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Clueless Aesop

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"Mamma mia!! How are we-a gonna explain this one to the kiddies?!?"
"The book tries very hard to be serious with a serious topic, but doesn't know how, and tries too hard, and smothers itself."
Holden Shearer, reviewing an early Werewolf: The Apocalypse supplement.

An Aesop is undermined because the format just cannot handle it well. It may come from a limited running time, a misguided effort to reach a target demographic or hitting against a foundational element of the genre.

This is especially common in children's media. There are many, many cases where a well-meaning show for children tries to explain a newsworthy issue (say, 9/11) without using terms or images that are inappropriate for the average nine-to-eleven-year-old. The writers end up out of their depth, and the intended message doesn't get through, either from the incomplete presentation or from being so different from the normal tone of the show. If bungled too much it might go down the path of Do Not Do This Cool Thing, causing curiosity rather than revulsion.

The best a work can often do is warn that something is bad or dangerous, without any real specifics or context about the danger (which is why this trope can be a deep well of Paranoia Fuel). Even a simple message can fall flat. You can't say "Drugs Are Bad" when you can't say "drugs will kill you", so expect to hear something like "very badly hurt." Likewise, addressing the effects of such drugs is impossible if you can't acknowledge that specific drugs exist. It can also be a problem when the greater story was not built around it, creating an Author Tract where one scene stops to lecture on drugs but it has no time to show the build-up and consequences, leaving it as a moral reprimand hanging in the air.

Note that this isn't always the fault of the show creators. Any attempt to tackle controversial subjects honestly is problematic when the Moral Guardians are watching. This is often because many attempts to deal with such a topic will have the Guardians responding with outrage that it was even mentioned! Yes, even when your work is explicitly trying to discourage it.

Things other than censorship can cause this. A Fantastic Aesop or Space Whale Aesop can attempt to teach a lesson through allegory, only to introduce issues that undercut the applicability (e.g., "don't judge people by their race" in a show with Always Chaotic Evil races). When Status Quo Is God, or the work has Negative Continuity, the lesson won't stick because none of the characters remember it or the problem that it addressed will be gone next week anyway.

Not to be confused with a Broken Aesop, though the two can overlap. A Clueless Aesop is when some fundamental out-of-universe feature of the work or its creators (such as being written for children) leads to them being unable to address a topic appropriately, while a Broken Aesop is when an aesop is undermined by in-universe events (e.g., "Be nice to people who are different from you. Now, let's go back to fighting monsters!"). This can also overlap with Fantastic Aesop, where the message doesn't stick because of factors in the genre or worldbuilding.

The typical reaction is Don't Shoot the Message.

Also do not confuse with any Aesop delivered by Cher Horowitz.

Compare Lost Aesop (which tries to set up an Aesop but forgets about it by the end), contrast Spoof Aesop (when an Aesop is deliberately made inept for comedy so is not to be taken seriouslynote ) and see also some examples of And Knowing Is Half the Battle, Very Special Episode, Do Not Do This Cool Thing, and Alternate Aesop Interpretation. Drugs Are Bad and Too Smart for Strangers are especially prone to this. Compare and contrast Captain Obvious Aesop, when a very basic or uncontroversial lesson is treated as a profound moral revelation.

Note: This is about works of fiction that fail to get their intended message across. Please don't use this page to complain about Aesops you don't like.


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  • In the early 1990s, many MegaCorps would send, ostensibly out of the goodness of their hearts, free "educational kits" including lesson plans, worksheets, and other materials to elementary school teachers. In truth, they were really unsubtle advertisements for the company's products. These were often heartwarmingly/hilariously/heartbreakingly misguided. One of the most infamous such lesson plans doubles as a Broken Aesop: "Let's learn good nutrition with Ronald McDonald and friends!"
    Phoebe: Is this like the dream where the giant talking McNugget yells at me about nutrition?
    • Homestar Runner satirized this with typical aplomb in Commandos In the Classroom.
    • This was also parodied by The Simpsons with a math class sponsored by Pepsi. "If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you?" The answer "Pepsi?" received partial credit.
  • The D.A.R.E. group, in the late 1980s through the '90s, tried to encourage kids to not do drugs. Unfortunatey their focus on not giving in to peer pressure came across as implying "everyone is doing drugs except you and will bully you if you don't do it to". Numerous studies of the program have found not only did it not work but kids who went through the program were actually more likely to use hallucinogenic drugs then those that didn't go through the program, making the whole thing counterproductive.
    • In their educational kits, they included a pencil with the slogan "Too Cool To Do Drugs". Unfortunately, because they set their slogan not to start at the eraser end but at the lead end of the pencil—under the assumption most kids using it would be right-handed, since that orientation would let them read the slogan as they used it—as it was sharpened, the slogan devolved on the pencil from the original message, down to "Cool To Do Drugs", to simply "Do Drugs", to just "DRUGS", as if the pencil was becoming increasingly desperate to get you to try some drugs.
    • Some rubber wristbands produced for Red Ribbon Week featured the slogan "I've got BETTER things to DO than DRUGS". Observant students quickly noticed the message in all caps. Despite the mistakes, the exact same design is still in production.
  • Then there's this Digital Piracy Is Evil ad from Warner Bros. using a scene from Casablanca. Only trouble is anyone who has seen the movie knows Rick is actually angry at Ilsa for resisting the Nazis. While not as uncomfortable in terms of subtext, the one where The Wizard of Oz yells at Dorothy and company for pirating media doesn't make sense either.
  • "Don't Drown Your Food" is a PSA about not overloading your foods with high-calorie condiments, but the message is so vague that it makes it seem as if you shouldn't put any condiments on them at all.
  • There's a 2013 Canadian PSA about "social nibbling" as an allegory to social smoking. It shows a man in various social situations, taking food off of other people's plates, nibbling it, and giving back, while he denies that he's hungry. It supposed to be about how you are in denial if you say you only smoke socially, but without being told the Aesop at the end, it could just as easily be about how you should buy your own packs instead of bumming them, as one could do this and still insist they only smoke socially. There's one about "social farting" that's at least as confusing.
  • In the early 90s, Nickelodeon ran several PSAs about the need to turn off the television and go outside. Around that exact same time, they ran a network promo depicting a kid being left alone on a baseball field, because all of his friends are in the living room watching Nick.
  • An infamous PETA PSA showed a girl screaming at seeing her father beat her mother, an old woman scream as a pair of muggers attack her, a boy screaming as bullies mob him... and a fish opening its mouth as it's about to be cut up and cooked. The message was "Not all screams can be heard". Leaving aside the comparison of a fish's suffering to a human's, there's the fact that restaurants don't typically prepare a fish while it's still alive (not to say that none do, but the practice is already controversial without PETA's help).
  • Pantosaurus is a song about a dinosaur that teaches against "bad touching". It Zigzags this trope, because while the song averts it (it clearly says the good, understandable phrase "Your private parts belong only to you. If someone asks to see, just tell them no."), the animation looks like Pantosaurus is just shouting, "No!" at random people.
  • Many Public Service Announcements with an anti-drug message were so poorly executed that they practically made a joke of their own message. The point is especially lost because most of them do not seem to portray any other consequences of doing drugs.
    "This... is crack."
    • The anti-drug PSA where the girl's dog talks to her and asks her to stop smoking pot. Honey, if your dog is talking to you, pot is the least of your problems. At least he's trying to help.
    • An early "Above the Influence" ad showed two teenaged boys smoking pot in the office of the father of one of the boys. One of them noticed a gun on the desk and picked it up absently. When his friend asked "is it loaded?" he said it wasn't and fired, presumably killing his friend. The intended message was probably something like "marijuana will impair your judgement in life-threatening ways." But the danger came off as so contrived that message could easily be "don't leave a loaded gun with the safety off on top of the desk in your unlocked office when your thirteen-year-old son is in the house." Which, of course, is also a good lesson.
      • An alternate version was a little more reasonable. A bunch of teenage yahoos get baked and decide to prank a fast food restaurant by repeatedly rolling through the drive-thru and placing ridiculous orders. On the last time through, a little girl is riding her bicycle across the lane just as the driver hits the gas...
    • There was another odd set of anti-drug ads where a girl high on weed is shown (through icky special effects) to have melted into the couch. Doug Benson has a terrific deconstruction of how clueless this ad was in Super High Me: if your reaction to an anti-drug PSA is "Whatever they were smoking, I want some", it has failed.
    • The "Brain On Drugs" PSA's are infamous for this. The original 1980s version compares frying eggs to what drugs can do to your brain. The 1990s version involves Rachel Leigh Cook smashing an egg and then breaking everything in her kitchen, all while comparing the destruction to what heroin will do to you. They're supposed to be Scare 'Em Straight PSA's but they're more confusing than anything. As a result, they've been parodied for years. In the 2010s, a new PSA campaign lampshaded just how useless the original ad was by showing it then showing teenagers asking actual questions about drugs.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Like several other works by CLAMP, the series tries to convey the message that your love for someone is valid regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation. This would be a pretty powerful message to a young female audience who would likely be experiencing crushes for the first time, reassuring them that their love isn't silly or shallow and that even if nothing comes of your first crush, your feelings are still real. However, this doesn't really work with how relationships between students and teachers are presented, especially with the relationship between Mr. Terada (a man in his 30s) and Rika (a 10 year old girl) in the manga; having a crush on your teacher is one thing, but having the teacher actually return those feelings only seems to promote predatory relationships instead.
  • Chobits' message is that all love is valid and relationships are about more than just sex. The problem is that the love in question is between a human and a humanoid computer—and the computer in question is explicitly not sapient (the series tries to argue that anything sufficiently "human" in behavior is sapient by default, but it does so in an incredibly confused and easy-to-miss way). The latter message would bear a lot more weight if Hideki, the human in question, isn't subjected to large amounts of virgin-shaming through the story, making his decision to enter an unavoidably-chaste relationship with Chii feel like he's resigning himself to a lifetime of mockery. The anime, for all its faults, makes a point of subverting both of these—Chii is sapient and makes all Persocoms sapient at the climax, and it's implied the latter issue isn't going to be a problem either.
  • This is why the "Fighting is wrong!" aesop that 4kids forced upon Pokémon: The First Movie fell flat. Such a moral is already hard to push in a series where everything is resolved by way of Pokémon battle,. The Japanese version had a completely different aesop: the circumstances of one's birth don't make them any more or less important than someone else. The irony of course is that the censored version was far closer to Shudo's intended portrayal.
  • The '90s English dub of Sailor Moon added the "Sailor Says" portions to the first season to be "educational". DiC tried to shoehorn an Aesop to the end of every episode whether it fit or not. A favorite was "Queen Beryl did a bad thing when she destroyed the Moon Kingdom and you will destroy Earth too if you pollute!" Drugs Are Bad was a frequent one, even though the plots never had anything to do with that.
  • This was one of the main reasons for the backlash against the final episode of the second season of Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove it—the story is fundamentally not able to give a serious warning about the dangers of sexual assault and date rape, since it's an ecchi comedy that played similar situations for laughs in earlier episodes.

    Comic Books 
  • Back in the late 1980s when AIDS was still the new pandemic, Archie Comics sometimes included a full-page PSA featuring Principal Weatherbee telling the students: "Your best defense against AIDS is education", but didn't say anything else.
  • Many Chick Tracts try extremely hard to convince the reader that various aspects of society are evil or even demonic in origin, but are undermined by the author's complete ignorance of topics he considered unbiblical. And on occasion making the thing they rail against looking cooler than it actually is due to the sheer ignorance.
  • Civil War (2006) attempted to depict a Grey-and-Gray Morality conflict over a Super Registration Act, but did so in a setting that had always universally held the opinion that such things were unambiguously bad. The X-Men stayed out of the entire debate since in their own comics, government registration of mutants was always portrayed as the first step towards state-sponsored internment/genocide of anyone with an X-gene. Further, Mark Millar and Marvel editorial's intention was to portray both sides making good points in the argument but ultimately come down with the Pro-Registration side winning, depicting them as the more reasonable side. Yet they also had the Pro-Regs doing monstrous things like throwing people into the Negative Zone or threatening heroes into compliance over the Pro-Reg laws, despite the fact that the law hadn't so much as been written yet. We're supposed to root for them as they commit horrible crimes and prove the Anti-Reg's argument about the SHRA being fascist. Compounding this was the fact that many of the writers disagreed about which side was supposed to be right, leading to loads of Armed with Canon fights. One book would have Iron Man stopping an extremist Anti-Reg vigilante, only for another to have him casually imprisoning innocent people in the Negative Zone without a trial (or even being charged with a crime). Mr. Fantastic was given three different reasons for being on the Pro-Reg side, necessary because Mark Millar made him pro-Reg despite vehemently opposing this back in older Fantastic Four comics. The overall sense of the plot is that nobody really knew how to handle it.
  • Parodied(?) in The Doom Comic, with the marine starting on a Green Aesop about safe disposal of radioactive waste, only for him to stop halfway through to notice something worse: his BIG GUN is out of bullets! For the record, the story is entirely about the marine's hunt for his beloved BFG.
  • Heroes in Crisis tried to tackle the issue of mental health and how important it is to get help. To this end, writer Tom King used superheroes as an allegory for soldiers, establishing the superhero mental health facility called Sanctuary, where superheroes—and some villains—would go to seek treatment with anonymity. The story depicts a massacre at the facility which King has said is an allegory for mass shootings. Later on, the murderer is almost said to be redeemed because they released the recordings (which existed for some reason) to Lois Lane, who then released them to the world (thankfully after blurring out their faces and identities), with the message supposedly being that people should be open about needing help, so others will be willing to seek help too. The message has been roundly criticised for the sheer inapplicability of it, and the allegory for how it just doesn't work, while the aesop is considered terribly executed and offensive. The "therapy" present is incredibly unhealthy, consisting entirely of superheroes utilising a VR room to let them "work through" whatever it is they feel like, with the AI in charge of the facility—who is the only "therapist" there—only prodding them with questions that seem outright intended to mock them, such as asking Wally West why he keeps wanting to see his missing family over and over again, and allowing self-harm in patients such as Lagoon Boy who uses the VR technology to repeatedly relive his death. Not once are the facility's methods called into question, but the ending has Sanctuary re-opened with zero indication of any reform in how it works, implying it's a good thing. The way the massacre happened—via innate superpowers—means it can't be an allegory for mass shootings at a mental health facility, because those places wouldn't let someone keep a loaded gun with them! Finally, the message of being open about seeking mental health completely ignores that nobody at Sanctuary knew they were being recorded, consented to the murderer leaking their sessions to Lois Lane or consented to Lois releasing information about their sessions, even with their faces blurred. In the real world, this would at best be seen as a massive breach of privacy and get the murderer in (more) trouble and get Lois Lane sued into the Fifth Dimension.
  • In the Century: 2009 and Tempest volumes of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore critiques twenty-first century popular culture and fiction as being decadent, hollow and inferior when compared to the culture and fiction of previous generations. Which is all very well and good, but many reviewers and critics (such as several members of the discussion here) pointed out that it's pretty clear that Alan Moore also has little to no idea or interest in what's actually going on in 21st-century popular culture and fiction. Moore himself has been vocal about his lack of engagement with a lot of central elements of modern popular culture (such as the Internet and contemporary cinema); accordingly, unlike previous volumes of the series, there are few direct references to contemporary culture and fiction, and many of those that are present are inaccurate, questionable or still somewhat outdated (as in hailing from or being more relevant to the 1990s or early 2000s than the 2010s). This means the work is less of the searing indictment of contemporary fiction and culture it was intended to be, and more of Alan Moore coming off as a Grumpy Old Man complaining about things he doesn't really understand or care about.
    • The Tempest also features tirades bitching about modern popularity of superheroes, whom Moore accuses of being a plague on the human psyche, promoting fascism and at one point even compares them to the Ku Klux Klan. It gets worse when you realize that, not only is this irrelevant to the main plot of the comic, but we never actually see any superheroes being a detriment of any sort to human society. Furthermore, the superheroes who happen to be supporting characters use their abilities to help the heroes abandon Earth during the apocalypse and make all their new allies immortal, and no ethical qualms of any sort are made.
    • Another thing that undercuts the notion that modern stories are inferior to the stories Moore focuses on is the fact that a massive part of the previous issues, if not the entire purpose of the concept, was to demonstrate how dark, ugly, and unpleasant the old stories really were or could be. Alan Moore suddenly proclaiming the inferiority of modern stories to them feels less like a value judgement and more like Nostalgia Filter randomly kicking in while writing the last issue.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW)
    • The "2014 Equestria Girls Holiday Special" tackles the subject of cyber-bullying showing it has serious, lasting consequences. This is undermined by said consequences becoming an Informed Attribute as ultimately everything gets Easily Forgiven par for the series, a Happy Ending par for the genre, and goes without consequence or mention outside the issue par for the comics. It also had little to do with the holidays.
    • Friends Forever #14 involves a town of peaceful dragons that have given up their "violent migratory ways" to live in peace with ponies and are now being investigated by the police for alleged arson, to argue against the implication of "Dragon Quest" that Spike had to "change his race to be decent" and racial profiling. The problem is, by having the dragons give up their ways and live with and like ponies to create this setting, the comic ended up embracing the concept of the dragons "changing their race to be decent" rather than challenging it. Then, the conflict arises when a string of arsons cause the ponies to "discriminate" against the dragons by assuming they are to blame, but as the fires perfectly match those left by a dragon's breath this is an objectively valid reaction to hard evidence rather than "discrimination", as profiling would be an objectively valid tool in a fantastical world where different "races" have different abilities like magic, flight, fire breath, etc. Finally, once it's revealed the dragons aren't to blame the ponies immediately accept them once more, making it pretty clear the ponies really had no problem with the dragons in the first place and just wanted the arsonist to be stopped. In the end the entire aesop implodes on itself as it's a story where dragons are accepted by ponies by acting like ponies instead of dragons, then a conflict arises because they're apparently doing dragon things, then finally resolved when it's revealed the dragons were acting "good" like the ponies all along. It also had very little to do about Spike and Princess Luna's friendship.
  • The "Hydra Cap" storyline in Secret Empire, in which Captain America is revealed to be a secret fascist, was meant to show how even good people can be seduced by hate. But the whole thing was the result of a Cosmic Retcon by the villain as opposed to anything pertaining to Captain America, who was created by two Jewish men to promote their anti-Nazi views. The vagueness of the book on what Hydra actually believes is nullified by the extensive Putting on the Reich imagery. Many other plot details (like having Scarlet Witch, a Romani, join the fascists) and the accidental white supremacist imagery created by having Fash-Cap wielding Mjolnir (Thor's Hammer being a symbol used by many real-world hate groups), combine to show the setting wasn't suitable and the writers too clueless about the subject to handle it tactfully much less intelligently enough to make a valid point.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Ken Penders's run tended to try to cover really heavy themes (fascism, colonialism, genocide, abuse, drugs) that the comic just cannot handle. These ideas would be tricky in any story, and a major uphill battle in a Sonic comic, but Penders didn't help by waffling between horribly tasteless real-world imagery and cartoony adventure logic. One arc involves a paraphrasing of "First They Came", but with actual persecuted groups replaced by echidnas and hedgehogs. Then, just twelve issues later, Knuckles trusts the Nazi-analogue group completely and defends them so they can team up for the greater good.
    • Penders claims that Knuckles's relationship with Locke, his Disappeared Dad, is meant to be a study of the difficulties involved when someone's relationship with their parents isn't perfect, having based it on his own issues with his father. Unfortunately, this doesn't really pan out when the comic doesn't really explore the difficulties of that relationship; Locke is Easily Forgiven and Knuckles interprets his actions as having been wholly good, leading to most readers getting the opposite impression.
  • The infamous 9/11 Very Special Episode of Spider-Man. While one understands the noble intentions writers had, attempting to tackle the event in a world of superheroes falls flat on readers for two reasons.
    • Events of 9/11’s scale happen on a regular basis in the Marvel Universe, plus as many fans have noted, it’s not conceivable that absolutely none of the superheroes residing in New York could have failed to prevent the attack from happening. Granted, the issue has since been rendered Canon Discontinuity note , but it struck a raw nerve among fans.
    • Several supervillains, most egregiously Doctor Doom, are portrayed as horrified by the event, with Doom in tears. Many of these villains have routinely been shown to do as bad if not worse; in fact, one of those depicted in mourning is Juggernaut, who personally toppled the towers during a rampage in an issue from the ‘90s.
  • X-Men:
    • In the 80s there was a one-shot called Heroes for Hope in which the X-Men take on famine in Africa... which, as everyone knows, is caused by an ancient demon that feeds on human misery. The demon in question was established to be merely a consequence of the misery in the area, which was caused by far more complex causes, but it was very very easy to interpret the story as "Africa's ills are caused by an ancient demon". At least Marvel gave the proceeds of the comic to charity.
    • In retrospect, Mikhail Rasputin's quasi-introduction falls into this category by Fridge Logic—Peter Corbeau compares his death to the real-life Apollo 1 fire... except that it was later revealed that Mikhail hadn't actually died, but had been sent to another dimension, gone insane, and come back as a supervillain. Addressing real-life disasters is hard in a comic that's so big on bringing people Back from the Dead.
    • In general, if not done well the metaphor of mutants representing various oppressed groups victimised by those in power can quickly start to fall apart when you remember that, unlike the members of the real-world oppressed groups they're used to represent, many mutants often have dangerous superpowers that non-mutants, and many other mutants, would have legitimate reasons to be concerned about and would want to have their powers removed/erased.

    Fan Works 
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, one of the lessons the story tries to give Goh is that him going to school could've avoided a lot of hardship and suffering. However, the lesson falls flat for two reasons:
  • I Will Survive is an abortion-themed comic based on Zootopia, the Disney family-friendly film about a World of Funny Animals. While Zootopia deals with serious issues such as racism, stereotyping, political/social unrest, and bullying, abortion is on a completely different level. To make matters worse, the main point of the comic wasn't about abortion; it was to show that even a Fan-Preferred Couple could break up in the wrong circumstances. By using a controversial topic like abortion as said circumstance, and depicting Nick's pro-life view as having the upper hand in the argument, readers missed that point entirely and saw the comic as an anti-abortion Author Tract. The comic's creator later clarified his intentions, but it didn't help much. Later comics went into full-on Filibuster Freefall, featuring Judy dying in similar circumstances to American president John F. Kennedy's assassination, with both a strawman conservative and strawman liberal attempting to claim credit.
  • Deconstructed in With Pearl and Ruby Glowing; Lola Loud picked up her knowledge of sexual abuse from Clueless Aesop media and unclear descriptions from adults, and so she knew it was bad, but not how bad. When Lori hits her for spilling her nail varnish, Lola accuses Lori of molesting her to get her grounded, and is horrified when instead she's arrested.

    Films — Animated 
  • Barbie: Video Game Hero's message is that you shouldn't let yourself feel confined to one path and think outside the box. This is all well and good in general and for Barbie, who gets the means to essentially code a whole new game from the inside by the end of it. In real video games... you kind of do have to stay within the confines of whatever limits the programmers put in and can't code your way out. To do otherwise is going outside the rules of the game, and going outside the rules of a game is cheating, which is not such a good message for a kids' movie to have.
  • The Emoji Movie suffers from this. A film filled with constant Product Placement is a terrible way to get across social commentary about smartphones, but besides that, people don't usually want smartphones to be themselves; they want phones that promptly follow their commands at all times. Thus, the movie presents an environment where it makes sense for Smiler to want Gene deleted for a relatively small transgression. And yet the movie never truly calls out this system based entirely around serving an owner, despite the fact that the Emojis were momentarily deleted.
  • Epic (2013) tries to deliver a Balance Between Good and Evil message, while at the same time pushing a Black-and-White Morality narrative, where all the forces of rot and darkness are entirely evil and without any single redeeming feature while the forces of daylight and growth are entirely good. It doesn't help that in the movie Beauty Equals Goodness plays a heavy role: The Boggans are ugly, and the animals they use as mounts (bats, grackles, and a star-nosed mole) are ones that are generally disliked by humans, whereas the Leafmen are all good-looking, and ride hummingbirds. It's almost as if the message of the movie was only to accept the parts of nature that are cute looking while rejecting all the parts that aren't pleasant. Ironically, rot and decay are very important to keep an ecosystem.
  • FernGully: The Last Rainforest runs into this. The Big Bad isn't the humans who are destroying the rainforest, but Hexxus, an ancient demon of pollution who is freed from his prison in a tree and proceeds to destroy the land around himself. Likewise, it is the fairies' magic, not any environmentalist effort on the part of the humans, that ultimately defeats him. This makes the film's message seem to be "Pollution is caused by magic demons, and only more magic can stop it."
  • The Pagemaster aims to be about how reading is fun and can show kids a world of wonder. Aside from the obvious joke about a film telling kids to read, it features only the most extreme surface-level elements of the books it focuses on, and outright gets many things wrong about them—for instance, its depiction of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has almost nothing to do with the original book, and seems to owe itself far more to film adaptations. It results in a curious situation where a film about how kids should read great classic works of literature seems to have been made by people who never read said works.
  • Pinocchio (1992) tries to teach that you should not lie, but since lying is not an important theme in neither the book nor this film, it fails to be persuasive. Perhaps the real, if unintentional Aesop, is that just because life is full of nasty people who often go unpunished doesn't mean you should be one yourself.
  • Planes has the main character embrace who he truly wants to be in a world of anthropomorphized vehicles, where everyone is created for a very specific purpose.
  • A pozsonyi csata, a nationalistic retelling of the 907 Battle of Pressburg is little more than a cheap faux-history propaganda film sponsored by the Hungarian government. The film itself presents the end of the "heroic" pagan Hungarians' conquests as a tragic event as they were opposed and overran by "evil" western Christian armies and were eventually forced to abandon their old polytheistic pagan beliefs and adopt their oppressors' religion to become a European kingdom. The core message seems to be that western influences have always threatened traditional Hungarian values, which has been a significant post-2010 political talking point and a major cause of friction between Hungary and the rest of the European Union. The message is however undermined by the song Egy az Isten ("One is the Lord") that plays during end credits, which suddenly paints Christianity, the country's current state religion, as the one true faith, thereby suggesting that western influences and the abandonment of old beliefs were beneficial after all.
  • Wizards spends the entire film building up the conflict between a good, druidic wizard who lives in harmony with nature and who draws his power from all living things and an evil wizard who's reinventing mass production, firearms and munitions, and whose conquering armies are threatening to plunge the world back into the chaos of technological warfare, and then the good wizard shoots and kills the evil wizard with a gun. Word of God is that the Aesop was supposed to be about propaganda, the movie setting up the Aesop and intentionally breaking it because it's denouncing the idea of letting the words of others do your thinking for you. The only reason technology is bad and nature is good is because everyone says so. The good wizard is the only character who doesn't buy into the hype and recognizes that what the villain is doing is harmful, but it's the villain that's the problem, not technology, and it is perfectly fine to use technology to solve it. But the average viewer, without being told such, misses this in lieu of the more apparently obvious and familiar message "technology is bad, being close to nature is good".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast has gotten some criticism for its rather clumsy attempt at incorporating feminist themes into its story. To differentiate itself from the original, the film implicitly portrays Belle as ahead of her time, suggesting that she's shunned by the people of her village for being too independent and empowered for 18th century France. Yet it chooses to convey this by showing her being chastised for teaching a young girl to read (with the strong implication that she's regarded with contempt for being literate herself), and by showing the villagers reacting in anger when she, um...invents a washing machine. As virulently sexist as 18th century France may have been by today's standards, women and girls of that era weren't forbidden from learning how to read and writenote , and anti-technology hysteria in that era wasn't a thing—making the movie's attempt at portraying sexism look weirdly disconnected from anything that a Real Life feminist might actually be likely to speak out against. And as Lindsay Ellis points out: the film's attempt at conveying a feminist message is also badly undermined by its handling of Belle's relationship with the Beast, particularly compared to their relationship in the original; for an independent and empowered woman, Belle seems weirdly okay with dating a man who often openly disrespects her, and makes very few attempts to win her affection by treating her as an equal.note 
  • The Craft attempts to deal with the subject of racism via Rochelle's character, but it ultimately comes across as rather clumsily written, as the film doesn't really dedicate enough screentime to Rochelle to handle the subject in a nuanced manner – the most it really gets is Laura Lizzie making a few offhand, racist comments towards Rochelle, while the rest of her bullying just comes across as more generalized nastiness. Originally, Rochelle was envisioned as being just another misfit (early scripts threw around the idea of her having an eating disorder and uptight parents), with the racism element only being added after Rachel True was cast for the role, and it shows. While the film doesn't botch the overall message of 'racism is bad' too horribly,note  it could've been woven into the plot with more finesse.
  • Crossroads, the 2002 Britney Spears vanity project, spends most of its time getting the protagonists into situations that a PG-13 pop star vehicle aimed at tweenage girls just could not possibly handle, most of them relating to the consequences of sex, which the plot has to dodge to keep everything audience-appropriate.
  • Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life: Because of television content standards, the most the movie can actually show of the teenage main character's internet pornography addiction is him blankly staring at pictures of scantily clad women, rather than any form of hardcore pornography featured on websites like Brazzers or Bangbros. This in turn undermines the film's message, since if something that mild is all it takes for him to spin out of control, it becomes questionable whether the kid either has psychological problems already or if his mother's extreme overreaction had something to do with it. Doubles as a Broken Aesop as well, since none of the problems brought about by his porn addiction are actually, directly related to it—he also becomes addicted to energy drinks from drinking them whenever he views porn, which could have happened from chugging them during any regular activity, and the rest of his problems are from a woman taking violent offense at his hesitance to sleep with her when both are already dating someone else, up to and including accusations of beating and raping her, with the only link to his porn addiction being that she was the actress in some of the porn he watched. And, of course, since the film is trying to portray a teenage boy looking at pictures of scantily-clad women over the Internet as the Worst Thing Ever, it ends up completely ignoring the clearly-worse implications of said actress's actions or the fact that she runs a website with porn of herself on it despite being underage.
  • The ABC Afterschool Special The Day My Kid Went Punk is supposed to be about the dangers of punk behavior in the late '80s-early '90s. Except that the "punk" kid only dresses a certain way, which is to say, stereotypically punk-ish (leather jacket, make up, hair, etc.). In all other respects, he is still a model kid: he gets excellent marks in school, he shows empathy and concern for a young girl and helps her out when she's clearly distressed, and he's unfailingly polite and respectful of those around him. His parents, on the other hand, are dismissive of his existence to the point of outright ignoring him when he's trying to tell them things, which is particularly jarring considering the mother spends most of the PSA concerned about her upcoming speaking engagement about the dangers of punk kids. The "lesson" imparted by the PSA ends up being "don't dress like a punk because people won't take you seriously", and it even fails that because the only people that don't take the kid seriously are the parents. The actual takeaway from the film is that parents that ignore their kids until they stand out by exercising personal freedom of expression (aka non-conformity) are tyrannical and horrible.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald got a pretty cold reception in part for this, as the attempt to tackle subjects like the rise of real-world fascist regimes and the tragedies of the early 20th century through the eyes of an extant and active society of wizards couldn't really work no matter how you framed it. Either the wizards somehow couldn't prevent those atrocities, or they were A-okay with what was going down, both of which would make wizarding society as a whole completely unlikable. The end result ended up seemingly being that they had to stop the rise of Grindelwald's fascist regime, or otherwise he would reveal himself to the Muggles, take over the world and... stop the Holocaust from happening.
    • Given that the original movies had the Minister for Magic talking with the Prime Minister, strongly implying that the wizards (at least, those not on the more pureblood hardline side of things) both did' and would'' step up to the plate when the time came would have helped. With that being said, if the Big Bad has a decent chance of derailing the atrocities before/during/after WW 2, it can be hard not to at least want to hear them out.
  • A segment in the 1959 film The F.B.I. Story tries to show why the Ku Klux Klan are bad and botches it by turning them into very superficial villains. According to the film, the Klan were bad guys because they broke the law (they're lumped in with gangsters and other enemies of American law and order); their racism is never mentioned at all, and their Antisemitism is touched upon as timidly as possible (they're shown ransacking a Jewish household and knocking over a menorah, but the word "Jew" is never uttered and the narrator merely mentions that the Klan had contempt for "ancient rituals"). The Klan's biggest crime in the film—the one for which they end up getting punished—is attempting to murder a white (and presumably Christian) liberal journalist who condemns them in his newspaper editorials. Even kids who watch this movie will understand that the KKK are bad; problem is, they'll think it's because they're a gang of bullying ghosts.
  • The Garbage Pail Kids Movie was an attempt to turn a line of trading cards—which were deliberately intended to be violent and thoroughly disgusting—into an Aesop about appreciating those who look different. It worked out about as well as you'd expect throwing An Aesop into a film based on Garbage Pail Kids would be. It's a Broken Aesop, too: the titular characters are just as ugly on the inside—but hey, they sure sang a catchy song about teamwork (while robbing a shop).
  • The Imitation Game tries to preach about how awful homophobia is. Except despite being a biopic of Alan Turing, who was actually quite open about his sexuality and had no problem making advances on men he was interested in, the film seems determined to avoid actually showing him in a relationship with another man. All the affairs he has are completely offscreen, and the first half tries to make it seem as though he's attracted to Joan Clarke. On the flip side, the film has no problem showing him being persecuted and chemically tortured over his sexuality, with a fictional blackmail subplot (where an undercover Soviet spy threatens to expose his secret when he's discovered) playing up many homophobic cliches that were used in real life to discriminate against gay men - that they were automatic security risks because of their sexuality.
  • The Life Zone is an anti-abortion screed. However, if one were to describe the plot, it would seem to be the exact opposite. The film is about three women who are kidnapped and held against their will by a man calling himself their "jailer" who only ever speaks to them through a television screen and forbids them to speak to him unless he specifically addresses them. The women are also forced to watch pro-life propaganda while they're being held against their will. If that weren't enough, the movie also sets up extremely easy strawmen for it to knock down; such as a man (played by the director) asking a man why, if it's not okay to kill a baby one minute after it's been born, it's okay to abort a baby one second before it's born. Or one of the women making the argument that abortion is morally correct just because it's legal. Or arguing that the kidnappers aren't oppressing women because one of them is a woman herself. If that still wasn't enough, the film ends by revealing that the "jailer" is actually Satan, the two women who turned against abortion were possibly fallen angels, and the third woman (who refused to give in to the anti-abortion message) will now spend the rest of eternity in hell.
  • Reefer Madness failed so badly at its intended message that it's used as a strawman by people lobbying to legalize marijuana. Though then again, it might not have been the best idea to start the film by giving detailed instructions on how to make and smuggle joints. And even then, the film was simply using its message as an excuse to show behavior that wouldn't otherwise pass The Hays Code.
  • This is a problem films by Derek Savage tend to run into, either from trying to teach young children about topics they're too young for or tackling the effect without addressing the cause.
    • Cool Cat Saves the Kids aims to teach kids about bullying and the dangers of guns. In terms of bullying, the character of Butch the Bully is a one-dimensional Card-Carrying Villain who is constantly pointed out to have no friends so he will be easy for the child audience to digest, the result being his behavior comes off as a cartoonish caricature and not addressing how bullies are usually groups who pick on the people who actually have no friends. Since the film can't point out to its young target audience how guns can kill people if not handled responsibly, it can't really make it clear why Cool Cat and his friends need to tell an adult when they found one, and the threat when Butch finds said gun is just that he will use it to steal other kids' lunch money, something he could just as easily do by raising his fist and intimidating someone.
    • Gun Self-Defense for Women encourages women to own a gun to defend themselves, but it never really specifies why a gun is better than other forms of self-defense, especially since some of the stories of women interviewed have them defend themselves without guns and it features a reenactment of a women defending herself with pepper spray. It seems Derek caught onto this, as one of the later releases was renamed to the more broad Self-Defense for All.
    • Cool Cat Fights Coronavirus: Due to being aimed at small children, the film can't address the potentially fatal consequences of getting the Coronavirus, with Angela and Britney just being worried about getting sick. As such, it can't make it clear to kids what distinguishes the Coronavirus from a regular cold. Despite being marketed as giving both sides of the Coronavirus debacle, the skeptical Dirty Dog never gives any concrete evidence for his belief that the virus doesn't exist, and also acts like a cartoonish villain to give the audience very little reason to hear him out.
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace tries to do an anti-nuclear weapons message. Emphasis on "tries", as it attempts to dilute such a complicated and controversial subject into a very overly-simplified "nukes are bad and cause all war" kind of message that takes a back seat to the film's action and is treated as a means to an end, yet is presented as if it's the focus and if the action somehow portrayed that message. Even ignoring all of that, and even if it was such a simple issue in real life, the movie still fails to get the message across as getting rid of nukes unleashes Nuclear Man and leads to war.
  • They Live! is an allegory for the evils of unchecked Capitalism and Reaganomics, depicting the rich and powerful, as well as members of the police force, as alien invaders infiltrating and subverting our society. Unfortunately, since aliens are, by definition, outsiders, many Neo-Nazis took this movie as a validation of their beliefs that Jews were running a secret cabal to brainwash society, much to John Carpenter's chagrin.
  • The pedophilia awareness PSA Tricky People made an admirable attempt to be serious and would have actually been pretty effective... had the creators not decided to include the ridiculously cartoony Barney-esque character of Yello Dyno. And if that wasn't enough, they give the evil pedophile a wacky, bumbling sidekick, who provides Plucky Comic Relief.
  • The Trump Prophecy takes great pains to portray Donald Trump becoming president as a good thing because... because God said so. While the movie uses footage and audio from his 2016 presidential campaign, it conspicuously leaves out any of the actual policies or positions that Trump ran on.
  • The infamous 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, according to the director, was meant as a feminist treatise told through a Persecution Flip. His supposed intention was to show what patriarchal values would be like if reversed. The actual result is a bizarre movie about a bunch of insane women torturing Nicolas Cage with bees. One gets the sense that the director didn't really understand the subject matter. The concept of tackling sexism in a Wicker Man remake is an odd one in and of itself; the original film was about a religious cult, not the psychotic misandrists the remake depicts.

  • Aesop's fable, "The dog and the wolf" is about a wolf, near-dead with hunger, meeting a dog. The dog says that if the wolf had steady work and steady food like dogs do, he'd be much better off, and the wolf quite agrees, but he's a wolf so no one will take him in. The dog assures him that he can get him a job on his farm, and the wolf accepts, until he finds out that the dog gets chained up by a collar at night, at which point he returns to the woods to die. The moral is "better free and starving than enslaved and fat", but fails when confronted with Fridge Logic: If the dog could wander off to the woods to meet the wolf in the first place then clearly he has all the freedom he wants and could probably wander off whenever he wanted. The wolf doesn't really refuse to throw away freedom for food, he refuses a job where he'd have to be at the right place at certain times and wear a collar as a uniform.

  • Docile seeks to make a point about capitalism by portraying a dystopian future Maryland that has reintroduced debt slavery. However, the book has been criticized for presenting only a paper-thin analysis of what capitalism even is and for tone-deafness toward the fact that Maryland was a slave state before the 13th Amendment. It has come under fire as formulaic Erotic Literature marketed as an Author Tract.
  • The Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham carries the message "Don't be afraid to try new things." However, it's perfectly logical to be leery about eating something that's in an unusual color, especially when that color would normally imply that the food shouldn't be consumed. Would you be in a hurry to eat green meat?
  • Harry Potter:
    • According to J. K. Rowling, the idea behind the House Elves and Hermione's attempts to help them was to satirize White Man's Burden-esque activism, where well-meaning people from a more privileged group are so determined to help others in a less privileged group that they ignore what the people they're trying to help actually want. Not only was this such a fantastical allegory most didn't pick up that Aesop, but the House Elves are effectively a Slave Race whose Happiness in Slavery portrayal is identical to how many real-life slaves in the past were portrayed by their owners as an excuse to justify owning slaves. There's also evidence that, as in real-life, their "enjoyment" of servitude is forced, as they're psychologically conditioned to physically punish themselves severely if they fail a task or disobey their masters. The closest the series comes close to decrying this is that it's wrong to enslave them if you're an abusive master, not that it's wrong to enslave them at all, which fails when Deathly Hallows reveals even a loving and well-meaning master can accidentally lock an elf in an infinite loop of failure and self-punishment by incautiously giving them an impossible order. That the closest real-life equivalent to this issue is something that we would be completely justified in opposing shows how unsuitable the Aesop is for the setting.
    • It's also stated that lycanthropy and anti-werewolf prejudice are meant to represent HIV/AIDS and the anti-AIDS hysteria that was prevalent during the 1980s and the 1990s. Which would be fine and dandy, except that HIV-positive people, when they know they have it and when they take the proper precautions (don't have unprotected and/or unsafe sex, don't donate blood, don't share or use used needles), are no more dangerous to others than a person without HIV/AIDS, which is why the anti-AIDS hysteria was so wrong in the first place. Werewolves, on the other hand, involuntarily turn into powerful, flesh-eating, mindless monsters every month that are incredibly dangerous to anyone around them, and the only way to temporarily prevent this is a rare, very expensive potion. The only other named werewolf besides Remus Lupin is Fenrir Greyback, a psychotic cannibal who delights in targeting children to forcibly turn them into werewolves (which is how Lupin became one in the first place). As pointed out by this article, Greyback represents the anti-AIDS stereotype of how people with HIV/AIDS deliberately want to spread the condition to as many people as possible. It's also mentioned that most werewolves willingly sided with Voldemort, and Token Heroic Orc Lupin still attempts to kill his friends when he turns because he forgot to take his potion at a critical moment. The next day, after Lupin returns to his human form, he admits to Harry that he badly screwed up and it’s a miracle that nobody died or got infected with lycanthropy. Overall, this makes it seem as though anti-werewolf attitudes are entirely justified.
    • The series's portrayal of Purebloods' prejudice toward Muggle-borns has been criticized for grossly misrepresenting how racism actually manifests in the real world. Muggle-borns are often treated with contempt for their non-magical ancestry due to a widely held belief that people of pure magical ancestry are naturally more gifted in magic, which the series portrays as wrong. But the series's entire premise also hinges on the belief that wizards and Muggles are incapable of peacefully coexisting in one society because they're too different from each other, which the series portrays as correct. In effect: discrimination against Muggle-borns is only really portrayed as wrong because Purebloods and Muggle-borns are functionally identical to each other apart from their ancestry—unlike wizards and Muggles, who actually are different from each other. This gets particularly uncomfortable when you consider how much pressure Real Life people from marginalized ethnic groups face to assimilate into the dominant culture of the societies where they live; by going out of its way to emphasize that Muggle-borns don't deserve persecution because they're not really different from other wizards, the series seemingly implies that they deserve sympathy for having abandoned their Muggle roots and fully assimilated into the Wizarding World (indeed, none of the Muggle-borns in the series seem to have any kind of attachment to the Muggle world that they left behind). Long story short: it's hard for a series to competently convey an anti-racist message while also presenting a more-or-less completely sympathetic portrayal of a segregated society.
  • Latawnya, the Naughty Horse, Learns to Say "No" to Drugs has the title kind of saying it all, but it goes a little deeper. The horses in the book aren't anthropomorphized in any way, so you have the surreal experience of a horse with a joint sticking out of its mouth being treated with the utmost seriousness—and that's aside from the fact that it portrays "marijuana overdose" as lethal. (Funnily, it is to horses, so if you're a horse, don't smoke marijuana.)
  • Pump Six and Other Stories has Pasho. The aesop is as convoluted mess of contradictions as are the Jai ways. The story is about the importance of own cultural identity and how technology never really is neutral, but instead affects people and their way of life, often drastically changing them, until they are just part of the crowd, losing their original identity. It also tries to talk about the dangers of globalisation. Problem is, the mouthpiece of all those concerns is a brutal Proud Warrior Race Guy that could be a poster boy for the most extreme forms of violent nationalism (tribalism, really, because that's how small and narrow his scale is) and comes with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, being just a maniac warlord with obsession about wiping out anyting else than his own culture and closest kin. Which Gawar would then gladly use to assimilate others into his "true ways" and rewrite history to completely remove his enemies from consciousnes of the people. We are supposed to take his speeches as a way against the evils of foreign technology and influences, along with unrestricted exchange of ideas. And then, of course, he gets poisoned by Raphael, to make sure Jai culture will be changed anyway. This isn't just Broken Aesop, it meanders in such twisted ways and gives such unsympathetic and just plain evil counter-viewpoint, the message of "every culture should be respected, regardless of anything" falls flat.
  • Trolly the Trout Finds a Gun by Derek Savage takes the cake. A lesson on Gun Safety is presented using fish. It's a major case of Mood Whiplash, too, since the message of the other Trolly the Trout books are "having friends that are different from you is cool" and "stealing is wrong".
  • The Twilight Saga:
    • On the surface, the series is a safe, clean, non-violent fantasy serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of premarital sex. Bella is certainly tempted, but Edward does the good Christian thing and pressures her into getting married first. This is all well and good—except it's coming from the same story that portrays an emotionally abusive ephebophile stalker as romantic. In the real world, teenage romances rarely last forever, and marriage is the last thing that random charming attractive guys will pressure unsuspecting women into. The lesson is outright contradicted in the final installment, when the pregnancy turns out bloody, gruesome, and nearly fatal. Marriage does not protect from STDs, nor does it physically or emotionally prepare one for pregnancy. And the first time they actually sleep together after their wedding, it's a violent event that leaves Bella injured and the bed destroyed. The Aesop here seems to be less "Wait until marriage" and more "Don't have sex ever."
    • Twilight is simply not the kind of series that should be having a debate about abortion. And the pro-life/pro-choice thing is slightly irrelevant when it's clear that the baby is most assuredly killing the mother, and she may or may not survive to give birth (in other words, exactly the kind of exception most pro-life advocates are willing to make when it comes to their stance on abortion). The fact that it's a Creepy Half-Human Hybrid that makes Bella thirst for blood during the pregnancy only makes things worse—Bella may well be giving birth to The Antichrist (a few characters even think she actually is).

    Live-Action TV 
  • There was a Public Service Announcement at a local TV station which used its puppet mascot and tried to explain the difference between "good touching" and "bad touching". The trouble is, they used footage from Looney Tunes cartoons while they were talking about "good touching"... including Bugs Bunny's cross-dressing smooches on Elmer Fudd, and multiple shots of Pepé Le Pew. Someone clearly wasn't paying enough attention when that PSA was made.
  • There was a brief flare-up of PSAs that instructed children to go and get an adult if they saw or read anything on the Internet that made them uncomfortable, without quantifying what such things might be. Given the number of things one can find online that can make grown adults uncomfortable, and medical images of a graphic nature, this seems a little ill-thought-out (but at least parent and child can sit and stare at the walls for a while together).
  • Parodied in Arrested Development when Gob sings a tone-deaf (in every sense of the word) duet with a black puppet named Franklin about racism. Even more Hilarious in Hindsight if you've heard "Accidental Racist", a song with a similar concept which doesn't handle the issue much more gracefully but is played entirely straight.
  • Arrowverse attempts to tackle some social issues, which has plenty of precedence in the source material as well, but being a heightened reality superhero universe means it can't always apply real life logic to the issues they are facing.
    • Arrow had Oliver step in as a temporary mayor of Star City and having to deal with numerous political issues. One of these involved gun control and the balance between security and individual rights. The show features The Archer as someone able to go toe-to-toe with a group of armed criminals and come out ahead, as well as just being an action show where several other heroic characters use firearms for heroic actions. The show simply couldn't offer a solution to the problem, so had Oliver lock himself with his opposition in a room and tell the city afterward that they had come to a satisfactory compromise, without actually explaining what that was.
    • Supergirl featured some aliens using high tech weaponry to terrorize the city. After Supergirl runs them off, she gets into a brief argument with random citizens where they both use gun control buzzwords at each other. When your daily life involves actually being attacked by aliens with weapons that can vaporize buildings, the moral dilemma of arming yourself with mundane firearms becomes trivial.
  • Bibleman:
    • The show used the superhero formula to lure in kids, but has the problems it tries to comment on caused by supervillains. Usually the imperiled kid of the episode is shot by a sin-inducing laser gun and starts acting badly out of the blue, doing nothing to address the kinds of real-life things that cause the behaviors the show is saying you need to avoid. There are a couple of episodes where the villain's influence exacerbates a problem the kid's established as already facing (i.e. the kid's faith is weakening because his parents won't stop fighting), but the show doesn't bother to do it consistently. And this is compounded by how Bibleman inevitably ends up afflicted by the same thing as the kid to show that he's just a human who's vulnerable to the same things everyone else is, but it's usually established even more poorly than for the kid he helps, losing the point.
    • At times it even becomes confused about the point of its existence. A few episodesnote  have Bibleman try to stress people need to pay attention to God and not to him, because he's just a person like everyone else. Not only is this mangled by most episodes having somebody specifically call Bibleman and ask him to solve a loved one's personal problems, the point of the show would seem to be making religious lessons more appealing to kids by having a cool hero who gets to use a lightsaber promoting them. It's a worthwhile message, but it falls apart coming out of the mouth of someone created to be an attention-grabbing mascot.
    • In its anti-cheating episode Biblegirl gets a message that Bibleman needs to meet with her right away. Biblegirl takes a shortcut out of the building, which is cheating, because she falls into the villain's trap. So cheating isn't good, but getting there as fast as possible when someone needs your help counts. Somehow.
  • Chloe, a 2022 The BBC drama starring Erin Doherty as Becky, a Stalker Without a Crush and an unspecified mental disorder, tries to put across the morals of "Social media can be toxic sometimes" and "You should never use a fake identity online". However, while the first moral is good, the second is completely contradicted by the fact people need to use pseudonyms, fake identities etc. and protect their privacy, especially in an era when Big Brother Is Watching You is a hot-button issue. Its first episode didn't really present this very well, and somewhat lost the point by forgetting that people need to use fake identities, and they're not just for Social Engineering purposes. Because it's a Psychological Thriller set in a Crapsaccharine World, the morals of "Fake identities online doesn't work" doesn't fit in here and the target audience of the show probably don't need to be taught that moral, overlapping with Lost Aesop.
  • Diff'rent Strokes decided to tackle sexual predators in the two-parter "The Bicycle Man". In the story, Arnold (Gary Coleman) wants a bicycle. After becoming friends with Mr. Horton, the owner of the bicycle shop, over part one, he, and his friend Dudley (Diff'rent Strokes' recurring Very Special Episode scapegoat), start spending time with Horton in the back room where he lives. After riding on Mr. Horton's back and playing "Neptune, God of the Sea," Horton offers them some alcohol (which only makes Arnold worried that he might be caught with it on his breath) and sits them down to watch some cartoons. "That mouse just lost his drawers! [audience laughter]" Yeah, so after enjoying a nice X-rated cartoon, Arnold is uncomfortable enough to leave. Dudley wants to stay, and Arnold goes home. After letting slip what happened, Mr. Drummond calls the police. They arrive right as Horton is about to... uh... begin. Dudley appears on screen drugged with tranquilizers and shirtless. Then they have a couch conversation about how important it is to tell an adult about such things. While this is admittedly far more direct and open than the "bad touch" PSAs of the 90s, there is laughter throughout the episodes right up to when Mr. Drummond calls the police. Yes, even during the set-up to the molestation. That must have been the most awkward studio audience ever. Making it worse is that Shavar Ross (Dudley) came out later saying he was repeatedly molested by a family friend during the show's run.
  • Doctor Who:
    • According to writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, the intended message of "The Dominators" is that the hippie movement is bad because they would have got their arses kicked if they'd been in control when the Nazis had invaded. However, the oppressed, pacifistic Dulcians don't really work as a hippie allegory, as they're characterised either as elderly politicians or as attractive young people who unthinkingly repeat the elders' lessons by rote until the Doctor and companions turn them against their racist, fascist oppressors, while the old Dulcians get slaughtered through trying to negotiate with Always Chaotic Evil aliens. As a result, the final product ends up carrying the exact opposite message the creators intended.
    • "Nightmare of Eden" is a Drugs Are Bad story about intergalactic drug smugglers. It started out quite reasonable and relevant (and in a show that had been and later continued to be quite good at dealing with serious political issues in an allegorical format) but all three series lead actors, especially Lalla Ward, were concerned that the script might glamorize drug use to young viewers. The Fantastic Drug was renamed from the vaguely fun-sounding 'zip' to the nonsensical 'vrax', and everything about why anyone might want to take the drug was removed, with the result of turning vrax into something instantly addictive and invariably fatal that doesn't even make you very high.
    • "Kerblam!" appears to have been intended as a critique of Amazon and its business practices, as the titular company is shown to treat its few human employees as little more than cogs, leaving them exploited and unhappy. However, by the end of the episode, the people in charge of Kerblam! decide to scrap most of the robots and re-introduce a human-majority workforce. The decision to continue menial wage labour in a society that is clearly quite capable of transitioning into a fully-automated, post-scarcity society isn't condemned, and the assumption that wage labour is necessary to provide people with livelihoods is not challenged.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Sansa claiming that if it weren't for all the trauma she'd suffered across the series, "I'd have stayed a little bird all my life" was meant as her contextualising all she suffered and how trauma survivors can come out the other end stronger and eventually heal. But saying it left her a better person rings hollow considering Westeros is a Crapsack World where it seems to be nigh impossible to survive without being ruthless sociopath (and Sansa later is responsible for an entire city of people being massacred with it being justified as "the only way").
    • Daenerys Targaryen's Face–Heel Turn in the last two episodes was meant to be a Aesop about the corrupting nature of power. But they'd been in power for most of the series by that point, and had been been a pretty benevolent ruler by the setting's standards (only ever showed cruelty to enemies like slave owners or child murderers, showed obvious regret for innocent casualties suffered under their regime), and the actions meant to foreshadow their fall weren't that different than those of characters the show presented as heroic. This made their Jumping Off the Slippery Slope far too quick to say it was due to power alone corrupting them, and the Hand Wave that it was due to madness being hereditary in her family destroyed the intended real-life applicability.
  • Glee:
    • The episode Blame It On The Alcohol has a subplot of Blaine questioning his sexuality after he drunkenly makes out with Rachel, prompting Kurt to go on a spiel about how bisexual people are just closeted homosexuals. At first, it seems like Kurt was acting close-minded out of jealousy. However, the message falls flat when Blaine tries making out with Rachel while sober, only to find out he didn't like it. So, in the end, Kurt's biphobia was validated.
    • Perhaps the most infamous and obvious example was in the season 3 episode "I Kissed A Girl," which was supposed to be about LGBT acceptance after Santana was outed as a lesbian against her will in the previous episode. For starters, despite the title, there were no girls kissing. Rather than focusing on the actual lesbian character, the episode was made all about the atonement of Finn, the guy who outed her, which consisted entirely of suggesting the Glee club do songs "by girls for girls." This wasn't helped by the girls performing Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl", which, rather than being a lesbian anthem, is a paean to bi-curious experimentation, making it sound like Santana is just going through a phase rather than being an actual lesbian.
    • In 4x18 "Shooting Star", they have a school shooting... but the gun going off is entirely accidental and doesn't hurt anyone, and a teacher covers for the student at fault. So there are no actual consequences for the student who brings a gun to school and causes gunshots and terrifies the entire student body and faculty.
    • There's also Glee's harmful portrayal of eating disorders in season 4. As Catherine Weingarten says, "Marley was convinced to become bulimic to avoid becoming like her [morbidly obese] mother. The mean girl Kitty easily convinces Marley that in order to play the part of “Sandy” in Grease she has to look a certain way. Marley does not even seem to understand that Kitty is getting her to experiment with dangerous eating disorder behavior. So Marley becomes fully bulimic and later even passes out during sectionals, which prompts everyone in Glee club to hate her. There is so much misinformation here about how one gets an eating disorder and the seriousness of eating disorders. Glee makes eating disorders seem campy and not very serious. We are supposed to be annoyed by Marley and not even care when she passes out at sectionals." There is also Liana Rosenman who wrote, "It is really dangerous [for Glee] not to include a public service announcement of the dangers of eating disorders." and "Marley has an eating disorder for two days and then magically recovers. That is far from the truth. I struggled with anorexia for five years." Other people have published similar sentiments: "One topic Glee has failed horribly at covering is eating disorders. Eating disorders are often life threatening and last night's episode of Glee made it nothing short of a joke."
    • Coach Beiste coming out as transgender and beginning the transition process in Season 6 is supposed to carry the message that you're never too old to come out and live your truth. The show was trying to cash in on growing transgender visibility in the media, but Beiste was already popular with transgender/non-binary viewers for being a masculine, cisgender woman who was upfront about her feelings and insecurities, proving that gender expression isn't always cut-and-dry. Making him trans actually made him less interesting a character to many viewers, since it carries the implication that if a woman is a tomboy, she must secretly identify as a man.
    • The episode focusing on The Rocky Horror Picture Show had the unfortunate idea of trying to use the film and its surrounding culture as an icon of the struggle of being an outcast and finding people like you, while also doing its level best to skate around the fact that the reason it picked up that culture was largely its themes of homosexuality and transgenderism, to the point of editing out the word "transsexual" in its cover of Sweet Transvestite and giving the role to a woman. The result is a surreal mess where the audience is constantly told how meaningful Rocky Horror is, but the film itself is conveyed through a handful of incomprehensible scenes shown out of context that come across as less "media for the marginalized" and more "Plan 9 from Outer Space."
  • The Golden Girls: The episode "The Bloom Is Off The Rose" has Blanche get involved with a verbally abusive man. Dorothy explains how damaging verbal abuse can be. But the episode ignores that the show has Dorothy constantly put down by her mother Sophia, which is usually played for laughs.
  • Parodied by The Goodies with their Mary Whitehouse expy-approved sex education film, which avoids any mention of anything related to sex:
    Narrator: This is a man. And this isn't.
  • The Hannah Montana episode about Oliver having diabetes is a re-edited version. The original episode portrayed diabetes in a downright dangerous and inaccurate way. There are even jokes about fainting diabetics! Whee!
  • Holby City is the more emotion-oriented counterpart to its sister show Casualty. Depending on the disability, sometimes they can get it right (as they did with Jason's Story Arc; Jason was a character with Asperger's Syndrome, his storyline was praised for being well-researched, with the aesop being "Adults with Asperger's Syndrome can live fulfilling lives and aren't all stereotypical The Spock Idiot Savant Ping Pong Naïveté characters) but in other cases, depending on the nature of the disability (often ones that qualify as "special needs") they didn't always get the message across.
  • The final arc of Kamen Rider Zero-One tries to have its moral be that malice and hatred don't lead to anything, other than a continuing cycle of violence. The problem is that said Aesop is present in a season of Kamen Rider, which is a series where violence usually is the solution to stopping whatever monster is attacking and where the villains are often detestable figures who are deserving of whatever beatdown the hero delivers them. Even Zero-One itself features a Hate Sink villain an arc before who you're supposed to feel satisfied seeing get beat up, and in the end, the way Aruto ultimately stops the Final Boss is by (you guessed it) beating him up when reaching out to him fails to work on its own. Also not helping matters is the fact that said final boss was a hypocritical terrorist who outright murdered an innocent person out of spite and was planning on killing loads of civilians for reasons entirely independent of Aruto and his actions, so a lot of fans were rooting for Aruto to just kill him.
  • Kids Incorporated had an anti-drugs episode, an episode about homelessness, an episode about child abuse, and a surprisingly poignant episode about Kid's estranged older brother. Oh, and they each contained the usual happy covers of popular songs and Imagine Spots and were each aired in the middle of a week's worth of otherwise completely off-the-wall fantasy episodes with magic robots and such.
  • Mork & Mindy:
    • The episode with Mr. Bickley's blind son seems to have multiple Aesops: accept handicapped people, learn to see life in a new way, don't abandon your son... But it's not well-handled because this is a show about a cloudcuckoolander alien who says the darnedest things. Just to give an example of how poorly executed this episode was, they used the "Does your guide dog get scared when you're skydiving?" joke.
    • "Hold That Mork"'s Aesop was about gender equality. Nothing wrong with that, but it was delivered through the plot of Mork joining the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. Even if the message is good, let's face it, the whole point of the episode was really about providing fanservice for both the male viewers and, apparently, Robin Williams fangirls with a cross-dressing fetish.
    • The only episode that tops that one in the "Fanservice with tacked-on Aesop" category is the two-part "Mork vs. The Necrotons". In a nutshell, Mork gets captured by the titular aliens, whose leader is played by Raquel Welch. Innuendo, both visual and spoken, abounds so much that even Mr. Get-Shit-Past-the-Radar himself later on said that it made him uncomfortable. And the message at the end was... The Power of Friendship. Yeah.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a tendency to identify (and mock) these in The '50s educational shorts it aired, which had titles like "A Date With Your Family." The lessons in the shorts ran the gamut from Clueless, to looking very warped thanks to Values Dissonance, to being straight-up warped regardless of the time they were made. Hence, such gem-like riffs as "Emotions are for 'ethnic' people", and "Expressing individualism is just plain wrong".
    "Dad, I had a feeling today."
    "Well, don't, son."
  • Punky Brewster's anti-drug episode featuring the "Chicklets". The final scenes with Punky and friends in the middle of an anti-drug protest are hilarious.
  • RiffTrax has continued MST3K's tradition on that score, like with their commentary on the short "Drugs Are Like That," a parade of dubious and contradictory metaphors for drugs. At different points in the short, for example, habitual behavior (such as hair twirling) and spontaneity (represented by making a minor change to a Lego-block machine) both become drug-use analogues.
  • Parodied in a series of Saturday Night Live sketches; a group of high school students try to shed light on important issues through an angsty theater production. There's one problem, though: the students are too preachy, pretentious, and focused on making the performance edgy to properly convey the message. In one of the sketches, for example, the students sing a song about "who really runs the world". They then proceed to take the chorus of Beyoncé's "Run the World" and replace every instance of "girls" with "whites". Kenan Thompson then points out what's wrong with this:
    Why would they sing that when they're all white? Kinda seems like they're bragging.
  • Saved by the Bell:
    • The episode about Jessie's caffeine pill addiction, legendary for its Narm. Indeed, "I'm so excited... I'm so scared!" became a huge Memetic Mutation.
    • Also the episode that dealt with the dangers of drinking-and-driving. Now, this subject unfortunately isn't that far removed from real-life high schools (not that Bayside could be considered entirely realistic), but the presentation is questionable. Bottom line, Zack and friends get found out because they keep telling different cover stories and get left with a lot of holes to plug. It's as if the intended lesson was "If you're going to lie, keep your story straight so you don't get caught."
  • Parodied by The Sooty Show (even though the episode itself was a straight attempt at trying to get across at least some basic sex education) when Matthew tries inexpertly to give The Talk to Sweep, hampered by his use of Dissimile and Metaphorgotten.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "The Outcast", a well-intentioned episode in which a member of an androgynous species faces persecution for identifying as female and having romance with Riker. The Gay Aesop gets muddled by the fact that the episode uses gender identity as a science-fiction stand-in for homosexuality. Released in 1992, the episode fails to anticipate that gender identity would itself become a part of the wider LGBT movement. And to avoid the risk of backlash, the episode never explicitly references homosexuality, preferring to speak on it only through its central metaphor, which undermines its message.
    • "Eye of the Beholder" The episode is a bizarre and curiously awkward attempt at an anti-suicide PSA, but they botch it by trying to have it both ways. The first act treats the suicide of a Red Shirt completely seriously, exploring the fact that the crewman had no logical reason to feel unhappy and showed no external signs of being sad. It's fairly effective and true to life. But then it undermines the message by revealing that it was all the result of Psychic Powers gone awry. The fact that the setting is an enlightened Utopia makes it difficult for the show to portray characters with serious mental issues.
  • This Morning, an ITV programme, attempted to discuss the issue of cyberbullying, but every time they try and tackle this issue they are accused of relying on stereotypes, or ignoring the more complex cultural and social reasons behind this, mixing it with New Media Are Evil and then trying to scare the audience and make people overly paranoid about social media. Especially as the show relies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, it overlaps with Broken Aesop too. However, it would be safe to say that this show clearly cannot handle any Aesops relating to this topic.
  • A Canadian children's program once tried to tackle the serious subject of alcoholism and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. That show was Today's Special... And for maximum childhood-destroying effect, the IED-prone alcoholic was played by Gerry Parkes, better known as none other than kindly old Doc from Fraggle Rock!
  • The biggest moral failing of True Blood was the way it used vampires as an allegory for persecution, especially as a stand-in for homophobia/racism. The problem is that vampires had spent thousands of years killing, raping, torturing, and enslaving humans, sometimes treating them as livestock, and even a young vampire like Jessica is far more powerful than a human or even most other supernatural beings. Add to that the "Coming out of the Coffin" movement that kicked off the show, and humans have every reason to hate and fear vampires and take measures—legal or otherwise—against them. The show tried to distract viewers from this by only having the more benign vampire characters be victims of prejudice, but this meant that the vamps who were the most dangerous to humans were above consequence, at least until their actions ran afoul of another vampire.
  • The Disney Channel Special Presentation, Winnie the Pooh: Too Smart for Strangers. Seeing the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood dole out advice to the kiddies on how to avoid being kidnapped and molested is pretty questionable in itself, because Winnie the Pooh and his friends shouldn't be aware of stuff like that due to the innocence of their world and the fact that their leader is six years old. Even more surreal; instead of using the animated characters, they chose to use the costumed characters from the show Welcome to Pooh Corner which makes the whole thing seem generally creepy. The fact child safety experts have since largely dismissed its intended message as overly simplistic, dangerously naïve Paranoia Fuel with the potential to put children in more danger,Why?  leading to it being downplayed in favor of the more nuanced Tricky People, doesn't help one bit.
  • An episode of Xena: Warrior Princess has an episode about beauty pageants being degrading. That may be a common criticism of beauty pageants today, but that criticism comes from beauty pageants being seen as a means for young women to spend excessive amounts of money and effort in competition for vanity prizes like crowns and titles. The pageant in the show is taking place in an ancient Greco-Roman fantasy setting, and the prize for the winner is a winter's supply of food for her village's children. We're still supposed to root for the contestant who quits in order to preserve her pride and dignity, even though she entered the pageant to help her village, and competing for their sake is already pretty noble.
  • There was an animated story in Yo Gabba Gabba! about anthropomorphized drops of water and oil who live in towns across from one another. They are separated by a line in the middle of a road and they are not allowed to mix with one another. Now, the story looks like it's heading towards a Green Aesop when an oil drop runs across the road and collides with a water drop. But the story focuses on how together they make a pretty rainbow. And then all the oil and water drops start playing together. The message was supposed to be "it's wonderful when people who are different play together", but unfortunately children will probably interpret it as "go ahead and pour oil in the sink/bathtub/etc. to make pretty rainbows".

  • City High's "What Would You Do?" is a charming, upbeat, top 40 pop song... about not judging strippers. Sounds harmless in theory, but the bubbly pop beat can't carry the serious message. The male narrator finds out that his childhood friend is a runaway Parental Incest victim who turned to stripping to feed her baby boy, and cheerfully accuses her of just being a lazy party animal who makes excuses for why she doesn't have her life together. Any other sane reaction would have utterly ruined the happy pop vibe. The cover by Bastille works a lot better by stripping down (no pun intended) the beat, portraying the male narrator as clearly in the wrong during his rant, and making the message of the song way more sincere.
  • Kosovan-Albanian-British pop star Dua Lipa is usually well-intentioned with her attempts at An Aesop, whether discussing them on television, radio or social media, but her attempt at one in the video for her single "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)", released in August 2016, became this trope. The song itself didn't fall into this, but the video did. The original intention of the video was to promote an aesop about tolerance, sometimes of androgynous or LGBT individuals; however, the video forgets about the Aesop and becomes more about a display of Ms. Fanservice and Scenery Porn of the Barbican Estate in London (although LGBT banners and the flag do appear, they only gets a small amount of screentime), that it had some people, pundits, radio presenters and the blogosphere/social media questioning what the actual message of the video was meant to be.
  • Jewel tried to make a political song with "America", but her label forced her to change some of the lyrics, which ended up muddling the message.
    We are getting tan in America
    We love Spam in America
    Polanski's banned from America
  • "If Everyone Cared..." is Nickelback's spectacularly non-specific, crowd-pleasing, inoffensive protest song. It warrants a mention here because the whole thing is Chad Kroeger whining about how much better the world would be if, like, nobody was ever sad or mean, and stuff. Considering the same band came up with "Never Again", a ferocious (if over simplistic) diatribe against domestic violence, it's doubly jarring.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Joy Junction gives us the world's creepiest ventriloquist dummy and the world's worst ventriloquist telling you not to look at dirty pictures. Being a kids' show, they can't actually tell the 6-to-8-year-old audience what "dirty pictures" are, not to mention that the ventriloquist later got convicted as a pedophile.
  • Sesame Street had two episodes about divorce. However, the first went over terribly in part because it not only showed the aftermath of the divorce, but the parents going through with it as well—kids were just too upset by it, and when they realized that there was no way they could present the issue well, they scrapped the episode, swallowing the cost. A good couple decades later, they made another storyline about Abby Cadabby having divorced parents. They showed her as happy and the divorce as having happened in the past. While it didn't go on the regular show, it's available as a resource for divorcing parents and has been shown to go over much better with children.
    • They did handle it in a good way before this, sort of. Before they conceived—and scrapped—the "Snuffy's parents get a divorce" storyline, they gave us this little song, with a little bird explaining that her parents "live in different places, but they both love me." As with Abby and her parents later on, it shows a child of parents who live apart as well-adjusted and accepting of the situation.
  • The Truth's line of anti-tobacco PSAs are often well written, but one is a case of research failure, where they try to prove tobacco companies were aiming their products at kids because cigarettes were shown in The Muppet Movie—because clearly a movie featuring Muppets can only be for kids. The Muppet Movie was released in 1979, when Jim Henson was out to prove puppets could appeal to older audiences and a film didn't need an R rating to be made for adults.

  • Averted in an Adventures in Odyssey episode that teaches An Aesop about cursing. Though it would seem impossible to teach such a moral in a Christian children's radio show, where you obviously aren't supposed to use curse words, it manages to pull it off by having some kids thinking that a certain word is a curse word and using it in such a way. It's a bit odd, but it actually works pretty well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There is a board game named Pug You! where pugs ask the players friendship-destroying questions. This is apparently supposed to be their revenge for being bred in a way that causes suffering, and intended to tell the message of "breeding pugs is bad". This theme does not appear in the game itself, and even if it did, the message of "you should care that these dogs are suffering because of how they are bred" does not mesh well with a crass game that encourages you to be a jerk.
  • In the 1990s, a series of Super Mario Bros. quiz cards were made. The questions were completely unrelated to Mario and dealt with topics much heavier than what the video games usually cover, such as war, religion, and politics, complete with images of Mario and friends doing things related to the question, such as Luigi reading a book about the Nazis and Mario being a member of three different religions.
  • The first Werewolf: The Apocalypse setting book, Rage Across New York, tries to argue against mistreatment of women and children, but reduces it to the work of a single Ancient Conspiracy, which is probably the wrong way to go about it. To say nothing of the vicious Science Is Wrong angle that separates "healing" from "evidence-based medicine". Later books quietly kiboshed the "WE ABUSE CHILDREN FOR FUN" angle for the conspiracy, the Seventh Generation, making them a broader-focused group of Wyrm servants.

  • This review of Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour, the Cirque du Soleil tribute to the musician, calls out the "They Don't Care About Us" number for presenting a clueless aesop (and later, the critic notes that the intended anti-greed message is undermined since the show probably wouldn't exist if there weren't tons of money to be made off of Jackson's memory). This show features Bubbles the chimp as a character and a production number with a giant sequined glove dancing around, among other things.
    During [the number] dancing robots appear with LED breastplates that first flash dollar signs amidst videos of urban and international violence, then display hearts as Mother Teresa appears onscreen to feed starving children. The number was originally designed for Jackson's This Is It shows (performances that were preempted by the artist's demise), so Cirque can't entirely be blamed for its unseemly exploitation of human suffering for commercial entertainment. Of course Jackson would have seen himself as raising awareness, and Cirque doubtless think the same thing about the pro-Gaia number ["Earth Song"] that unfolds as 30,000 people sip from souvenir plastic cups.
  • Critics of RENT argue that the musical falls into this trap, particularly with regards to how it treats HIV/AIDS. It's set in the 1980s in the shadow of the AIDS crisis, many of the characters are avant-garde Starving Artists and it has designs towards being edgy, challenging and confronting. However, because it's also a major Broadway musical written in the 1990s, it couldn't necessarily be too edgy, challenging and confronting lest it chase away the paying customers. This means that it tends to focus more on the struggle of the True Artist Doing It for the Art and being faced with the prospect of having to Sell-Out, with AIDS being mostly treated as a romanticized Victorian Novel Disease. Furthermore, the show tends to take a "drop out and reject the system" attitude rather than a "fight and challenge the system" approach—which, given that the AIDS crisis actually resulted from numerous systematic institutional failings, incompetence, and outright callous indifference which were ripe for angry critique and challenge, means that it's pushing the wrong lesson to take.

    Video Games 
  • This is a big reason for the infamy of Captain Novolin. It wants to inform the player about diabetes and serve as a story about conquering adversity, but the attempts to write a story about a diabetic superhero are so clumsily-executed (the enemies are giant sugary treats, and touching them immediately kills the Captain), and the mechanics so clumsily designed to the point of frustration, that they end up turning the entire thing into a farce.
  • The dwarves in Chrono Cross are trying to paint all humans as being irresponsible destroyers of nature, despite the fact that most of the game takes place in a Mediterranean island paradise with no signs of heavy industry or pollution anywhere and they're the ones going around attacking innocent fairies with smoke-belching tanks: while humans DID end up causing the current crisis by killing the Hydra living in the marsh, it's the only ecologically irresponsible thing they've done, yet the way the dwarves blame them, they seem to think that humans have been out to ravage nature for hundreds of years, despite nothing in the game implying so. That being said, since humans aren't the biggest fans of demi-humans, which they probably consider the dwarves to be as well, there's probably a good amount of Fantastic Racism at play.
  • Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls: Chapter 3 attempts to heavily criticize child sexual abuse and exploitation, as it heavily features an abuse victim and has her display realistic reactions to a reminder of her abuse. This would have been rather acceptable and necessary... except for the fact that said child sex abuse victim is also subject to more than one gratuitous upskirt shot, has a scene where she's stripped down to her underwear which is Played for Laughs, and heavily features in the Motivation Machine sequence, causing the moral to entirely fall apart.
  • The moral they try to get across in I. M. Meen is that you should read more. What we get is more like "Never ever touch a book or else that book might suck you into a horrible labyrinth and an evil man will torture you."
  • The Kingdom Hearts series began with straightforward Black-and-White Morality for Light and Darkness, but soon tried to implement Balance Between Good and Evil... which tends to fall under Informed Attribute territory, as Dark Is Evil and Light Is Good remain the predominant themes. It’s tried to clarify this as “Light is good and dark is evil, but the latter can still be good” to varying degrees of success.
  • The Japanese version of Shadow Force shows a special message during the Attract Mode telling players not to be bullies, as "bullies are never heroes". It rings hollow because the one to deliver this message is the company mascot Kunio-kun, who is a hero but nevertheless a delinquent who beats up and intimidates other schoolboys with no reprisal (including during sporting competitions).
  • The message of Super Tanooki Skin 2D is that the Tanooki Suit promotes skinning real tanuki alive... despite the fact that the suits are not made from actual tanuki, and are supposed to be little more than costumes designed to invoke the mythological bake-danuki tanuki. This one fact ends up destroying the entire message.
  • Stardew Valley seems to hold a bit of a Capitalism Is Bad aesop with its Big Bad, the Joja Corp, which seems to be a parody of both Amazon and Walmart. The protagonist leaves his dreadful office job in said corporation and moves to the farm he inherited from his grandfather and also finds out that Joja opened a supermarket in Pelican Town, the town where the farm is located, thereating its Close-Knit Community nature. Despite all this, however, the game heavily encourages you to accumulate huge amounts of money, since the evaluation of your progress done by your grandfather's ghost takes into account the profit you made in your first two years and to achieve 100% Completion you need to make at least 13 million gold in order to build all the Money Sink buildings necessary to it.
  • Tales of Vesperia has some interesting things to say about justice that get completely lost due to the game's Black-and-White Morality. Vigilante Man Yuri murders Ragou and Cumore, both of whom were committing evil acts for the sheer hell of it, and were going to get away with everything before Yuri killed them. Ragou was caught red-handed feeding people to his pets and was punished with a slap on the wrist. Cumore had the authority to keep sending people out to die in the desert because frankly no one cared to stop him. The justice system is obviously, hilariously broken, and it's apparent that Yuri's vigilante acts saved a lot more lives than the Imperial Knights' Lawful Stupid approach to things. Sodia later attempts to kill Yuri because she thinks of him as a criminal. This is supposed to question Yuri's actions and show that justice is sometimes a very subjective thing. Problem is, unlike Ragou and Cumore who repeatedly killed innocent people and relished in it, Yuri is a Chaotic Good character who clearly sees what he did was wrong, but felt like he had no choice. So the whole thing just makes Sodia come off as a dangerous psychopath trying to Murder the Hypotenuse. The justice plot is later dropped entirely for a Green Aesop that doesn't make much more sense.
  • Trauma Center:
    • "Under the Knife" attempts to speak out against physician-assisted suicide, but thoroughly screws up both sides of the issue. Chapter 3 introduces Tyler Chase, a doctor who has been secretly practicing euthanasia, and wants to practice it on his sister Amy who is infected with GUILT. He is initially opposed to having Dr. Stiles operate on her, despite him having successfully treated a bunch of other GUILT patients by then. In essence, he is so focused on ending suffering that he can't be bothered to give the medical community a fair chance to do so in a non-lethal manner — something that no Real Life advocate of physician-assisted suicide would ever approve of. On the opposite side is Dr. Stiles, a super-powered doctor in a world which can go from discovering a new disease to devising a cure in a matter of days.note  It would be easy to oppose euthanasia when you see very few cases where it might be justified.
    • "New Blood" takes a swing at for-profit healthcare when a man brings his son into the hospital with a burst appendix and no health insurance. After finding a solution to pay for the surgery which would almost certainly qualify as fraud, Dr. Valerie Blaylock, the player character, removes the kid's appendix. After the operation, Valerie tells the father: "Please see to getting your son health insurance so he can get the medical help he needs", as if the kid was only uninsured because his father hadn't gotten around to signing up for it, and not because, oh, let's say... that he couldn't afford it, which his clothes give the impression is the actual case.
  • World of Final Fantasy attempts an anti-revenge message with Takka, the uncle of Refia who became the host to a commander of the Bahamutian Federation because he wanted revenge against the monster that killed his wife, and the Federation promised he could have the power to destroy it if he gave up his body to them. That on its own is already a Space Whale Aesop, but it gets worse. The commander, having some of Takka's memories, also becomes obsessed with slaying the monster. The heroes go to stop him but end up killing the monster themselves in the process. With the monster slain, they ask him if he feels better, to which he answers that no, he doesn't. They then give him a speech on the hollowness of revenge, which causes him to realize he's the bad guy and he leaves Takka's body and returns to his own dimension in peace. Except, for all the reasons the Bahamutian Federation are the bad guys, wanting to kill that one monster is the only one that's NOT a reason. This isn't some meaningless revenge desire, this is a 100% evil monster that is still actively killing people For the Evulz. If anything, killing that monster is one of the very few actually good things that the Federation did.

    Web Comics 
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del infamously attempted to do a serious story arc about one of the main characters suffering a miscarriage. In a goofy Two Gamers on a Couch comic that features things like a holiday called "Wintereenmas" and a robot made out of several Xboxes. Needless to say this is not an environment conducive to a serious discussion about the impact of miscarriage on people's lives, and there is definitely a reason the majority of people only know this comic as the Loss meme it spawned.
  • Evil Diva did a story about rape. Cerebus Syndrome aside, the comic presents the subject by pandering to loads of stereotypes and quickly becomes ridiculous—Diva goes to a college party, meets a stranger, who assaults her after talking for about a minute in front of everyone and no one seems to care, turning the message into "college students are evil".
  • Sinfest became centered on this trope as it underwent a Filibuster Freefall into a radical feminist Author Tract some years into its extremely long run. Between the drastic change in topic and tone and the explicit biases that come with them, almost all of its moral messages are confused or contradicted by the setting as it's been established. It's supposed to come off as Growing the Beard to reflect the author's new radfem values, but the setting remains a cartoon hodgepodge of cultures and supernatural elements designed to support jokes. The resulting dissonance gives us things like the story arc where a junk-food-eating, pot-smoking, sweet-hearted cartoon pig is held responsible for all the misfortunes of a porn actress's life because he watched a video she appeared in.
    • One particular arc in the narrative has a brothel headed by a demon in which one of the workers escapes and tries to argue with the demonic owner, only for him to get struck by a vehicle and die. This frees the other workers, and the slave-minded men who drudge to the brothel are disappointed. The arc is clearly going for a hard-feminist bent about how men perpetuate sexual violence, but the narrative says women are feeble and unable to actively save themselves, so they have to hope for a miracle to escape, otherwise men always win. Not exactly an empowering message for feminist power.
  • Parodied in Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, in which The Big Man asks the readers to 'keep it real about AIDS'.

    Web Original 
  • Dhar Mann depicts racism as a simple misunderstanding that can be solved in one short conversation, rather than a systemic issue and core belief that many people hold.
  • This trope was brutally satirized in The Onion article "Talking To Your Child About The WTC Attack," which encouraged parents to give a no-holds barred explanation of the world history leading up to the World Trade Tower attacks in order to answer why this bad scary thing happened.
  • Ruthlessly parodied, deconstructed, and played for horror in Don't Hug Me I'm Scared. In it, a trio of Sesame Street style kids show characters find themselves tormented by increasingly deranged and incompetent "teachers". At best, the lessons end up being way out of a kid show's comfort zone. At worst they're outright insane and horrifying.
    "Now let's all agree to never be creative again!"
  • Poked fun at by Brad Jones in his DVD-R Hell review of Rock: It's Your Decision. The reformed, ex-rock-and-roll-fan protagonist preaches to a group of kids about what he saw at a rock concert once: The people listening weren't just sitting quietly and listening to the music! They were getting up and dancing! The music was controlling them! Brad snarks, "This is an emotional response, like crying when you're sad. This, too, is sinful, and should be suppressed."
  • Seanbaby discusses this in his review of the feature-length anti-drug PSA Straight Up, talking about how it repeats the message "drugs are bad" while doing next to nothing to actually educate the viewer on the consequences of drug abuse.

    Western Animation 
  • The "Sonic Sez" segments on Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog can get... weird:
    • "Bad Touching." The big problem with this, and other episode tags and PSAs like it, is that shows in the Animation Age Ghetto were allowed and encouraged to warn against sexual molestation, but were forbidden to define it. They could tell kids to tell parents or the cops about "bad touching," but they couldn't say what sorts of touching are bad. Unlike the majority of these PSAs, however, the Sonic Sez one at least manages to come close to defining it, and successfully says something worthwhile, by explaining that "if someone touches you in a place or in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that's no good. It's your body; no one has the right to touch you if you don't want them to." It still blatantly suffers from the inability to fully convey what it attempts to, and from the incongruity of having Sonic the Hedgehog awkwardly trying to discuss the topic, however.
    • This Sonic Sez, which attempts to teach the respectable lesson that you should only dial 9-1-1 in a real emergency, but fails due to the example of a non-emergency it uses. Sonic and Tails are being attacked by Robotnik's minions, and Tails suggests calling 9-1-1, but Sonic tells him that this would distract emergency workers from other, worse emergencies, and then defeats the villains by himself, since he can do so easily. Thanks to this poor choice of example, Sonic inadvertently tells kids that "If you're being attacked by people who mean you harm, calling 9-1-1 would be a dumb joke." Sonic can defeat bad guys fairly easily, but "don't call 911 if you think you can probably handle the life-threatening situation" isn't a great message.
    • In a spectacularly ridiculous Sonic Sez, the intended lesson about medicine is eclipsed by the absurdity of the situation. Grounder falls while chasing a rabbit, and drops a container of pills in the process. The rabbit goes to take them for no obvious reason, only for Sonic to stop him and read the label on the bottle, which says "for Grounder, robot headache pills, take one a day with oil". Sonic then tells the rabbit that he shouldn't take pills that aren't his.
    • Another Sonic Sez has Sonic advising against running away from home. No problem there, but he's teaching this lesson to Coconuts, The Un-Favourite of Robotnik's minions, who is constantly screamed at and abused by his creator. This unintentionally creates the lesson of "Don't run away from home, even if you have horribly Abusive Parents."
    • Yet another Sonic Sez delivers the lesson "Don't break the law". Trouble is, it's attached to the episode "Momma Robotnik’s Return", where Robotnik's mother legally adopts Sonic as the first step in a plot to get him killed—in essence, taking advantage of the law for her evil scheme (evidently, the government of Mobius has never heard of background checks) and delivering the opposite message: that what's right and what's legal don't always match up.
    • This Sonic Sez has the lesson "Don't try to touch wild animals"... in a show starring a hedgehog and a fox.note  If that's not crazy enough, the "wild animal" that Tails attempts to interact with is a squirrel wearing a top hat and bow tie, making it ambiguous whether we're looking at an actual wild animal or one of the many other sapient animals that inhabit Mobius. In fact, the squirrel's design, clothes and all, are repurposed as the Mayor in a later episode.
    • The Sonic Sez from "Baby-Sitter Jitters" offers a few basic tips for taking care of babies. Somehow, it never occurred to anyone involved that anyone who's still taking life lessons from a cartoon hedgehog is probably too young to be looking after a baby.
  • The All-New Popeye Hour also usually ended each episode with a sendoff message.
    • One, in particular, was about the dangers of smoking. The problem with this message is that Popeye himself regularly smokes a pipe. The PSA tried to Hand Wave this with his nephews asking, "But what about you and your pipe?" To which Popeye replied, "I just use it to toot!"
    • Another episode talks about graffiti and vandalism, which it did an okay job of explaining... followed immediately by the dangers of using spray paint, which will apparently explode if shaken (despite instructions on the can saying to do just that) or create a cloud of poisonous gasses, which it will only do if used in an enclosed space, which wasn't mentioned despite the characters being outside at the time.
  • Invoked in the Animaniacs episode, "A Very Very Very Special Show", where the Warner siblings try to be legitimate role models in a transparent attempt to win a humanitarian award, leading to things like Dot casually mentioning that she left a spotted owl she was taking care of to play with a white Siberian tiger, or a rant against gas usage and public transportation which was set off by Yakko suggesting they take a ride on a bus.
  • Arthur: "To Eat or Not to Eat" delivers the message "Be wary of Scary Science Words in food ingredient lists" by way of a newly released candy bar whose ingredients include such things as "Tri-Enzomated Zorn Jelly" (which, judging from its effects, appears to be a euphemism for crystal meth) and other fictional chemicals which make sparkles come out of one's mouth. Which is so far beyond any realistic health risk that it's hard to take the episode's message seriously. It also doesn't help that the only Real Life food additive mentioned at any point is cochineal extract, a naturally occurring substance which is stated to be bad purely because it's made from bugs,note  or that on the whole Scary Science Words are a favored misinformation tactic to turn the uninformed against something that is harmless or even beneficial. (Would you drink Oxidane?)
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien “To Catch a Falling Star” features an actress named Jennifer Nocturne develop Stockholm Syndrome towards Captain Nemesis, somebody who had previously captured her and tried to kill her. It develops to the point where she’s willing to aid him in escaping prison and committing mass murder. The episode heavily discusses the dangers of Stockholm Syndrome and how unhealthy the mindset is. The problem? Ben 10: Alien Force had Gwen develop feelings for, and eventually start a relationship with Kevin Levin, somebody who regularly tried to kill her, Ben, and Max in the original series, with Gwen even being taken hostage by Kevin in the Season 2 finale. However, unlike Jennifer and Nemesis, Gwen and Kevin’s relationship is portrayed positively. While the series would eventually reveal that Kevin’s prior villainy had been the result of his species going crazy when absorbing energy, Gwen was not aware of this when she began dating Kevin. Furthermore, while Kevin has legitimately turned over a new leaf, that doesn’t change the fact he is still a dangerous individual at risk of turning psychotic at any time, having even had a relapse into villainy the prior season, which, yes, included an assault on Gwen to drain her powers. The next series would double the unfortunate implications by revealing Gwen had developed her crush at age 11, back when Kevin was still a criminal. The fact that this is the only episode of “Ultimate Alien” to lack an appearance from Kevin suggests that the writers were even subconsciously aware their prior Strangled by the Red String made it impossible for the franchise to properly tackle this issue.
  • In-Universe, discussed and ultimately subverted in BoJack Horseman, when Sextina Aquafina releases a pop single attempting to bring attention to the right to choose abortion. With a hook of "get dat fetus, kill dat fetus, braap braap pew pew", lyrics like "I'm a baby killer, killing babies makes me horny", and a video featuring twerking nurses and Sextina spread-eagle on a phallic coathanger spaceship shooting at a baby resembling the Star Child from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Diane—despite herself being pro-choice and having an abortion—complains about the tone and says that maybe it's just not appropriate to make a pop song about this sensitive issue. However, Sextina starts receiving comments from fans saying that the (intentionally funny) video helped them get through their own abortion, and Diane backs down, realizing it's not about her.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • The series as a whole often chooses to depict pollution and other types of environmental destruction as being caused by solo supervillains who are doing it just to be dicks (with the occasional exception of Looten Plunder), rather than ordinary people who aren't aware of their impact on the environment, don't care when there's a lot of money being made in the process, are concerned but can't do much about it because greener alternatives aren't available, (e.g. if you decide to switch off all coal power plants, how are you going to make electricity now?) or are even simply cogs in a much larger polluting machine who just don't have the clout to change things for the better on their own. According to Word of God, this was something of a necessary evil, as they didn't want to make the villains too "real" and accidentally imply to the children of loggers or factory workers that their parents were evil villains.
    • For a non-environmental-related case, there's the infamous episode "If It's Doomsday, It Must Be Belfast", which was meant to promote world peace. What it managed to do instead was become the single most offensive portrayal of Ireland in media history, while also making the struggle between Catholics and Protestants look like the Jets against the Sharks. Highlights can be seen here (and the comments, being YouTube comments, hardly help). This episode was banned in Northern Ireland at the time it aired, and was met with ridicule from Northern Ireland's inhabitants after it was finally shown.
  • The infamous Saturday morning special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue tried to deal with the dangers of marijuana... by wasting a perfectly good Massive Multiplayer Crossover and having beloved children's cartoon characters spew quaint little platitudes about how drugs are bad. And marijuana users are apparently angry, semi-violent hoodlums a la Reefer Madness. Apparently, the special was not advertised as being a Very Special Episode prior to it first airing, fooling kids into thinking that it was going to be a purely fun crossover cartoon super special.
  • The Clifford the Big Red Dog episode "A New Friend" introduces KC, a three-legged dog who Cleo fears at first but eventually grows to like. The intended Aesop was to be nice to disabled people, but a 2008 study found that Cleo's fear caused children to take the moral literally, saying that it was about being kind to three-legged dogs. On the contrary, an edited version where Cleo's fear was removed tested better with children, as they understood the moral. It's likely that the 11-minute runtime and usage of a dog in lieu of a disabled human made the execution wonky.
  • While most of the Circle Time interstitials that used to air on Playhouse Disney (now Disney Junior) could get simple aesops across to their target audience of preschoolers pretty well, the lesson to be learned from the saga of Crying Jack doesn't make much sense in relation to the problem at hand in the live-action segment. A youngster is unhappy because she doesn't know what to draw, so the host of the segments tells the story about Crying Jack. The story details a happy-go-lucky boy who, for no stated reason, suddenly decides to cry as much as he can, and ultimately he cries so much that he turns himself into a giant walking and crying mouth. The fact that Jack just starts crying for no reason makes the moral of the story (intended to be a "getting too upset won't solve your problems" type of moral) note  come off more like "Never cry or else you run the risk of turning yourself into a giant crying mouth". Whichever the case was, neither of the aesops really relate much to the kid's Writer's Block-induced conundrum.
  • Dexter's Laboratory didn't always have An Aesop, but when it did, they didn't always tackle the topic well:
    • "Dos Boot", Season 3, Episode 7 intended to give the message "Always ensure your computer is safe and use anti-virus software", which was good basic advice for the turn of the millennium, but the message was quickly shot down by bizarre sequences that would have felt like they were out of a stoner comedy, and then the bizarre Creepy Crossdresser Incredibly Conspicuous Drag ending which this episode is notorious for (granted, it wasn't Dexter or Mandark's fault in this case).
    • "Oh Brother", Season 3, Episode 11, has the Aesop of Be Careful What You Wish For but it ends up not tackling the matter well with Dee Dee, Dexter's sister, becoming Doo Dee, a Jerk Jock brother who speaks with a quasi-Minnesota accent and effectively having a Lost Aesop. (It can also seem transphobic, implying gender reassignment means gender identity reassignment.)
  • Double Dragon (1993):
    • One episode involved a kid obsessed with video games. He was taught that life is not a video game... by a pair of magically-super-powered crime-fighters who summon dragons and shoot fire and stuff... in a show based off a video game.
    • The obligatory 'drugs are bad' episode... had its moments. A fungus that the sewer-dwelling mutants chew for energy is concentrated into a dangerous drug (RPM) by the Shadow Master, who uses it to enslave people to him. So far, so good. Vortex started taking it to be a stronger fighter and smashed apart a training dummy in a fit of rage when it was suggested it wasn't exactly a good thing. Then the Shadow Master deliberately exposes Billy to RPM after he captures him, and it looks like an interesting setup of addiction vs willpower, and how Billy vs Vortex might recover... and then Dragon Magic cleans the junk out of Vortex and Billy. We never see what happens with the other addicts, above and below, or any consequences, not even for Vortex having drugs around the dojo where kids come to take martial arts lessons! Also compare the episode where Jimmy gets addicted to The Third Eye of the Dragon. Both eps are less 'drugs are bad' and more 'magic fixes everything'.
  • According to The Drug Avengers, an obscure and very weird educational cartoon exhumed by Everything Is Terrible! (and is now available on YouTube), the reason Earth will not be able to join the Galactic Federation in the future is because we do too many drugs.
  • Filmation's Fabulous Funnies, a series adapting various classic comic strips spun-off from Archie's TV Funnies, was required to include pro-social morals in every episode, leading to scenes where normally carefree and/or mischievous characters like Nancy and The Katzenjammer Kids promoted the importance of behaving and being polite to one another. Even critics at the time the show was airing pointed out how awkward this was and how detrimental it was to the characters' respective brands of comedy (and given the time period that the show originally aired, that should say a lot).
    • The capper was the Broom Hilda segment "Drinking" (retitled "Flying High" for the home video release) which depicted this cartoon witch from a humorous newspaper comic strip...struggling with alcoholism. Yes, alcoholism. Complete with hiding bottles and cans around the house, and waking up after a bender with no memory of the night before. And all this happened in a lighthearted 1970s Filmation Saturday morning kids' show based on funny comic strips, complete with wacky cartoon music and sound effects. This is practically the epitome of this trope.
  • Family Guy in general, since its Black Comedy status makes taking any Aesop it offers seriously near-impossible, especially when it comes to religion and gay rights.
    • One character, Brian's cousin Jasper, is every offensive gay stereotype rolled into one. Seth MacFarlane has gone on record saying that the gay community is intended to identify with him. "Quagmire's Dad", which deals with Quagmire's AMAB mother, also counts.
    • They tried to tackle Domestic Abuse in "Screams of Silence" and while a commendable effort, at least in theory, this is a show where women are routinely beaten and killed by their husbands/boyfriends for laughs. Even worse when you consider that the previous episode portrayed a girl choosing to stay with her abusive family because they can barely function without using her as an emotional punching bag as "heroic". "Screams of Silence" itself isn't much better, depicting a broad, mostly inaccurate (and, often times, vague) portrayal of typical domestic violence and its psychological effects and going so far as to blame the victims for staying with their abusers.
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids is known for going to dark places in the name of education, but even they were not immune to the Animation Age Ghetto:
    • "Soft Core" attempts to educate the audience on the dangers of pornography teaching kids the wrong things about sex.note  As one might expect, this ran into the same problem as the "bad touch" PSAs which were forbidden to define "bad touching": the episode offers absolutely no information regarding what the "wrong things about sex" might be or the consequences of learning said wrong things.note  All it shows to that end is Rudy being embarrassed when his mother discovers the adult magazine he brings home, followed by her explaining that kids should instead ask their parents and teachers about matters of sex.
    • Averted in "Kiss and Tell", which actually manages to offer some meaningful advice about sexually transmitted diseases (see a doctor if you feel unwell after having sex, putting it off can make things much worse, tell your partner about anything you're diagnosed with). Mostly averted, at least—there is no discussion of how to avoid catching STDs in the first place (generally considered to be an important part of STD education).
  • The Flintstone Kids' "Just Say No (to drugs, of course)!" prime time special. It's less infamous than "Cartoon All-Stars", but it could almost be the type specimen of the Clueless Aesop Very Special Episode. It features your trademark crazy inaccurate information, a whole new set of characters introduced during the episode, and radical changes made to a main character after hanging out with the aforementioned new characters. The latter two elements were used just to deliver the Aesop and none of them were ever acknowledged after this one episode. We even get the bizarre sight of the slapstick-prone Flintstones characters talking about drugs. The special also failed to make drugs look any worse than smoking ("It tastes gooood, like a—*click click* cigarette shoooould!!"). Apart from being unable to win a race that he apparently usually wins, the drug dealer kid named Stoney was arrested for drug possession and the police are actually going to allow his parents to stop by and take him home that same day. And his actual punishment will be his parents yelling at him. So if you do drugs, the worst you can expect is that your parents will yell at you.
  • Episodes of Futurama that make a point about current events, particularly in the revival seasons, are often complicated by the show's futuristic setting, making it harder to make a clear point about contemporary society. For example, "Leela and the Genestalk" raises a point about the risks of genetic engineering, which is treated in-universe as something relatively new and unpredictable just as it was in the 2000s, even though by 3012, the long-term effects of genetic engineering should've logically been known already.
    • The episode Proposition Infinity has Bender and Amy start dating, but their relationship is challenged because of societal prejudices. This episode uses robosexual marriage as an obvious metaphor for gay marriage, but the message comes off as problematic for a few reasons: First off, the episode I Dated A Robot portrayed Fry dating a robot as a bad thing. Secondly, despite being a metaphor for gay marriage, we see the conflict from the perspective of a heteronormative couple. That wouldn't be a problem if robots in this show didn't specifically have genders, with Bender even getting a sex change in Bend Her, but one problematic approach to LGBTQ+ issues at a time. Thirdly, the reason Amy started dating Bender in the first place was because Kiff broke up with her for acting flirty with other men, and at the end of the episode, Bender dumps her so he can sleep around, playing off the All Gays are Promiscuous stereotype.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: "The Greatest Evil" teaches that drugs will make you a violent criminal. However, Headman, the violent criminal responsible for distributing the drug "Spark", overdoses and dies a horrific death, teaching that drugs are not so much recreational as they are highly caustic, volatile chemicals.
  • Hammerman took the social problems it tried to comment on and turned them into one-note villains a superhero could defeat inside half an hour, leaving morals that were sometimes muddled or hard to apply to real life. The Mysterious Mr. Enter points out such an instance in his review of the episode "Defeated Graffiti". While the intended aesop is a fair one ("don't deface other people's property with your art"), he notes it's pointless because the kids ten and under in the show's target audience aren't the people who make the big wallscrawls you think of when you hear "graffiti" and which the show used as examples. The people in their teens and twenties who do probably not only never saw the show and heard the message, they wouldn't stop what they're doing just because Cartoon MC Hammer told them to.
  • Inspector Gadget:
    • Every sendoff message. Gadget just spent the entire episode proving himself Too Dumb to Live, repeatedly saved by his niece and dog, and we're supposed to accept his safety advice.
    • "Race to the Finish" has Gadget enter the Gadgetmobile in an auto race to stop M.A.D. from claiming the million-dollar prize. During the race, a M.A.D. agent offers Gadget a soda spiked with an unspecified substance that causes Gadget to act drunk. Upon witnessing the effects from his own car, Dr. Claw remarks: "You know you shouldn't drink and then drive!". At the sendoff Aesop about vehicle safety, Gadget finishes with "And most of all, don't drink 'strange drinks' before you go driving!". Clearly, the writers were attempting to speak out against drunk driving while being forbidden from actually mentioning alcohol.
  • Averted in the episode Ndovu's Last Journey of Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, a massive graveyard of elephant skeletons is discovered. Part of the plot revolves around elephants being poached for ivory. The Quests decide not to reveal the location of the elephant graveyard as it wouldn't make a difference because elephants would continue to be killed for their tusks. That animals and humans continue to struggle for the same living space is another contributor. The fact is it just would not make a difference.
  • Early on, Justice League and Unlimited was building a discussion about whether superheroes were a good or bad thing, but this idea largely petered out over time. Why? Because the writers realized that while vigilante organizations would be a bad idea in the real world, the lesson doesn't really make sense in a setting where colorful supervillains and alien invasions are thwarted every other week by people with tights and superpowers. A Conflict Killer was brought in to resolve the issue without coming down on one side or the other. The final season took steps to show the conflict had been resolved offscreen, with the Justice League now operating with greater transparency and allowing a government liaison to oversee their activities.
  • The Loud House has "The Green House," which is supposed to teach a Green Aesop. While going green for the planet's sake is right and proper, this episode is thoroughly incompetent in its moral lesson. First of all, Mrs. Johnson judges all of her students by the same standard. This means that Lincoln gets screwed over for his family's giant carbon footprint, in spite of the fact that he comes from a large family and therefore their wasteful usage of water, electricity, fossil fuels, etc. is beyond their control. Second of all, in the climax of the episode, all of Lincoln's sisters are portrayed as incredibly stinky after two of Lincoln's classmates take advantage of him, and then, Lincoln becomes stinky for powering up a generator for all his sisters. Finally, Lincoln and his classmates don't really seem to care about going green for the planet's sake, instead wanting to get a good social standing or name a woobiefied polar bear cub. Yet the episode expects us to side with all of them.
  • Magic Gift Of The Snow Man: Oh boy. The special tries to teach kids that positive thinking and being happy will solve your problems away. While it's not a bad thing, pressuring this isn't going to make things better.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Used in-universe in "Over a Barrel". Pinkie Pie decides to sing a song about sharing in order to get the bison and the cowponies to get along and agree. They do agree... on this being the worst performance they'd ever seen. Brought up again when the bison are about to call off the attack, but Pinkie Pie celebrates by singing another verse, enraging them and causing them to attack anyway. In a more meta sense, the episode tries to create a scenario of irreconcilable differences illustrated with the bison (themed after Native Americans) and the ponies (themed after cowboys), but because it's a kids' show that discusses friendship and conflict resolution, there really is a satisfying compromise for all involved (essentially, a lease agreement from Buffalo to Ponies), and that requires the historical basis to be heavily sanitized to be appropriate for children.
    • Lauren Faust has spoken about regretting the way the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen" was handled. The intended aesop was "you should be open to different ideas and ways of perceiving the world, even if you don't particularly understand them." It unintentionally came off as "Atheists/Scientists/Skeptics are jerks and are demonstrably wrong." This could more or less be a realistic scenario in the sense of how science and logic aren't always the best ways to come up with an answer, but considering it's being applied in a show that regularly uses magic and spells to do a multitude of everyday tasks, it seemed like splitting hairs.
    • "A Hearth's Warming Tail" is Yet Another Christmas Carol that, due to Never Say "Die", changes the consequences of the Scrooge-expy from causing death and dying unloved to Wendigos causing Endless Winter. Besides being an unrealistic consequence, it dilutes the True Meaning of Christmas Aesop since its importance is shown less moral than a necessary ritual to prevent The End of the World as We Know It.
    • "Fame And Misfortune" has the Mane 6 publish their friendship journal, which develops a Misaimed Fandom who make their lives miserable. The episode was intended as a Take That! towards invokeda certain part of the show's Periphery Demographic, but the difference between what the writer was meant to criticize (real people complaining about fictional characters who cannot be directly affected by their words) and what's portrayed in the show (characters harassing other characters who are just as real as they are) keeps the message from working perfectly. Add scenes where obvious strawmen complain about things like Twilight Sparkle becoming a princess and Fluttershy having Aesop Amnesia, things which are perfectly reasonable complaints about a fictional series but only become wrong when aimed at real people (in other words, a completely different scenario), and the Aesop turns from "don't be part of the Fan Dumb" to "having any criticism or disagreement about the show is wrong". The writer M.A. Larson considers this episode an Old Shame, to the point he not only leaves it off his filmography but went so far as to ask fans of the episode to not praise him for writing it, but Executive Meddling kept him from addressing the flaws.
    • "Surf and/or Turf" has an allegory for divorce/separation; Terramar's father returning to being a hippogriff on Mount Aris and mother remain a seapony underwater in Seaquestria with Terramar torn between choosing with whom and which lifestyle to live and learning they'd both still love him despite his choice. But the show's kid-friendly nature meant downplaying the seriousness (the parents remain on good terms, Terramar choosing to live with both as they're within walking distance and he can magically change between hippogriff/seapony on a whim) such it never addresses the consequences one in this situation realistically would have to deal with.
  • The OK KO! episode "Let's Not Be Skeletons" tries to have an anti-gun aesop, except: one, the show takes place in a universe where many characters have natural powers which are often equivalent in their danger to a gun, including characters who are explicitly villainous, meaning having a gun for protection makes even more sense in their world; and two, the gun analog doesn't actually kill or even harm in any way except turning people into living skeletons, making it more a nuisance than an actual threat. Not helping is that whenever a character brings up a good argument in favor of the controlers, it just gets ignored.
  • The controversial The Powerpuff Girls (2016) episode "Horn Sweet Horn" was intended as a Very Special Episode about transgender issues, but the problems in it arise due to how the episode addresses the topic through the use of an Allegorical Character, a pony named Donny who believes himself to be a unicorn. The episode frequently makes light of the issue for the sake of comedy, with Donny's reactions to being told he's not a unicorn being played for laughs and a recurring cutaway gag to a pickle museum that's an obvious innuendo for it. He only undergoes a procedure to turn himself into a unicorn at the insistence of Bubbles, who only does so because she just wants to have a unicorn as a friend, and the surgery ends up backfiring and turning him into a horrific monster instead. To add further insult to injury, at the end of the episode, it's revealed Donny didn't need the surgery and already was a unicorn (apparently he had a tiny horn underneath his hair that he never even noticed). Not to mention, the obvious problems with using a character who believes themselves to be a mythological creature as a metaphor for gender dysphoria.
  • The anti-drug PSAs of the '80s and '90s ended up being clueless because, much like the "bad touching" messages, they weren't allowed to actually define drugs as being anything other than "bad things that only stupid people like". A few were bold enough to show things like joints or crack on screen, but most of them just had kids being pressured by other kids their own age to do... something vague, with stuff that was supposed to be drugs of some kind. To hear them tell it, every fourth grade in the world was populated by clean, well-dressed addicts with Totally Radical hair, desperate to cram little rolls of twisted-up paper towels down their classmates' throats. This was a recurring bit on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, as any time a drug-smuggler was nabbed, it'd just be "He was smuggling drugs!", with Scooby going "Drugs!? Yuck!" in response. Given the theories about Scooby Snacks, this is more than a little ironic.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series: "Anywhere But Here" delivers the message that adulthood isn't as glamorous as it looks with Sabrina magically transforming herself into an adult. The problem there is that one of the major factors in Sabrina wishing to grow up is her not being allowed to play a new arcade game without being accompanied by an adult. Yet when she returns to the arcade as an adult and attempts to play the very same game, the teenager in line behind her claims that she's too old for it. Never mind that when she tried and failed to play the game the first time, the next person in line was an elderly woman. Apparently, that game was made for a very specific demographic.

  • The Simpsons:
    "And now that you know how it's done: don't do it."
    • Referenced in "This Little Wiggy", where Ralph Wiggum was apparently taught to let authorities know when people are touching his "special area", with nobody defining what that actually is to him. Ralph then thinks this special area is one of his shoulders and becomes very upset if anyone ever comes in contact with it. Don't forget that Ralph's father is Springfield's police chief...
    • Commented on in "Sleeping with the Enemy". Lisa develops anorexia, and she announces at the end of the episode that eating disorders are not a Compressed Vice that can be solved within 20 minutes and she will have to struggle with it for the rest of her life. Granted, the show never really returned to THAT exact problem, but Lisa stories often do explore struggling with her own self-image.
    • "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly" (the one where Maude Flanders dies) attempts to depict the tragedy of losing a close loved one, but Maude's funeral is filled with silly setpieces like a twenty-one-gun salute with T-shirt cannons firing black shirts. Homer also tries to rush Ned into dating again, even though Homer's attempts are insensitive and Ned goes along with it anyways.
    • In-Universe, the dinosaur-themed show the family watches at the beginning of the episode "The Book Job" has a forced Green Aesop after the meteorite hits, trying to connect a planetary extinction event with man-made pollution. Bart points out the problem with the message was if the world is already going to be destroyed by unrelated causes, there is no reason not to pollute and party before the end.
  • South Park has some In-Universe examples.
    • In "Pinkeye", Cartman is forced to watch an informational video about Adolf Hitler to learn why wearing a Hitler costume to school is wrong—except in order to not scare its kid audience too much, it just says Hitler was "a very naughty man", without explaining why. Because of this, Cartman likes him even more and imagines himself as Hitler.
    • In "Proper Condom Use" the school decides they need to teach the kids about safer sex—without actually talking about sex. So they just tell the kids that boys always need to wear condoms, or else they might get girls pregnant, and leave it at that. Hilarity Ensues. At the end of the episode, Chef specifically calls this out, points out that the people teaching the sex ed (Mr. Garrison, Miss Choksondick, and Mr. Mackey) are all misguided, misinformed, or just plain clueless about sex themselves, and says that if the parents want it done right they should do it themselves. In a straighter example of this trope in action, Chef himself often has a bad habit of singing songs about sex to the children, which doesn't leave him much room to criticize.
    • "Butt Out" has the anti-smoking group of the same name come to the school and put on a presentation against tobacco usage which is so lame, so unimaginably childish, and so poorly thought-out that all it does is make the kids utterly miserable, while simultaneously giving no actual reasons whatsoever why smoking is bad note . Worse still, they end on the message "If you don't smoke, you can grow up to be just like us", which of course prompts the kids to begin furiously smoking to avoid ending up anything like the thing they just saw up on stage.
    • South Park also has several unintentional examples where the writers want to send a message despite having extremely limited knowledge of the subject at hand. For example, in "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000," Token insults Cartman, and Cartman angrily punches him out, and even though Mr. Mackey punishes him, the authorities burst through the door and throw Cartman into juvenile detention for committing a "hate crime". The episode argues that violence against minorities shouldn't be treated as worse than violence against anyone else if bigotry has nothing to do with the attack. Except hate crime laws don't work that way in the first place. Prosecution has to prove that the attack was motivated by the victim's minority status; it isn't just applied by default like the episode claims.
  • A case of this due to Values Dissonance caused the Peppa Pig episode "Mister Skinnylegs" to be stricken from Australian airwaves. The plot of the episode is that spiders shouldn't be considered scary and are okay to have in the house. While that works fine in the show's native Britain and in North America, it's unacceptable in Australia because the country is loaded with venomous spiders, and actually includes some of the most dangerous spiders in the world.note  Understandably, Australians don't particularly want small children to think it's okay to play with these things.
  • One episode of Yogi's Gang has a villain named Dr. Bigot, who can brainwash people to become racist. The intended moral is to not be racist, but Dr. Bigot is an olive-skinned man with a funny accent. He's even shown turning a white man into a raging bigot. The fact that Dr. Bigot is vaguely ethnic makes it hard to take the anti-racist Aesop seriously. Undermining it more is that Hanna-Barbera themselves have included various racial stereotypes in their cartoons, almost always targeting Asians, Native Americans, and Romani.

Alternative Title(s): Inept Aesop