"American Dad After School Special" shows that eating disorders aren't just something that affect teenaged girls, as anyone (boys, men, women, etc.) can become just as obsessed with their bodies and their weight to the point of becoming bulimic and/or anorexic—even though the eating disorder counselor doesn't realize this, as he still refers to Stan as a teenaged girl and thinks the fact that Stan doesn't have his period is from anorexia drying up his ovaries like tobacco in the sun.
Another thing that people can interpret from this episode is that just because someone's "thin" or "skinny," that doesn't automatically mean that they're healthier and/or in better shape than someone who isn't, as being underweight can be just as bad as being overweight—in fact, some studies have proven that being underweight is actually a lot more harmful to a person's health that being overweight.
"Home Adrone": When you break somebody's trust, a single act to help them isn't going to fully restore it. As Stan says, it takes a long time for trust to be reestablished, but also says the road to doing so can always be started. In other words, broken trust is not always instantly repaired but can be over time.
Animaniacs had a very realistic Aesop in the episode "Bully for Skippy," which tells us that sometimes if you are faced with a bully who physically harms you, some authority figures may not listen/be able to help you, and you may just have to resort to fighting back in order to protect your well being.
"Ms. Foutley's Boys": You shouldn't be in a relationship just for the sake of it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being single, and if you're going to date then it should be with someone you love. Ginger tries to force her mother Lois to date Buzz because she's afraid of her mother being alone forever despite how much she finds Buzz and his sons a headache to deal with. And when Lois does eventually remarry, it's after a full season of dating and making sure that Dave is the right man for her.
"Fast Reputation" digs into the anvil on Slut-Shaming. Fed up of being called a nice girl, Ginger decides to crash a high school party. After having a Not What It Looks Like moment with a boy called Jake, she instead gets a reputation of being "fast". She realises she preferred her old reputation.
Joann Bishop is a great anvil on what someone who only craves popularity is like. Back when she was in Jr High, The very people she wanted to be friends with could sense her wannabe attitude a mile off, and the attempts she went through to get popularity never got her what she wanted, hence why she's such an utter grump in the present day.
Zuko: Growing up, we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest civilization in history and somehow, the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was! The people of the world are terrified by the Fire Nation! They dont see our greatness — they hate us! And we deserve it. Weve created an era of fear in the world. And if we dont want the world to destroy itself, we need to replace it with an era of peace and kindness.
Relating to the previous example, fascism, nationalism and imperialism is innately cancerous and will both ruin the nations surrounding you and your nation itself, and those that prop it up are will quickly become only concerned about extolling their own power over anything else. Sozin's initial attempts at "spreading prosperity" to the rest of the world by military conflict only leads to horrific suffering on a scale that disgusts him, and his descendants continue to use the excuse to justify conquest while ultimately only caring about becoming as powerful as they can be. The degradation into militarism completely bankrupts the Fire Nation's culture and leads it to a diplomatic nightmare that Zuko will have to spend the rest of his adult life attempting to clean up.
The show features two notable ones which Iroh gives out: "No one can give you honor or self-worth except yourself." (Zuko) "Power and perfection are overrated." (Aang)
In the episode "The Deserter", Aang discovers a Firebending master and is eager to learn firebending. The master is reluctant because he knows Aang has not mastered water and earth (and true focus) yet. To start with baby steps, the master gives Aang a tiny leaf to burn in a very controlled fashion, though he doesn't bother to explain the lesson's purpose. But an impatient Aang yearns to show off his potential and creates giant flames that badly burn Katara, much to his horror. Distraught, Aang decides he will never firebend again and suppresses his firebending abilities (until the later 3rd season). Katara reminds Aang that he has to learn firebending someday, just not now. Even if you feel you have more potential, dangerous lessons must be learned gradually. And if you mess up real terribly, it does not mean you must abandon learning it; you will learn it someday, but not today. A later third season episodes completes the Aesop that a dangerous ability can be beautiful and vital once you understand control and its meaning. Zuko and Aang learn this when they witness the last two dragons on Earth fire beautiful flames around them without burning them.
"Zuko Alone" has two: Even the 'good' side in a war can be morally ambiguous, and it's unrealistic to expect long-lasting enmity to be smoothed over by a single act.
Being a good parent isn't about loving your child because they meet your expectations, it's about always loving your child even though they've lost their way. The series demonstrates this by contrasting Ozai and Iroh's relationships with Zuko, and showing that Iroh was more of a father in the three years he spent with him than Ozai was for the other thirteen. On top of that, a real parent is the one who always loves you no matter what, rather than just being biologically related to you.
"The Southern Raiders" takes Forgiveness, an Aesop commonly found in children's shows and completely justifies it. Katara does not forgive the man who killed her mother, and makes it clear that she will never forgive him, especially since he doesn't regret it. Instead, she realizes that letting revenge, even incredibly justified revenge, dominate her life will destroy her. In the process, she does finally forgive Zuko for betraying the Gaang at the end of the second season, recognizing that he's trying to atone. It was an intelligent way of handling the Aesop that counts as a Reconstruction.
The theme of sticking to your ideals is especially prevalent, since his mentors (previous avatars), his friends, and pretty much everyone else in the story told him to kill Ozai, but instead he stuck with what he thought was right and it worked out for the best.
"It's okay if you've made mistakes - it's never too late to do the right thing", as shown with Zuko's HeelFace Turn, especially after it had been subverted (he had made the wrong choice) in the season 2 finale.
For example, the moral that when trying to fight evil, one should be careful to not become as bad as those you fight. (For example, many people became anti-bending Equalists so they could prevent the damage that some benders do. When they themselves became dangerous terrorists, powerful benders such as Tarrlok resorted to martial law and internment of the innocent. Both these reactions were wrong).
A major message of Book 4 is that fighting for what you believe in does not make it true. It comes across strongly when Bolin discovers that what he believed was right ended up harming others, even the ones he loves.
This article gives an insightful and beautiful description of how and why The Legend of Korra is one of the first cartoons to show the things most TV shows, animated or live-action, don't always do: Racial representation. Body positivity. Badass women who can still be vulnerable, aren't over-sexualized, and aren't over-exaggerated for either being too girly or too tomboyish. The complexity of politics and religion. No agenda of showing that "only girls are awesome", but both genders can be equally as awesome. And probably the most significant impact: The portrayal, if subtle one, of two women (Korra and Asami) of different races becoming an Official Couple.
This article appreciates the sensitive way in which Korra's trauma was approached and how she had to deal with a severe case of PTSD.
The episode "Mean Seasons" had Villain of the Week Calendar Girl, who was once a renowned model but was fired for being unable to compete with younger models. She eventually decides to extract revenge on all the companies and networks who had fired her and ruined her career. Throughout the episode, she always wears a full-face mask since she had so much plastic surgery done before turning evil. But when the police unmask her, she begins to scream and writhe on the ground, horrified that they see her "ugly" face. She is in her late-thirties and just as attractive as the other models seen.
Batgirl: She's beautiful. Batman: She can't see that anymore. All she can see are the flaws.
This one earns bonus points because Calendar Girl was voiced by Sela Ward, who in 1995 was passed up for the role as a Bond girl because "What we really want is Sela, but Sela ten years ago", prompting her to make a documentary called "The Changing Face of Beauty", focusing on the media's obsession with youth and its effect on women.
A huge one regarding domestic abuse is dropped in "Mad Love." Not only does it portray it as a serious issue, but it also shows why victims keep going back to their abusers; the Joker convinces Harley that he still loves her and that's enough to get her back in his grip.
The episode "Never Fear" deconstructs the idea of having no fear by showing why that's not a good thing. Scarecrow uses a poison that causes a person to act without fear. A man who fears heights foolishly swings through Gotham like Batman and almost plummets to his death. A timid employee at Wayne Industries storms into Bruce's office, loudly quits and kisses Wayne's secretary without her consent. Batman murders a crocodile, nearly gets himself killed several times, and threatens to have a man fall to his death for information on where Scarecrow is and doesn't bother saving him when it happens, though fortunately Robin (Tim Drake) steps in. Fear might be something that holds us back, but it can also keep us in check so we don't foolishly endanger our lives or anyone else's.
In the original Ben 10 series, Ben almost invariably tried for one of the physically strong characters in the watch-at first. The Omnitrix would often shift him to a form that could actually handle the crisis better, or just required him to think to see how it could be useful. Sometimes the anvil was dropped (much) harder then others on the lessons: 1) muscle isn't everything; 2) if you're not handed what you wanted, work with what you have. "Don't be a selfish hothead" also had the anvil dropped a few times.
"You shouldn't be a hero for the thrill of it and the praise afterwards. You should be a hero because it's the right thing to do." An entire episode was dedicated to teaching Ben this, and it's something that can easily apply to other fields. You shouldn't do good things because of praise and/or because you find it exciting. You should do good things because it's the right thing to do.
Ben: You know what? You two aren't even worth it. It's ridiculous. You've been doing the same old bully routine since the second grade, Cash, it's tired. Spilling my drink? Seriously. I can't believe I used to be afraid of you. Look around, Cash. We've all grown up, but you're still the same pathetic loser who has to torment others to feel good about himself. You're just... sad.
"Granddad's Fight": Robert's short fuse eventually led him to kill an annoying (but ultimately harmless) old man, and this only created more conflicts for him later down the road, as described below.
"Stinkmeaner Strikes Back": Stinkmeaner's ghost possessed Tom to seek vengeance upon Robert. And Stinkmeaner was defeated not through violence, but by Huey persuading Ruckus to show compassion towards Stinkmeaner, who rode on The Power of Hate.
"Stinkmeaner 3: The Hateocracy": Stinkmeaner's old acquaintances, the Hateocracy, went after the Freemans to avenge Stinkmeaner. And they were only defeated when someone bothered to call the police and have them arrested.
"Stinkmeaner: Begun the Clone War Has": Robert finally ends his Nigga Moment by sparing the life of Stinkmeaner's clone, and agreeing to make peace with each other, letting go of the bad blood and moving on.
The series Bravestarr features an episode, "The Price", on drugs. While most shows tend to do the "Drugs aren't cool" presentation and show the users simply being worse at school or sports, this episode drops all subtlety and shows just how far drug abuse can get, as one teen ended up paying the ultimate price. On the flip side, kids who see others doing drugs need to inform their parents or other responsible adults before the worse can happen.
If It's Doomsday, This Must Be Belfast. For all its faultsnote such as attempting to condense complex history into a version for children, complete with lots of As You Know exposition, mangled Scotirish accents, the implication that All Jews Are Ashkenazi, and Wheeler as the embodiment of America Saves the Day, it delivers a very clear Aesop that long histories of violence and bloodshed are complex, difficult problems without clear heroes and villains or quick, easy solutions, a secondary one that nobody wins when a nuclear war is waged, and a tertiary one that sometimes, people will not be able to be friends.
"Bitter Waters" is one of the better episodes of the series because of this. First off, it shows the poverty that many Native Americans live in (a message relevant in both US and Canada) and how little is done to help them. Then, it shows Looten Plunder actually showing a rare Pet the Dog moment - he wants to open up an agricultural firm on the reservation, which will provide its residents with jobs and money. However, where he messes up is the fact that he is using cash crops that are a little too thirsty for the land it grows on, which is very similar to what happened in the Soviet Union when they tried to grow cotton. in the end, he even admits their ideas were better when they use native and more appropriate agricultural products and use the land for green energy plants. The road to hell is paved with good intentions after all.
Also, the episode that focused on a kid being infected with HIV due to a blood transfusion mishap. It wasn't even remotely subtle about showing that people with HIV or AIDS victims don't spread the disease by just being around other people, need all the love and support they can get, and can be anyone you know and/or love.
The episode "Total Validation" gives a particularly twisted take on couples therapy clinics, but does conclude that love is not without compromise and that relationships where one person is "always right" and the other "always wrong" are not good for either person.
In "Bi-Topping Ality", the Mayor's refusal to sell anchovy pizza at his Church of Pizza restaurant sparks a controversy quite similar to the gay marriage debate that was going on in America at the time. When the Mayor finally decides to have all the anchovy eaters in town arrested, Baby Cakes, who has spent the whole episode curious about the forbidden topping, explains that people should be free to make their own choices, live their own lives, and be who they are.
Baby Cakes: Who cares why people choose stuff? Maybe DNA, maybe not, maybe you just want to be someone else for a day? What I mean is... all right, here's a metaphor. If a guy chooses to marry another guy, he should be able to right? Mayor: Well, of course right. Baby Cakes: So,I'm 95% of the time a pepperoni guy, but some days I see an anchovy and I want him in my mouth. And it's that freedom of choice that we need to protect, not science. Science is dumb.
Just because a reboot isnt an exact copy of the original doesn't mean it's going to be bad. The only important part of a reboot is whether or not it gets the heart of the franchise correct. Society Marches On and a few tweaks here and there are necessary in order for the work to appeal to a new generation of fans. Original fans need to accept that they don't "own" a franchise, and that changes can be made without sacrificing what made it work.
On the other hand, while those changes are necessary, removing everything that made the franchise appealing in the first place will leave the reboot a poor successor that turns off fans old and new. Executives can't expect people to automatically enjoy a work just because they slapped a beloved franchise's name on it.
Your favorite voice actor can't play the part forever for a variety of reasons, making The Other Darrin necessary. Additionally, a replacement actor isn't necessarily a bad choice for the role just because they're not the actor you're accustomed to. Chances are they love the character and the franchise just as much as you do, and are eager to give it their all, well aware that they have big shoes to fill.
Disney's Education for Death, as a Wartime Cartoon, seems like it'd be an unlikely candidate for this. However, it hammers in the point that Those Wacky Nazis are people just like you, and most of the soldiers are victims of propaganda and a cult of personality around the REAL monsters, like Hitler, Goebbels and Goering, and they're just as afraid of Hitler as you are.
In "Ruled Out", Timmy gets fed up with all the rules his parents enforce when they won't let him watch a violent TV special, so he wishes that his parents would "care less" about him. At first, he enjoys it as he's allowed to do whatever he wants, but two weeks into the wish, Timmy gets sick from eating nothing but junk food and the Turners' hygiene and the house goes to pot. The whole episode demonstrates that while it might be annoying for your parents to not let you do whatever you want, the rules are there because your parents care about you and want you to be healthy and safe.
In "Mc Stroke", Peter tries to blame Mc Burger Town after being diagnosed with stroke due to him eating 30 burgers endlessly. The silver lining is that no matter how terrible your bodies have become, it's your own responsibility and faults instead of them and that you shouldn't blame them for ending up like this in the first place.
There's also "Peter-assment" for challenging the Double Standard by having Peter a nervous wreck from being sexually harassed by his female boss and his family and friends not giving a crap about it, as they either believe that women can get away with sexually harassing men, or they think the notion is ridiculous. In fact, one reviewer of the episode criticized the plot, but praised it for actually showing that sexual harassment isn't always a man giving a woman unwanted attention.
In "Baby Got Black", Peter and Jerome get into an argument over the latter not letting his daughter date Chris because hes white, and Jerome says that black people can't be racist when Peter claims that he is. Jerome learns that, either way, racism is racism no matter which group is discriminating.
"The Dating Game": The plot of the episode has Quagmire sign up for Tinder but develop an obsession with it due to its simplicity towards sexual liaison. The "Tinder is Gross" song highlights the anvils about the dangers of having too much of a good thing and how constant sex loses the emotional passion in a genuine relationship.
"Trans Fat" addresses the issue of transphobia and discusses the issue in a far better manner than they did in "Quagmire's Dad". For context, Peter decides to identify himself as transgender so he can exploit people's sympathy and excuse how he treats others. After an injury, Peter is given sexual reassignment surgery and has now transitioned from male to female. After people start being transphobic towards him, Ida (Quagmire's mother who is actually transexual as male to female) berates Peter for his behaviour. Ida tells him how she had struggled for 47 years to come to terms with her identity, how she was suicidal and terrified of coming out to her own family. She finishes her story by telling Peter how he had tarnished the struggle by making transsexuality sound like a joke and how he had made it more difficult for people like Ida to come out without fear of mockery or resentment.
"Livin' on a Prayer" delivers a surprising message about Christianity and tolerance (it almost reads as a response to the backlash against "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven"). Lois discovers that Stewie's new friend Scotty has cancer, but his parents won't seek treatment because they are Christian scientists, who believe that prayer is enough to heal. Though Lois attempts to persuade them, she eventually goes as far as to kidnap Scotty and bring him to the hospital against his will. When word gets out, Scotty's parents beg Lois to return him. Instead of losing her temper, though, she makes a carefully-reasoned, well-delivered speech about how medical advancements can be viewed as answers to prayers for healing, and those who work in the medical field may be "the instruments of God's will." Scotty's parents are convinced and allow him to get treatment, and Lois thanks them by saying "God bless you both." All told, it's an important anvil about how not all religious people are intolerant fundamentalists (Lois never gives up on her belief in God, and Scotty's parents are polite and sincere in their own beliefs), that science and faith can (and often do) coexist, and that people's minds can be changed through conversation and discussion.
Fillmore! has a surprising view on the modern school systems for a Disney cartoon.
In "South of Friendship, North of Honor", Wayne is broken after his partner Emily was bullied off the force and out of their school, an event for which he blames himself and which he deals with by looking the other way no matter what the rest of the corrupt safety patrol do. Through Fillmore's encouragement, Wayne (and the audience) realize that lying down and watching wrongdoing be done is not only a surefire way for a place to become unsafe for citizens but also a way to turn you into something you don't like and can't respect.
"Binky Gets Canceled...Again!" As the title implies, Binky's popular kids' show is canceled after parents complain that the program isn't educational. Binky points out that his show does teach educational stuff: "I make children laugh! I entertain!" The station manager then declares that entertaining simply isn't enough for children's shows anymore — they need to have "social content" to get airtime. This seems to be a reaction against Anvilicious programs that treat kids like idiots while hammering home countless Aesops. It's not subtle, but it does make the legitimate claim that it's OK for children to simply have fun and enjoy themselves while watching television, rather than constantly having to learn something from it. This is even more obvious in a later episode where the Buddy Bears constantly ruin Garfields fun by explaining the jokes and every little thing he does (including his name).
Thanks to show writer Mark Evanier, every time the Buddy Bears show up, we get a message about groupthink and The Complainer Is Always Wrong, namely that blindly following the group and being unable to form your own opinions is not the way to be. This is particularly effective in "Big Bad Buddy Bird," because it frames the Buddy Bears as a Show Within a Show. Roy leaves the farm and looks for a new job in showbiz; he's placed on the Buddy Bears Show as their new friend "Big Bad Buddy Bird," who, in his own words, "never agrees with the group and sets a bad example for impressionable children everywhere." Towards the end of the episode, which features one member of the Bears constantly giving up what they want to do to go with the group and outright telling children "NEVER have an opinion of your own!', Roy—who's been punished with sixteen-ton safes being dropped on his head whenever he disagrees—delivers a speech that summarizes exactly what's wrong with the groupthink; it helps that he's literally pressed up against a television screen while the Bears try to pull him off, which makes it seem like he's actually speaking directly to children watchingGarfield and Friends.
NO! No more examples! Kids, don't listen to any of this—these Bears are dangerous. You should have opinions of your own! You should think and decide and not listen to what everyone else says! Use your own mind—don't do everything your friends do just because they do it, have a brain of your own! LET GO OF ME! THE GROUP ISN'T ALWAYS RIGHT!
The episode "Deadly Force" is anything but subtle about its message, but is generally considered one of the best episodes of the series for treating its subject matter with respect, and instead of using the easy Aesop, "Guns will kill you if you even so much as think about them," they opt for the more mature and reasonable, "Guns are only dangerous if you don't know how to handle them."
One episode, "Temptation," has Brooklyn falling under Demona's sway. First, she saves his life from some bikers who blindly attack him when they realize he's not human. She then offers to "educate" him in the ways of humanity, and shows him various terrible things in the city, including a mugging, a couple angrily fighting over their son and the boy running away, and a murder scene. When Brooklyn argues that Elisa is a kind human being, Demona responds that she might be the exception that proves the rule, but as a whole, Humans Are Bastards. She comes across as having solid points, something Brooklyn echoes when he remarks that much of what she said made sense to him in his confusion about humanity and their reactions to him. Goliath points out that Demona was only speaking half-truths that speak to her own hate-ridden interpretation of humans, which refuses to see any potential good in them. It's an excellent anvil about how extremists can seem comforting and even correct when speaking to confused young people (who are very often made targets of cults and extremist movements for that very reason); that while a person's intentions can be (or at least seem to be) good, what really matters is how they act on those intentions; that issues are not a plain case of black and white (Demona certainly wasn't wrong about the people who fired on Brooklyn); and that the actions of the few cannot be used as justification for hatred or prejudice against the many.
The God, the Devil and Bob episode "Bob's Father" makes it clear that, even though Bob's father did love him and was good enough to get into heaven, his Jerkass behaviour towards Bob was nowhere near justifiable, and even though Bob has his own flaws, he's still a much better father than his own was.
Gravity Falls, among other things, is known for the lessons it will drop hard when it needs to be said.
One of the overriding themes of the series is the Power of Trust. Lying to people, especially your loves ones, in a misguided attempt to protect them or yourself, or doing so out of a sense of mistrust can lead to conflict. The biggest mistake Grunkle Ford made was not telling Stan the truth about the portal, instead keeping the danger from him. Stan nearly destroyed his relationship with Dipper, Mabel, and even Soos by lying to them about the portal and what he was planning. Dipper nearly erased Ford's memories after discovering the fact that he didn't tell him about his work with Bill.
No matter how unlikely it may seem, if you can truly get to and understand them, there will be opportunities for you to bury the hatchet with former enemies. Pacifica was able to befriend Dipper and Mable after spending time with them and letting them know about her, Ford and Stan were able to rekindle their friendship after talking with each other and realizing they had let their anger go too far, and Gideon (To an extent) has realized what he's done and decided to try and become a better person.
The Hangman tells the story of a moral coward who watches as everyone in his town is hung one by one. First a foreigner, then a man who protested the first hanging, then a jew, then a black, and so on. Eventually the cowardly narrator gets his turn on the gallows tree for the crime of being too cowardly to stand up for the previous victims. The message is very obvious (You have a moral duty to stand up to injustice, or you'll be a victim of it), but it's horribly effective in its beautifully macabre style.
On the episode "Flash and Substance" — it's okay to be happy, and feel good after a job well done. You don't have to be emo, depressed, or "dark" for people to like you — and you should always be kind to those weaker than you. Maybe this isn't an aesop— but in a world of dark and depressing storylines to show how awful the world is, and how horrible the people are, it's nice to see someone out and out say that they have good days. And you don't have to beat the snot out of the bad guys. Maybe you could help them get the treatment they really need.
The contrast between Flash's style in Central City and that of the visiting Batman is wonderfully brought home when Flash quietly talks The Trickster down — said Trickster voiced by the King Of Bat-Villain's VA, Mark Hamill, speaking in something very close to his normal voice. Batman even looks envious, and shows his respect for Flash.
On a more significant note, regardless if that world's Luthor rigged the election to win which started the whole mess in the first place, the people themselves who had put him in office still shared the responsibility and ended up paying for it with their freedom. In turn, the Justice Lords reacted in a way that they saw would address what the world wanted/needed, thus resulting in said tyranny. Which hammers home another aesop; heroes are people too, and if pushed too far by the very ones they had sworn to protect, it wouldn't be that far off that they'll either turn on you, stop caring, or end up doing what the Lords did.
"Operation: F.U.T.U.R.E." explores an allegory about how wrongmisandry is. In the present, young Margaret claims that her brothers pick on her and boss her around. However, this is the same girl who's going to grow up to the tyrannical Madame Margaret who will create a dystopic future where girls have became oppressors to innocent boys everywhere, making her no better than the boys she despises (and no better than the adults the KND fight). Meanwhile, Numbuh 4 has grown to be the jaded leader of a rebel band of boys who are trying to take down Madame Margaret. What sets them apart is when an ally comes forth in the form of a girl (Numbuh 3's granddaughter Sally) wanting to join the boys, Numbuh 4 eventually acknowledges boys and girls can be allies.
The show manages to address the topic of eurocentrism and why it's wrong in some episodes. In "Bonjour, Au Revoir, Adios", Senor Fabuloso and the French clown twins (Bonjour and Au Revoir) argue over whether New Orleans is more Spanish or French. They learn that obsessive nationalism isn't good, and that other people shaped New Orleans such as Africans and Native Americans. In "Kick It Good", Andy thinks that Thailand copied volleyball with their sport takraw, but learns that sports from around the world can be similar, but also different and just as good.
The show also does a good job talking about trauma and mental health, two topics almost never covered in preschool shows. Many characters have bad mental health as a result of childhood trauma (Salami being bullied by his sisters, Senor Fabuloso's friends abandoning him, not to mention his 10th birthday disaster) or just in general (Leo is fearful of everything, craves approval, and wants things to be the way he likes it). The show, through episodes like "Not Home on the Range", "Volcano Boy", "Meet the Strongs", "Time of Goodbye", and "Gaja's Birthday", show us that it's okay not to be okay, and that your past is not your present or future. It also encourages talking to someone you trust about these issues so they can help you (i.e, Luna).
Multiple episodes, such as "Aren't We a Pair?" and "Hip Life", teach us to separate stereotypes from reality, as nonwhite countries like Egypt and Ghana aren't ancient like they're commonly depicted to be in media. Interestingly, both these episodes involve Carmen.
The Fantastic Racism episode drops a very heavy handed but still decent lesson about the nature of prejudice. Kurt and Douglas's families get caught up in a legendary feud between their species and it affects their children's friendship. Kurt and Douglas quickly realise that holding onto past prejudices is a silly notion and scold their parents for it.
Douglas: "My ancestors might have been from Cerebellian, but I am from Intrepidville. And I choose to be friends with Blobulans, Earthlings, Verdigrians or what have you."
"Chow Hound'' really got into this one. The titular character, a greedy dog, abuses a cat and a mouse for the simple mistake of failing to get the gravy along with the meat (literally, in the cat's case). When he buys up a butcher shop, he gets a little too greedy and (based on his grossly obese appearance on the operating table in the final scene) consumes all the stock at once. The cat and mouse show up with a massive can of gravy in tow and proceed to gleefully force-feed the immobilized dog his Just Desserts. Also, bullying doesnt pay.
The classic short "Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century" features Duck Dodgers in an Escalating War over Planet X with Marvin the Martian, to the point where they both use their "Secret Weapons". Dodgers succeeds in claiming Planet X, by which time it's roughly the size of an end table. A parable of the futility of nuclear war? Maybe. Jones probably didn't intend it to be so and he didn't actively set out to teach viewers this, but, if you know anything about the Cold War and the fears people had about nuclear war, it's hard not to see this.
"The Ducktators" shows that sometimes, peace talks won't change the policies of evil dictators and that war is the only solution.
A series-wide anvil is this: yes, family can drive you insane in ways that no other person in the world can. Yes, family is hard to deal with. But in the end, they're the people who love you the most and who have your back no matter what. Specific episodes that emphasize this theme include "Project Loud House", "Overnight Success", "Attention Deficit", "House Music", "Roughin It", and "One of the Boys".
Another highly prominent message is that you shouldnt be ashamed of spending most of your time around people of the opposite gender. Examples include "Roughin It" and "One of the Boys".
Many episodes have the message that being in a large and chaotic family isn't an excuse to be selfish, since your other siblings deal with the exact same thing, too. Examples include "Out on a Limo", "Cereal Offender", "Its a Loud, Loud, Loud, Loud House", "Linc or Swim", and "Funny Business".
In "Toads and Tiaras", the lesson of "Be yourself" manages to pair quite well with "New and different doesn't mean bad" because while Lana wins the competition by being herself, she does admit to enjoying dressing up to play the part of Lola, something she never would have discovered otherwise.
"The Green House" shows that you need to protect the planet for the planet's sake, not for yours.
"A Tale of Two Tables" uses Lincoln wanting to sit at the adult table as a metaphor for not being in a rush to grow up. Growing up will happen eventually, so don't rush to do so and enjoy your childhood while it's still happening.
In "Gown and Out", Lola worries that she will lose when she moves up to a higher-profile regional child pageant than the ones she easily won in her hometown, and she fakes being sick to avoid the loss. Lori then delivers the moral that if you take your passions seriously you will always be facing stronger competition, victory will never be a guarantee and that you cannot expect to achieve greatness if you insist on remaining a big fish in a small pond.
The 1939 short Peace on Earth is a Christmastime story. In it, Funny Animals discuss a not-so-funny topic; that is, how "men" went extinct due to warfare (World War II was clearly on the horizon at the time and this was before nuclear weapons were developed, mind you). We see some of the horrors of warfare depicted WWI-style. And when the men had gone, the animals afterwards read the "humans' book of rules" and express disappointment that the humans had some good rules (e.g. Thou Shalt Not Kill) but weren't able to follow them.
One episode "The Intruder" ends with Eda admitting she's cursed, and she drinks her elixer in order to function as a witch. If one likens it to an illness that requires medication, it comes across as a very important lesson: you should never be afraid to share with your loved ones that your have a condition. Eda also makes a point that acknowledging and treating your illness doesn't have to be a bad thing.
A later episode, "Keeping up A-fear-ances" builds upon it when Eda's mother Gwendolyn insists on using natural remedies to somehow "cure" the curse, despite that the potion was working fine. Not to mention a witch from the healing coven even recommended the potions to keep Eda's curse at bay in the first place. Gwendolyn chooses to discredit the use of potions because her "expert" Wartlop claims potions are scams by the Potion Coven to get more money. But after learning Wartlop's really a pack of goblins who scam desperate witches, Gwen ultimately learns a lesson that can't be emphasized enough: stick with proper treatments that real doctors recommend, because the so-called "experts" and their remedies may not have your best interest.
Luz learns the hard way that there is no such thing as a chosen one, and that it is her duty to make some purpose for her life. In the season 2 episode "Hunting Palismen," after Luz fails to bond with a palisman, she comes to the realization that she had no clue what she truly wanted as both her wishes of becoming a witch whilst also returning home would cancel each other out. At the end, she decides to carve her own palisman with the lesson being that sometimes you would not know what you want to do with your life, and that's perfectly fine and often would take time.
Phineas and Ferb: The episodes "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" and "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo" dish out some Anvils about how children shouldn't have their creativity and imagination restricted, and how they should pursue what they want. While the Anvil-dropping itself isn't particularly subtle (in fact, the dropping of the Anvils incorporates some dark themes and even some And I Must Scream elements for a show directed to 6-11 year-olds), the Aesop is notably important (especially towards parents who are keen on having their children follow in their footsteps, and in the process stifling their kids' imagination and having their true identity obliterated.)
Phineas and Ferb also gives us a bearable health food aesop that has been slipped into kids shows since ever: the episode "Candace's Big Day". In the B-plot of the episode, Dr. Doofenshmirtz hatches a plan to use his Junkfoodinator to coat all of the Tristate area's food with various hydrogenated oils and other fatty preservatives, making everyone become fat and lazy, while he hoards fruits and vegetables to keep himself healthy. But before he unleashes his scheme, he covers the healthy food with the oily mixture, tries some, and instantly becomes addicted to it. By the episode's end, he's eaten all of the fuel for the Junkfoodinator, which causes him to become covered with acne, grow a bloated stomach, and completely lose all of his energy, all while he brags about how "healthy" he is. This over-the-top reaction is part of what makes the Aesop so effective, but it's also nice to see a kid's show explaining that foods aren't inherently "good" or 'bad" for you; rather, it's how they're prepared and how much of them you eat that determines whether or not they're healthy.
The Powerpuff Girls episode "Equal Fights" introduced Femme Fatale, a Straw Feminist villain who convinces the girls that they should let her go, as both crimefighting and crime itself are male-dominated fields. The girls are so taken with Femme Fatale's teachings that they start acting completely nasty to all of the men in Townsville (even boys their own age)—including the Mayor and Professor—whenever they're asked to do something. Eventually, Ms. Bellum and Ms. Keane, the girl's kindergarten teacher, help bring the girls back to their senses by pointing out that they weren't being mistreated by the Mayor and the Professor—the men were legitimately asking for their help after they did a fair share of the work. The girls, taken aback, claim that women have to "look out for each other," at which point three women (one a bank president, one a police officer, and one a Valley Girl) enter and ask if Femme Fatale was "looking out for them" when she robbed the bank, broke the officer's arm, and copied the last woman's hairstyle. Finally, the girls themselves deliver a speech to Femme Fatale about Susan B. Anthony, who Fatale claims is her hero. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup explain that, after Anthony was arrested for voting in the nineteenth century, the judge considered simply letting her off because she was a woman and, according to both him and popular thought at the time, not capable of handling the pressures of a prison sentence; Anthony instead demanded that she be put in jail, as she had broken a law. The whole point was clear: feminism isn't about attacking men or saying that women deserve special treatment; it is about giving women the same opportunities and choices as men while making them full citizens with the same rights; furthermore, going down the path of Femme Fatale will empower an anti-feminist backlash and hurt real feminism (strangely, a lot of anti-feminists think the episode supports their cause). It's a refreshing Deconstruction of the You Go, Girl! trope.
The Private Snafu shorts gave really helpful anvils to the soldiers they were shown to, and some of them may apply to regular life as well...
"Gripes": What the Army puts you through may be rough, but without proper authority and training, soldiers' morale can go to pot. In a sense, this can also be applied to the workforce, as without proper guidance, things can go to hell.
"Rumors": It shows how a small rumor can develop into a force that devastates morale and heightens fears.
"Snafuperman": it is necessary to study your maps and field manuals before you go out into the offensive, just like how its important for using it to explore unknown areas.
"Three Brothers": Your job in places like Army may seem boring, or even embarrassing, but every little thing counts to ensure success.
As a whole, the shorts constantly remind viewers that, while the military's training and regulations may be burdensome, war is a life or death situation and these things are necessary to achieve victory and survive.
In "Space Junk", the kids help clean up some of the junk in space after they find out about it from Sean's mom. The moral of the said episode is that knowing there's a problem should make you want to help solve it. Sean even states it outright. It's important for everybody.
In "Jet's Time Machine", there's the moral that you cannot change the past, you can only learn from it.
From "Racing on Sunshine", we have the moral that you shouldn't let pride get the better of you because if it does, you will head for a fall.
"Astronaut Ellen Ochoa" gives out the moral that creative play is important for children and you should enjoy life while you're still young.
"Fact Or Fiction?" delivers the moral that you can't believe everything you see and hear, and you should do your own research to get the real facts.
Even though the Aesop in "Who Messed Up The Treehouse?" was Anvilicious, it does get the message across that it's everybody's responsibility to take care where they live, whether it be the treehouse or Planet Earth.
A series-wide anvil: you are more than your mistakes or your past. The mistakes you make are just stepping stones to doing better next time. Your struggle now does not negate how far you've come. Everyone is good at heart no matter how bad they may seem, and sometimes all someone needs are love and friends.
Reboot: Matrix's Character Development from Number 7 to Web Riders on the Storm have the moral of "PTSD is not an excuse to be an asshole". While Matrix's lack of social skills is understandable due to his past of having to fight inside games with only AndrAIa and Frisket for company for years, his jealousy and short temper are called out by everyone around him constantly and make situations much worse for everyone around him, causing AndrAIa to nearly die when she leaves the Saucy Mare after getting angry at Matrix for his sour attitude towards Ray Tracer and is attacked by a Web Creature. Matrix becomes ashamed of his behaviour many times and realizes he needs to be a better person.
"The Rules" dropped a surprisingly thoughtful message about blindly following laws and revering past generations. When King Bob recovers an old playground rulebook written by a past King of the Playground, he immediately starts enforcing the old King's rules on how to properly play games at recess, employing a private force of "fun police" to punish any kids who break the rules. He's so set on following the old rules that he never considers that some of the more baffling ones (requiring the kids to play four-square with an old stump, for example) are completely irrelevant to their lives, and that a previous generation's king might not have had all the answers.
The message of "The Rules" grows another layer when it turns out that King Mort, the author of the rulebook, devised his special set of rules because he went to Third Street Elementary during the Great Depression, when the school was too poor to afford proper playground equipment; with limited resources, Mort had to teach his friends to entertain themselves with what little they had. With that in mind, the children realize that they've spent so much time squabbling over how to "properly" have fun that they've forgotten to appreciate how fortunate they are.
The show as a whole repeatedly dropped the same anvil: Children need time to have fun, play together, build friendships, and in general just be kids. This is most clearly stated in "Recess Is Canceled." In the episode, Third Street School cancels recess in an attempt to improve the kids' test scores. As the weeks go by, all of the children gradually become soulless, emotionless shells of their former selves who can't recognize each other or even formulate thoughts. It's only after their test scores drop dramatically that recess is reinstated, and the kids are immediately brought back to their original, joyful selves.
The episode Nobody Doesn't Like TJ revolved around TJ learning that Gordy doesn't like him. He spends the episode trying to figure out why Gordy doesn't like him; learns from Ms Finster that, even if she puts him into detention, that doesn't mean she hates him and finally trying to show Gordy how cool and fun he is, so Gordy would like him. Everything backfires and Gordy admits that his 'reason' for not liking TJ is just that: he just doesn't like him. It dropped two anvils: Just because someone punishes you for breaking the rules, doesn't mean they hate you or are nothing but horrible people (Ms Finster above) and that, harsh as it may seem, you cannot be liked by everyone in the world. Sometimes, a person just doesn't like you, for no apparent reason and trying to change that will only worsen things. Just accept it.
"Patty Hype", where SpongeBob starts to sell Pretty Patties, a brand of brightly colored Krabby Patties. The Pretty Patties become a runaway hit, despite Mr. Krabs and Squidward laughing in SpongeBob's face. First of all, it shows you that you shouldn't give up on your dreams, even if you're laughed at because of them. And then when Mr. Krabs cheats SpongeBob out of the Pretty Patty franchise, it comes back to bite him in the ass.
From the later seasons, "SpongeBob's Last Stand", where SpongeBob opposes a superhighway being built through Jellyfish Fields. Initially, only Patrick supported him, but still, he tried, and in the end, he succeeded. It was a pretty good aesop about not harming the environment and caring about wildlife.
There's also the episode "Not Normal", in which Squidward convinces SpongeBob that he needs to act "more normal." SpongeBob watches a self-help video on the topic, and eventually transforms into a bland, mediocre office worker. But instead of this making him happier and more accepted, it leaves him bored and miserable because he's lost all of his unique talents and the things that he used to enjoy. Even Squidward doesn't want anything to do with him after he takes his normality too far. He and Patrick end up spending the rest of the episode trying to turn SpongeBob "weird" again. The message, that "normal" is incredibly overrated and the quest to fit in can destroy the best things about you, feels very clear and strong in this episode.
In its early days, SpongeBob had a talent for dropping anvils in very non-Anvilicious ways:
"Hooky" was a realistic look at addiction. Patrick introduces SpongeBob to the hooks (fish hooks) that pull you up, from which it is great fun to float down. SpongeBob tries it, seeing that Patrick's not being hurt by it, and heeds his warning "not to get too high." After Mr. Krabs gives them a Hooks Are Bad speech, SpongeBob rides the hooks one more time, and gets his body hooked, which effectively means death. In a scene that wouldn't be out of place on the show Intervention, SpongeBob faces his own mortality, and then humiliation. Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob he's doomed, and puts out a Help Wanted sign. SpongeBob then has to take his clothes off in front of Pearl and the other girls to free himself. It turns out Squidward was on other end of the fishing pole. We also learn that people who don't seem affected by addiction really are, as Patrick is canned as tuna fish, having apparently been captured.
Similarly, "Skill Crane" illustrates the seductive nature of gambling. Mr. Krabs installs a skill crane game at the Krusty Krab, and Squidward becomes so obsessed with winning that he spends his life savings in quarters to do so. Bonus points for framing the issue in terms of a game children are familiar with, and probably was/will be their first introduction to the concept.
"Jellyfish Hunter" has a message about animal abuse that goes on in food processing plants. When SpongeBob introduces jellyfish jelly to the Krabby Patty menu to much popularity, Mr. Krabs sees this as an opportunity to expand business and gets SpongeBob to hunt every jellyfish he can find. The problem arise when SpongeBob thoughtlessly hunts all but one jellyfish down from their habitat to feed Mr. Krabs' need. He soon learns Mr.Krabs has made a giant assembly line that essentially drains all the jellyfish of their jellyand likely kills them. SpongeBob frees all the imprisoned ones and its made quite clear that SpongeBob's method of getting jellyfish jam, taking out a small amount and leaving them alive to replenish themselves so it can be done again, was the correct one and not Mr. Krabs' practice of overfishing them to death.
"Ripped Pants" shows that while some jokes can be funny, they can very easily overstay their welcome and become annoying instead. It also makes it very clear that pretending to be dying or seriously hurt for the sake of a joke is not okay.
As Patrick puts it in "I'm Your Biggest Fanatic", hero worship is unhealthy. When SpongeBob meets his jellyfishing idol Kevin, he's completely oblivious to Kevin's nastier traits due to his adoration of him. Kevin takes advantage of SpongeBob's naiveté to humiliate him like he has with so many of his fans and SpongeBob eventually learns that Kevin is not even the jellyfish expert he presented himself as. Ultimately, SpongeBob learns that he can still appreciate the things he loves without having to fit in with any elite cliques to validate his enjoyment.
In "Can You Spare a Dime?", after Squidward quits his job at the Krusty Krab due to Mr. Krabs accusing him of stealing his first dime, he ends up jobless and homeless. SpongeBob offers to let Squidward stay at his house and help him until he's able to get back on his own feet. However, Squidward soon takes advantage of SpongeBob's kindness and relentlessly freeloads off of him for months on end (to the point where even the narrator gets tired of waiting and a new one is hired). Eventually, SpongeBob, frustrated by Squidward's selfish behavior and unwillingness to get back on his feet, tries to give him gradually less-than-subtle hints to get a job, which Squidward chooses to ignore, driving SpongeBob off the edge. The episode shows that being too nice can result in people selfishly taking advantage of that person's kindness and freeloading of them, and you should not let them walk all over you and know when to stand up for yourself.
In "No Weenies Allowed", SpongeBob tries to enter a tough sailors club, eventually getting in when he has Patrick pretend to be beaten up by him. However, SpongeBob injures himself immediately afterwards and is taken to the hospital. This teaches a very important moral about not biting off more than you can chew.
"Nasty Patty" has SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs try to catch an impostor health inspector by feeding him a tainted, garbage-filled Krabby Patty. However, they soon realize that the inspector who came to the Krusty Krab was real and try to hide the body. In short, stopping crime is something best left for highly trained law enforcement officials, not civilians who could get innocent people hurt.
"Just One Bite" teaches Squidward that you cant say you dont like something youve never tried, while also teaching SpongeBob that if someone doesnt want to do something, then no means no.
"Artist Unknown" teaches lessons about not taking credit for others work and for teachers to let students express themselves rather than trying to control them.
"Sailor Mouth" has a very obvious message about profanity. These words are curse words because they are very hurtful to others, and they are not meant to be thrown around casually.
While one might be inclined to think that the morals of sharing, compromise, and getting along belong solely in little kids' shows, The Sym-Bionic Titan episode "Elephant Logic" challenges that line of thinking. Throughout the episode, the neighborhood kids are able to solve their problems efficiently thanks to the lessons from their Animal Buddies show, while Lance and Ilana are stuck squabbling. After checking out what Animal Buddies has to say, Octus hilariously drops the anvil that one shouldn't write off these morals for little kids, as there are many grown-ups who could stand to learn them.
ThunderCats (2011) sometimes has individual aesops for an episode, but overall the series stresses kindness and mercy towards all, and that self-absorbed pride can have dire consequences. The series starts out with Thundera being destroyed by the lizards once they get a hold of lost technology, because the cats were so racist and oppressive of the other races due to arrogance. The rest of the series has Lion-O, the new king, repeatedly defy the ways of his people and tries to aid everyone regardless of race or faction. This includes letting lizard soldiers go and giving them the choice to desert the army and go back home, then freeing them when they were going to be executed. Even before that, lizard prisoners he freed in Thundera freed him when Thundera fell. Lion-O's actions frequently pay off for him in the end, when someone he helped in the past comes to aid him in a time of need. This is in contrast to Mumm-Ra, who uses the lizards' hatred of the cats to recruit them, and then recruits generals who are just psychotic Blood Knights to scare the rest of the troops into fighting on. The anvil being dropped is be good to others, and they'll be good to you.
An in-universe example in another episode has Tish deciding to conduct a study on human behavior. She acts horribly to all her test subjects, eventually causing them to walk out on her. She's learned her lesson by the end of the episode and announces to her friends that - in a touch of Irony - she ended up the subject of her own study: that when you need someone to help you, they respond better to positive reinforcement. Tino then points out that it took three days for her to basically learn "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar". Still a good lesson though.
Heroes aren't reality TV stars or people who are famous for being famous. Real heroes are ordinary people who change the world. People who are kind and caring. People who made mistakes. People who struggled along the way, but kept on trying and achieved their goal. That's what makes a hero.
Nobody is perfect. The show makes it clear that none of the heroes featured are perfect human beings whatsoever, as they are shown making mistakes, and there are even some that had made questionable decisions or said questionable things in real life. note Like George Washington and Winston Churchill, to name a few But the show is about believing the best of everyone and remembering people for the good they put into the world.
"I Am Billie Jean King" teaches that boys and girls can do the same things. Girls are allowed to play sports, boys are allowed to do ballet, etc. It promotes gender-nonconformity in a way kids can understand, and this moral is very much needed.