Follow TV Tropes


An Aesop

Go To

This trope is under discussion in the Trope Repair Shop.

"I can't tell you just now what the moral of that is, but I shall remember it in a bit."
"Perhaps it hasn't one," Alice ventured to remark.
"Tut, tut, child!" said the Duchess. "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

The episode ends with a moral à la Aesop's Fables. Either the last line of the episode summarizes the whole point of the episode, or it leaves the viewer with the issue that the writers want them to ponder. 1950s sitcoms often end on the "Gee, I learned my lesson," type of moral, while Law & Order leaves you pondering. Since some shows seem to contractually require one moral per episode, you often end up with a Broken Aesop.

A lot of kids' shows go out of their way for this, especially Disney-animated shows. Writers often call it the "Object Lesson", and write the episode around it. This is particularly noticeable in programs made in The United States during the late 1970s through the early 1990s, as the FCC at the timenote  required that all networks airing children's television broadcast a certain amount of "educational" content, and this was the simplest way to meet its requirements.

What's more, this trope can also make various media like shows and so on, become an immersive experience in giving helpful advice to the audience, which makes it very popular and very unique in terms of use.

For times when a lesson is learned through a moral conflict, see Moral Dilemma.

In some quarters An Aesop delivered to another character, often a child, directly is referred to as a "You See, Timmy" from the frequent use of that line to deliver the Aesop in the television show Lassie. This definition was put forth originally in the movie Speechless.

Ironically, the Greek storyteller Aesop probably doesn't deserve the dubious honor of having this trope named after him. In their original forms these stories likely did not end with heavy-hitting moral anvils. The listeners (for Aesop would have been an oral storyteller) were probably left to sort out the meaning for themselves; the one-liner morals (such as "slow and steady wins the race") were likely tacked on by modern compilers, and were often used as rhetorical devices by later orators to make a point. Highlighting a moral truth is indeed, however, one of the main characteristics of the Fable, which for centuries have taught lessons to live by through allegories, often using animals and other non-human characters. These short tales can teach how to see through deceit, lead with difficult situations, not be overtaken by arrogance etc., but they almost always promote a moral message of some sort.

An Aesop is among the Tropes of Legend. Almost every work can be considered to have an Aesop, so only put examples in one of the sub-tropes here.


Main sub-index:
Aesops in General

Characters and Devices

Types of Aesops

  • Accidental Aesop: The audience reads an Aesop when one wasn't intended (or a different one was intended).
  • Broken Aesop: In-story factors undermine or flat-out contradict the moral (e.g. "Violence is not the answer" in a show where all conflicts are resolved through fighting).
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: An Aesop that should be obvious to everyone (e.g. "mass murder is bad") is treated as revolutionary and insightful by other characters.
  • Clueless Aesop: Out-of-story factors make the moral ineffective, like intrusive Moral Guardians or attempting to address adult topics within the bounds of a show for children (e.g. a No Hugging, No Kissing cartoon tries to discuss sexual assault).
  • Double Aesop: When Alice and Bob learn their lesson in one story.
  • Fantastic Aesop: An Aesop which is not applicable in the real world.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: A moral that is unexpected and defies conventional wisdom, but may be good advice nevertheless.
  • Ignored Aesop: When characters discuss the Aesop in a metacontextual way, usually sabotaging whatever flimsy moral may have existed in the first place.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: A Twist Ending designed to force a moral.
  • Morality Ballad: A moral in song form.
  • Philosophical Parable: An ideology or philosophy is illustrated via a fictional work.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Making sure the lesson sticks by showing the nightmarish consequences of not obeying it.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Failing to follow the moral leads to bizarre, illogical, or downright impossible consequences.
  • Spoof Aesop: The moral is clearly not meant to be taken seriously.
  • Very Special Episode: A light-hearted show takes on a more serious tone for this episode, in order to tackle a more serious issue.

Specific Aesops

  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: Being angry is a justified response to a bad situation, however, you must still control yourself before you do something you regret.
  • Anti-Alcohol Aesop: Alcohol is not good for you.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: Reality is better than fiction, so don't get too invested in an imaginary world (including this story).
  • Be Yourself: An Aesop about not trying to be someone you are not.
  • Disease-Prevention Aesop: An Aesop about avoiding getting sick or passing your illness to others.
  • Fear Is Normal: Everyone is afraid sometimes.
  • Fighting Back Is Wrong: An Aesop about bullying isn't about "fighting fire with fire" and should be solved in a better way.
  • Green Aesop: Mother Earth needs our help to protect the natural environment from man-made destruction.
  • Honesty Aesop: Always tell the truth.
  • Internet Safety Aesop: Think before you post and never give away personal information.
  • It's Okay to Cry: An Aesop about how crying or expressing sadness is okay.
  • Life-Affirming Aesop: An Aesop about accepting life especially the hard parts of it.
  • Missed Meal Aesop: Don't skip meals.
  • Prejudice Aesop: Don't be a prejudiced bigot, you should be tolerant of other people.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: Go pick up a book, because reading literature is fun.
  • Repression Never Ends Well: Masking how you truly feel instead of expressing them will hurt in the long run.
  • Revenge Is Not Justice: Getting revenge on someone is not justice and you're no better when people get hurt.
  • Safe Driving Aesop: A lesson presented, usually through dictation or fear, about why we should all drive like our grandma's in the passenger seat.
  • Sleep Aesop: Remember to get enough sleep!
  • Subverted Suspicion Aesop: A subversion of the Stock Aesop "don't judge a book by its cover"; where Alice instinctively dislikes the newcomer Bob, is told to calm down and "give him a chance", but ultimately is vindicated when Bob proves to be a scumbag. This happens often enough that it gets its own trope.
  • Suspicion Aesop: A message about not jumping to conclusions about people.
  • Team Spirit: To accomplish your goals, you must work together as a team.
  • Trend Aesop: Please don't give into peer pressure and join in on some dumb fad like the rest of the crowd.
  • Wants Versus Needs: The thing that you "want" and the thing that you "need" are very different from one another.
  • A Weighty Aesop: Junk food is bad for you, so eat something that's more healthy. Also, get lots of physical exercise!

No examples, please. This only defines the term.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Aesop, Moral Of The Story, Moral


The Obsolete Man

The Chancellor ends up breaking one of his rules in a state of cowardness and is declared obsolete by the state, just as he had done to Romney Wordsworth. Rod Serling then states that the state's downfall will soon follow, declaring that any nation that refuses to recognize the worth, dignity, and rights of man is obsolete.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnAesop

Media sources: