Follow TV Tropes


Ignored Aesop

Go To

"Live and don't learn, that's us."
Hobbes, Calvin and Hobbes

Combining Hypocritical Humor and An Aesop. The characters summarize a lesson they have learned, then immediately follow up with something that shows that they haven't learned anything after all. The characters, not quite done with reflecting on their own actions, may then proceed to further discuss what possible lessons they have learned. By the time they're finished the audience is clearly convinced that if there was ever any moral to the preceding story, it has been thoroughly and completely lost.


This is often a good way to justify Aesop Amnesia — after all, the equivalent of an Aesop-based kung-fu scene should leave everyone, including the viewer, sufficiently confused as to the purpose of the story that it's hard to hold it against the characters for failing to realize how they could apply this knowledge to other situations. This will most commonly end with characters concluding that they haven't learned anything, or they'll spend the ending of the show desperately trying to come up with an Aesop that works as a result.

See also Here We Go Again!, Spoof Aesop, Lost Aesop.

Compare Ignored Epiphany.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Used in the Astro Boy story "Mad Machine," where, after being arrested, villain of the week Dr. Foola promises to give up his amoral money-grubbing ways—before snapping his handcuffs and offering to sell better ones to his guards.
  • Gintama: Gintoki wakes up one day after a drinking night to find out that he slept with Otose. And Sacchan, and Tae, and Tsukuyo, and Kyuubei, and he has to face the consequences of it. In the end it turns out that He didn't slept with any of them, and it was part of an elaborate prank on their part to convince him to stop drinking. He learns the lesson and decides to stop drinking. Then he discovers that while nothing actually happened with any of the women, it really did with Hasegawa, and decides to drink as much as he can to forget it ever happened.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, Kaiba spends much of the film in an obsessive state, trying futilely to see Atem while being told that Atem has moved on and isn't coming back, with Yugi recompleting the Puzzle to prove it. Throughout the movie Yugi and his friends have moved on from the loss, Yugi gives Kaiba a speech directly telling him to move on, and Atem himself takes the Puzzle to the afterlife with him. Kaiba then decides that if he can't bring Atem back, he'll meet Atem by going to the afterlife instead, leaving Mokuba to run his company in his stead.

    Comic Books 
  • Seven Missionaries: Seven Irish monks each representing one of the Seven Deadly Sins are sent on a mission to convert fierce Vikings or die trying. They succeed, in no small part thanks to those same sins, and show no sign of having improved.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Invoked in the Pokémon fic "Ash's Adventure: Girls' Hunter Edition"; Misty notes that while she could get Gary banned from the League for his attempt to catch her as a PokeGirl before establishing who she was, Gary would just cry and complain and make a fuss about it rather than actually learn his lesson, so it's considered more 'fun' for her to help Ash become a good enough trainer to beat Gary.
  • In The Chosen Six, the Malfoys are forced to acknowledge as early as Draco's first year that their attitude towards Draco has left him with an inflated sense of his own importance and ability. Despite Narcissa acknowledging that Lucius stepping in won't help Draco learn anything, Draco himself continues to blame others for his shortcomings rather than accept that he made his own mistakes.
  • Examples from the Calvinverse:
    Sherman: Well, you know, there is a lesson to learned from all this.
    MTM: Really? What's that, then?
    Sherman: That mankind has developed a too much dependency on electricity. We should all learn to be a little less conditioned to be so electric and so forth. This three days without electricity actually could have done us some good.

    Film (Live-Action) 

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Father Ted Christmas Special, Ted summarizes what he has learned:
    Ted: You know Dougal, being in the priesthood - it's not about awards and glamour. It's about hard graft. It's about applying yourself to the spiritual needs of your parishioners...I could have turned into a bad priest....Selfish, arrogant, not given a damn about my parishioners...
    Dougal (answering the phone):''' Ted, It's Mrs. Gilcuddy. She wants you to do one of those remembrance masses.
    Ted: I'm not in.
  • In one Will & Grace episode, both the main characters have a favourite for the mayor of New York, on the basis that one candidate is gay and the other is a woman. They don't know anything else about their candidates, and when they host fundraisers they learn that both of them are horrible bigots. They realise that basing their opinions on the fact the candidate is a member of a minority group is a bad idea ... and are then both galvanised by the news that there's "a black guy".
  • The Catherine Tate Show has an episode parodying a certain Charles Dickens novel. At the end of the episode, there is a joke implying that the character hasn't changed at all from her experiences.
  • In an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia the Gang is hired to be the test audience for the newest instalment of their favorite movie series, and hate it due to it being a PG-13 reboot. They're told that the reason for this is because R-rated movies are pirated more often and that they should support franchises they enjoy, but they decide to retaliate by leaking the screening online. The studio then releases a proper sequel, only for the Gang to almost immediately decide to pirate it once realizing they'd have to do another mad dash across town to catch the next screening.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes did this a lot. For example, the end of the first "Duplicator" arc has Calvin attempting to describe the "valuable lesson" they learned from the incident. He shortly gives up, and Hobbes proclaims, "Live and don't learn, that's us".

  • In the finale of Death of a Salesman, Happy takes the lesson of Willy Loman's death, throws it away, and runs the other way.
    HAPPY: All right, boy. I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have—to come out number one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.
  • At the finale of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Todd thanks Mrs. Lovett for finally helping him to understand the moral of the story, "learn forgiveness and try to forget." Then he pushes her into an oven. Yeah, he was sarcastic alright.

    Video Games 
  • Portal 2 ends with GLaDOS having apparently learned The Power of Friendship, only to use that information to discover where her remaining humanity is stored and delete it. She promptly returns with a second Aesop: "The best solution to a problem is usually the easiest one."


    Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible: In one episode, Kim, Ron and the whole cheerleading squad return to Camp Wannaweep which has been converted to a cheer camp. Gil returns and has apparently been returned to normal — everyone believes that he isn't evil anymore, except Ron. Ron repeatedly tries and fails to prove that he is still evil. It then turns out that Gil is still evil and Ron ends up saving the day. At the end of the episode, Kim, Ron, and Bonnie try to figure out what the lesson is. Ron suggests, "Normally I'd say we learned that suspicion and paranoia is bad, except that's what saved us." After several more failed attempts, they all agree "Cheer camp stinks."
  • Xiaolin Showdown: At the end of one episode where the team faced an Enemy Mime, Clay suggests that "we've all learned a little something." His teammates suggest "the importance of trusting your teammates", "the value of simple solutions to complicated problems", and "Omi can't use slang." Nope. "Everyone hates a mime."
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Rose's Room":
    Steven: I get it now. Things can't always go exactly how I want.
    Garnet: But guess what: we have time to hang out now.
    Gilligan Cut to the Gems playing mini-golf
    Steven: I always get what I want!
  • South Park episode "Chinpokomon":
    Stan: Dude, Chinpokomon isn't cool anymore.
    Kyle: What?
    Cartman: Yeah, dude, that's way over.
    Kyle: Dude, you're just jealous because I'm Chinpoko Master!
    Stan: No, Kyle. You see, we learned something today. This whole Chinpokomon thing happened because we all followed the group. We only liked Chinpokomon because everyone else did. And look at the damage it caused.
    Kyle: So now I should stop liking Chinpokomon because you all don't?
    Stan: ...Ye-eah.
    Kyle: But if I stop now, I'll just be going with the group again. So, to be an individual, I have to bomb Pearl Harbor. See ya.
    Stan: Oh. Wait. Actually, I was wrong. You see, Kyle, I learned something, just now. It is good to go with the group. A group mentality is healthy, sometimes.
    Kyle: Aw, screw it; I'm too confused.
  • The Simpsons has a couple of examples.
    • "Blood Feud":
    Marge: The moral of the story is, a good deed is its own reward.
    Bart: Hey, we got a reward. The head is cool.
    Marge: Then... I guess the moral is no good deed goes unrewarded.
    Homer: Wait a minute. If I hadn't written that nasty letter, we wouldn't have gotten anything.
    Marge: Well... Then I guess the moral is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
    Homer: Exactly! Just a bunch of stuff that happened.
    Marge: But it certainly was a memorable few days.
    Homer: Amen to that!
    • "Rosebud":
    Homer: Well...we didn't get any money, but Mr. Burns got what he wanted. Marge, I'm confused! Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?
    • "Homer Goes to College" has a good time with this, as the actual moral in that episode is a lot clearer: "don't assume that College Is "High School, Part 2", and no matter what movies tell you, Wacky Fratboy Hijinks have real consequences." Homer demonstrates he completely failed to learn it.
    Homer: The important thing is that we all learned a lesson. These guys learned the richness and variety of the world outside college.
    Nerds: No, we didn't.
    Homer: Oh. Then I learned the real value of college is to study and work hard.
    Lisa: No, you didn't. You only passed your course by cheating, which you always taught us was wrong.
    Homer: Hmm. True.
    Marge: And I learned that in order for you to set a good example for your son... you're gonna take that course over again without cheating.
    Homer: Oh, Marge! You're worse than that crusty old dean. Well, I guess it's back to college for me. That means it's time to— What did I teach you guys?
    Nerds: Party down?
    Homer: Yes!
  • One episode of Adventure Time has the main characters Finn, Jake, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, and Beemo trying to get their prized possessions back from a thief called a Door Lord. When they finally reach him (via The Power of Friendship), the Door Lord refuses to give them their stuff back. Marceline then figures out that the Door Lord wanted them to learn that their treasures don't matter and that the real treasure was friendship. They then beat up the Door Lord, and take back their stuff.
    • Similarly, the entire point of the Magic Man episode is that Magic Man is a jerk, even though Finn tries to find other Aesops.
      • Adventure Time seems to be running with the lesson that sometimes people are jerks and not worth helping, but Finn has Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • The Cutie Mark Crusaders from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are masters of this trope, most recently learning that they have to wait and do things properly rather than taking shortcuts, before promptly declaring they've waited long enough and heading off to find a shortcut.
    • There was also the time they spent an episode forcing themselves to do things they're bad at, but think sound cool. They learned that they should be true to themselves, and respect their own talents. No, that doesn't mean they're going to try scooter riding, carpentry and singing; no, their true call must be comedy. (They did just win an award for comedy at that point... because their Epic Fail of a performance in the talent show made the audience laugh.)
  • Frequently, American Dad! will deliberately break its own Aesops for the sake of humor. An example is in the episode "Threat Levels". Francine begins a career in real estate, and Stan becomes jealous when she starts earning more income than he does. Stan tries to sabotage her career, but by the end of the episode, he comes to understand that you shouldn't be jealous of your partner's success and that you should take pride in their triumphs. However, even after learning this, he still sabotages her career anyway.
  • An early episode of Family Guy went right to the quick with this one:
    Lois: "Well, Peter, I guess you learned a very valuable lesson."
    Peter: "Nope!"
  • In The Ghost and Molly McGee episode "No Good Deed", after all the trouble Daryll caused for his teachers, and for taking advantage of Molly trying to get him out of his bad behavior, Daryll still hasn't learned his lesson and went to perform another stunt that's going to get him in trouble with the principal, again.
  • One episode of Johnny Bravo has him send away for a mail-order girlfriend, and what he receives is an utter beast of a lady named Helga. Thus, rather than turn on the (ugh) "Bravo Charm" he does everything in his power to drive her away by dragging her to a bunch of "guy" things that he likes, like a Monster Truck rally and a wrestling match. Helga, however, loves all this stuff, all the same things Johnny likes in fact, and just becomes more and more enamored with him. In the end, Johnny realizes he's actually really enjoyed her company too and that "her not being pretty and not smelling too good" really doesn't matter when the two of them are clearly made for each other. Though, rather than learning his lesson, he immediately shifts to his normal misogynistic "hey pretty mama" flirting... which repulses her and makes her dump him. He was SO close to figuring it out...

Alternative Title(s): Aesop Ju Jitsu