Captain Obvious Aesop
And the moral of the story is to never call your commanding officer a bastard to his face.—Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr (prior to her assignment to a
suicideresearch mission), The Better Part of Valor
Friends, there comes a time in everyone's life when they can no longer sit quietly and say nothing. Sometimes, a man's got to take a moral stand, even though it may not be popular and even though it might get him into trouble. Today, my friends, is that day. I won't stay silent any longer.
This is a trope for when characters are treated as brave revolutionaries by the other characters in the work for stating the obvious: that Eyepatch Q. Blackheart is a bad man, that the Nazis were evil, that cancer is bad, etc. Can also apply to situations or things instead of people. The important part of the trope is the reaction of others. This isn't about the work's moral message, it's about a character being treated as brave for making statements that are completely in line with the majority opinion around him.
Obviously there's Truth in Television here. Values Dissonance can sometimes result in this, if the Aesop really was revolutionary and controversial for its time/place. Also, some Aesops are uncontroversial when spoken as a plain statement, but have an implicit, less-widely-agreed-to message, such as "We're not yet doing enough about this." For example, it's easy to say "Prejudice is bad", but programs designed to help disadvantaged minorities, like affirmative action and hate crime legislation, are polarizing political issues with no clear right or wrong answers.
- Many bumper stickers, website signatures, etc. As an example, there are a lot of variations on the theme of "I support a cure for cancer", or "I'm against child abuse". There aren't many people who want cancer to continue unabated, and being opposed to child abuse is the norm. Also, stickers against racism. Seriously, people, saying that you're "against racism" hasn't been revolutionary throughout most of the Western world since at least the late 1970s.
- A regular Aesop that's presented highly Anvilicious, with the entire opponent side being represented by strawmen can look like this. Since what the opponents want is pure undiluted evil, taking a stance against it isn't very controversial anymore.
- Can also happen often with kids shows, mainly because what is obvious to a 25 year old isn't obvious to a 5 year old.
- Most of the Guinness "Brilliant!" ads were like this:
"Don't drink six beers at the same time? Brilliant!"
- High School Musical tells us that being yourself is good and cliques and bullying are bad. Thanks HSM, no one's ever thought of that before. Now let's go hang out with our exclusive group of friends.
- Revenge of the Nerds: Lewis's Stirring Speech towards the end of the film.
- Morgan Spurlock's experiment in Super Size Me demonstrates that excessive fast food isn't good for your health. The film itself admits that everyone already knows this, but shows that the health effects are beyond what you might expect. The experiment is also just the cap of a greater argument that fast food and poor eating habits have become too engrained in our culture. The fact that fast food is that bad for you just shows why we should care.
- The Room
Johnny: If a lot of people love each other, the world would be a better place to live.
- Equilibrium argues that even if human emotion causes problems, it's still worth it. So if you were planning on turning all of humanity into emotionless automotons, think again!
- Spoofed in the Tanya Huff novel The Better Part of Valor when the main character explains how she wound up with a terrible assignment and says the lesson to be learned is, "never call your commanding officer a bastard to his face."
- Discussed by George Orwell in his essay Looking Back on the Spanish War:
We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don't take the sword perish by smelly diseases. The fact that such a platitude is worth writing down shows what the years of rentier capitalism have done to us.
- Lampshaded on Community at one point when Britta and Annie are staging a demonstration to raise awareness about the environmental effects of the oil spill in the gulf. Britta is angry and yelling about how horrible it is to people passing by when someone mockingly points out that she doesn't need to yell at them, nobody is on the other side of this issue.
- Referred to in an introduction to the Father Ted scripts by Graham Lineham. Commenting on the Mistaken for Racist episode 'Are You Right There Ted?', Linehan says that it seems to be the only story that has a moral...but if it does it's only 'Don't be racist' which he sarcastically says is 'pretty strong stuff'
- Star Trek can be prone to this sometimes.
- The original series had the Nazi planet episode, which involved a well-intentioned Starfleet officer converting an alien planet into a recreation of Nazi Germany because, from what he knew of history, it seemed to him like a good way to introduce order to the people. Kirk has to explain to him the Aesop of "What Hitler did was wrong. Don't do that."
- It happens quite often in Doctor Who, as well. One of the more obvious examples is the 2008 episode "Planet of the Ood" which appears to have the message "Slavery is a bad thing." How many of the audience didn't already know that is unclear.
- Happens on Dr. Phil often. Usually he ends up telling people something that they should already know, like that it's not okay to cheat on your wife, or it's bad to abuse your family, or that child molestation is horrible. But the people on the show will act like he's telling them something radical that they've never considered and will be belligerent to the end.
- Joked with occasionally on MythBusters, when they warn against an obviously dangerous act due to a lesser-known risk associated with it that they had spent the episode proving was possible:
- "Don't leave loaded guns in exploding rooms" - The myth was about a certain make of gun reputed to fire on its own if vibrated in a certain way. The original myth was about this happening via a car stereo system, but they had to eventually set off an explosion near the gun to make it happen.
- "Don't stand near a car fire" - Because it's possible for the fire to make the car's bumper launch off at dangerous speeds. The Mythbusters couldn't make this happen themselves, but proved it was possible by finding a firewoman who had her legs broken as a result of this happening.
- The Slacktivist refers to this as the "Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition".
...the weird part: Most of the commenters and letter-writers didn't seem to notice that they were expressing a unanimous and noncontroversial sentiment. Their comments and letters were contentious and sort of aggressively defensive. Or maybe defensively aggressive.
- If you are on Facebook, you've seen your "friends" asking everyone to put in their status that they support things like "Don't abuse animals". Really kind of annoying.
- This trope tends to come up as an unspoken premise whenever there's a feud between The Cape (trope) and an Anti-Villain. The babyface wrestler will always do the right thing and will be showered with praise for it, even though he/she is so full of Incorruptible Pure Pureness that he/she was never at risk of doing the wrong thing, so his/her efforts are meaningless. Prime example: the Kane vs. John Cena "Embrace the Hate" feud.
- Captain Planet: Everyone knows that dumping an oil tanker in the ocean is a bad idea, yet everyone keeps going on about it. The writers reportedly did this on purpose, since more nuanced villains might have been too close to home—i.e., companies their young viewers' parents worked for, or they might fall squarely into Straw Man Has a Point if they allowed a realistic protrayal of an oil executive being upset at what his employees were doing.
- Redakai's pilot had the aesop "Slavery is bad." Really, there weren't enough plot points or other threads for the moral to be anything else. The "Taunting someone for a skin-blemish" potential moral is never closed. Nope. Slavery is bad.
- Parodied on Family Guy when Congressman finally realize smoking is bad.
Congressman: Smoking is a horrible vice! It shortens life expectancy and pollutes our air. And according to recent polls, air is good!
- Parodied in Futurama:
Jack Johnson: It's time that someone had the courage to stand up and say: "I'm against those things that everybody hates!"
John Jackson: I respect my opponent. He's a good man. But frankly, I agree with everything he just said!
- Parodied in Donkey Kong Country. Often, when King K. Rool conjures up a plan to steal something(Usually the Crystal Coconut), loveable ol' Krusha says something like "Stealing is baaaaaaad".
K. Rool: "Of course it's bad! We're bad!