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Fantastic Aesop

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Calvin: Well, Hobbes, I guess there's a moral to all this.
Hobbes: What's that?
Calvin: "Snow goons are bad news."
Hobbes: That lesson certainly ought to be inapplicable elsewhere in life.
Calvin: I like maxims that don't encourage behavior modification.


One of the greatest strengths of Sci-Fi and Fantasy is that they can convey real-life situations in a new context by showing everyday problems, humanity's greatest challenges, and even social commentary that's ostensibly free of the prejudices and preconceptions that weigh them down in Real Life, giving us a more detached view of a given problem... as if we were aliens visiting Earth, or rather Earthlings visiting World of Weirdness.

However, the Aesops delivered via unicorn or rocket ship sometimes get lost or break. In the course of presenting the story, the Aesop either gets shoehorned to fit into that world or is arbitrarily discarded. The problem isn't that we can't relate to it. We usually can, because the metaphor is so obvious. The problem is that the deck is stacked, causing one of two problems:

  • Failed Metaphor: The writer tries to use the story as a metaphor for a real-life issue without properly considering the differences between the settings that cause the metaphor to break down.
  • Arbitrary Rules: The writer, in order to prevent Misapplied Phlebotinum, provides arbitrary rules and restrictions on the phlebotinum. Now the Aesop makes sense within the fictional universe, but makes no sense as a metaphor at all. A variety of Aesoptinum, and often a Space Whale Aesop.
    • In some works, this takes the form of user error: It is strongly implied (if not outright stated) that the phlebotinum would give the characters what they want if certain rules are followed. Yet the characters are either not made aware of the rules until it's too late, or they simply fail to follow them at a critical moment. This can still yield a solid Aesop if the intended message is along the lines of "take proper care when using potentially dangerous tools". If the message is that the characters were in the wrong for wanting to use the phlebotinum at all, not so much.

These tend to crop up fairly often in a few common flavors: Resurrection Rum and Raisin, Time Travel Lemon Twist, Robot Raspberry Revolution, Mango Magic Mishaps, Eternal Life By Chocolate, Superpower Sour Grapes, Vampire Blood vs. Holy Water Swirl, and Definitely Divine Ambrosia Delight.

  • Resurrection:
    • Failed Metaphor: A resurrection spell would bring the loved one back without trouble, but the characters act as if it wouldn't, often for no reason other than "death is a part of life and must be accepted" when they use magic to solve problems every day.
      • Variation: they do use the magic to bring their loved one back from the dead. The lesson for our impressionable young viewers? Magic can bring your loved ones back from the dead; enroll in magic school today!
    • Arbitrary Rules: A resurrection spell has horrible side effects that makes those resurrected come back wrong, so it's better to accept what cannot be changed. But in the real world, it can't be changed because it can't, while in the fictional world, it can't be changed because of some arbitrary problem the writer made up to ensure it can't be changed. Alternatively, resurrecting a person may require harming or killing someone else.
  • Time Travel:
  • Robot Revolution:
    • Failed Metaphor: Using the metaphor of "Robots are like human slaves" (as Karel Čapek did when he invented the term "robot"), with the Aesop that if you don't treat them like equals you will face the wrath of machines who have Turned Against Their Masters. However, the fictional robots are different from human beings in a way that makes it much more justified to treat them as dangerous or makes it much more likely they could successfully revolt; human workers don't have Death Rays or an infinitely respawning population (well, not the way those robots do). Also, human slaves are sentient. Robots may not be. Then again, maybe everybody acknowledges this and therefore programs the robots not to revolt, leading to a utopian future where everyone is served by willing slaves. Go thou and do likewise, viewers!
    • Arbitrary Rules: The authors have arbitrarily given the robots so many human qualities that anti-robot sentiment and discrimination is obviously like doing the same thing to human beings... making them not very much like robots. It's not like every robot needs to have the same level of intelligence, or even be capable of genuine thought like, well, none are at present.
  • Magic and Powers:
    • Failed Metaphor: The Stock Superpower or magical ability the hero has is quite potent, perhaps story breakingly so, but is never as good as old-fashioned, character-building hard work. So the hero must never use her powers for self-gain, or even just baking a pizza. Why? Because that way lies Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and villainy. Never mind that Adam Smith has different ideas about using your talents to help yourself and others, if it's a power, it's only good for beating stuff up. Alternatively, the powers work great and make everyone's life better; so today's moral is that you should go get yourself some superpowers.
    • Arbitrary Rules: Same as above, using powers for self-gain is bad, except this time it's not because of any corrupting influence... but because it never works. Useless Superpowers are the order of the day, Reed Richards Is Useless and the poor witch is really Blessed with Suck. Chores done with magic are sloppy, things made with super powers lack heart, and in general "laziness" begets problems. Particularly common for Teenage Witches and pre-teen Super Heroes. Perhaps this Broken Aesop can be repaired, if this trope variant were ever to be subverted with the message that "Just because magic is no substitute for good hard work doesn't excuse you from putting in some good hard work practicing your magic!" With sufficiently refined skill and subtlety, even super powers that were once only good for beating stuff up could realistically find broader application with an artisan's approach to spell craft.
  • Immortality
  • Never Be a Hero:
  • Silly Reason for War
    • Failed Metaphor: The differences between two groups are not trivial, and in fact a case can be made for treating those involved differently. Like a vampire needing human blood to "live", or an alien feeding detrimentally on another's emotions. While the author would like us to consider this as a clear metaphor for racism, sexism, or other forms of segregation, the situation shown is less about trivial surface differences and more substantial. On the other hand, maybe the author acknowledges these differences and that Violence Really Is the Answer therefore. Today's lesson? If your enemy is a race of psychopathic vampire space monsters from Hell, then genocidal racism is perfectly justifiable.
    • Arbitrary Rules: The author provides a means for both sides to live together easily and/or render the core of the dispute moot (artificial blood for vampires, for example). This breaks the Aesop of not fighting others for trivial differences because now the differences that they were fighting over are effectively gone.
  • Faith:
    • Failed Metaphor: In many fantastical settings, gods, demons, souls, the afterlife, and Santa Claus are all very well-documented phenomena. As a result, believing in those things is not so much a deep question of self-actualization or worldview as an accepting of incredibly obvious truth, and therefore kind of meaningless. It makes no sense to question believing in Crystal Dragon Jesus when his existence is about as debatable as that of Samuel L. Jackson. If anything, denying his existence would seem closer to faith. Alternatively, everyone completely accepts and never questions those elements. The lesson is that the supernatural is definitely real and totally obvious, and you should always believe it when you see it.
    • Arbitrary Rules: The spiritual elements of the world require active belief or devotion to keep going, and might even grant powers to the faithful, giving good reason to stick to belief so strongly. Only now, you don't question Crystal Dragon Jesus because you doubt your faith in him, you question him because Platinum Angel Muhammad down the street is offering a better deal.

Many of these are a repetition of the old Science Is Bad saw — we can't do it right now and, since our society is the baseline, if we later learn to do it, that would be strange and different and thus bad. IMPORTANT NOTE: Sometimes a writer will put their characters through an interesting dilemma / character development that is only made possible by the fantastic setting, but has no intended bearing on the real world. It becomes a Fantastic Aesop if and only if the author was demonstrably trying to get their audience to learn a specific moral lesson from this bizarre situation. Think carefully before citing something as an example!

ADDITIONAL IMPORTANT NOTE: Something does not become a Fantastic Aesop simply because it falls apart when interpreted literally; many works introduce or advocate aesops indirectly through allegory, allusion, or symbolism.

Compare and contrast Space Whale Aesop, which is when realistic actions cause fantastic consequences. When this trope is invoked intentionally and Played for Laughs, it's also a Spoof Aesop.

Examples of Failed Metaphor:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom's message that individualized education in a caring environment is superior to a colder and less personalized style is rather undermined by the fact that Koro-sensei is explicitly superhuman. A real human being is flat out incapable of the kinds of stunts he pulls because they can't move at super speed, don't have perfect memory or genius level intellect, can't memorize dozens of textbooks and can't hold multiple conversations at once. Nor can they be everywhere at once to stop bullying or attacks. It may be perfectly true that the Japanese educational system is deeply flawed in many respects, but expecting a human being in charge of dozens or hundreds of students to be able to keep up with Koro-sensei is impossible.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The major lesson of Sayaka's arc, and wish-making in general, is that people are ultimately selfish in what they want, and that pretending otherwise only leads to suffering.
  • At the end of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann it's not really clear whether Spiral Energy can resurrect the dead, or if the characters are speculating if it could. Regardless though, the characters conclude they shouldn't bring back the dead. Gurren Lagann has the major theme of accepting and moving on after death. While a good value in real life, this might not be as good in a world where resurrection is possible.
    • Except the villains of the stories very firmly establish real consequences for such an ability; in fact, all of the "Spiral Power" the heroes use violates the conservation of matter and energy and speeds up the collapse of the universe into a supermassive black hole.. Making this more of a "Don't abuse your power" aesop.
    • Even ignoring the threat of the Spiral Nemesis, the power to bring anybody back to life is pretty much a one-way ticket to disaster. The fact that Gimmy's list starts with Kamina and starts growing should give you an idea where I'm going with this: once you start, where do you stop? If you can resurrect your friends, why are all the other victims you didn't personally know any less deserving?

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men comic books about discrimination sometimes seem to forget that real-world oppressed minorities can't shoot Eye Beams or walk through walls or make Your Head Asplode by looking at you funny. Conversely, the Ultimate Marvel comics treating the rise of superheroes as a sort of WMD proliferation sometimes seem to forget that real-world WMDs can't walk, talk, and have minds of their own.
  • Chick Tracts often have these. Quite often, the Real True Christians are capable of performing supernatural feats which back up what they say. This commonly takes the form of the ability to dispel any dark forces in their vicinity, thus showing that Jesus is superior to whatever the villain of the week is. We've also seen a brief five-second prayer dispel a massive tornado (the guy who said the prayer told everyone it was safe literally as soon as he finished), summon storms to blind terrorists in the Middle East, briefly resurrect those who've died so they can accept Jesus, and sense an assassination plot on someone's granddaughter taking place thousands of miles away. It's difficult to say whether these miracles are a cheap plot device or a reflection on how the author seriously views reality.

    Films — Animated 
  • The first three Toy Story films have the same moral: "If you are a living toy, be loyal to the kid who is your owner." It may be an analogy for being loyal to your friends, but not only are humans unaware their toys are alive, but the relationship between a child and a toy is different from real friends, no matter if toys are alive or not. Or, the moral may be that this friendship is not different; treat your toys like friends even if in real life they aren't alive.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has a kind of meta-example: the DVD comes with a pitch telling you to "make it rain food" by giving money to a certain charity. Giving money to this charity is probably a good thing, but if we really want to follow the movie's example, what we ought to be funding is research into inventing food replicators like the one in the movie.
  • (Learned by Joaquin) in The Book of Life, if you are immortal and invincible, a willingness to fight isn't really courage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Legend: NEVER, EVER, TOUCH A UNICORN, as you'll unleash Armageddon and the devil will try to seduce and marry you. All right. We won't touch unicorns. Thanks for warning us.
  • George A. Romero's Living Dead Series is another example that puts forth the idea that humans, for all their claims of being civilized, are really savages and that a supernatural species, in this case the zombies, are people too. This aesop became more emphasized as the films went on. Land of the Dead eventually went so far as to give the zombies their own storyline with a Sympathetic P.O.V., and presenting their invasion of the last remaining human city, which was run by a Corrupt Corporate Executive and his private army, as a liberation for the oppressed humans. The problem with this is that while the zombies are too animalistic to be considered truly malevolent, they are still undeniably dangerous predators whose biology demands that they feast on human flesh. During their assault towards Fiddler's Green, the zombies consumed just as many of the destitute poor as the corrupt rich, which the film glosses over.
  • As an example of Applied Phlebotinum's success ruining the metaphor, One Magic Christmas teaches us that Santa Claus can bring loved ones back from the dead; so have faith... in Santa Claus.
  • Many movies from Pure Flix Entertainment (and many other religious movies in general) have a problem with the Deus ex Machina nature of their plots. The premise of these movies center around Christianity and God's power. The whole idea is to establish the power of faith and prayer by having the Christian protagonists face hardships, pray, and have their problems solved. When people in Pure Flix movies pray, God often literally shows up to answer their prayers in the best possible way or at least does an out-and-out miracle for them, thus promoting the aesop "Prayer is magic: ask God for a miracle and you'll get one every time!" This is, at best, Artistic License – Religion. In Real Life, the point of prayer and worship is to have faith even when God doesn't grant a convenient Deus ex Machina, as in the case of many Jewish and Christian martyrs. (See, in particular, the Book of Job in The Bible for just one example.)One movie, Miracle From Heaven, has a very sick girl, Anna, suffering from a severe abdominal condition she's already had surgery and seen multiple doctors for, become miraculously cured after she has a near-death near-God experience after falling 30 ft down a hollow trunk. Not only is she barely injured, within weeks they can't find a sign of her previous condition, despite every test and procedure done before. Yet a friend Anna met in the hospital, who "had faith" but hadn't converted, dies of her cancer.
  • Revenge of the Sith contains two in one movie. You Can't Fight Fate plays into the central plot and Anakin's attempt to save Padme from dying led to her path to death. The movie also touches on Immortality Immorality with Palpatine suggesting that immortality is a Sith exclusive technique.
  • Star Trek: Insurrection uses the relocation of the Ba'ku as an analogy for the Trail of Tears and how it utterly destroyed several Amerindian cultures. Fair enough, most people can agree that the Trail of Tears was a bad thing, but Insurrection changes it so much that it actually seems to be arguing in its favor. The relocation of the Amerindian tribes was forcing thousands of members of a native minority populace to traverse an incredibly dangerous and lengthy route to nowhere, out of a desire for gold and territory. The relocation of the Ba'ku would have been forcing a few hundred non-native white humans to get on a ship and fly to an opulent Federation colony out of a need (the Federation is at war) to obtain a MacGuffin particle that could advance medicine by centuries and add a few decades onto the lifespan of the Federation's entire populace. It's true that the Ba'ku will die off, just like the Amerindians, but only because they'll no longer be immortal, and plenty of them are already well past their time. The movie does try to address the issue of racism as a motivating factor... by introducing an evil race of ugly mutants who want to get revenge on the angelic and all-white Ba'ku. A more accurate analogy would be a group of about three people refusing to leave when the city needs to demolish their lavish house that they moved in only a month before to build a hospital.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • All this discrimination against mutants is obviously wrong, right? So there's really no good reason for all this fussing and fighting between mutants and humans, right? Yet, as Honest Trailers points out, what the racist government officials lobbying for a mutant registration act are trying to prove is that mutants are dangerous—which they totally are! [Cue a montage of mutants destroying a lot of expensive property and scaring the hell out of huge crowds of Muggles.] The metaphors for racism and discrimination would make a lot more sense here if the films' message didn't require us to dismiss the perfectly justifiable concerns and fears of humanity out of hand. As Senator Kelly points out to one of his colleagues while lobbying him over the phone, people worry about kids carrying guns in schools; surely it makes sense to keep an eye on kids with powers like weather control?
    • In fact, the Fantastic Racism metaphor breaks down in part because it gets so mixed up with other concerns such as arms rights vs. arms controls. Having dangerous mutant powers amounts to being a weapon rather than merely carrying one. A lot of mutant powers like Magneto's are also demonstrated to be far more dangerous than any knife or gun, and some of them like Rogue's aren't under the mutant's control. Racism is not really a relevant concern when you have people forced to carry potentially deadly weapons with them everywhere they go that can sometimes fire without the carriers even pulling the trigger.
    • Also, mutants shouldn't be ashamed of their powers and shouldn't seek a cure for them because they're genetic, and therefore seeking a cure for mutant powers is just as much a form of internalized racism as seeking a cure for one's skin color would be. Tell that to Rogue, whose powers first manifested themselves by putting her boyfriend in a coma, who's been socially and romantically isolated from humans and her fellow mutants alike by her inability to touch them, and whose powers made Magneto try to exploit her as a vessel into which he could pour his own powers so that her life would be the one sacrificed to his cause rather than his own. In the third movie, when she walks past a bunch of mutants and their sympathizers demonstrating outside a clinic dispensing the cure, you can see her looking at them with considerable contempt at their chant "We don't need a cure!" and obviously thinking "Speak for yourselves!"
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army has a similar message as the X Men movies, with the same problem. The Muggles are portrayed as nasty little shits for being afraid of Hellboy. Even ignoring that Hellboy (both the person and movie) doesn't show much concern for regular humans' lives, there's the problem that he doesn't just look like a devil sent from Hell to bring destruction to the world of man, he actually is just that. In the previous movie he was seconds away from dooming the world. And this movie reveals that he had the human who stopped him doing that literally Reassigned to Antarctica, and an Angel states that the powers that be still fully expect that he'll destroy earth at some point. The humans he encounters may be judging a book by its cover, but the contents of this particular book happen to be just as scary as it seemed.

  • In Latawnya, the Naughty Horse, Learns to Say "No" to Drugs, the author tries to present a Drugs Are Bad message. One scene in this book features a horse dying from a marijuana overdose, to warn kids that this could happen to them. But while marijuana is toxic to horses, it's much less toxic to humans.
  • In Shattered Sky, the protagonists struggle with the moral implications of their ability to combine their powers to raise the dead. When Eccentric Millionaire Elon Tessic suggests they use this power to bring back the six million victims of the Holocaust, they run into a variation of Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act, deciding that undoing historical atrocities is wrong because people need to remember them to keep history from repeating itself.note  So, don't use your magical powers to bring back the dead.
  • Harry Potter:
    • This series often tries to address issues of prejudice and racism, and while this metaphor works fairly well with Muggle-borns, it doesn't necessarily apply so much with magical creatures. For example, when it gets out that Remus Lupin is a werewolf, we're supposed to be upset that parental concerns force him to resign. But considering that the very day before he came close to killing Harry and the others when he forgot to take his potion, this seems at least a bit more complicated than Rowling suggested. The werewolves and the prejudice they suffer are supposed to be a hyperbolic allegory to people who are infected with HIV/AIDS and anti-AIDS hysteria; the books show that provided they take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of their disease werewolves/HIV positive people should receive the same level of human dignity... but Lupin very much didn't. Lupin himself admits that he really screwed up by not taking the Wolfbanes potion at the pivotal moment, and that the only reason nobody got infected or killed was because of dumb luck. While many of the parental complaints may well have been motivated by prejudice, even absent that, he really ought to have been fired for negligence. Moreover, while a person who knows they have HIV is no threat to anyone as long as they avoid things like sex or blood donations, regardless of their level of treatment, Lupin is only allowed to be harmless because of a rare and difficult-to-brew potion that few werewolves in the setting can afford (Lupin only got it during the year he worked at Hogwarts because of Snape), meaning even if they do mean well, a werewolf really is incredibly dangerous in a way that someone with AIDS isn't. And this isn't helped by most of the other werewolves in the setting being violent murderers...
    • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione uses a time-traveling device to allow her to attend all of the extra classes that no one would be able to attend under normal circumstances. She eventually finds herself overwhelmed with the sheer amount of homework she must do to keep up and is frequently feeling exhausted and/or quick to snap at a slightest hint of distraction. At the end of the year, she drops enough extra courses to allow herself to have a normal schedule again. The lesson about not exhausting yourself by taking on too much work can be applied in real-life; the time-travel part... not so much.
  • The Sword of Truth books have a lot of Objectivist Aesops, including on how religion is denounced by the protagonist because there is no evidence of the afterlife. That argument might sound reasonable in this world, but in this story said protagonist has encountered ghosts and spirits, visited the afterlife several times and fought with the devil, and even summoned some spirits himself from the afterlife.
  • Twilight has an anti-abortion Aesop in the fourth book. This doesn't really work, however, since the "baby" in question is clearly supernatural. Edward was reading the baby's mind at one point, which in real life would be very difficult: While dreaming waves can be detected as early as 8 weeks, brain waves associated with conscious function kick off at around 24 weeks. Meanwhile, lot of issues associated with abortion in the real world are avoided by there being no need for someone to spend a decade or two caring for the newborn, which makes things much easier for her mother. It's also a bit much where they're unwilling to abort the baby even when she is literally eating Bella from the inside out, and this only gets prevented by Edward ripping her out, then turning her into a vampire. Yeah...not very feasible for Real Life (note that although the LDS church—of which author Stephenie Meyer is a part—generally opposes abortion, they allow it to save the life of the mother as would be the case here).
  • Some Dungeons & Dragons novelizations engage in this to justify the lack of resurrection, especially in high-magic settings like Forgotten Realms. At least two writers for the Realms, for example, claim that resurrection is selfish because it rips the dead person away from their ideal afterlife in order to explain why Liriel Baenre doesn't resurrect Fyodor or Erevis Cale decides not to resurrect Jak Fleet. Why they can't just take a few decades off and go back to their ideal afterlife after dying of old age, or why the Realms aren't full of people killing themselves to find eternal happiness, isn't usually explained.
    • This point is played up more prominently with the Speak With Dead spell/ritual, as the dead REALLY don't like being partially resurrected just to answer some stupid questions. They will often give vague answers just to piss off the spell caster.
    • Especially weird because spells like Raise Dead and Resurrection explicitly state they cannot be used on an unwilling target. This prevents someone from being killed by their enemies and raised afterwards while in enemy hands. This is partially justified in Erevis's case, since he'd met someone who was Blessed with Suck and only agreed to be resurrected out of duty, but this hadn't been the case for Jak.
  • The lesson in The Wishing Maiden seems to be that magically granted wishes, if allowed to run rampant, will incite wars and create chaos.
  • Worlds of Shadow: Bringing your dead loved ones back from the dead won't work-they'll just be a soulless shell. So better make your peace with it.
  • Tales of MU. While prejudices exist against most non-human species in a manner clearly resembling real racism, a few of those discriminated against are literal man-eaters by dietary preference or culture (though nobody dares to discriminate against dragons on this basis).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has drug issues.
    • The magic-as-drug plotline, where "overuse" of magic was suddenly revealed to cause addictive behavior, came complete with a "magic pusher" and after-school special-esque behavior by Willow. This was rather jolting to many fans, as during the prior two seasons, Wicca/magic was used as a metaphor for Willow and Tara's love and their sexual relationship. In fact, it continued to be used to refer to their relationship with Tara's song, I'm Under Your Spell when Willow was already showing signs of magical "dependence." The reprise of the song later in the episode is probably the moment it flips, when Tara realizes just how under Willow's spell she actually is.
    • Riley voluntarily "donating blood" to vampires riffed off of drug use and illicit prostitution, despite no prior suggestion that people found vampire-bites anything but terrifying and painful.
      Riley: This isn't your fault. It's mine. I feel like hell for what I've put you through. (Buffy still doesn't look at him) It's just... (sighs) these girls-
      Buffy: Vampires. Killers.
      Riley: They made me feel something, Buffy. Something I didn't even know I was missing until-
      Buffy: I can't. I can't hear this.
      Riley: You need to hear this.
      Buffy: Fine. Fine! Tell me about your whores! Tell me what on earth they were giving you that I can't.
      Riley: They needed me.
      Buffy: They needed your money. It wasn't about you.
      Riley: (walks closer to her) No. On some basic level it was about me. My blood, my body. (sighs) When they bit me ... it was beyond passion. They wanted to devour me, all of me.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Time of Angels": The Church's opposition to the two-headed Aplans' "self-marriage" would appear to be one about gay marriage, but it's then Played for Laughs when Amy says that they had a point: the divorces would be messy.
    • "The Woman Who Lived" devotes a good deal of time to discussing the Aesop that "Just because you're immortal doesn't mean you should stop caring about mortals."
  • Season 2 of The Flash (2014) is rife with anti-drug message with Velocity series of speed-enhancing drugs being used as metaphor for performance-enhancing drugs used in sports. When faced with evil speedsters much faster than he is, Flash is tempted to use Velocity 9 to increase his performance and level the playing field, but is discouraged by others since using Velocity 9 can ruin his health in long term. Problem here is that Flash is superhero, not a sportsman. The stake here isn't victory, fame or money, it's people's lives. If the Flash isn't fast enough someone may die, sometimes many people will die. Taking Velocity once wouldn't cause that much damage to his health and if it would stop a guy who's terrorising the world who is extremely hard if not impossible to stop otherwise it's not that hard to think it would be worth it. Doubles as a Broken Aesop, since Jay Garrick used Velocity several times in the show and more often than not it ended up with him saving someone's life.
  • H₂O: Just Add Water tries to preach An Aesop when Zane wants the girls to use their powers to salvage a sunken museum artifact. It suddenly becomes a despicable idea the moment a financial reward is mentioned. In real life (as far as we know) it's impossible to use mermaid powers to retrieve sunken objects but the show doesn't explain why it's so wrong, just that it is. The analogy is completely incorrect in real life as we often use technology-submarine powers to salvage sunken artifacts and offer monetary rewards, and that's a good thing.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus plays this for laughs: "Oh, now this is where Mr. Podgorny could have saved his wife's life. If he'd gone to the police and told them that he'd been approached by unearthly beings, from the galaxy of Andromeda, we'd have sent a man round to investigate. As it was, he did a deal with a blancmange and the blancmange ate his wife. So if you're going out or anything strange happens involving other galaxies, just nip round to your local police station and tell the sergeant on duty, or his wife, of your suspicions. And the same goes for dogs."
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "First Anniversary", two aliens who are stranded on Earth use their shapeshifting/psychic powers to make themselves appear as beautiful women to seduce men. The problem is that the effect wears off after a year of exposure and reveals their hideous true forms to their husbands. The guys can't handle this revelation and are unable to see that True Beauty Is on the Inside. However, the aliens are not just ugly but so downright inhuman that even touching them makes the men violently ill and eventually Go Mad from the Revelation. As a result they look less like a bunch of superficial jerks and more like a bunch of duped victims; it's implied that the two aliens have been doing this for some time, and one of them has already stopped caring about the damaging effect she has on humans.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
    • One episode has Zelda and Hilda deciding to hire someone to clean the house. Zelda rationalizes that they can't use their magic to clean in case they just get lazy.
    • One of the novelizations has Sabrina trying to explain that she can't use magic to decide what classes she wants to take because it's somehow unfair since her mortal students can't. She quickly realizes how flimsy this argument is and does it anyway.
  • Stargate SG-1 seemed to be trying for a pacifism Aesop with the Nox (at least in their first episode), a race of Perfect Pacifist Space Elves who look down on SG-1 for using violence against the Goa'uld. This completely ignores the fact that the Nox are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with abilities that make pacifism a viable option (just for starters, they can turn invisible and raise the dead). Humans have no such abilities and must fight or be killed/enslaved.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation plays Failed Metaphor straight in "Hide And Q". Commander Riker is granted god-like power by the god-like Q. But using these new powers to save colonists who are in danger? Resurrecting a girl who died? Can't have that, now.
  • True Blood uses prejudice against vampires as a comparison to prejudice against homosexuals. The real-life analogy fails, however, because in the context of the series, vampires actually are dangerous predators. Show runner Alan Ball actually protested against using this metaphor for exactly this reason but writers still used it, especially once he left the show.

  • Heather Dale: It's pretty much guaranteed to happen in any song dealing with The Fair Folk. "Changeling Child" has the message "Don't make deals with faeries" and "Fair Folk" has the message "Leave faeries well alone and ward them off with Cold Iron".

  • Shrek: The Musical has the song "Freak Flag", which starts off as a catch-all Be Yourself message but is derailed when the fairy tale creatures realize that their problems, such as being animals with human intelligence or having magical powers, actually gives them an advantage in confronting their problems. Not really applicable to real-life discrimination (then again, as an adaptation of Shrek this may have been intentional).
    Humpty-Dumpty: We've got magic! We've got power!
    Who are they to say we're wrong?
    All the things that make us special
    Are the things that make us strong!

    Video Games 
  • Quantum Conundrum: Professor Quadrangle tries and fails to deliver a Green Aesop when he hypothesizes that the reason why tigers are going extinct today is because people are going back in time and shooting them.
  • Much of the criticism of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance stems from the attempt to use an idealized fantasy world as a metaphor for escapism; there's a very strong case to be made that Alterna-Ivalice is real in-setting.
  • In Snatcher, the quotes and overall moral thrust upon the player tells us that humans need to trust each other. However, Snatcher is about a race of Ridiculously Human Robots who are bit-by-bit replacing humans by killing them. If humans had trusted each other as the game tells us they should have, the Snatchers would probably have taken over humanity in a month tops; the humans killed in the anti-Snatcher witch hunts were a tragedy, but the problem wasn't lack of trust so much as misapplied mistrust.
  • Monster Girl Quest has the usual case of using nonhumans to make a message about racism, except in this case these are Cute Monster Girls who: need human men to reproducenote ; are physically and magically much stronger than humans on averagenote ; and, most importantly, most of them rape/kill/eat (those aren't mutually exclusive) humans and take cruel joy in it every step of the way. While the killing and eating is frowned upon by the narrative, monsters who've done these things are still very Easily Forgiven, there's never any condemnation of the raping, absolutely nothing is done to foster genuine equality or co-dependence with all the responsibility for acceptance and peace being thrust on the humans while the monsters do as they please, and the humans are treated much more harshly for killing or enslaving monsters than when monsters do such things to humans. In other words it's a predator/prey relationship with valid reasons for conflict, and the humans are completely justified in fearing, disliking, mistrusting, and attacking monsters. It's a consequence of Monster Girl Quest being an H-Game.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Many or most of the ecological problems depicted are caused by supervillains doing things like making monsters that eat rainforests or building factories to build air conditioners which are then torn open to release CFCs. The only solutions to the problems are the ring-wielding kids or Captain Planet fixing things. The series is supposed to teach about protecting the environment, but the overarching morals seem to be "Don't be a supervillain. Let people with magic rings do all the work." The only attempt to counteract this message is in the And Knowing Is Half the Battle segments at the end of each episode that usually show something an actual viewer can do.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is generally pretty good at avoiding this, but it still runs into it on occasion:
    • "Cutie Mark Chronicles" is a good example, as its moral is that friendship is important because everyone has a special connection with their friends, even before they've met. Which is a nice thought, and may very well be true In-Universe, but in real life it's entirely impossible to become really good friends without having ever crossed paths in the past.
    • Neither "Christmas" episode ("Hearth's Warming Eve" and "A Hearth's Warming Tale") of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic actually has a "love your friends and family, good will to all" aesop. Rather, the aesop is, "If you don't celebrate this holiday, Windigoes will destroy the world with a never-ending winter."
  • All the breakdowns in the metaphors seen in the Comic Books and Movies folders apply to the X-Men animated series as well. In addition, metaphors about discrimination and internalized racism break down when dealing with one poor plot-device schlub from the background of several episodes who lost the Superpower Lottery, and whose mutation gave him no powers whatsoever, just a kind of weird-looking face. To say he shouldn't seek a cure for his mutation would be to proclaim metaphorically that reconstructive surgery is evil. (Speaking of reconstructive surgery, considering that mutations in these stories have No Ontological Inertia, some kind of cheaply available mutation-reversal serum could probably save that guy a lot of money on getting his face back to normal.) Devices like Genosha's power-suppression collars are also presented as nothing but evil, when such would help empower mutants with Power Incontinence (such as Rogue and Jubilee) to get more control over their mutations to make them more beneficial to everyone. About the only useful lesson this series teaches (in the unlikely event that individuals ever do develop any kind of superpowers) is inadvertent: if you want to remain integrated with the rest of humanity, don't advertise your powers by wearing garishly-colored spandex costumes.
  • Many Time Travel stories (ex. The Fairly OddParents episode "Father Time", the Danny Phantom episode "Masters Of All Time") try to teach a moral about accepting what you can't change, usually by having characters' attempts to change the past make the present/future worse instead of better. However, the message this almost always sends is "Don't use time travel to solve your problems because meddling with time can make things worse" — not exactly a temptation the viewers will (likely) ever be tempted with.
  • The second season of Justice League Unlimited had a case where the writers more or less realized this. The season revolves around the question of "is the existence of this team of above-the-law vigilantes a good thing?" and the League's conflicts with the government. However, the writers concluded that they couldn't give a satisfying answer in the context of the series: unsupervised vigilantes carrying out their own standard of justice are a dangerous thing in real life, but you couldn't do that moral with the Justice League because they're unreservedly the good guys and have saved the world countless times. Coming down on the side of one or the other would lead to either a Hard Truth Aesop (hooray for beating people up and wielding superweapons without oversight!) or a Broken Aesop (these people who have done nothing but help are actually bad!). As a result, they introduced Brainiac as a Conflict Killer and concluded the season by having sort of a mix: the League keeps operating, but forms stronger relations with the government to keep the events of the season from happening again.

Examples of Arbitrary Rules:

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Delicious in Dungeon the main party learn that the taboo against eating monsters is pointless and using them as a food supply when Dungeon Crawling is a better idea than trying to survive on nutritionally limited rations from the surface.
  • Arbitrary Rules Robot Revolution is subverted in Ghost in the Shell. In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex it is explained that certain kinds of machines are made in certain ways in order to avoid people thinking of them as "too human." Human-looking androids are stupid and capable of only following basic programming, while the decidedly non-humanoid Tachikomas are given full sentience. It then plays with the trope all it can, with non-sentient robots hinted as being more human than they should be, and some humans acting very robot-like. The end conclusion seems to be a combination of not judging a book by its cover and that the question of what is "human" is a very complicated one.
  • In Naruto bringing people back to life requires human sacrifices and is considered wrong by almost everyone.
    • The first Jutsu, Impure World Resurrection, is described above.
    • One of them was originally created to bring puppets to life, and can resurrect a person if their body is habitable, but will cost the jutsu user their life.
    • Finally, the Samsara of Heavenly Life technique can only be used by someone who possesses the Rinnegan, an eye power which was held centuries ago by the Messiah figure. This technique was used by Nagato to revive nearly the entire population of the most politically important city in the world. As confirmed by Obito Uchiha in a recent chapter, this technique also costs the user their life.
  • While not an aesop, in a similar vein in One Piece the main cast starts to speculate about how regaining their shadows from Moria caused them to reform from being disintegrated. After a brief conversation over this, Zoro asks them why they even bother as the same situation will probably never happen to anyone ever again.
  • Mob Psycho 100: Just having Psychic Powers doesn't make you a better person, or give you fulfillment in life. Both the characters who want psychic powers so they can feel special and the ones who have them and act like they make them a superior breed of human are revealed to be emotionally immature at heart, while the world's most powerful psychic would rather not have to use his powers at all, and knows that being the world's greatest psychic won't magically grant him everything he wants out of life.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman storyline Batman: War Games and War Crimes is a pretty textbook example of the above problem of making Never Be a Hero a moral in a Batman comic. Yes, it's pretty irresponsible in real life for a teenager to run around fighting dangerous criminals and it could easily end up in her being killed — except Batman comics since 1940 have involved the premise that a teenager can be tough and well-trained enough to fight crime effectively. So really, the only problem was that Stephanie Brown wasn't trained properly or given enough resources, and if she had been, everything would have worked out. This is proven later when Stephanie returns and proves to be an effective crime fighter as Batgirl.
  • In Runaways, much of the development of Karolina and Xavin's relationship involved Karolina, a lesbian, having to learn to accept that Xavin changes gender, because it was supposedly difficult for Xavin to maintain a female form. Which is all well and good, except Xavin had no trouble maintaining a human male form at nearly all times, despite this not being their natural form, so Xavin's inability to maintain a female form (either human or Skrull) seems like an entirely arbitrary limitation.
  • In relation to the greater Marvel universe, the example of differences being erased as described above comes into play when it's shown that any average person can be granted their own superpowers by freak accidents, so discriminating against mutants over them makes no sense. Some people discriminate against all superhumans, but sometimes this is presented as less valid because they feel resentment that they themselves don't have powers. During Civil War, Reed observes a parallel universe where the conflict over the Super Registration Act was resolved (somehow) by granting everyone superpowers. He also observed another where it was fixed by removing everyone's powers, which wouldn't address humanity's apparent genetic potential to develop them again from some kind of freak accident.
  • Secret Empire was a controversial work, with a theme that's hard to pin down under scrutiny. Any applicability to fascist takeovers is dashed by the fact that it only happened because a Reality Warper retconned the most trusted figure in the Marvel Universe into believing he was always a Hydra double agent. The entire plot was facilitated not by the insidious machinations of fascism, which supporters argue was the point of the story, but by the naive unilateral actions of someone that's essentially omnipotent. After Stevil destroyed Vegas, it was the only thing said warper didn't restore along with everything else, "as a lesson", something that doesn't apply to anyone but herself.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: One story arc involves Calvin bringing a snowman to life. The snowman became a vicious monster and created an army of "snow goons" that kept trying to kill Calvin. After defeating them by spraying them with the hose to freeze them solid, Calvin stated that he had learned a lesson from this misadventure: "Snow goons are bad news", which he was glad was completely inapplicable.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Time Machine (2002) had a Butterfly of Doom follow the time traveler around when he tried to change time to save his fiancée.
  • If you are Adam Sandler in the movie Click and find a "universal remote" that can apply TV-like functions (e.g. mute, fast-forward, etc.) to the universe, don't use fast-forward to skip the boring parts of life like traffic jams, or the remote will "remember" how you used it and automatically fast-forward through important parts of your life as well just because it contained a boring bit you previously skipped.
  • Absolutely Anything: Neil concludes that his powers cause more harm than good after trying to solve world problems and only making things worse. However, this was only due to poor phrasing on his part, which he'd solved previously with other wishes by simply making the same wish again with better word choices. Heck, he's shown using his powers to modify his own intellect, so he could easily just wish himself smart enough not to screw up as often.

  • At the end of His Dark Materials, Will and Lyra go their separate ways and never see each other again; the Aesop is that learning how to make sacrifices is part of growing up. But the mechanism forcing them to separate is complicated and comes out of nowhere: at the end of the story, someone tells them that living in someone else's world makes you sicken and die, opening windows between words creates evil Spectres, and leaving existing windows open allows Dust to escape. So, even though the plot has dictated that they leave one window open in one spot until the end of time, leaving one more between their worlds for less than 100 years would be excessively dangerous. It still manages to enter into Failed Metaphor territory because, although naturally occurring portals exist without any of these problems, the angels will close those as well because otherwise Will and Lyra will waste their lives searching for one. Because, you know, it's impossible to just tell them where it is. Plus, couldn't the knife kill Spectres? So all Will would have to do is kill the Spectre he makes when he opens a portal and close it behind him.
  • Bad Dream by John Christopher is somewhere between Failed Metaphor and Arbitrary Rules, but probably closer to the latter. Apparently, Christopher feels that if virtual reality gets really good, it will become a Lotus-Eater Machine. Rather than treating this as an in-universe problem, he rants for pages and pages about the dangers of virtual reality, in a tone not unlike those who rant about the corrupting influence of video games or modern music. Given that he explicitly rejects the video game parallel, the most probable interpretation is that he feels virtual reality is a near-future problem and wants to prepare resistance ahead of time. (Death Dream by Ben Bova and The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin approach the matter similarly, but not as venomously in the former case and not as lengthily in the latter.)
  • In Babette Cole's short story Winni Allfours, this seems to abound quite a bit. The titular girl wants a pony more than anything else in the world, but her parents are strict vegetarians who aren't having any of it. When she hears that eating too many vegetables will turn her into a horse, Winni eagerly begins munching down everything she gets - and it works! That's also just the beginning. After Winni beats the world record, Winni's parents promise to buy her a pony if she turns human again - but Winni is having too much fun and refuses.
  • The main running theme of Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror is that if somebody finds a way of making heavier-than-air travel practical, then all the people who are trying to make balloon travel more practical will look pretty silly. In a charming historical twist, this moral stopped being a Fantastic Aesop—and became recognizable as simply a very well-researched hypothesis about future innovations—when practical heavier-than-air crafts were actually invented and Verne's arguments were proven right.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) and its Spinoff Caprica is practically king of this trope. The entire current series itself is structured around an Arbitrary Rules Robot Revolution and purpose of war. Basically the entire series can be broken down like this:
    • Apparently decades ago (in the current series timeline) a brilliant billionaire industrialist/scientist designed robots that perfectly emulated human movement, thought processes, and emotions yet still expected them to act and behave like mindless drones (makes sense....RIGHT?).
    • Anyway decades later the same mindless/yet sentient robots now in even more ridiculously human forms have come back for revenge on humanity, nearly driving them to extinction. And after discovering that they've reached a level of near-human sentience ordinary humans still treat the human-like robots like a literal defective toaster (no pun intended)/vacuum cleaner (except even when an actual toaster has gotten dangerously defective, no one has ever shot one execution style or ejected one out an airlock) and acting around them like the robots can't even understand words and lack basic thought capability, let alone genuine human emotion.
    • To boot, the very reason Humanoid Cylons exist in the first place is a Fantastic Aesop unto itself, as when a Number One Cylon asks his creator/designer why they were made SO un-machine like and with no cybernetic enhancements at all. Her only answer is something that if they were made more like machines they would have absolutely NO sense of human morality. Right, even though at this point they had just KILLED hundreds of billions of humans and tortured/experimented of thousands of other humans in order to make themselves "more human." Ironically, The Plan suggests just that: the genocide of humanity was, in fact, not really a matter of cold machine logic, but Number One throwing a "temper tantrum" because "mom" (i.e. the Final Five) didn't like him best.
    • As a final point according to both fan theory and some actual canon explanations the entire events of the show were orchestrated by an unseen "god" which may or may not be evil and created the conflict between Humans and Cylons him/itself numerous other times previous, basically meaning even if both humanity and Cylons truly learned their lessons and got along this god could kick start the whole thing all over again just For the Evulz, it renders all the previous Fantastic Aesops pointless and moot.
    • In reality, since Moore promised from the beginning that the show was About Something Big, and the show was about to end, and he couldn't think of anything else to ret-con in as having been the moral all along, the broken Aesop was the only one he could think of due to The Chris Carter Effect.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Superstar", the moral seems to be "dreaming about being super-cool perfect is just selfish narcissism." The way it does it is by having Jonathan cast a spell that turns him into a Marty Stu. The moral has two halves; the first is that the spell creates an equally perfect evil opposite that torments people. This qualifies, since the only reason the evil opposite exists is that the writers put it there. The other half can be considered a type 1 version: in the real world, people aren't perfect, so claiming perfection is narcissistic. But if it really were possible to be perfect, claiming perfection is not narcissistic, merely realistic. "Genuine" perfection just isn't a good metaphor for imaginary perfection.
    • Though it does have some relevancy with the idea that, by making Jonathan so great at everything, the spell also made everyone around him a little bit worse (i.e. Jonathan being a great demon fighter means Buffy is now a less capable and confidant Vampire Slayer, unsure how to save the day without Jonathan's help). OTOH, if that's the case, then isn't it also a case for Willow, or Giles, or Buffy herself? Or anyone who is above average in something?
    • It also seems to be an example of the fairly standard Aesop No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction - since Jonathan didn't have to work for his achievements, they were ultimately hollow and built on sand.
    • Also a Broken Aesop because Jonathan identifies Adam's one weakness (his nuclear power core), which is how Buffy later defeats him. The spell actually did give them an advantage they wouldn't have had otherwise.
  • Out of This World (1987): Commonly taught "Don't use your special powers to do X" aesops. Should you ever gain the ability to stop time, don't use it for personal gain, or directly to make other people happy. (Using powers to triage a friend's problem is sometimes okay, but just magicking your best friend a cute date is right out.)
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
    • "Don't use your special powers to do X" aesops; we've learned that using powers to get out of doing laborious and trivial tasks, for personal gain, or directly to make other people happy are all bad ideas. (Using them to triage a friend's problem is sometimes okay, but just magicking your best friend a cute date is right out.)
    • Interestingly subverted in one episode, where she decides to use magic to interfere with other people's lives (usually aesops in the show are about her using magic for herself) and does three different things to do so. She injures a first-string football player so Harvey would be called up to the main team, rigs a class president election with Jenny winning instead of Libby, and implants knowledge of how to perform "lead to gold" alchemy to her science teacher. The first two changes are self-limiting, with both Harvey and Jenny getting Be Careful What You Wish For aesops: Harvey is immediately injured himself due to his inexperience with football, while Jenny quickly realizes she has no real power as class president apart from the lunch menu and school dances. Harvey actually finds he enjoys not having to play football, and Jenny resigns in favor of Libby after all. The science teacher, on the other hand, becomes fabulously rich and a much better teacher (teaching because he wants to, rather than for the money). When the magical authorities find out, they don't really care that she has messed with her classmates' lives; they only care that she changed the nature of the universe by rewriting atomic law (allowing gold to be created at will by the science teacher who knows how to do it). She ends up getting off scot-free for the other two stunts she pulled.
  • Deathwalker, of Babylon 5, had a Cure For Death with the conventional cost of requiring a chemical that could only be created by killing a living being. Even ignoring the part where it's implied to work regardless of sapient species or even from one sapient species to another — it can't be reproduced any other way. A chemical. That's right, in a fictional setting with telekinetics capable of changing matter on a fundamental level, where bio-engineered plagues float freely, where it is possible to clone people, the single most valuable substance in the galaxy couldn't be synthesized or grown in a lab.
  • The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Unnatural Selection" dealt with the problems genetic engineering could cause a society, as "fitter" babies grew into supermen and outpaced "normal" people. However, while this made for great drama in Gattaca it was not nearly bad and horrifying enough for the show. So to spice things up, around 5% of all genetically modified children turn into the crazed descendants of Igor, and are killed when found. Naturally, the couple who originally wanted this for their child have changed their minds, but the deformed child of the neighbors kills the back-alley scientist before he can undo the changes, so the episode's sad ending is that they'll never fully trust or love their genetically enhanced son.
  • In Supernatural, resurrection is generally associated with a transformation into a monster or a demon deal. Sam and Dean, who have come back from the dead numerous times, both struggle with these implications.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Woman Who Lived" devotes a good deal of time to discussing the Aesop that "Just because you're immortal doesn't mean you should stop caring about mortals."
  • In GoGo Sentai Boukenger, the moral regarding Eiji/BoukenSilver (he's mixed race and fighting against his other half) would be a Hard Truth Aesop since he's fighting against his racially undesirable side...except it falls into this because he's a Half-Human Hybridnote , something you can't be in real life. Even then, it's somewhat justified, since with the exception of his mother, his non-human half is a race of literal monsters who desire destruction.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 presents extremely dark variations of the Immortality and Never Be A Hero Type 2s, with an immense helping of death. The Never Be A Hero sort is also subverted—trying to become superhuman is very dangerous and likely to condemn you to a horrible death (or worse) and has a between 30 and 75% mortality rate depending on the chapter, but you should try anyway, because where do you think the Imperium's supply of super soldiers comes from?
  • White Wolf's Werewolf: The Apocalypse features an evil, polluting corporation as the main villain. The lesson is supposed to be that Corporations are Evil, but because of the logic of power creep and the need to have everything relate to the spirit world, the lesson ends up as, "companies which cavort with demonic entities are evil". Which... um, yeah. The environmental themes end up as irrelevant window dressing.
    • Mage: The Ascension went one worse. Aiming originally as an aesop pushing the po-mo science is evil trope, the Technocracy was envisioned as the evil villain that the magic-using traditional magicians (played by PC's) would oppose. Instead, the science/engineering literate gamers who played Mage fell in love with the Technocracy. Again, White Wolf was forced to anviliciously resort to more and more extreme Kick the Dog moments. Whatever view you take, the setting broke down the metaphor so completely that the original Aesop was lost.
    • Once again, White Wolf's attempt at pushing the idea that science is evil resulted in this with Changeling: The Dreaming, but for a different reason: they couldn't decide what Banality, the antithesis of creativity and imagination, actually represented. Science in general? Over-analyzing the world? Something else? Also, add in the game's extremely heavy themes of Have You Tried Not Being a Monster? and you get the message "Be accepting of those who are different, because only they can protect creativity and save the world".

  • The Gingerbread House. From the New York Times review:
    The moral of "The Gingerbread House" would appear to be that retailing your children to strangers will not bring satisfaction. Glad that's been cleared up.

    Video Games 
  • The Dig adventure game contains crystals that can bring the dead back to life, as long as they have a more or less complete skeleton. However, the crystals eventually corrupt the person. One part of the game involves a character begging you not to revive her if she dies, and when she does, you can decide to do it anyway or accept death is final and not. If you do bring her back, she immediately throws herself off a cliff in horror.
  • Zig-Zagged in the BioShock series. The narrative offers up valid points for why each games' respective "ideal" utopian society cannot ultimately sustain itself, but these societies also heavily depend on the proliferation of genetic modifiers and performance enhancers that drive their users violently insane; something that would eventually cause any kind of political or economic system to collapse.
    • Justified in the first game, as said proliferation of genetic modifiers is only made possible by the total market deregulation and proudly-embraced objectivist amorality of Andrew Ryan's Rapture.
  • Every game in the Shadow Hearts series features someone trying to bring a loved one back from the dead. In the first game, it's a simple case of creating an Eldritch Abomination instead of the loved one. In the second game, the protagonist can't get over the death of his love, so he tries — carefully — to bring her back from the dead. Seeing that it's failing, he aborts it before she can become a monster. In the third game, there's actually a successful resurrection, but only because the resurrection process also resulted in a monster that was an order of magnitude worse than the monster in the first game. The lesson the games teach: Accept death, because trying to undo it will create monsters. The lesson is more like "accept death, because failing to do so will only harm you and your still-living loved ones." It's more apparent as an allegory in the prequel to the Shadow Hearts series, Koudelka. The monsters are a side-effect of this failure in an alternate history with magic, but the story focuses most intently on the tragedy of a man who fails to let go of his lost love and ruins his own life, as well as the lives of those around him — it's just that in this case he ruined everyone's lives with monsters, instead of something more prosaic like alcoholism. It's reinforced with Father O'Flaherty, who very nearly goes down the same path because he also loved the dead woman in question, and in the canonical ending essentially committed suicide. Suicide by giant monster, but still suicide.
  • In Life Is Strange, the main character suddenly manifests time travel powers after seeing a girl shot. She discovers a lot of clever ways to use it, but no matter what she does, it never seems to make anything better in the end, and it's ultimately revealed that her use of the time travel is what's causing the coming apocalyptic storm, and the only way to stop it is to go back to the first time she used her powers and let the girl get shot. In other words, you shouldn't use time travel powers that are miraculously given to you after a terrible event, because the universe might have arbitrary rules that make time travel a bad idea to use. This also overlaps with Space Whale Aesop, because the implied mundane message of "accept what happened in the past and move on" is only delivered through arbitrary and fantastic consequences. That, in turn, creates a Broken Aesop, because the only reason Max didn't learn to accept what happened early on is because the universe decided to grant her time travel powers to begin with, thanks again to the arbitrary rules of the fantastic element.
  • Regal from Tales of Symphonia eventually rebuts the Big Bad's plan to turn everyone in the world into lifeless beings to end racial prejudice by saying that even if that were to happen, prejudice and discrimination would still continue. Though a scenario like that is unlikely in real-life, it could theoretically be reworded into something that's more grounded in real life: Prejudice and discrimination will always exist, in any form, and going to extremes to stop it will just cause more trouble than it prevents.

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded by Allison Pregler in her review of Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes:
    "Well, it just goes to show you if you cast coma spells and cheat at carnival games, your magical pawn-shop professor will get his soul lost in a magical amulet given to you by some crazy Gypsy lady. And such an avoidable tragedy."

    Western Animation 
  • Many cartoons and children's shows will introduce characters with disabilities and/or on wheelchairs to show that you shouldn't be discriminated against due to physical disabilities. The problem is said character usually has Psychic Powers to make up for it, or the wheelchair is some Cool Car/Powered Armor hybrid. In which case the aesop becomes "disability superpowers are cool!"
  • Kim Possible:
  • A similar Aesop can be seen in the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Frenchfry", where the titular experiment cooks addictive, bloating junkfood, after which point he is supposed to eat whomever ate his food. The message is supposed to be about healthy eating, but it comes off more as 'don't use illegal alien mutants to cook for you'. Lampshaded when Nani,note  upon being notified of Lilo's recent weight gain, immediately realizes that it is far greater than what is physically possible with unhealthy living and that Jumba's mad science is to blame.
  • Futurama:
    • The Digital Piracy Is Evil episode "I dated a Robot" is about not dating robot copies of people because it destroys your social life and the originals are kidnapped to be copied.
    • In "The Prisoner of Benda" all of the regular characters are swapping minds with each other, and swapping back directly is impossible. The Globetrotters reason that with two extra people, it's always possible to get everyone back to normal using the right combination of swaps. The professor remarks "and they say pure math has no real world applications". The writers actually mathematically proved that this was so.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters: In the episode "The Haunted Painting", Eddie is trying to learn to paint, but is frustrated with the slow pace of developing his artistic skills. He goes to Madam Why and asks her for a set of magic paints, but she declines, stating the episode's intended Aesop: "Practice, practice, and more practice! That's what it takes to be good at something like painting. And that's also what will make you truly happy with your work". Eddie later receives a set of magic paints which, unknown to him, were actually delivered by the villains. The paints let him create a high quality painting, but trap the Ghostbusters in a magical world controlled by Prime Evil. The end result is an Aesop more along the lines of "Don't use magic paint from an unknown source".
  • Gravity Falls: "Soos and the Real Girl" attempts, for some reason, to sell the Aesop "Dating sims are bad, get a real partner". However, the constraints of the show require that it be somehow supernatural. They do show Soos not coming in to work because he's been up all night playing a dating sim, but there are issues. Leaving aside the fact that this could happen with any genre of game and that this is Soos's first experience with a brand-new genre in the first place, the main reason he's fascinated is that the protagonist of the game, Giffany, is alive somehow and coaching him for the attention. Then when Soos meets another girl, Giffany gets jealous and decides to Murder the Hypotenuse by possessing technology. So, "dating sims are bad if you use them to date a yandere".
  • The second variant of Robot Revolution is mercilessly lampooned in an episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot, where Ridiculously Human Robot Jenny insists on "liberating" the robots at an amusement park, refusing to realize they aren't and don't need to be Ridiculously Human Robots and are actually extremely limited in their programming and capabilities. Their efforts to live as they previously did — since they can't live any other way — cause chaos in the town, and eventually destroy the Martian civilization when she insists on sending them to another planet rather than sending them back to "slavery."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The pegasus Scootaloo is a variant of the above-mentioned characters with disabilities, except that her "disability" is the inability to fly. Her wings are supposedly undergrown for flight (though you can't really tell), yet oddly they can, for some reason, propel her at high speeds and great distances on her scooter. In "Flight to the Finish", Scootaloo learns that even though she can't fly, she's still awesome in other ways... like scooter riding. Thus we get the message, "Your limbs don't function properly? No problem! They can be used for other stuff, like Super Speed!" Ironically, with the exception of this episode, Scootaloo has never been portrayed as a disadvantaged filly, probably because most of the local population can't fly either. It also doesn't help that for most of the series, it was left ambiguous whether she even had an actual disability, or was simply having trouble learning to fly.note  Or that multiple episodes showed examples of technology (such as Apple Bloom's hang glider from "Call of the Cutie") which could have helped her fly if she'd never be able to do so naturally, but no one ever bothered to tell her about them.
    • As Twilight said in "Inspiration Manifestation", "Never, ever, ever, EVER take another book out of the library at the castle without asking!" (Or three Princesses might have to spend their entire day cleaning up your mistake. Shame on you.) Gets funnier when you realize Spike ate the book and Twilight doesn't even think it worth mentioning.
    • The entire plot, resolution, and learned lesson of "A Flurry Of Emotions" relies entirely on Flurry Heart being an unstoppable infant Physical God who even with a Power Limiter is absurdly powerful, capable of flight, and seemingly much more intelligent than an infant should be. Any normal infant (even most from In-Universe) would only be able to sit grumpily in their baby carrier while Twilight completed her "boring" duties, and she would go on to spend some quality time with the kid with absolutely no conflict whatsoever.
  • Steven Universe: While the actual aesop of the episode "Steven and the Stevens" is the classic, 'Don't be a jerk', our main character takes a... different lesson from it, which he immortalizes in song. To be fair, he just got back from seeing dozens of versions of himself die right in front him.
    By the way don't back in time/ Or you'll destroy yourself!

Alternative Title(s): Fantastic Moral


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