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Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped

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"If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack."

An Anvilicious work is one that has a moral message and makes it as subtle as an anvil dropped on the viewer's head, in other words not subtle at all. But sometimes, a work can be Anvilicious without suffering in the process. Some works not only pull it off gracefully, but are effective because of the Anvil — and not in a So Bad, It's Good way, either. Often seen in Reconstructions.

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Other times, the anvil comes across very blatant, which might turn off some viewers, but in the era which the story is told, the message itself is more important than the story or allegory it is presented in. Consider, for instance, Harriet Beecher-Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and its anvilicious message "slavery is bad". It is not a subtle message and generally not considered great literature. However, it came when at least a large minority (if not a majority) of whites imagined that slavery was good for black people. Effective anti-slavery propaganda was badly needed. That anvilicious, sentimental piece of propaganda may have done more real good than any piece of great literature. The same can be said about Chaplin's The Great Dictator and its anvilicious "Hitler is bad" message.

A reminder that An Aesop is Not Bad. And don't let the fact that the anvils of one work are often incompatible or in direct opposition to another's get in the way either.

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This is also the rationale of many a Public Service Announcement, and at least the intention of a Propaganda Piece.

When an anvil needed to be dropped, but it wasn't, you have Lost Aesop. If they just dropped the wrong one, it's a Broken Aesop. If they thought the anvil needed to be dropped but everyone believed it already, that's a Captain Obvious Aesop.

Remember, this is not whether or not you agree with the moral, it's about how a story is improved because the message is so blatant. A genuinely anvilicious Aesop is not automatically excused by being an agreeable one. Thus this trope can be seen as an inversion of Don't Shoot the Message, where a good message fails to prevent a story from being bad.

Has nothing to do with Anvil on Head. Unless of course you were trying to illustrate that it's wrong to drop anvils on people's heads. Disclaimer: We at TV Tropes do not condone Anvils On Heads.

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    Art 
  • Many of Norman Rockwell's more politically-minded paintings fall into this category, especially The Problem We All Live With, and its in-your-face condemnation of vicious unthinking racism aimed at the most vulnerable members of our society.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • In For Better or for Worse:
    • Grandpa was still conscious and aware, but was being treated as an infant after a stroke. It's treated with all the subtlety of an anvil... but this anvil really needed to be dropped, since this actually does happen in real life.
    • Shannon's Author Filibuster about the mentally handicapped - it's dropped with all the subtlety of an anvil, but it really needed to be said. Mentally handicapped people are still people, people with feelings, and people who need love.
    • A September 1993 storyline focused on Michael and his friends joining a protest against a student bus fare hike. However, they're mostly doing it for fun, as they get to block rush hour traffic and shout slogans at the police. After it ends, John picks them up (angry at their involvement after seeing it on the news) and tells them what the bus fare hike is about; the 30% bus fare hike is a gradual raise for the next three years (something that the city voted in favor for last spring) and the new fares mean that someone could travel twice as far, meaning that the protest was pointless and detrimental. The lesson? Don't join a protest unless you know all the facts, and if you are going to do a protest don't do it for fun.
  • Peanuts definitely had a few things to say in its long run:
    • Charles Schultz stated that the whole point of Linus' Security Blanket was to teach readers that forcing kids out of their childish yet otherwise harmless habits will not help them grow up, and will most likely do more harm than good.
    • Linus' lesser-known habit of patting birds on the head drops a similar anvil. Throughout the Story Arc, everyone who saw Linus doing that told Lucy "Your brother pats birds on the head", which prompts Lucy to demand that Linus stop it. Linus is bewildered that people would have a problem with something that only alleviates the birds' depressions and in turn gives Linus a great sense of fulfillment. When he asks just what is wrong with it, all Charlie Brown can give for an answer is "no-one else does it!"
      • Furthermore, Lucy herself seems to be the only one who actually has any issues with the thing. The people who told Lucy presumably may just wanted to let her know (if they had any issue, they probably would've told Linus themselves and Linus' shock implies no one has mentioned it before.) It does ultimately point out that sometimes problems that aren't really problems are only problems because people make them out to be.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • One episode of Monday Night Raw leading up to Unforgiven in September 2008 had Shawn Michaels drop an anvil that might, from some angles, appear a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, but that is one that countless Wide-Eyed Idealists out there desperately need to accept if they're ever going to get on with their lives. After Chris Jericho had smashed Shawn's head into a video screen and repeatedly jabbed him in the eye, half-blinding him and nearly ending his career, and then punched his wife Rebecca in the mouth and temporarily disfigured her - and had refused to apologize for any of this, claiming that Michaels had it all coming to him - Michaels asserted that some people are so wicked that they cannot possibly be forgiven, nor ever even want to be. And you can't just ignore them, because then they'll just keep going out to hurt countless more people; sometimes you must seek swift justice, severely punishing or even destroying a menacing human being. Of course, with Jericho's and Michaels's feud reaching its climax with the "Unsanctioned Match" at Unforgiven (in which both combatants relieved World Wrestling Entertainment from all legal responsibility for what they would do to each other), WWE attempted to have it both ways, having Michaels snap and beat Jericho unconscious, and then continue to assault him even after it had become clear Jericho could no longer defend himself, until Michaels finally managed to experience some remorse. Not to mention Jericho's appearance on Raw the night afterward, stripping down to show the still-unhealed welts on his upper torso where Michaels had thrashed him repeatedly with a strap and "questioning" how a born-again Christian like Michaels could do such things.
  • Michaels actually had to learn a lot of lessons, especially given his penchant for Aesop Amnesia. Just a few months after the Jericho incident, his family lost all its money in unsound investments (this was the autumn of 2008, remember) and he desperately needed a second job. John "Bradshaw" Layfield "generously" took Michaels on as an employee, only to force him to compromise all his integrity by repeatedly helping JBL cheat to win the World Heavyweight Championship. At one point, none other than The Undertaker confronted Michaels about this, warning that "Sometimes it's hell getting to heaven." Rarely have truer words about the basic human condition (even if that human is a Superstar) been spoken.
  • Bullying is wrong. Both men and women can be guilty of it (shame on you, LayCool), and even the seemingly most powerful and confident individuals can fall victim to it (with one particularly heartrending subplot being about The Big Show being bullied). This is a lesson WWE considers so important that they don't restrict their preaching of it to just their entertainment division.

    Radio 
  • Adventures in Odyssey does this every episode rather well. In fact, they've perfected it.
  • In the Superman radio show of the 40s, there is a fairly famous serial in which Superman takes on an expy for the The Klan, complete with their real-life ranks and secret phrases. This radio show was used to expose the Ku Klux Klan for what it really was; a terrorist organization that had to be disbanded ASAP. It even went and revealed the identities of individual Klansmen, hoping to induce good-hearted people to go after the Klansmen themselves and harass them until they were too broken to so much as spit upon a black man. It Worked. Suddenly, the Ku Klux Klan was forced to disband in the face of overwhelming shame, public ridicule, and vicious assaults on its members. They've never managed to regain their former power since then. In fact, the NSA lists them as a "subversive organization", the same designation given to the Animal Liberation Front and other "homegrown" terror organizations; and one can lose or be denied security clearance by becoming affiliated with the "nightie knights".
    • An example of the impact it had: one of its members realized how bad The Klan was when he saw his kids playing with their dolls as Superman fighting the Klan.
  • On the radio show The Saint, during the episode "Author of Murder", Vincent Price (the voice of Simon Templar) delivered an unsubtle yet eloquent message on the evils of prejudice and racism.
  • The Brewing Network's Justin's explanation why he thinks people who try to get away with drunk driving are stupid. He went through his past, explaining his experiences, and drove home over and over that he has no respect for anyone who drunk drives and will call out anyone who tries. Given that the BN has a lot of heavy drinkers as its listeners, it was a good way of making a point of the sort of behavior that the BN tolerates. Justin makes a point of having their Winterfest near public transport and letting designated drivers in free for this reason.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has, as setting rules: that some actions can never truly taken back, and that while violence can be an attractive or even necessary tool, it can not make things better on its own. Rather important gameplay mechanics to drop in when many competing products have teams of murderhobos roaming the field.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney series has a running theme of To Be Lawful or Good, as might well be expected of games centered around the legal system. The anvil comes at the very end of the fourth game in the main series, where both the Judge and the prosecutor of that game explain outright that Good is always the right choice over Lawful, because the law is always changing... and that we have a responsibility to stand up and work to change the law if the law is wrong, for the sake of anyone else who might have to face that law. Given how many protagonists are idealized for breaking laws they don't like, it's nice to hear from the other perspective on this, and leaving it as a subtle theme rather than stating it firmly would have been far less effective.
  • Katawa Shoujo has a different aesop for each girl's path, as well as a couple over-arching ones for the game as a whole, and while they are varying degrees of Anvilicious, pretty much all of them needed to be dropped.
  • Danganronpa runs on the theme of hope. That you need to hold onto hope, no matter how overwhelming or impossible your situation seems. It may be the only thing that you have to rely on in the end. Surrendering to despair is never a solution to anything.
    • Having talent doesn't automatically make you better than anyone and not having it doesn't make you worthless.
    • You need to take responsibility for your past and the consequences of your actions. However, even if it's filled with horrible mistakes, it does not define your future. You do.
    • Sometimes the truth is an awful one, but you need to pursue it anyway.
    • New Dangan Ronpa V3 manages to do something far different. Hope and Despair, as the series actually portrays it, is meaningless. Despair in itself does nothing but bring pointless misery and sorrow to the people around you, but the way Hope is consistently portrayed, as a person that Personifies it in its entirety, is even more meaningless. Because, as Shuichi points out, The Audience who chooses hope to win over despair in the end simply want to see a new tragedy unfold that hope can overcome, thus causing more people to pointlessly sign up for the Tv show that is Danganronpa, thus, trivializing Hope and Despair as a game to watch. The real thing that ends the sick situation is the Love for ones fellow man, and the love Shuichi and the remaining survivors have for each other, regardless of them being engineered to be a part of the show, is what convinces the audience to stop watching the show, and thus, ending the series In-Universe forever.

Alternative Title(s): Anvils That Needed To Be Dropped, Necessary Anvil

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