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Aesop Enforcer

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"I don't care who I have to turn into a teapot, you'll learn the meaning of love!"
"All you've caused is pain and strife, so now you're doomed to live a dog's life! A dog you'll be, with fur and fleas, until you do 100 good DEEEEDS!"
The Drifter, 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd

When there's a character that needs to be taught a lesson, sometimes another character doesn't wait for karma to take its toll. The Aesop Enforcer purposefully and forcefully inflicts some sort of change in order for the subject to learn An Aesop, usually sticking around to watch the subject's behavior or even inform them of their progress towards redemption.

Common examples include a Beauty being turned into a Beast because they refuse to see inner beauty; The Protagonist is approaching an event horizon, when they get a Wonderful Plot to show why they need to stay the way they are; A Jerkass gets a Karmic Transformation, becoming what they hate, or a Forced Transformation that puts them at the mercy of their victims. When there's someone behind it all, ensuring that the subject learns their lesson, or suffers for their hubris, then you have an Aesop Enforcer.

In straight examples, the Enforcer will be supernatural in some way. Mundane Aesop Enforcers run the risk of having their plan backfire, possibly getting An Aesop of their own once the subject realizes they're being manipulated, or takes their lesson to the extreme. When an Aesop Enforcer's lesson also affects those who had nothing to do with the character's wrongdoing (usually by making them suffer in order to teach the lesson) then we have a case of Aesop Collateral Damage.

Subtrope of Mentors. Compare The Kid with the Leash, who stays around long-term and proactively punishes bad behavior.


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    Comic Books 
  • New Mutants had Emma Frost and Dani Moonstar team up to show Prodigy a possible future where the mental blocks on his powers are removed, allowing him to keep all the knowledge his powers absorb from others. He becomes a genocidal dictator, creating a utopia at the cost of thousands of lives, including all the X-Men. After seeing this telepathic illusion, Prodigy decides to keep his mental blocks in place. Considering that neither Dani nor Emma have any ability to predict the future, one has to wonder where the hell they were pulling this Wonderful Plot from.
    • After M-Day, Prodigy lost his powers entirely, but the Stepford Cuckoos were able to unlock all the knowledge he had forgotten. He has yet to pursue global domination, further discrediting Emma and Dani trying to enforce Ignorance Is Bliss. note 

    Fairy Tales 
  • Beauty and the Beast and its retellings usually have this as a staple, with a powerful magician cursing the selfish prince into his beastly form. The rose serves as a living hourglass of the Enforcer's Aesop in the Disney movie.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Witch in Brave is this to both Merida and Mor'du. The transformation is flipped with Merida, transforming her family members instead of her, while Mor'du was played straight. Considering how Mor'du's story wound up (murdering his family, most of his kingdom, and allegedly dozens of others), she either thought that granting Merida's request would release Mor'du and end well for her, or just didn't care.
  • Brother Bear. Sitka, the main character Kenai's brother. Kenai gets Sitka killed due to his obsessive bear hunting, causing Kenai to hunt down the same bear again to kill it in vengeance. Sitka's spirit appears in the form of an eagle, and transforms Kenai into a bear as punishment. Once Kenai has learned his lesson, Sitka appears again to change him back. Kenai insists on staying a bear to protect Koda, the son of the bear he killed.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: The Wolf, ultimately revealed to be Death itself, not metaphorically, rhetorically, poetically, or theoretically, acts as this for Puss. Puss used his nine lives up in an incredibly frivolous and reckless manner, not learning anything after each death and treating it as one big joke. By the time of Puss reaches his final life, Death is so sick of him having no value for life or death that he decides to just kill him for good, and putting the fear of death in Puss. While initially overwhelmed by the sudden realisation of his mortality, even trying to wish his lives back, ultimately Puss accepts his life and standing to fight the wolf, even though he knows he can't beat Death. While he's frustrated that Puss ruined his fun, he's satisfied that Puss finally put some value to his life and leaves him to live his life until they meet again.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • It's a Wonderful Life. Clarence the Guardian Angel grants George Bailey's unintentional wish, showing him an Alternate Universe in which George never been born. After seeing tragedy after tragedy due to him not being alive, George recants his wish, wanting to live. He is returned to his own world, filled with a renewed vigor for life.
  • Morozko. Father Mushroom inflicts Ivan with the appearance of a Werebear when Ivan refuses to bow out of respect. Ivan assumes that all he has to do is a good deed to restore himself, but a watchful Father Mushroom waits until he shows true selflessness to change him back.
  • Switch: a promiscuous and sexist man is offered acceptance into Heaven only if he finds a woman who truly likes him and is sent back among the living in order to accomplish this. However, the Devil suggests a complication to teach Steve a lesson and prevent him from easily seducing a woman, and turns him into a beautiful blonde woman.

  • The Mr. Men books has enforcers appear in titles involving the negative trait characters. Some of them are fantastic beings like the giant in Mr. Greedy and the goblin in Mr. Uppity. Others are mundane; Mr. Nosy is dealt with by the townspeople while Mr. Happy has Mr. Tickle tickle Mr. Grumpy any time he acts mean to anyone. Of course, later books have some of these characters reverting back to their old traits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd. The Drifter. The titular Eddie McDowd is a Bully and a Jerkass about to pass the Moral Event Horizon whom the Drifter turns into a dog. The Drifter explains that Eddie must perform 100 good deeds in order to be changed back into a human. In the meantime, only one person can understand him — the last boy he bullied. On top of this, Eddie's entire family vanishes from the face of the earth until he can complete his deeds. At the end of most episodes, the Drifter appears to inform Eddie that he's accomplished a good deed and how many he has remaining.
  • Invoked by George Bluth in Arrested Development, who throughout his kids' childhood frequently hired a one-armed man to pretend to get horribly injured in elaborate scenarios designed to teach them trivial lessons ("And THAT'S why we don't eat ice cream in the car!"). As an adult, his son Michael attempts to invoke the trope himself to teach his own son a lesson, only for things to go horribly wrong when the one-armed man shows up to deliver a lesson from George about not teaching lessons via ridiculous scenarios.
  • The Guest Book features "Rock Bottom Enterprises", who manufacture situations wherein drug addicts realize they've hit rock bottom and need to go to rehab. It does backfire, as one of them eventually becomes addicted to drugs herself and eventually kills a target. Or not. Turns out the target was also an enforcer, who faked her death, at the woman's husband's request, to get the woman to go to rehab.
  • M*A*S*H had an early episode with a racist soldier who tells them to make sure he gets "the right color blood". To teach him a lesson, Trapper darkens his skin and Ginger (the resident black nurse then) comes on to him. To drive the Aesop home, Hawkeye tells him about the doctor who invented the process for storing blood, and died after a car accident because he was black and the hospital was "whites only". The soldier learned his lesson.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch constantly found herself victim to one of these, usually her aunts Hilda and Zelda. Some of them bordered on Scare 'Em Straight or outright Mind Rape, usually for the sake of mundane and petty lessons. They've occasionally become this trope for mortals as well.
  • In the The Saint episode "The Golden Journey", Simon Templar encounters his friend's beautiful, rich, and very spoilt fiancee Belinda. He sets her up for a life-changing lesson by stealing her money and possessions, leaving her no choice but to undertake a long journey with him on foot. After encountering many hardships on the way, she learns that there are more important things than money, and becomes much more pleasant.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "A Taste Of Armageddon", the Enterprise travels to Eminiar VII, which has been at war with the planet Vendikar for 500 years... Except this "war" is completely computerized, with no missiles, no bombs, no ground infantry/army/invasion, and the "attacks" are recorded within the computer, and probable deaths are counted, with casualties sent into disintegration chambers. Kirk and Spock destroy the computers, with Kirk explaining that war is supposed to be hell, and that the sanitization of it is what has kept it going for so long, that they finally put an end to it.
  • In the episode "Showdown With Rance McGrew" of The Twilight Zone (1959), the title character, an arrogant primadonna, meets up with Jesse James; James threatens McGrew to the point that McGrew shows his true colors as a Dirty Coward. Unlike other examples of this trope though, James doesn't go away after McGrew learns his lesson; he becomes The Kid with the Leash by returning as McGrew's new agent to make sure he behaves himself.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Stokely Hathaway pestered Ring of Honor matchmaker Nigel McGuinness to give Moose a continuous string of the toughest opponents possible, ones he knew Moose wouldn't be able to beat, with Mr. Wrestling III chastising Hathaway at times for not giving Moose enough coaching during the resulting matches. This all ended up being done to teach Moose (and the fans) that winning and losing are not the only things that matter. Experience, and respect, can be gained more quickly if you aren't afraid of losing.

  • In Identity V Stage Episode 1: What to Draw, this was used on... Aesop. By Joseph, his enemy, of all people. In order to make Aesop, the Embalmer who's fascinated by death, stop ruining the escape games by dying intentionally (because he knows he'll just come back unharmed), Joseph asks the runners of the game to make it so that if you die in the game, you die for real.

    Web Original 
  • The Wizard of the Spells R Us story cycle is often this, forcing or tricking transformations on people to teach them valuable life lessons. This is when he's not just punishing them, or screwing with people's lives For the Lulz, of course.

  • Port Sherry: In "Nice, like me" Laura the sorceress discusses her involvement in the story of Beauty and the Beast, where she cursed the titular beast and his household and made the town forget him. Her friend is horrified, saying that he was just a boy.
    Laura: How else is he going to learn to be nice?!

    Western Animation 
  • The Magic Man from Adventure Time is a parody of this type, in that the Aesop is usually just an excuse and he just loves screwing around with people. In his first appearance, he turns Finn and other characters into body parts until they learned their lesson, and although they learn about working together, the real lesson was to realize what a big Jerkass Magic Man is. He plays it a bit more straight in the episode "Food Chain", where he transforms Finn and Jake into birds, plants, and caterpillars so that Finn would learn about the importance of the food chain.
  • The Bombie from DuckTales (2017) is a hulking creature who relentlessly hunts down whoever rightfully declares them to be the richest person in the world and will chase them to the ends of the Earth until they show humility, lose their title, or die, in order to teach them that their wealth can't solve everything.
    "He cannot be bought, he cannot be fought. Though riches you've got, your life will be fraught until you have earned the one thing you have not."
  • In the Fairly OddParents episode "The Boy Who Would Be Queen", Timmy makes a disparaging remark about never wishing to be a girl, which an offended Wanda creatively interprets as exactly that. Timmy decides he can use this to his advantage, but still wishes for Cosmo and Wanda to switch genders as payback. They have no choice but to grant his wish, making Timmy the Enforcer after Wanda's attempt to force one on him.
    • Timmy still learns a lesson, finding out that his crush has secret boyish interests, convincing him to embrace his femininity without shame. He ends up in a salon watching soap operas with women who gush about his sensitivity and want him to date their daughters. It's not as clear for Cosmo and Wanda, though they clearly didn't enjoy the experience.
  • Freakazoid!. One episode had a mini-segment, "Fatman & Boy Blubber," in which an overweight boy named Louis almost has his lunch stolen by bullies, but the titular overweight superheroes rescue him and express how kids like Louis have every right to have their lunch. However, Fatman then discovers that Louie has a delicious sweetbun in his lunch, and end up trying to steal it himself.
  • Gargoyles:
    • The mystical island of Avalon. Anyone who tries to leave is never sent where they want to go, but where they need to be.
    • Queen Titania in the non-canon third season, showing Goliath a world in which he's a human, not a gargoyle. He is married and has children with Elisa Maza, who is a staunch gargoyle hater. Goliath tries to find his old clan to figure out what's happening, only for them all to be killed before the deception is revealed. At least it was done for a better reason than Puck.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "The Mysterious Mare Do Well" deals with this. When Rainbow Dash starts acting a bit too arrogant about saving the day, the title character shows up and starts to outdo her at every turn. It turns out that the Mare Do Well is the other five ponies, who concocted this scheme to teach Rainbow Dash a lesson about humility.
    • "28 Pranks Later" has Rainbow fall victim to another one after getting too relentless and mean spirited in her practical jokes, when it appears one of her pranks had backfired and turned the whole populace into zombies, in fact another set-up by the others as payback. Granted, unlike the previous example, they had at least tried the more rational approach of just telling Rainbow to be more considerate with her prank-making several times over before resorting to this trope.
    • Also Played With in the episode "Lesson Zero". Realizing she hasn't got her usual Aesop to give to Princess Celestia for her weekly report, Twilight Sparkle goes insane fearing repercussions. She then goes around looking for any dilemmas between other ponies (and later trying to cause it) in order to enforce An Aesop for her report. Naturally, the chaos she causes only leads to one concerning her work zeal.
    • "Green Isn't Your Color" features Twilight Sparkle learning about keeping secrets her friends entrust to her. Enforcing this aesop is Pinkie Pie, who asserts that losing a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose a friend (FOREVER!!). Pinkie appears in increasingly odd places throughout the episode, stopping Twilight from spilling the beans.
  • South Park. Cartman starts a crusade against gingers, causing the other boys to use makeup and hair dye on him in his sleep to convince him he's become a ginger. The plan backfires when Cartman starts a "ginger power" movement due to him refusing to live as a minority, and nearly has the other boys publicly executed for not being ginger. Until Kyle quietly confesses to him that he's not really ginger, leaving him aghast in front of a mob of children he's riled into hating non-gingers.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures. In one short, Shirley the Loon gives Dizzy Devil a Karmic Transformation into a bug to force him to realize the value of animal life. It doesn't last.