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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 Planet Eris.

However, the Aesops delivered via unicorn or rocket ship sometimes get Lost Aesop 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:

  1. 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. Often falls into Misapplied Phlebotinum territory.
    • One common difference is simply that we must accept something in real life because changing it is impossible, which is, in and of itself, a fairly Warped Aesop. In the other (fictional) world, we're shown that changing it is completely possible and it isn't just wishful thinking in that reality, but we're still supposed to accept it, which quite often takes this into Misapplied Phlebotinum territory.
  1. 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. A variety of Aesoptinum, and often a Space Whale Aesop.

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, and all new Vampire Blood vs. Holy Water Swirl.

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 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.

Contrast Space Whale Aesop, which is when realistic actions cause fantastic consequences.

Examples of Type I:


Anime and Manga

  • At the end of 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? This Minus comic might have the answer to that...
    • Another example for Gurren Lagann is the core theme that ideals should never be sacrificed, because in its universe idealism and willpower literally can do anything. I.e. what Rossiu does in the third arc of the series is, for the most part, technically correct. He holds Simon accountable for recklessly charging into battle and subsequently causing a huge explosion in the middle of the city, and when it becomes clear that there's no way to save all of humanity, he conceals this information to prevent (more of) a panic while trying to save as many as he can. However his actions are cast as being wrong because he acts in a totalitarian way in the process, and one of Gurren Lagann's big ideas is the importance of freedom, and compromising that value for the sake of safety basically makes you evil. In fact all the series' villains practice forms of "population control" to preserve peace, and this is portrayed as a sad and "limited" way to live, effectively sacrificing what life should be (growth) in exchange for trying to hold on to it as long as possible (stagnation). However, in the real world, taking an all-or-nothing approach to the survival of the human race would be seen by most people as really, really stupid. Especially since being manly tends not to break the laws of physics in reality. It's a powerful message, and it has relevance to the real world, but the things that make it possible that everything works out in GL don't actually exist.


Comic Books

  • Barbara Gordon (started as Batgirl, became Oracle, now back to being Batgirl) in the DC Comics Universe lost the use of her legs -- in a universe where incredible technology exists that should be able to restore them. Showing that handicapped people can be useful contributors to society doesn't work so well when the Phlebotinum in the world means that she's only handicapped by choice. DC has tried to justify this by saying that she won't use technology that's available to superheroes but not to civilians, which would make sense only if being handicapped places no burden whatsoever on other people; otherwise, choosing not to cure herself is unfair to those people. However, this is also part of a more general trend of Bat Family characters using (by DCU standards) very low-tech equipment. If they used all the technology they should have access to, they'd be hurling lasers around instead of boomerangs, and they'd wear robotic power suits that rival Superman in power instead of just some spandex with the occasional kevlar vest underneath.
    • The issue is spoofed in this comic by Erica Henderson.
    • With the relaunch of all of DC's titles, she's no longer in a wheelchair.
  • 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 WMD's can't walk, talk, and have minds of their own.


Film

  • Legend: NEVER, EVER, TOUCH A UNICORN, as you'll unleash Armageddon and the devil will try to seduce and marry you.
  • 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.
    • To be fair, he might have also been bullshitting in an attempt to manipulate Anakin. This is upheld by the novelization, where the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn tells Yoda how to reach immortality as a Jedi, through a Force Ghost.
  • Harmless is about a sentient Porn Stash that harms its owner's family. Say what you will about the moral itself (elsewhere, please), but it breaks down somewhat since real porn stashes, um, aren't sentient.


Literature

  • 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 die from a marijuana overdose, to warn kids that this could happen to them. But while marijuana is toxic to horses, it cannot kill a human.
  • 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. So, don't use your magical powers to bring back the dead.
  • Harry Potter 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. Lupin himself admits that he is a danger, that he really screwed up, and that the only reason no-one was hurt was that he was lucky. However, the werewolves are supposed to be a hyperbolical allegory to AIDS/HIV. 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. It was the parents' inability to realize the extenuating circumstances of that specific instance that was unjust.
    • Prejudice against centaurs might also be well justified. In the fifth book, the Centaurs are about ready to kill Harry and Hermoine for trespassing. They protest that they were in trouble, and that they were seeking their help. The centaurs then get even more angry that the humans wanted them to do their dirty work. It's probably an old feud where the centaurs are just responding to the prejudice from wizards, but their indiscriminate paranoia, and willingness to murder children who have shown no signs of hostility make them just as bad, if not worse, than wizards.
    • Potentially averted with House Elves. Keeping slaves is bad. But if the slaves WANT to do your dishes, and actively refuse pay, wouldn't it be immoral to treat them differently than how they want to be treated? The books seem to settle that there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping house elf 'servants' as long as you are kind and treat them well. And, if they are really weird, remember to pay them if they ask, but never more than they ask, because they might find that insulting.
    • It's also been noted that the major moral about accepting death falls a bit flat, because while it is impossible to "really" raise the dead, you can come back as a ghost (rarely), have your posthumous personality preserved in a portrait, and even summon spirits from the afterlife with the so-called Resurrection Stone to have pleasant chats with dead mentors during Near Death Experiences.
  • 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, and even summoned some himself from the afterlife.


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 "dependance." The reprise of the song later in the episode is probably the moment it flips, when Tara realises 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.

It may be worth mentioning that Riley was in a very dark place at the time, displaying overtly self-destructive tendencies verging on a death wish, and that people paying others to inflict pain on them is definitely not without real world precedent. Moreover, the Kiss of the Vampire trope had been used before -- Buffy being bitten by Angel and William (Spike) by Drusilla were both portrayed as painful at first, then pleasurable.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • One episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Zelda and Hilda deciding to hire someone to clean the house. Zelda rationalises that they can't use their magic to clean in case they just get lazy.


Video Games

  • Much of the criticism of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance stems from the attempt to use an idealized fantasy world as a metaphor for escapism, with critics arguing that Alterna-Ivalice is just as "real" as Earth in any practical sense.
  • 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.
  • Valkyria Chronicles gives us the Valkyria-- rare women who are born with the power to channel huge amounts of energy through unrefined ragnite-- and the game tells us in no uncertain terms that Valkyria powers are bad and evil, because one man is inclined to exploit them. Always. Regardless of the Valkyria's age, intelligence, strength, or general stability, their powers are always bad, because they can be used for war. There are no practical uses for the ability to channel the raw energies of the earth that everyone is fighting a war over in the first place; there is no responsible or pragmatic approach to researching the effects that Valkyria powers have on the environment, or for developing new and better technology. Bad. Period.
    • Related but not strictly falling into any of the prescribed types, the game uses Valkyria powers as a metaphor for nuclear weapons/WMD's, which is part of why they're portrayed as being as negative as possible, and Alicia stops using her powers because she's afraid of the one-instance dehumanizing effect they have on her, which basically renders that aspect of the Aesop down to Won't somebody please think of the hydrogen bombs?!. Because the game's presentation of the Valkyria as a race tries to satisfy the needs of two conflicting moral lessons, the Valkyria are said to be mindless, soulless monsters that can do nothing but bring ruin, but the two we actually see in the game are good people with human emotions and free will; it's just that one of them is slavishly devoted to the villain and the other just doesn't think for herself. This is exemplified in the ending, where Alicia abandons her powers, essentially because she couldn't remain a Valkyria and still live a normal life.


Web Original

  • 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.)


Western Animation

  • Captain Planet
    • An episode tried to give a Space Whale Aesop on safe sex and overpopulation by having a little boy zapped with a duplication gun. The resulting horde of duplicates eat everything on an island, causing a famine. The moral was supposed to be "don't breed 'em if you can't feed 'em", but ended up being a Fantastic Aesop about how you shouldn't use multiplication rays on small children. The illustration of the dangers of overpopulation in the face of limited supplies is further undermined by magically allowing humans to reproduce far faster than bananas are able to ripen.
    • 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.


Examples of Type II:

Anime and Manga

  • In the universe of Fullmetal Alchemist, raising the dead will cost you an arm and a leg. Results may vary. (Or you could sell your organs on the black market, but look where that got Izumi.)
    • Oh, and dabbling in magic is trading in souls!!!!!
      • Only if you live in Amestris.
  • Type II 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.
    • Well, the issue is dealt to some degree in all the incarnations of the story. For example, the Tachikomas are initially decommissioned after their sentience is found out, because a weapon that may decide on its own that all life is precious is a major liability. Later they circle around the issue by treating them more like teammates than tools.


Comics

  • Calvin and Hobbes specifically said these are his favorite kind of Aesop, because they "don't encourage behavior modification."


Film

  • The film version of The Time Machine had a Butterfly of Doom follow the time traveler around when he tried to change time to save his fiancé.
  • The replicants in Blade Runner are treated as slaves because they aren't quite up there in terms of human emotional capability. However; they are more akin to clones than robots, so there is never a question of "if" they are sentient so much as "when". They are designed with an incredibly short lifespan to prevent them from becoming too human through observation. Essentially, they are made to die young to avoid them becoming smart or organized enough to stage a new rebellion to gain equal rights to humans. The Fantastic Aesop comes in because they are, for all practical purposes human, or at least human enough to fool others and fall victim to a Tomato in the Mirror. "More human than human", as the Tyrell Corporation put it. It crosses into Type I as well, since Replicants have enhanced strength, speed and toughness.


Literature

  • 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.
    • And it still manages to enter into Type I 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.
      • For that matter, couldn't the knife kill Specters? So all Will would have to do is kill the Specter he makes when he opens a portal and close it behind him.
  • Bad Dream by John Christopher is somewhere between type I and type II, but probably closer to II. 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!
    • And that's 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. Family-Unfriendly Aesop, anyone?


Live Action TV

  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined and its Spin-Off Caprica is practically king of this trope. The entire current series itself is structured around a Type-II 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 a robot drone with perfectly emulated Human movement, thought process, and emotions yet still be expected to act and behave like mindless drones (makes sense....RIGHT?).
    • Anyway Decades later the same mindless/yet sentient drones now in even More Ridiculously human forms now have come for revenge on humanity nearly driving them into extinction. And after discovering that the drones have 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 i don't think even when a actual toaster has gotten even dangerously defective no one has ever shot one execution style or ejected one out an airlock) and acting around them like the drones cant even understand words and 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 unmachine 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. Ya Know 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" (ie. the Final Five) didn't like him best.
    • As a final point according to both fan theory and some actual Canon Explanation the entire events of the show were orchestrated by a 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 learned 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 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 is a Fantastic Aesop, 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.
  • Both Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Out of This World relied on "Don't use your special powers to do X" aesops for the majority of their episodes. Thanks to these shows, we have learned that should we ever gain the ability to stop time, we should resist the urge to use it to get out of doing laborious and trivial tasks, for personal gain, or directly to make other people happy. (Using them to triage a friend's problem is sometimes okay, but just magicking your best friend a cute date is right out). It hasn't come up yet (that anyone's admitted), but if it does, we're ready.
    • Interestingly subverted in one episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 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 3 different things to do so. Not sure what the first two were, but the 3rd was to implant knowledge of how to perform "Lead to Gold" Alchemy to her science teacher, making him 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 scott-free for the other two stunts she pulled (which is probably why they aren't coming to mind). The other two stunts were injuring a first-string football player so Harvey would be called up to the main team to play for one game but he got immediately injured due to his inexperience with football. The second was rigging a class president election with Jenny winning instead of Libby; she immediately discovered she had no real power as class president apart from the lunch menu and school dances. Both Harvey and Jenny got Be Careful What You Wish For Aesops with Harvey enjoying not having to play football and Jenny offering Libby to take her place.
  • Deathwalker, of Babylon 5, had a Cure For Death with the conventional cost of requiring a chemical that could 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, the single most valuable substance in the galaxy couldn't be reproduced in a lab.
    • Being fair, they eventually reveal that there really is such a thing as a soul, and other non-material aspects to reality. It wouldn't shock if said cure for death isn't just a chemical, but has a non-material component.
  • One particular episode of the nineties Outer Limits dealt with the problems Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke 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.


Tabletop RPG

  • Warhammer 40000 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?


Theater

  • Stage example: 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. The "death is a part of life," moral is completely lost when everyone who died is revived in the ending, corruption free.
  • 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.


Webcomics

  • Most robots in Freefall are sentient A Is to the point of being indistinguishable, Turing-wise, from actual people, but governments (or at least, the only high-ranking government officials the strip has thus far shown) treat them as property, since the law still considers A Is property. This is troublesome since all AI brains (cybernetic or biological) are based on a neural design pattern devised by Dr. Bowman which is meant to evolve and become more complex over time; rather than give A Is proper civil rights, the government opts to have the main robot supply company create an "update patch" that's actually a program to regress the complexity of AI brains to a point where it wasn't an issue. Mostly this works just fine as an anti-oppression Aesop but it gets a little out there when you notice that the robots achieved this sentience within their (relatively short) planned obsolescence timers, so the cackling villainy of the president seems a little harsh when it could just as easily be that robot civil rights are mired in government bureaucracy.
    • That's government, singular: It's only the local (robotic, at least) A Is that use the neural design, because their terriforming equipment (which included a robot factory) got damaged in transit. Presumably robots on other planets are non-sentient. Also, if you are in power and treat the A Is as property, they are obliged to respond as if they are. Really, the long-term plot of the series looks to be examining the emergency of true sentient AI.


Western Animation

  • Many cartoons and children's shows will introduce characters on wheelchairs to show that you shouldn't be discriminated 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 learns through the hard way that if she overuses the Super Speed for taking care of far too many trivial tasks she doesn't even need to be doing, she gets stuck in hyper speed. Lesson learned: Get regular maintenance for your Super Speed shoes.
  • A similar Aesop can be seen in the Lilo and 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'.
  • Futurama's 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.
  • 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."
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