ones with their own power sources (Hal, Teen Lantern and Sojourner) ... and the Properly Paranoid Simon, who has a blaster built into his arm-cast, because he always thought something like this would happen.
    • Justice League: Cry for Justice has Hal Jordan deciding to be more "proactive" in the wake of Final Crisis — except that while possessed by Parallax, that was the exact line of thinking that led to Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, where Parallax tried to remake the universe.
  • Marvel Universe: The civilians of the Marvel Universe are infamous for their gullibility every time some villain tries to frame a hero for some crime or another. You'd think after the tenth time the guy robbing a bank in a Spider-Man outfit turned out to be Mysterio or the Chameleon, they'd catch on. You'd be wrong.
  • Spider-Ham: At the end of Spider-Ham: Aporkalypse Now, Spider-Ham announces that he's seen the error of his Acquired Situational Narcissism, and now realises that all the heroes of Larval Earth are equally important. He then quietly insists on being front and centre in the big team splash-page, and goes on to reflect that the heroes all got to prove how important they were thanks to something he did, so when you think about it, he was the most important hero after all.
  • Spider-Man: Spider-Man repeatedly wants to ditch superheroics to be a normal guy with a normal family, only to have it drilled into him again that "Great power equals great responsibility".
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Rodimus learns a valuable lesson about taking responsibility and not being such a lazy jackass all the time. He forgets it the moment the Dark Cybertron crossover ends and goes right back to napping on the job and pretending to be dead to get out of difficult questions.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: You'd think that, after the fiasco with the enforcers, Spider-Man would know better than to go jumping blindly into the action without a plan, but no. He goes and does the same against the Kingpin. This gets him zapped, unmasked, and thrown out a skyscraper window. On the plus side, that one sticks.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool: In the final issue, Gwen comes to terms with the fact that her book is ending after her future self explains to her that as long as people read her comics, she will never truly disappear, even if she is not in an ongoing series. However, in Gwenpool Strikes Back she is once again afraid of disappearing without her own book.
  • Wonder Woman: The Olympians' very nature is resistant to change, and those who are able to subvert this limitation end up the most powerful in the pantheon. Zeus, who can't alter himself to draw power from concepts like love or conflict, has been proven time and again to be incapable of learning humility and having it stick.

    Comic Strips 
  • Anything that the Pattersons learned in For Better or for Worse that didn't entail "My personal happiness is more important than anyone else, even that of my own family!" was quickly forgotten. When Elly nearly lost her husband and brother to a camping trip Gone Horribly Wrong, she appreciated him for about a week's worth of strips before reverting back to her passive-aggressive stewing. Michael never quite learned that "bad things don't just happen to other people", even after Lawrence broke his leg or Deanna was in a car crash.
  • This happens so often in Calvin and Hobbes, it's almost a defining character trait for Calvin. He almost never learns anything from his mistakes, or if he does, he learns the wrong thing, and on a few occasions, will try to ignore what he's learned.
    Hobbes: Live and don't learn. That's us.
  • Luann: Since the strip took her to college in 2014, Bernice has learned at least three times not to be overly obsessive about enforcement of the dorm rules. She always snaps back to her previous characterization the next time she appears.
  • Garfield: At least twice, Garfield became so fat his feet couldn't reach the floor. And yet as soon as he slimmed back down, he went right back to his gluttonous ways.

    Fan Works 
  • The Family Guy readaption Family Guy Fanon has a few examples:
    • Zigzagged with Peter in "A Star is Born... Kind Of". While he does go to another stag party even after what happened in "Death Has a Shadow", he at least plans ahead compared to last time.
    Peter: Honey look, I know I disobeyed you again, but I at least planned ahead compared to last time. We took a cab home, slept on the table so we wouldn't wake you up, and I called sick from work so I didn't get my ass fired for negligence. Nothing bad will happen this time.
    • "Breadlosers" has Peter spend all his time clowning around at McBurgertown, using his pass to get free burgers for life to the point he gets fired from the Pawtucket Brewery. He ends up working at McBurgertown, with a ton of customers coming, but the demand for food outweighs their food supply and Peter only has himself to blame because of all the free food he took from their restaurant. Peter learns how annoying of a customer he is... but completely unlearns it at the end, clowning around at McBurgertown again, only to get fired again at the end of the episode.
    • Lampshaded by Chris of all people at the end of "An Original Age Old Story" when Peter declares he learned his lesson from pretending to be old.
    Peter: The important thing is that I learned my lesson.
    Chris: Yeah, you're not gunna keep the lesson, but at least ya learned it, Dad.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan novel Nightmares Are Tragic, Luna experiences some of this, explicitly, right after being purged of the Nightmare at the end. Specifically, she loses a lot of her self-confidence, won in her successful fight from within against the Night Shadow. Justified, as the combination of the drain to her form from the battle and the damage done to her by the Rainbow of Harmony severely weakens her and causes her to lose some of her memories, especially her memories from the time when she was possessed by the Night Shadow.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: Kokoa suffers from this at first. In Act I, she's single-mindedly attracted to Dark despite the fact that he's only interested in Mizore, and it's only after Dark explicitly tells her to her face that he has no interest in her, along with the realization that chasing after him has negatively affected her pride, which Kokoa constantly boasts about, that Kokoa realizes her mistake and backs off. Come Act II, she's completely forgotten this lesson and goes so far as to invoke a sacred vampire pact, punishable by death if broken, with Moka in an attempt to have Tsukune to herself; the others even point out how pathetic it is that she didn't learn her lesson in not chasing after boys who are already taken the first time. When Kokoa loses the pact, and subsequently realizes that Tsukune only loves Moka and what she would have taken from him had she won, she finally seems to learn her lesson, and this time, it actually sticks.
  • With This Ring:
    • Paul learns that he needs to take off the ring and be himself to distance himself from the ring's influence when it started to negatively impact his mind after he was nearly killed in a home invasion. He stops an episode after when he gets caught off guard, though later text does imply that he kept up the practice.
    • Paul and Co. find out through various means that the Belle Reve is highly likely to be compromised and so a mass escape is also likely to be brewing there. They still let it happen and have to deal with the fallout.
  • The (Edit) War for Ash’s Freedom to not be Betrayed ends this way: Darkern learns nothing from his failure to make Pokemon Darker and Edgier and tries to do the same to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He gets turned into a statue for his trouble.
  • In Origin of a Non-Hero, Izuku assumes that his son will naturally follow him and Ochaco by becoming a Pro Hero himself. Shikinori, however, bristles at how his neglectful father only seems to take an interest in him once he's old enough to start considering which high school he wants to attend. The family gets counseling together, and Izuku seems to accept how his son feels... only to backslide years later, to the point that when he thinks Shiki has gotten his Quirk removed, he wants to give him One For All in order to 'fix' it, ignoring his son's wishes.
  • He Never Told You: Justified. During Grace's final fight with Simon, she acknowledges he's in pain, but tells him she's not responsible for his problems. After his death when she meets up with The Cat, The Cat tells Grace she does not owe him anything, only for Grace to fire back that she owes him everything. Since Simon was her best friend, it's understandable she blames herself for his death in spite of everything that happened between them.
  • While Bakugo was shaken enough when Inko slapped him and called him a monster for accidentally blinding Izuku in The Devil of UA, leading to him avoiding Izuku until their first day at UA, by then he has gotten over it and goes back to his usual hostility. It gets so bad that his hatred for Izuku boils over and he gets himself expelled when he tries attacking Izuku after he loses to him at the Sport's Festival.
  • This trope is called out in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Loved and Lost, (unlike in canon) due to this being an Accusation Fic. In response to the heroes' claims that Jewelius is a self-serving backstabber, Twilight (who has fallen in with his manipulative tactics) responds that they didn't live up to the lesson they'd previously learned about never taking a friend's concerns for granted. The heroes uncomfortably acknowledge how justified she is not trusting them anymore. Even after Twilight has her Jerkass Realization and reconciles with them, the heroes still concede that her earlier statement was correct (in part because the consequences of forgetting this moral were far more severe this time around).
  • Showa & Vampire has its (main) hero feeling he has to do everything himself to protect his friends from danger. Several arcs are supposed to be about him learning it's okay to let his friends help him, but he's back to his old ways by the start of another arc. In practice, this seems to have been a result of making the heroes as excessively powerful as they were: if they didn't take on enemies individually, there's nothing short of planet-wrecking Dragon Ball villains that could pose a believable threat to them.
  • In the crossover story The Hater Good. Gus from Western Animation/Rocket Monkeys has this like in canon, except Wally calls him out for it.
  • Past Sins: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon in Chapter 21; they interpret the events of the story, where they experienced tons of terror, and then her apology, as Nyx's trying to make fools of them in front of everyone.
  • Sasha and the Frogs: After Barry rejected Sprig's deal, Sasha became so angry at Barry that she forgot what lesson she learned seconds prior.

    Films — Animation 
  • Best Friend: Despite Arthur's experience with an attacker forcibly stealing his implant which left a nasty scar resembling the ones from said addict, he still decided to get a new implant on the opposite side of his head.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, an alternate universe version of Twilight's friends all learn to at least take five minutes or so to talk to each other about their problems. They forget this in several other movies and the spin-off comic as well.
  • Toy Story:
    • Brilliantly avoided by Woody in Toy Story 2. John Lasseter even states that Pixar specifically did not want to just give them amnesia and relearn the same lesson twice, but needed them to grow in a different way. Also, the idea of a Buzz Lightyear who thinks he's real is used in the same movie, but instead of the first Buzz forgetting everything he learned in the first one, it's used with a different Buzz toy who is found in a toy store.
      Buzz Lightyear: Oh, tell me I wasn't this delusional...
    • It's also played straight with Rex the dinosaur learning to be braver and more confident in every film, only to forget it and Snap Back to being a coward at the start of the next one.
    • The third movie brings back the lesson from the first that the rest of the toys never seem to learn that when Woody says something might not have happened, it might not have happened. It's technically only played straight for Slinky, Mr. Potato Head, Hamm, and Rex (and technically Buzz, since the toys thought Woody hurt him), all toys who were originally there the last time this happened, toys from the second film such as Mrs. Potato Head, Jessie, Bullseye, and the Aliens are exempt due to it being their first time around.
      • It also brings back the "Buzz thinks he's real" story, but in a far more twisted manner in that it molds him to turn on his friends, followed by "Spanish mode".
  • At the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo ends up losing Esmeralda to Phoebus, and accepting not just the fact that the two are both in love with each other, but also the fact that it's not his appearance that matters but rather how he is treated in public. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Quasi is now lamenting about why he has no love interest and ends up falling in love with a beautiful circus performer.
  • A Goofy Movie has (over the course of a road trip) Goofy learning to let his teenage son grow up and Max learning to appreciate his father's "goofy" tendencies, and by the end of the film they've grown closer. An Extremely Goofy Movie opens with Goofy moping that his son is growing up and Max anxious to leave for college to get away from his embarrassing dad; Max sort of re-learns his lesson after his father helps him win a sporting event, while Goofy never re-learns his lesson and ends the movie as clingy as he started it. Max gets it again in the Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas segment "Christmas Maximus", where he once again finds his dad embarrassing and has to learn to appreciate him. Granted, he's mainly worried that his dad will embarrass him in front of his girlfriend - and the things that Goofy does ARE pretty embarrassing, and he's not even outright rude to Goofy.
  • The endless number of sequels of The Land Before Time have been criticized for having the characters recycle their personalities (even if their personalities barely resemble their original ones.) For example, in the first film Jerkass Cera goes through character development about accepting help from others, that sometimes accepting help is needed, and that being a jerkass won't get you far in life, all while living in a Crapsack World. You'd think that after surviving an incredibly dangerous journey she'd have changed, but EVERY sequel always has her starting as a Jerkass and learning to accept help and stop being a jerkass, but no matter how dangerous the journey, she's always back to being a jerkass at the start of the next movie.
  • Finding Nemo has Marlin starting off the film as an overprotective stick-in-the-mud, and then slowly learns to be less overprotective and eventually takes a level in cheerfulness. Nemo, meanwhile, regrets snapping at his dad right before he gets caught and learns to be a little less hard on Marlin. In Finding Dory, Marlin (while not as overprotective) is back to being a worrywart and a stick-in-the-mud while much of Nemo's dialogue consists of him rolling his eyes and snarking at his dad.
  • Thankfully, this is averted with Kuzco in Kronk's New Groove, the direct-to-video sequel to The Emperor's New Groove - he's still snarky and a little full of himself, but it's made clear that he has indeed become a MUCH better person. The series, on the other hand...
  • Deconstructed with Pooh's Grand Adventure when Pooh fails to remember that he's braver than he believes, stronger than he seems and smarter than he thinks. He knows that Christopher Robin was trying to tell him something important and he correctly deduces that this knowledge can help his friends but he's not able to remember the words correctly which causes his advice to be ineffective. By the time he does remember what Christopher Robin tried to tell him, his friends have learned this for themselves. In his favor, he also remembers the crucial wisdom that even though they are apart, Christopher Robin will always be with him. In short, Pooh knew all along but he couldn't explain it.
  • At the end of Frozen, Elsa learns that shutting people out will do more harm than good particularly after learning that love is the key to controlling her ice powers. Come Frozen II however, Elsa constantly tries to push Anna away and tries to do things on her own even to the point of sending both her and Olaf away to head to Atohallan by herself when they offered themselves to come with her. And at the end of the movie, Elsa ultimately decides to resign from the throne and appoint Anna as the new queen of Arendelle while she stays behind at Northuldra to look after the people. At the very least, Elsa continues to embrace her ice powers with the reason she went on the journey is to find the source of her magic. And she has fully embraced her relationship with Anna and with other people, she just doesn't want Anna to risk her life by following her on a dangerous journey, and it's clear in the end that even though the sisters don't live together anymore, they're still close and see each other often.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • By the ends of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Harold had learned to stand up for himself and to lighten up a bit, and Kumar had learned that being irresponsible hurts his friends. Two years later in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Kumar's irresponsibility has driven off his girlfriend, and Harold is still worried about appearances.
  • High School Musical is a repeat offender. After every film, all the lessons learned, all of the character growth is completely forgotten and the characters go on to make similar, if not the same, mistakes.
  • The Kissing Booth 2 features a glaring example with its protagonist. At the end of the first film, Elle learned that it was important not to hide things from Lee, especially if it personally affected him in some way. In this film she's at it again, this time concealing the fact she's applied to Harvard, as Lee believes she still intends to go to UC Berkeley the same as him. She does this again in the very end when she lies to Lee, Noah, and Rachel that she got waitlisted from both Harvard and Berkeley—when in actuality, she was accepted into both schools and is uncertain of where she will go.
  • In many of The Little Rascals short comedies, Alfalfa has a cocky side to him that always lands him into trouble. Despite the number of times his ego is knocked down a few pegs, Alfalfa can't help but return to his old traits.
  • National Treasure 2, in regards to the Character Development and romance between Ben and Abigail. Especially in regards to Abigail, who turned into a much worse person than she was at even the beginning of the first movie. Are we supposed to be happy that they got back together at the end? They were also Strangled by the Red String in the first movie, so they arbitrarily got together, arbitrarily broke up, and arbitrarily got back together again.
  • In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, McMurphy challenges Nurse Ratched's authority and unfair rules at every turn, becoming something of a hero to the sheepish patients and leading them to explore and regain their own lost least until McMurphy attacks Ratched in order to avenge her driving Billy to suicide and is moved to another part of the hospital and lobotomized. The Chief clearly doesn't forget what McMurphy taught him, but all the other patients seem to, and when the film ends, they're all back to behaving as they did before McMurphy arrived.
  • At the end of Osmosis Jones, Frank, the overweight, unhealthy man, as a result of a near-death experience at the hospital thanks to an evil virus the heroes were fighting inside his body, actually vows to stay healthy from that point on. However, by the animated spinoff, Frank's back to his unhealthy ways, and both Osmosis Jones and Drixxenol (a pair of microbes who protect his body) are both carried off from his body by a mosquito bite and are now living inside someone else that mosquito bit! Now imagine what will happen if a virus like Thrax went inside his body again, and neither Ozzy nor Drix are there to save him...
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Norrington seems like a ruthless bureaucrat but appears to loosen up on his pirate-hunting ways and gain some humility at the end of the movie. He's back to being the sinister stop-pirates-at-all-costs villain in the sequel.
  • At the end of RoboCop (1987), Alex Murphy's persona reasserts itself and he talks and acts more like a human than a robot. In RoboCop 2, however, he's back to a more stilted robot-like personality for no real reason. Moreover in RoboCop 2 the prime directives that guide his behavior are completely erased from his system. This piece of development is again entirely erased in the third movie with the 3 directives back in place. This one makes sense, however, as after the first and second movies, Robocop/Murphy would have returned to being serviced and maintained by OCP technicians, who would have reinstated his original programming. In 2 and at the beginning of 3 he's obviously already come some ways from the first movie, being capable of ignoring orders to save his friends, and in the second he seems to be accessing his old memories much easier than in the first.
  • Scream: At the end of every single movie (save for Scream 4), Gale Weathers learns her lesson to not exploit Sidney's trauma for her own fame and to play into the Ghostfaces' need for their 15 Minutes of Fame...only to go right back to her Immoral Journalist ways at the start of the next movie. It's even more blatant in Scream (2022) when she had sworn that her next book would be about her slain former lover Dewey in hopes that the killers would die in obscurity...with the next movie revealing she went back on that promise with her book fueling even MORE Ghostface copycat killers. You certainly don't blame Sidney and Tara for sucker-punching Gale for her actions.
  • In Spider-Man 2, this happens to J. Jonah Jameson in the course of a single sentence. After Doc Ock abducts his son's fiancée Mary Jane Watson to lure out Spider-Man, Jameson starts to wonder if he drove Spider-Man to his 10-Minute Retirement by bashing him in the press.
    Jameson: Spider-Man... was a hero. I just couldn't see it. He was a—
    [realizes Spider-Man has stolen back the suit]
    Jameson: —a thief! A criminal! He stole my suit! He's a menace to the entire city! I want the wall-crawling arachnid prosecuted! I want him strung up by his web! I want Spider-Man!
  • Superman Returns is based on the idea that after Superman II, the title character flew off into space for five years to search for any evidence of Krypton's survival. The problem is, Superman II has Superman stop paying attention to the outside world for, at most, two weeks and it got conquered by psychotic Kryptonians; one of the last scenes has him promising the president that he will be more vigilant in the future. While the world wasn't outright conquered again in his absence, Superman's disappearance did allow Lex Luthor to wiggle out of jail time and break into the Fortress of Solitude, which leads right into the supervillain conflict of the movie.
  • In the original Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, the Galactic Empire and its successor, the First Order, repeatedly create planet-destroying weapons of mass destruction (the Death Stars and Starkiller Base) that have design flaws their antagonists exploit. The First Order at least have the foresight to armour the giant weak point on their superweapon, at least, but in the long run that just means that there's a bit of a delay before the 'splodey.
  • Tyor in Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2 delivers the line "You've got to trust anyone that beautiful", talking about Amathea...about five minutes after his encounter with Freya, a villainous Hot Witch who worked for one of the bad guys and would have tricked him into giving up his quest and magical amulet had the Big Good not intervened at the last second.

  • Angelina Ballerina constantly has to learn to not get lost in daydreaming and dancing, be less jealous of others, and be more understanding and kind to her younger cousin Henry and little sister Polly. Justified in a book series aimed at children.
  • Each of the Animorphs seem to have to learn the exact same lesson in each one of the books they star in, only to have the exact same flaw confronted and conquered again in their next book. Jake learns not to be so uptight/be a better leader, Rachel learns not to take so much joy in the action/be a little less psychotic, Marco learns to take things more seriously/not be so pessimistic, Ax learns not to treat his human friends as inferior... Tobias is easily the worst, in EVERY book he narrates he laments being stuck, willingly or not, in his hawk form and has to learn to accept his situation for the sake of his friends and the war and move on. The only exception seems to be Cassie, the token pacifist of the group, who seems to always be right from the beginning.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club:
    • One that stands out in particular is the relationship between Claudia and her genius sister Janine. There are many books where the two of them bond over junk food, have a heart-to-heart talk, and realize that the two of them aren't so different. By the next book, their relationship will be back to where it was.
    • Also a feature in many Little Sister books, where Karen learns not to be a brat only to promptly forget it by the time the next book comes around.
  • Bailey School Kids: The characters take turns between believing a character is supernatural, considering it unlikely, and teasing their friends for considering it, depending on the book.
  • Dork Diaries: Despite the fact that Nikki Maxwell, at the end of each story, learns that she should be proud for being a dork, the next book will always start with her being ashamed of it.
  • In most of the Encyclopedia Brown books, a con artist named Wilford Wiggins tries to bilk the town kids out of their savings in some elaborate scheme or other. Not only do people not stop listening to him no matter how many times Encyclopedia explained Wilford's promises were hot air, Encyclopedia actually comes up with a special policy that he takes cases involving Wilford for free.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong — The Official Movie Novelization:
  • Harry Potter:
    • Ron has learned a number of times not to be jealous of Harry being The Hero. Ron also learned that he's not worthless at Quidditch in two separate, sequential books.
    • Another plot device that J.K. Rowling seemed to really like was having the Hogwarts community, as a whole, turn against Harry (with only a handful of people standing by him). Over the course of the series, the Hogwarts students had to learn at least three or four times that refusing to trust Harry was a bad idea.
    • It's Sirius himself who tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione in Goblet of Fire that a good way to get the measure of a person is to see how they treat their inferiors. In that specific case, it was referring to Crouch and his house-elf. Sirius appears to have forgotten this when dealing with his own house-elf in Order of the Phoenix. However, Dumbledore points out after Sirius' death that Sirius wasn't particularly bad to House-Elves, he just hated Kreacher because Kreacher represented the house and life he hated. Also Kreacher comes across as a very unpleasant character, with his talk of pure-blood supremacy and insulting Sirius.
    • In Order of the Phoenix Harry doesn't learn that speaking his mind or telling the truth about Voldemort around Umbridge is only going to get him into trouble, or at least gets too angry to act like he's learned this lesson when it matters. McGonagall calls him out on it at one point.
  • In the Hush, Hush series, Nora never seems to catch on wandering alone, in dark, dangerous parts of town is just begging for trouble.
  • In Island Beneath the Sea Toulouse Valmorain goes through multiple Break the Haughty experiences but never learns anything from them:
    • The enslaved Tété saves his neck during the slave revolt in exchange for her and Rosette's freedom. He then takes credit for their escape and frees them only when shamed by Father Antoine into doing so and never learns to treat Tété as a person.
    • His grossly rude treatment of Tété and Rosette, their daughter, eventually costs him the relationship with his son, but never manages to grow out of his racism.
  • Done intentionally in The Last Continent: Ponder, having spent the book, as always, being impatient with the older wizards (not without reason), is suddenly aged about fifty years, and learns what it's actually like to be a senior wizard. Upon his return to normal, a footnote tells us:
    "It would be nice to say that this experience taught Ponder a valuable lesson and that he was a lot more considerate towards old people afterwards, and this was true for about five minutes."
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles: Despite seeing the dragons alive at the end of the first book, David's back to doubting their existence in the second.
  • The kids in Little Monsters sometimes get this mere seconds after learning their lesson. For example, Bossy Bethany learns she shouldn't be bossy after a Drill Sergeant Nasty gives her a taste of her own medicine and apologizes to the others, but immediately starts being bossy again.
  • Malheurs de Sophie runs with this trope. Every chapter has Sophie committing something forbidden by her mother, then getting in trouble, her mother punishing her, then swearing she'll listen to her mother next time ...only to do it again in the next chapter. This is justified by the protagonist being a 4-year-old girl ( the author treats disobedience as a characteristic of childhood).
  • Most of the Mr. Men who are defined by negative personality traits (Mr. Grumpy, Mr. Greedy, and Mr. Noisy, for example) learn their lesson and change their ways by the end of their own story; however, when they appear in another story, they're right back to their old ways (justified, because without those traits, they'd be nothing but Flat Characters).
  • Actually a plot point in Peter Pan: as a perpetual boy, Peter can't learn lessons. If he didn't have Aesop Amnesia, he'd grow up.
  • Played with in Prince Caspian. When the Pevensies go back to Narnia, Susan and Peter believe that Lucy is either mistaken or lying when she claims to see Aslan, and they don't. Edmund, on the other hand, remembers that it was just in the last book that Lucy's claims of "There's a magical land in the wardrobe" were right, so chances are they should listen to her this time.
  • In The Princess and the Goblin, Curdie's Character Arc is accepting the reality of Irene's grandmother. By the start of The Princess and Curdie, he's convinced himself it was a dream.
  • The major characters of Relativity agreed that keeping secrets from each other caused all of their interpersonal problems in the first story of the series. That doesn't stop them all from continuing to keep secrets from each other, even though it results in arguments and fights every single time.
  • Roys Bedoys:
    • Roys occasionally lies, despite learning not to lie in “Stop Lying, Roys Bedoys”. Perhaps justified due to his young age.
    • In “Don’t Be a Sore Loser, Roys Bedoys!”, Roys learns not to be a sore loser, but in later stories, he goes back to being one.
    • “Stop Blaming People, Roys Bedoys!” and “It’s Your Fault, Roys Bedoys!” both have the moral of accepting that things are your fault.
  • Sweet Valley High: Jessica would try to pull off some crazy stunt, only to have it blow up in her face and make her look like a fool. Inevitably, by the next book or two, she would be trying something new, despite the fact that she was often warned about it by being reminded by others about how badly things had gone the last time. The sad thing is, a handful of these tricks were genuine attempts at improving herself or trying something new—cooking class, music lessons—so it seems a little unfair that those should go as badly as her usual schemes. Additionally, "good" twin Elizabeth would have a moment where she'd realize that she was being very judgmental and self-righteous about someone who would turn out to be a relatively nice person, only to be doing the same thing in a later book. This is outright pointed out by Jessica in one book when Elizabeth has taken an instant dislike to a guy, only for Jessica to blast her for automatically assuming that the guy must be a bad person just because he's rich.
  • Quite the achievement in this happens in The Underland Chronicles at the end of the last book. After a horrible bloody war has badly mauled both humans and gnawers (human-sized rats that fight with humans almost constantly), Luxa (now the queen of the humans) decides that in retaliation the rats are to be banished to an inhospitable part of the Underland. The rats obviously don't take this well (since them being driven into places where it's hard to survive was a part of the war in the first place) and both sides are about to go to war again before Gregor puts his foot down and yells at them for being so stupid. Thankfully his speech takes and war is averted when Luxa and Ripred bond with one another.
  • In Warrior Cats, no matter how many times the cats learn the importance of working together, by the next book, they'll usually be at each other's throats again.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Faile spends the first few books after her marriage to Perrin constantly frustrated that he doesn't magically intuit the Saldean marriage customs that she never bothered to explain to him, before realizing that she could be meeting him halfway by learning how the Two Rivers handles relationships from any of dozens of female role models who are only too happy to give her pointers. She arranges for a romantic moment for them in Two Rivers fashion and apologizes for being so hard on him. Come the next book, and she's right back to being angry that he doesn't read her mind and treat her like a Saldean husband is expected to treat his wife.
    • Worth noting is that she'd still be angry at him if he was treating her the way she expects and desires because by Saldean custom a wife is supposed to be angry at her husband a lot of the time; the emotion is viewed as a sign of passion and commitment to a relationship. So there isn't much room for cultural compromise and it's a hard thing to work through to start with.

    Multiple Media 
  • The first three years of BIONICLE gave us several storylines where the Toa learn that only together can they hope to defeat evil. At first they simply didn't like each other, then they got overconfident with their newfound power (deciding they didn’t need to stick together anymore) then they just bickered, before finally realizing that they had already learned this lesson.

  • From "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry:
    Yeah I think we broke the law/Always say we're gonna stop-op/Whoa-oh-oah/This Friday night/Do it all again.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Old Testament, Israel gets into a cycle of rejecting God's commands, turning to false gods, getting attacked by enemies, turning back to God, being saved by a judge, prophet or king God raised up to defeat their enemies, following God's commands again, then rinsing, washing and repeating. It gets so bad that God finally just lets the Assyrians and Babylonians carry them off into exile.
  • A similar pattern in The Book of Mormon, except with pride instead of idolatry. After nearly being destroyed by their enemies, the Lamanites, several times but repenting in time for God to intervene, the Nephites were finally annihilated when they refused to repent, even though they were outnumbered and suffering defeat after defeat.

  • Mom Can't Cook!: Discussed in the Jumping Ship episode, where Michael (and, to a lesser extent, Tommy) seemingly lose all of their Character Development from Horse Sense. Given that the plot bears almost no relation to its supposed prequel, Andy and Luke wonder why they even bothered to make it a sequel in the first place: they even watched the two out of order the first time they watched all the DCOMs, and barely missed anything. Andy says the plot makes much more sense as a sequel if everyone got kicked in the head by a rampaging horse seconds after the film ended, leaving them with no memories of the events of the erstwhile prequel beyond land trusts, a sentiment with which Luke agrees.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Michal has been told plenty of times to be careful and discreet with his fire power, and plenty of times he's still used it where the public can see. His impulsive personality is to thank for it.

    Web Animation 
  • Discussed in Terrible Writing Advice. In "Character Development" episode, J.P. suggests for characters to regain flaws, forgetting past lessons in the sequel for more sequel material.

  • Misfile: Ash needing to learn that as a female, males now view him differently, has been a plot point more than half a dozen times.
  • Invoked in 8-Bit Theater when Black Mage's realization that he ought to become a real hero as his life of wanton destruction brings him nothing but misery is interrupted by a dumb remark from Fighter.
    Black Mage: Hold it, wait... What was I just thinking about? The only thing I can remember is something about wanton destruction. *Stabs fighter* Well, whatever it was, I'm sure this isn't far off the mark.
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl: Daisy is unfortunately prone to this. She has a crush on Mike, who has conflicting feelings for both Lucy and Sandy (the latter now living outside of Roseville). Despite Mike flat-out rejecting her after attending a carnival and getting together with Abbey (who deeply cared about her), she still pines for Mike. This leads to Daisy and Abbey’s first breakup, and it only got worse from there for a long while.
  • In Monster Pulse, Violet is aghast to realize that she unthinkingly made the same mistake as she did when she first came into contact with the protagonists—she used her mental powers to appear as someone she wasn't in an effort to find the source of Julie's strange behavior. She apologizes profusely and repeats that there must be something wrong with her until Julie assures her that it's really normal to keep making the same mistakes because, in reality, An Aesop tends not to stick perfectly right away.
  • Played for laughs in Oglaf, where a swordmaster teaches his apprentice how to defeat a seemingly insurmountable foe: rather than fight his opponent all at once, think of fighting him as a bunch of smaller tasks and defeat him piecemeal. After winning the fight, the apprentice attracts a large number of groupies, at which he declares he's going to fuck all of them at once. Cue Bitch Slap from the master.

    Web Original 
  • In Tales of MU, Steff is particularly prone to this. After stabbing herself with a knife she knew nothing about until it tore out half her soul, she spent several days resting and scared everyone close to her and almost died. Immediately after, she was handed another magic item by Dee, a character who herself needs to learn to stop handing out magic no one but her is familiar with. She was told not to use it without lots of physical and mental preparation, and only then carefully. Her decision? Chug the whole thing the moment she's alone.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Same for Solange, who still thinks her money can buy her out of anything. Probably because she's not been a focus character since Jade beat her, badly. She DID learn not to screw with Team Kimba directly, however. She was given an option of learning that she wasn't a good Queen, but thanks to incidents with Ayla, Murphy, and Loophole, she's now out of the Alphas. Her current Aesop is probably closer to 'how to be sneaky and cruel'. Averted with the Don, who HAS learned said lesson, as well as Hekate. Whateley villains in general get most dangerous the more they get beaten.
    • Chou, however, definitely qualifies. How many times has she learned to accept being a girl, accept that the Tao is always right, accept that she has to kill sometimes, accept... She HAS learned how to handle romance, though. Except Molly has some summons that might not be nice...
  • The main reason why the work usually referred to just as Update seems to keep going and going is that the protagonist is incapable of learning anything from previous ordeals or mistakes and does the exact same things again and again.

    Web Videos 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd frequently learns to appreciate his video games rather than complain about them all the time, only to forget about that next episode or sooner. Since the premise hinges on him complaining about video games, Status Quo Is God is mandatory in this case.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • The Critic will never learn that he's worth more than what he thinks he is. Until the fourth-year anniversary movie To Boldly Flee. Even that got undone.
    • The Critic also spent the entire Moulin Rouge! review learning the nature of Guilty Pleasures, despite having used the term himself several times.
    • Ironic considering he actually referenced Moulin Rouge! in the Mamma Mia! review, but the "guilty pleasures" song appears to have been driven out of his brain. He has huge complaints about women liking The Princess Diaries 2 and Mamma Mia!, even though people who enjoy them usually say they know they're dumb but they're fun popcorn movies usually made for eye candy purposes, and they like plenty of actual good stuff too. Perhaps he sees this as an example of Everyone Has Standards.
    • His stalker Hyper Fangirl lampshaded that she'll never learn her lesson, and told her assassin neither will he because she pays him a ton of money.
  • The Nostalgia Chick will never stop mistreating people, Nella isn't ever going to fully stand up for herself and Dr. Tease won't learn ethics.
  • In The Fantastic Favio Bros, LeTony discovers at the end of the first film that alcohol is bad after it nearly kills him and he makes peace with the heroes. In later movies, this aesop is completely ignored, as LeTony goes on to try to addict people to more harmful substances and continues drinking. This is justified by Rule of Funny, though, with explicit references to when they made peace.
  • In Agents of Cracked, Dan constantly forgets that Swaim is dangerously insane and going along with any plan he comes up with will end badly. Despite this, he does remember the previous episodes well enough that he objects to the plans at the start.
  • Throughout his Let's Play of New Super Mario Bros. 2, Lucky Seven DX is repeatedly taught the lesson "Greed is bad." After around the third time, he starts lampshading it, but gets no closer to actually learning the lesson.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: In the pitch meeting for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Screenwriter vows not to fall into the same pitfalls that Spider-Man 3 did, only to make the same mistakes in a different way. People didn't like the relationship problems between Peter and MJ? This film has relationship problems between Peter and Gwen Stacy. People got annoyed with MJ getting kidnapped? Gwen Stacy runs into those dangerous situations herself. People thought that having a Big Bad Ensemble of Sandman, Venom, and Green Goblin Harry resulted in the film having too many villains? This time, the Screenwriter decides to include a different trio of villains; Rhino, Electro... and Green Goblin Harry, who was in the third movie.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Moral Amnesia


Didn't We Cover This Already?

Bandit is a bit puzzled that the girls are questioning why they have to do what he says, calling back to the events of "Tina", which had the same moral. Bluey and Bingo state that they learned nothing from that experience, to Bandit's disappointment.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / AesopAmnesia

Media sources: